John MacArthur defines false teaching as, "anything claiming to be the truth that is in fact a lie." He continues, "False teachers typically claim to have the superior knowledge (as in Gnosticism or modern examples like the fad books The Secret or The Prayer of Jabez)." Oswald Chambers, a famous 19th century author, said "Satan's great aim is to deflect us from the center. He will allow us to be devoted to the death to any cause, any enterprise, to anything but the Lord Jesus." Hebrews 13:9 commands us to not be carried away by all sorts of strange teachings which take our focus from this "center," the Lord Jesus Christ. However, we have to be very careful that we don't call what is of God to be false or of the Devil. We need to know clearly what the Truth is. ! Corinthians 4:6 says, "...that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other." When we go beyond what is written in the Bible, it leads to pride and division in the body of Christ. While I do address some controversial and false teachings on this website (which we need to address), the focus of my website is Christ and the teachings I promote are based on the Word of God.
The Bible says a lot about false teachings and false prophets/teachers. We find in the Old Testament that God raised up prophets (Deut. 18:15-22) but false prophets were to be killed (Deut. 13:1-5, 18:20, Jer. 23:14-15).
In the New Testament, we see that false teaching is taken very seriously. "Remember, Christ rebuked the churches in Revelation 2-3 who had tolerated false teachers in their midst (Rev. 2:14-16;20-23). He expressly commended the Ephesian church for examining the claims of certain false apostles and exposing them as liars (Rev. 2:2). Churches have a clear duty to guard against false teachers who infiltrate. Christ Himself demands it." Jude commands us to "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." I do appreciate that people are passionate about exposing false teachers, although we have to be careful as everyone who teaches and preaches has said or written something incorrect. In this day when this is recorded as either writings like this, audio or video, people can quote something, sometimes not even in the context of what was meant, and make it appear that they are a false teacher, even when they are not. This can be done to absolutely anyone. For example, a site like The Zedekiah List, as of the time of this writing, has "2129 quotations made by 682 well known "christian" speakers or authors who have publicly said something unscriptural." Maybe half of them are listed as "False Preachers" because of one single quote and sometimes a single sentence. I have not looked at all of these people or their quotations but I do know that with enough time and material we could add every single Christian to a list like this by using something they said at some point in their life that contradicted something in the Bible and then slap the "false teacher" label on them. As I said in my article on False Signs and Wonders, "We need to aknowledge that we are always changing and hopefully learn and grow in our understanding. Even as I have worked on putting all of these writings on my website I have changed a lot of them as I have grown in my understanding. These writings are largely incomplete as well, and there are literally hundreds of other writings I am working on adding to this site. I do not claim to have perfect understanding and these fluid writings will continue to be modified as I grow in my understanding. I pray that you are humble enough to accept that for yourself. If you disagree with something I say, please contact me rather than take what I say at a given time and quote me. We all have the right to change our minds as we grow and mature in our faith, understanding, relationship, theology, etc. May we be graceful as we are wise and discerning. I hope and pray you understand what I mean." There is a balance and I pray you find it.
"Most Christians nowadays simply don't care about the prevalence of false doctrine, nor do they take seriously their duty to fight against apostasy." John MacArthur says it this way, "Refusing to acknowledge and defend the revealed truth of God is a particularly stubborn and pernicious kind of unbelief." He says elsewhere, "It seems there is no shortage of people nowadays willing to kill for a lie. Yet few seem to be willing to speak up for truth - much less die for it." The famous preacher Charles Spurgeon said, "Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter it is the better." He also said, "The spotless purity of truth must always be at war with the blackness of heresy and lies." Let me lay out for you what the Bible says about this.
THE BIBLICAL BASIS
Does it sound "judgmental" to call someone else's beliefs "false?" Absolutely, and we are commanded to do it throughout the Bible. Let’s see what Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John have to say about how to deal with false teachers.JESUS:
Matthew 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
Matthew 23:31, 35 “So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. . . so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” [In this instance Jesus did not need to name the false teachers as He was face to face with them and calling them out publicly in the temple square.]
Matthew 24:10–13;24 "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. . . . For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time."
2 Corinthians 11:13 “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”
Ephesians 5:11 "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them."
2 Thessalonians 3:6 "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us."
2 Thessalonians 3:14 "If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed."
1 Timothy 1:3-4 "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work - which is by faith."
1 Timothy 6:3-5 "If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain."
2 Timothy 2:16-18 “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.”
2 Timothy 3:1-5 "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them."
2 Timothy 4:2 "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, thy will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from truth and turn aside to myths."
2 Timothy 4:14 “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”
Titus 1:9-13 "He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach - and that for the sake of dishonest gain. Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth."
Titus 2:1 "You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine."
Titus 3:10 "Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him."
2 Peter 2:1-3 "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping."
2 Peter 2:15-16a “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he received a rebuke for his own transgression…”
1 John 4:1-3 "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus, that spirit is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
2 John 1:10-11 "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. 11Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work."
3 John 9-10 “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church.”
Likewise, the early church Fathers were so committed to the public rebuke of false teachers that they actually named heresies after the false teachers who promoted them (i.e., “Arianism” after Arius, “Pelagianism” after Pelagius, etc.).
Let me note that this is not something that is ambiguous and hard to define. Scripture is very clear in the "essentials" and most important doctrines. Let those who complain about naming false teachers state how Jesus and the apostles were wrong to confront those in error, personally and publicly. If they cannot do so, let them show that what we name as false teaching is, in fact, the truth. If they cannot do either, then let their mouths be stopped.
Let us all live under the authority of the Word of God, rather than embrace a sentimental, unbiblical approach for dealing with error in the church of Jesus Christ.
“Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
1. MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible. Thomas Nelson, pg. 1872
2. George Grant, The Family Under Siege, (Bethany House Publishers, Mlps, MN. 1994) p. 44.
3. MacArthur, John. The Truth War. Thomas Nelson, pg. xxvi
4. Ibid, pg. 47
5. Ibid, pg. xi
6. Ibid, pg. Xii
7. Spurgeon, Charles. The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 5 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1879), 41.
* MacArthur, John. Ashamed of the Gospel: When the Church Becomes Like the World
* MacArthur, John. The Truth War
* Enroth, Ronald, ed. A Guide to New Religious Movements
* Geisler, Norman L., and Ron Rhodes. Correcting the Cults: Expert Responses to Their Scripture Twisting
* Halverson, Dean C., ed. The Compact Guide to World Religions
* Kingdom of the Cults (Bethany House, 2003) by Walter Martin
* Nichols, Larry A., George A. Mather, and Alvin J. Schmidt. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions
* Rhodes, Ron. The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions
* Sire, James W. Scripture Twisting: Twenty Ways the Cults Misread the Bible
* Tennent, Timothy C. Christianity at the Religious Roundtable: Evangelicalism in Conversation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam
* Zacharias, Ravi. Jesus among other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message
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