[Gospel+Way Update] Danger of False Teaching - GospelWay Update for March | Gospel+Way
gospelway at mylist.net
gospelway at mylist.net
Mon Mar 15 10:03:31 PDT 2010
** David E. Pratte
** 841 Hillandale Dr., Antioch, IL 60002
** On the web: www.gospelway.com or www.biblestudylessons.com
** Email: Submit messages at www.gospelway.com/comments.php
Web sites running again
Unfortunately, we recently had serious problems that shut down both our
web sites for nearly a week. However, to the best of our knowledge, they
are running correctly again. We apologize for any inconvenience this may
have caused any of you, and we urge you to return to our sites soon and
make use of our many free Bible study materials. If you have a problem
accessing the sites, please wait and try again later. If you still have
a problem, please let me know.
Danger of False Teaching
How serious is the problem of false teaching? Does the Bible contain
many warnings about religious error and false teachers? Should we
compromise and overlook differences in doctrine so that we fellowship
people regardless of their errors? How important is spiritual truth? How
concerned should we be about false prophets?
This is the subject of this month's Bible study article. I encourage you
to study the article carefully, and I hope you find it helpful. The
study is included below in ASCII or plain text format. To see the
article properly formatted in HTML (or to see the entire article, in
case it is truncated by your email server), please go to our Bible
Instruction web site at www.gospelway.com/instruct/ (see the section
about the Bible).
To join our Facebook group, go to www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=79584762296
To listen to our free mp3 recorded audio Bible messages, please go to
To learn about our Bible_Government email list, please visit our web
site at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Bible_Government. To subscribe to
this new email list, respond to this email or go to
www.gospelway.com/comments.php and tell us you want to subscribe to
***NOTE CAREFULLY****: To make sure you receive our messages, please set
your email software to accept messages with Gospel+Way in the subject
line (a less effective alternative is to accept messages with
gospelway.com in the "from" line).
The surest way to contact us by e-mail is to go to
www.gospelway.com/comments.php (this page can be accessed by a link
found at the bottom of nearly every page on our web site)
If you respond to this email, be sure your subject line includes
Gospel+Way so it will pass our filters. Thank you!
To study free Bible study articles or online Bible courses on our web
sites, go to www.gospelway.com or www.BibleStudyLessons.com.
To change your e-mail address or to be removed from our mailing list
please see the link at the end of this message.
God bless your study of His word.
In Jesus' name,
Bible courses, tracts, & booklets, online or in print:
** Bible Study Online Library (Gospel Way) -- www.gospelway.com
** Free Bible Study Lessons -- www.BibleStudyLessons.com
** Round Lake church -- www.gospelway.com/rlbchurch/
** Bible Instruction (Bible articles) -- www.gospelway.com/instruct/
** Light to My Path Publications -- www.gospelway.com/litepath/
The Danger of False Teaching vs. the Importance of Truth
I once heard a preacher say, "There is only one passage in all the Bible
that mentions false teachers."
Why would a man, professing to be a teacher of God's word, say that? He
sought to convince people that false teaching is not a great danger: The
Bible does not warn against it often so it we don't need to be very
concerned about it. You might see it occasionally, but not very often.
Why would someone want us to believe that? He advocated overlooking most
points of disagreement about Scripture and fellowshiping people who are
involved in obvious religious error.
This idea has many labels: "ecumenism," "political correctness," etc.
People defend it by saying we should not "judge" others but should have
a spirit of love and be more Christ-like, etc. The basic idea is that we
should achieve fellowship among various groups by compromise: i.e., by
ignoring differences in doctrine and practice. They say we should oppose
immorality, hypocrisy, or open denial of God, etc. But we should not
teach that, in order to be acceptable to God, people must repent of
errors in worship or religious practices. As long as they sincerely seek
to worship God, we should fellowship them.
A fundamental plank in this platform is the doctrine that false teaching
is not very serious, so we do not need to be very concerned about it.
The purpose of this study is to consider just how serious a problem
false teaching really is.
Surely we must agree that we should not condemn practices that harmonize
with God's will. But the question is: Should we view false teaching as a
serious threat, or should we tone down our opposition to it and seek
unity based on compromise with those whose practices cannot be found in
Scripture? Does the Bible contain many warnings against false teaching,
or is it a minor concern rarely mentioned?
Consider the following Bible teachings:
I. Warnings against False Teaching
Is it true that false teaching is rarely discussed in Scripture, or are
there many passages that mention it?
2 Peter chap. 2
This is the one passage that expressly mentions "false teachers."
Vv 1,2 - There will be false teachers today just as there were false
prophets in Israel. They bring destructive heresies, cause destruction,
and many follow their error. They forsake the right way and go astray
(v15). Those who follow their error would be better to have never known
the truth (vv 20-22).
This may be the only passage that technically uses the words "false
teacher," nevertheless this passage itself shows it is a serious
problem. The context discusses the problem for an entire chapter and
gives a stinging rebuke. It warns that "many" will be led astray by
false teachers. But it is not the only passage on the subject! Note:
"False teachers" are called "false prophets" (v1).
Beware of false prophets, who are wolves in sheep's clothing. Many
people who follow their teachings will think they are pleasing to God,
but will be rejected because they have not done His will (vv 21-23).
Note that these false teachers come in disguise. They do not appear to
be false teachers. V21 shows that they don't necessarily deny Christ:
they call Him "Lord, Lord." They appear to be "sheep," not "wolves";
they appear to be godly, sincere, good moral people. But they teach
enough error to cause people to be lost.
This passage uses the phrase "false prophet," instead of "false
teacher," but it shows that false teaching is a serious problem. Jesus
expressly warned us to be on guard for it; He said false teachers will
be hard to recognize, and that "many" will be rejected because of their
influence. Doesn't that sound serious?
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
False apostles are deceitful workers who pretend to be apostles of
Jesus. They are like Satan himself, who pretends to be an angel of
light. One reason false teaching is so dangerous is that it is
deceitful; numerous passages warn about this danger.
Before I make any major purchase, I like to go on the Internet and read
product reviews written by people who have actually bought the item. You
may read something like: "This product consists of cheap materials
assembled by shoddy workmanship. It is sure to break within a month, and
then you will learn that the company does not stand behind its warranty.
In short, it is a lousy product and you would be better off buying a
different brand." Obviously, such reviews must be taken with a grain of
salt; the reviewer may have gotten a lemon or may have ulterior motives,
But when you shop in a store, would you find such a label attached to a
product? Who would buy it? Even if they knew it to be true, neither the
manufacturer nor the store would admit it.
The same is true of false teaching. If it came clearly labeled as error,
who would buy it? So, Satan's favorite trick is to disguise false
teaching and make it appear as truth.
V3 illustrates this. Satan led Eve to sin by deceiving her. (See notes
below.) The first sin resulted from deception, and Satan has used that
technique ever since. He makes counterfeits that fool people because
they are so much like what God made, and he promotes them by men who
seem to be so godly, but there is just enough error to cause people to
be lost (Matt. 15:14).
Again, this passage does not use the words "false teacher." It uses
"false apostle." But who could deny that it is intended to show the
serious danger of false teaching?
1 Timothy 4:1-3
The Spirit expressly warns that some will fall away from the faith and
speak lies and doctrines of demons. This includes doctrines such as
forbidding marriage, commanding to abstain from meats, etc.
A person does not have to be an openly immoral rebel to teach such
doctrines. He might claim to believe in God and the Bible and live a
decent, moral life. He could be a hypocrite, but a hypocrite is a
deceiver: he fools people to think that he is upright and godly when he
is not. So those who believe his teaching may be honest, sincere people
who have been deceived.
That is the danger of false teaching.
2 Timothy 4:2-4
The time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine, but will
heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn aside
from truth to fables. So he charged faithful teachers to preach the
truth and rebuke such errors.
The passage does not mention the words "false teachers," but who can
deny that it discusses the subject and shows that it is a serious problem?
1 John 4:1
Do not believe every spirit, but put them to the test, because many
false prophets have gone out into the world. This warning about false
prophets expressly says it is a common problem: there are "many" false
If you only consider the exact phrase "false teacher," then it is
technically correct to say the expression is used only once. But the
statement itself illustrates the kind of deceitful half-truths that all
these passages have been warning about, because there are many, many
passages that warn against the concept of false teaching; they simply
use other phrases to describe it.
[Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; Matt. 24:11,24; Acts
20:29,30; Col. 2:8; Tit. 1:9-14; 3:10,11; Eph. 4:14; 5:6; 2 Pet.
3:15,16; 1 Cor. 4:6; Lam. 2:14; Zech. 10:2; 1 Tim. 6:20,21; 6:5; 1:3;
Luke 6:26; Deut. 18:20; Heb. 13:9; Rom. 16:17,18; James 5:19,20; Psa.
II. Examples of False Teachers
The Bible not only expressly warns us of the danger of false teaching,
it also gives us many examples that demonstrate the consequences of
accepting error. Note that many of these teachers were not immoral
reprobates who openly denied the existence of God. And in most cases the
people who followed the false teachers were neither reprobates nor
hypocrites; rather they accepted error because they were deceived by the
A. The Serpent - 1 Timothy 2:14; 2 Corinthians 11:3
Eve sinned because she was beguiled or deceived. God said she would die
if she ate, but Satan tricked her with the false doctrine that she would
not die but would become like God.
Eve was not a hypocrite or moral reprobate, nor did she deny God's
existence. She was deceived by a false teacher. Was there no serious
consequence in this? Think of all the horrible problems that came into
the world - even into your life and mine - as a result of this one act.
Surely this illustrates the serious problems that false teaching can cause.
B. The Ten Spies - Numbers 13:30-33
These men said Israel could not enter Canaan because the people in the
land were too great to be defeated. This was simply false: God would
have given the power they needed to conquer the land, even as He later
did under Joshua. But the people believed this false teaching and
refused to enter.
Again, the people where not immoral hypocrites who openly denied God's
existence. Yet the consequence was the people wandered forty years in
the wilderness till everyone over age twenty died, except the two
Who would deny that this false doctrine had serious consequences?
C. Opponents of Old Testament Prophets
In the Old Testament, God's faithful prophets often opposed false
teachers who attempted to lead God's people into sin.
Jeremiah 23:13-17,21,22,25,26,32 - God said that the prophets spoke by
Baal, not what God had told them. They caused the people to err, and
encouraged them in sin instead of urging them to repent. They prophesied
lies and deceit, and did not profit the people. Why give such a stern
rebuke if false teaching is not dangerous?
Ezekiel 13:1-9,22,23 - Prophets spoke from their own hearts, not from
God. It was futility and false divination. They grieved the righteous
and caused the wicked to continue in sin.
These are just a few of many examples we could examine. Had people of
the ecumenical spirit lived in those days, would they have given such
firm rebukes to these false teachers or would they have sought to
fellowship them despite their false practices? Note that one of God's
main objections to false teaching was that it led people to think they
could safely continue in their sins instead of warning them to repent.
But that is exactly what modern ecumenical teachers do!
[Jeremiah 28:15-17; 1 Kings 12:26-33; Jer. 5:30,31; 27:9,10,14-16;
29:8,9; 14:14; Isa. 30:10.]
D. Jewish Leaders in Jesus' Day
Matthew 15:1-9,12-14 - The Pharisees transgressed God's command because
of human tradition. Following human commands makes worship vain. Those
who follow such teachers, fall into the ditch with the teacher. Jesus
believed that following false teaching has serious consequences, so he
rebuked the false teachers and told others to "leave them alone."
Mark 12:24,27 - Sadducees refused to believe in the resurrection of the
dead. Jesus said they were greatly mistaken not knowing the Scriptures.
These are just a few of many passages where Jesus rebuked the false
teaching of Jewish leaders. Note that neither the teaching of the
Sadducees nor that of the Pharisees involved immorality nor unbelief in
God's existence. And while the teachers themselves may have been
hypocrites, the people who followed them were often quite sincere. Yet
Jesus rebuked the false teachers and warned people not to follow them.
[See also John 8:43- 47.]
E. Judaizing Teachers - Galatians 2:4,5; 5:1-7
Judaizing teachers taught that people had to be circumcised and keep Old
Testament laws to be saved (Acts 15:1,24). Paul said such were false
brethren, and he refused to compromise with their teaching for so much
as an hour. Those who accepted this false teaching are not obeying
truth, but are fallen from grace.
Note again the severe consequences of following false teaching, yet the
practice in question was not a matter of immorality, hypocrisy, or
unbelief in God's existence (or in Jesus as the Savior, etc.). Would
those of the ecumenical spirit oppose such teaching? Compromise is the
essence of their view. Yet Paul refused to submit. [cf. 2:11-14.]
F. False Teachers in Asia - Revelation chap. 2
Jesus' own statements to the seven churches of Asia include several
strong warnings about the danger of false teaching.
2:2 - Ephesus was commended because they put to the test men who claimed
to be apostles, and proved they were liars.
2:14-16 - Pergamum was rebuked because they had some there who taught
the false doctrine of Balaam and some who held the doctrine of the
Nicolaitans, which Jesus hated. He said they must repent or He would
come and fight against them. Was that doctrine insignificant?
2:20-22 - Thyatira was also rebuked because it allowed a false teacher,
Jezebel, to teach and lead people into sin.
These show that God does want us to reject and firmly oppose false
teaching. In fact failure to oppose false teaching is itself one of the
errors that the Lord firmly rebukes! Many other examples of false
teaching can be found in both Old Testament and New Testament.
Honestly, does this sound like false teaching is not a very serious
matter? Is it true that there are not many warnings about it in the Bible?
[See also Acts 13:6-12; Jer. 20:6; Amos 2:4; Isa. 9:15,16; 3:12; 1 Kings
13:18; 22:22f; 2 Chron. 33:9; Mic. 3:5; 2 Tim. 2:18; 1 Tim. 1:19,20;
Malachi 2:7,8; Zech. 13:3.]
III. Teaching about the Importance of Truth
At the root of the problem, why should we be so concerned about false
A. Appreciation for Truth Requires Opposition to Error.
When two things are opposites, if I am for one thing, I must be against
its opposite. In fact, the stronger I favor something, the stronger I
must oppose its opposite.
(1) If I favor a democratic republic, I must oppose dictatorship.
(2) If I favor life, I must oppose death.
(3) If I favor light, I must oppose darkness. The more I value the one,
the more I must object to the other.
But error is the opposite of truth. If I appreciate truth, then, I must
oppose error. To say that false practices do not matter much, is to
necessarily imply that truth does not matter much!
Every passage that emphasizes the importance of truth, simultaneously
emphasizes the danger of error. The more I care about truth, the more
firmly I will oppose error. So, consider:
B. Passages that Emphasize the Importance of Truth
Proverbs 23:23 - Buy the truth and sell it not. Truth must be obtained
at all costs. Once we have it, we must not surrender it for any price.
Nothing is more valuable than truth. But if we really care about truth,
then we must firmly object to accepting error.
John 8:31,32 - To be free from sin (v34) so we can be Jesus' disciples,
we must know and abide in the truth. What if we do not know the truth,
but abide in error? Then we are not Jesus' disciples; we are servants of
James 3:17 - Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable. Peace is
so important that we should never sacrifice it for the sake of our own
stubborn opinions or personal preferences. Yet important as peace is,
purity in doctrine and practice is even more important.
The ecumenical spirit says that we should be first peaceable, but don't
worry much about purity. God's word says to be first pure, then peaceable.
Jude 3 - Earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the
saints. But to contend for the faith absolutely requires us to oppose
false teaching, because it contradicts the faith (cf. Eph. 4:3-6).
Psalms 119:104,105 - If we consider God's precepts to be right, then we
must hate every false way. You cannot support truth without opposing error.
2 John 9-11 - If we do not abide in Jesus' teachings, we do not have
God. If we want to have God, we must abide in His teachings, and this
requires us to refuse to fellowship those who bring other teachings.
The problem with false teaching is that it contradicts truth and leads
people away from God's will. When a person belittles the danger of
error, he is also belittling the value of truth. So the real reason why
we ought to be concerned about false teaching is that we care about
truth. And the reason we care about truth is that we care about God and
other people. We want to please God by following His will and helping
other people do the same.
[John 4:23,24; Rom. 2:6-11; 1 Pet. 1:22-25; Rom. 16:17,18]
1 Corinthians 10:12 - Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.
One of the surest ways to become a victim of false doctrine is to think
that it is not dangerous and you don't need to be concerned about it.
When someone tells you that false teaching is not a big problem and you
don't need to be very concerned about it, he is teaching you a false
doctrine when he says it! And it is just a matter of time before he will
try to get you to accept other false teachings! Not every false teacher
will belittle the danger of false teaching. But anytime a man does tell
you that false teachers are not a serious danger, you can be sure he is
telling you that either because he is a false teacher or because he is
under the influence of false teachers!
What should we do about it?
How can we escape the danger of false teaching?
(1) Love the truth. We have seen that the people who are most likely to
accept error are the people who are not sufficiently dedicated to the truth.
(2) Study God's word diligently. The way to recognize error is to
compare it to the truth (Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16,17).
(3) Honestly examine every doctrine and practice before we accept it (2
(4) Let God's word be the standard for all our spiritual decisions (Gal.
1:6-9; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; Matt. 15:9; 2 John 9; etc.)
What about you and me? Do we care about truth? Do we care enough to
study diligently, remove error from our lives, and serve God faithfully?
If you know the truth about becoming a Christian, have you obeyed it?
Are you living a faithful life as a Christian?
(C) Copyright 1991, 2009, David E. Pratte
Remember that nearly all materials we send out are copyrighted by the
author. We ask you to respect the author's rights. You are free to keep
copies of this material on computer and/or in printed form for your own
further study. If you know someone who would like a copy of this
material, simply have them visit our web site at
www.gospelway.com/instruct/. If you have any other requests about the
use of this material, please read our copyright guidelines at
For a complete list of Bible articles and study materials by the author
please visit these web sites: www.gospelway.com and
The Gospel Way
www.gospelway.com and www.BibleStudyLessons.com
To e-mail us, use the email comment link found at the bottom of every
page on our web site or go to www.gospelway.com/comments.php. If you
respond to this email, be sure your subject line includes Gospel+Way so
it will pass our filters.
More information about the Gospelway