Why is there so much false teaching in the visible church? If we go to Scriptures with our question we can find the answer. Paul tells us one of the main reasons for this deception in
27 “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Acts 20:27-31
Carefully examining this passage from God’s Word we can see the motivations and methods off false teachers and God’s directions for protecting the flock from false teachers.
First false teachers are savage wolves caring nothing for the flock of God, destroying the flock, they want to have their own following and they do this by teaching contrary to what the Word of God says, perverse things that lead people astray, ultimately destroying them.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy… John 10:10
These wolves steal sheep from God’s fold for their own aggrandizement. They peddle the Word of God to draw away disciples after themselves, for their own material gain, appearing as ministers of righteousness.
For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God;… 2 Corinthians 2:27
By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; … 2 Peter 2:3
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness,… 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. Galatians 4:17
These evil workers perform the work of the devil deceiving the simple with smooth words and flattering speech.
For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:18
They are deliberate in their deception, not just wrong, but follow the desires of the flesh as Satan leads them in their apostasy. God will destroy these apostates
…for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:3
The passage from Acts, and the other verses, may shed light on false teachers, but we need more information to understand why false teaching is predominating within the church today. We are warned about the current situation within Christianity from the Bible in
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,… 1 Timothy 4:1-2
The Holy Spirit of truth tells us that these apostates turn away from the faith and listen to devilish doctrines, spreading the lies while pretending to be genuine. They are able to make so much progress because not only are they empowered by Satan, but they also have a willing and ready audience eagerly listening to their lies.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
Few escape from this deadly deception. How can these escape destruction? Only by the grace and power of God in His merciful working can such be saved from the damning delusion.
19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:19-22
It takes a mighty miracle of God to deliver the deceived from the damning deception.
Another reason false teaching is endemic within the church is that the overseers are not exercising the responsibility that God has given them to watch over the flock of God and to protect them from false teachers.
1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe ourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who are sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd ; and they became food for all the beasts of the field when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.” 7 ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 “As I live,” says the Lord God, “surely because My flock became a prey, and My flock became food for every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, nor did My shepherds search for My flock, but the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed my flock”-9 ‘therefore , O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord! 10 ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds will feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them.” 11 ‘For thus says the Lord God: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.” Ezekiel 34:1-11
15 “I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord God. 16 “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.” Ezekiel 34:15-16
God will judge those called to lead His flock, who refuse to do as Paul exhorted in Acts 20:27-31, to take care to protect the flock from error both from without and within, and to diligently follow the example that Paul gave them of warning and exhorting the flock to be true to the Lord Jesus Christ and His true Word. There are so few in leadership today who take this command from the Word of God seriously. Why is this one of the very last things that Paul said to the leaders in the church in Ephesus if it isn’t vitally important? Why do so many pastors and teachers quote false teachers rather than exposing them? They are showing by their actions that they are not true shepherds of the sheep. There is one who is the true shepherd of the sheep, though, Jesus Christ.
20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21
Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the prophesy in Ezekiel 34:15-16. As Jesus withstood the false shepherds in the days of His flesh, He exposed them as evil workers, and He Himself took care of His sheep.
10 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. 17 Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” 19 Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. 20 And many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are One. John 10:10-30
Jesus referred to the Jewish leaders when He walked this earth as thieves, hirelings, and ultimately, wolves. They cared only for themselves and were just like the shepherds described in Ezekiel 34. Today, the majority of those in positions of leadership within the visible church are just like the false leaders that Jesus rebuked. They care for themselves and do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ by caring for the sheep. They don’t know His voice and don’t faithfully teach and preach the whole counsel of God like the apostle Paul. Paul was a genuine shepherd of the sheep, he knew Jesus Christ and followed the Lord’s example. Jesus is the true shepherd who cares for His sheep doing His Father’s will, being One with the Father. He does rescue His own from the wiles of the devil and feeds them in the pastures of the provision of His Spirit and His Word, the Bible.
9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:9-10
In contrast to the salvation, protection and loving leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ, the vast majority of church leaders today do not reveal the false teachers by exposing their teaching and giving their names; they then become complicit in the deliberate determined deception of false teachers in the visible church. Another reason why there is so much false teaching in the visible church.