We have seen the characteristics of faithful sheep and shepherds from God’s Word in 1 Thessalonians, but God the Holy Spirit through His apostle Paul also sheds light on the nefarious characteristics of false teachers in that same epistle. Our loving Heavenly Father is so good to instruct us so that we can spot false teachers and turn away from them.
1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict. 3 For our exhortation did not come from error or uncleanness, nor was it in deceit. 4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 5 For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6
God encapsulates for us ten traits of false teachers in this passage from 1 Thessalonians. We can look at each trait individually and seek wisdom from God’s Word to enlarge the scope of our understanding about these traits which signal the individual is a false teacher. The first trait to be considered is that false teachers speak and teach messages that emanate from error.
Recorded for us by the apostle Matthew by the Holy Spirit in the gospel of Matthew chapter 22 is the historical account of the Sadducees aiming to discredit the resurrection by confronting Jesus with a just so story to see if He could overcome their logical evaluation of the resurrection. Jesus neatly and adroitly brought an end to their attempt by simply rebuking them in Matthew 22:29.
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given to marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Matthew 22:29-32
This example from the Bible shows that false teachers make up stories to support their error, do not know the Scriptures, do not believe in God’s power, and do not receive what God has expressly said in His Holy Scriptures. False teachers are false because they erroneously spread lies from their own over active imaginations and disregard God’s truth found only in the Bible. This trait casts a broad net over the bad fish to be found in the sea of “Christianity”, when that net is brought to shore the catch includes Catholics, liberals, neo-evangelicals, prosperity teachers, and the signs and wonders crowd, among others. Don’t be taken in by their error, beware!
The second trait to be considered is that false teachers, evil workers, spread a message that endorses and encourages ungodly behavior. Haven’t we seen this trait at work in the recent years in the visible church? Of course, I am referencing the acceptance and endorsement of homosexuality within the visible church. God rebuked this evil heresy through His apostle Paul in the letter that Paul wrote to the Ephesians. This passage from Ephesians chapter 5 gives us a clear description of the false teachers and how they must be dealt with.
3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. Ephesians 5:3-12
Promotion of immorality proves the professor is false. The churches and individuals who have accepted and championed homosexual rights give clear witness to their apostasy. From this passage we are admonished to not partake with them but rather expose them. That is our godly duty before God. Be warned, turn away from anyone who claims to be a Christian but is promoting immorality, they are false.
The third trait of a false teacher is that they are deceitful. There are so many passages in the Scriptures to shed light on this characteristic. Let’s look at a couple or more. The first one that I want to share is from Matthew chapter 7. Jesus Christ described the duplicity of false teachers in verses from that chapter, both Paul and Peter expound upon what the Lord taught in this verse in passages from their epistles.
15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Matthew 7:15
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefor it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 2 Peter 2:1-2
These false teachers spread their lies through deceitful means, all the while pretending to be followers of Jesus Christ. Their numbers are legion and they have been deceiving mankind throughout the ages. The heresies they have taught linger in the halls of false religion and are spread abroad by the unsuspecting who do not realize they are duped by deceptive deceivers. Wherever the truth has brought forth fruit for God’s glory and eternal redemption of lost souls, Satan has sowed his progeny who corrupt the gospel and contaminate it with doctrines that emanate from the dark recesses of their hard hearts led into deception by his damnable doctrines. Men like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, German theologians such as Schleiermacher, Westcott and Hort, George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, Billy Graham , John MacArthur, John Piper, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Kenneth Copeland, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll, Thomas Rainer, Ed Stetzer, Russell Moore, and Max Lucado have all distorted the Scriptures and led many astray into greater heresy. Deceiving they have and are also being deceived. Beware of false teachers, who spread their deceitful heresy so that it corrupts all in their path and paves the way for increased ecumenical unity.
The way for believers to be safe from false teachers is to abide in Christ Jesus and believe His Word. It is to know the Word of God, to know its doctrine and truth, and then to mark those who are false and turn away from them. We are safe from false teachers as we trust the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth in His Word and know that our Heavenly Father is watching over us. We will continue our look at the biblical traits of false teachers in subsequent posts. God bless us.
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:12-17