Biblical Traits of False Teachers: Part Three

So far in our study of 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6 we have focused upon six attributes of false teachers.  These six traits of false teachers are:  they are in error, they practice ungodliness, they are deceitful, they are not approved by God, they cannot be trusted with the gospel, and they are men pleasers.  This final installment on this vital topic will look at the remaining four traits of false teachers.

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 2:3-6   

The seventh trait of false teachers is they gain advantage over their listeners by saying the things they want to hear.  False teachers inflate their victims’ egos with vainglory so they can be easily used and abused for their own selfish purposes.  Paul warns against this technique used by false teachers in his letter to the Romans.

17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  18 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 16:17-18

Jude, in his epistle urging believers in Jesus Christ to stand fast for the faith, also warned them about those who would cajole them to gain an advantage, and Peter in his second epistle, gives an apt description of the motives, methods and results of this manipulation technique used by wicked workers against those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ.

16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.  Jude 1:16

17 These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.  18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.  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, they 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 2:17-22

We see that it does not end well for those who have been taken in by false teachers who flatter their hearers to take advantage of them.  The eighth trait of false teachers is they are covetous.  All that they do stems from a love of money.  How many poor widows, or the elderly who are just eking by with their retirement income have they duped into giving up their money so they can satisfy their avarice.   Paul and Peter both have much to say about this aspect of false teachers.

3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, 4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  From such withdraw yourself.  1 Timothy 6:3-5

3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words: for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does no slumber.  2 Peter 2:3

Prosperity preachers, who know nothing about the truth, are the ones getting the loot, while their followers, encouraged to be greedy, may see some financial gain as they work to support their favorite false teacher, but they will never get rich.  These false teachers encourage their followers to spread lies about unexpectedly receiving money so they can spread the net and bring in more cash.  The vast wealth of these false teachers is stunning!  They have amassed fortunes, and do so without any angst or apology.  Copeland, Osteen, Meyer, Moore, et al., have brought the gospel into disrepute and deceived countless thousands to follow the broad way that leads to destruction.

The ninth trait of false teachers is they seek glory from others.  They are following the example of their leader, the devil, who fell because he wanted the esteem that is reserved for God alone.  Seeking glory for oneself necessarily makes it impossible for that person to know God through faith in Jesus Christ, which is what Jesus told the Jews in the gospel of John.

43 “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive.  44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?”  John 5:43-44

Those who seek their own glory are not from God, and they reject those who are.  False teachers, those glory hounds, will always be sure to turn away those who see through their charade, and will make sure that genuine believers will have little access to their deceived congregants.  The apostle John highlights such an individual in his third epistle.

9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrophes, who loves to have the preeminence among them does not receive us.  10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.  11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.  He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.  3 John 1:9-11

The tenth and final trait of false teachers is they demand honor be given to them, and they are not opposed to throwing their weight around to get what they want.  Paul had to expose the false teachers who were troubling the believers in Achaia, and their description found in 2 Corinthians exposes many of the false teachers who plague the visible church today.

1 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me.  2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy.  For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.  3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!  5 For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles.  6 Even though I am untrained in speech, yet I am not in knowledge.  But we have been thoroughly manifested among you in all things.  7 Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge?  8 I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you.  9 And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia supplied.  And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself.  10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no one shall stop me from this boasting in the regions of Achaia.  11 Why?  Because I do not love you?  God knows!  12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast.  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 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.  16 I say again, let no one think me a fool.  If otherwise, at least receive me as a fool, that I also may boast a little.  17 What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly, in the confidence of boasting.  18 Seeing that many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also.  19 For you put up with fools gladly, since you yourselves are wise!  20 For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you, if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face.  21 To our shame I say that we were too weak for that!  2 Corinthians 11:1-21

These ministers of the devil, do all that they do for their own glory and condemn themselves and those who follow them to hell.  We can see the heart of the genuine servant of Christ is always concerned about the believers because he loves them and loves Christ.  It is tremendously sorrowful, and that doesn’t even begin to express the dreadfulness of it all, that the visible church is rife with false teachers.  If the teacher or preacher is prominent, watch out!  He or she is almost guaranteed to be false.  As those who love Christ we are warned against false teachers in the Scriptures and we are admonished to avoid them.  The verses out of 2 Timothy chapter three very clearly spell out what we see within the leadership of the visible church today, every segment, it doesn’t matter.

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!  For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth:  men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as their also was.  2 Timothy 3:1-9

So dearly beloved, since we know the truth and the One who is the Truth, we are well warned and well- armed through the knowledge of the Scriptures to mark and avoid these false teachers.  Their obvious folly makes them apparent as false teachers so that we can turn away from them, but not only the false teachers, but those who follow them.  This doesn’t mean we don’t share the truth with them in hopes that they will be set free from Satan’s snare, but it does mean that we don’t join with them in their following after false teaching.  God bless us.

2 Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  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 4:2-4

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