In recent years many false teachers have been given platforms that once did not exist. False teachers have always existed, nothing new there. We read how Peter expounds on the issue in 2 Peter 2:1-3, “But false prophets also rose among the people…” as he sets to warn the church of destructive heresy. However, in todays media driven culture we have no shortage of venues to be exposed to false teaching. Many false teachers have taken great advantage of these opportunities and have capitalized greatly. I, like so many, love a good teacher of The Word. I recently spend a few days in Louisville at the Together For The Gospel conference. I must admit, there was a little bit of fan fest that spurred in me when men like John MacArthur, Kevin DeYoung, and Albert Mohler took the stage. So I completely understand the desire to hear from and experience good teaching. What I respect most about men like those mentioned is how close they stay to scripture. They preach and teach with great integrity and humility, submitting themselves to the authority of scripture above all. But some among us that teach from equally large platforms have distanced themselves from scripture and lean more on story telling and application of good works.
One of the great issues I see with false teaching is not so much the discernment of the obvious wolves but more so the teachers that are subtle and possibly even from within. These teachers may even appear to lead successful ministries driven by compassion, burden, and service to the least in our culture. I would point out that even the most generous, compassionate, and servant-hearted people can mangle scripture and ministry in ways that reduce our Lord to only a social worker, or friend, or a man who just came to “do life” with people who have messy, dysfunctional lives. In reality, Jesus is our friend, He did feed the hungry and care for the needy, and He did invite people into His life. But, to what end? Jesus came to call people to repentance and to make them holy. Salvation is the gift of grace that sanctifies us. Salvation does not leave us in our sin and dysfunction. Luke 5:32 and Matthew 4:17 tell us that Jesus came to call people to repentance. So, in light of many wolves today who are dressed like sheep, reducing our Savior and distorting scripture I would like to offer three simple principles that can help us discern the false teachings and distance ourselves for sake of our churches and our sanctification.
Know The Word of God
I have always said that your relationship with Jesus will never rise above the amount of time you spend in His Word. This is pressingly true when it comes to the discernment of those who teach and preach. The more knowledge and affection you have for The Word the easier it is for you to identify sound teaching verses false teaching. Keep these in mind: God’s Word is pure (Proverbs 30:5-6), God’s Word is complete and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and God’s Word is settled (Psalm 119:89). Know God’s Word, cherish God’s Word, and trust His Word.
Seek Godly Counsel
I am grateful for those in my life who have proven themselves faithful to the sound teachings of scripture. When I have concerns or just want to have healthy discussion I can always trust that they have my best interests at heart. You need those people in your life. People who have spent many years examining scripture, trusting scripture, and obeying scripture. It is also important to remember that Jesus promised us the greatest counsel in the Holy Spirit. Keep these in mind: The Holy Spirit is committed to your discernment (1 John 4:1; John 14:26), and brothers and sisters in Christ provide sound counsel (Proverbs 11:14). We must seek godly counsel. No one is above this.
Examine The Fruit
Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:17 that “every good tree produces good fruit…” and we would be wise to remember that. Those you ascribe to receive teaching from, are they producing good fruit? Is their fruit consistent with the fruit scripture describes? Colossians 1:10 tells us to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord…bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” The greatest fruit a teacher can produce is leading others to have great love for scripture. Then, ask yourself if the teacher talks more about Jesus and His Word or themselves. Do they boast in their ministry, their lifestyle, their compassion for others, their likeness to Christ? I am not saying it is inappropriate to help others see how ministry and biblical application work but some teachers seem to love what they claim to have produced more than what God is producing through His Word. Much is said about boasting in scripture in James 4:16, Galatians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 1:31, and 2 Corinthians 10:17. Our fruit is for the glory of God and that alone should be sufficient for all believers.
So, let us not stumble in our understanding of Jesus, His Word, and His church by seeking the counsel of false teachers. Let us pursue Christ faithfully by submitting to His authority, seeking godly counsel, and producing eternal fruit. And at the end of the day may we all say “To God and God alone be the glory!!!”
With great love,