Flip on the television on Sunday morning, and you will find more than your share of false teachers. Some will preach a “wealth-and-health” gospel; “Send in some money,” they’ll say, “and God will fill your bank account.” Others will preach error when it comes to receiving salvation from sin. Others will tell you exactly when Jesus will return, although Jesus himself said that no man knows that day. Yes, false teachers abound.
Because so many false teachers are in today’s world, we need to know who is a false teacher and who is teaching truth. Obviously, if one teaches something other than the truth of the Gospel, he is a false teacher. Paul said, “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). The Galatian Christians were to regard any “gospel” other than the simple truth Paul proclaimed by the Spirit as error. John told the elect lady, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting” (2 John 10); if anyone came to the elect lady denying that Jesus had come in the flesh (2 John 5), she would know that he was teaching error.
How can we know who is and who isn’t a false teacher? Here are some ideas:
They’re more interested in money than truth.
I don’t mean to imply that teachers shouldn’t be paid; after all, Scripture speaks of paying preachers—“The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). I’ve known many Christians who were extremely wealthy—I’m talking millionaires—who were also extremely generous.
However, any Christian leader who is more interested in money than truth is to be avoided. An overseer cannot be “a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:3). Be leery, very leery, of any Christian leader interested only in money.
Elders cannot be “domineering over those in [their] charge” (1 Peter 5:3). False leaders will insist on their own way. They’ll have a “my-way-or-the-highway attitude.” Be leery, very leery, of any Christian leader who insists on his own way.
They’ll enjoy a good argument.
False teachers have“an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth” (1 Timothy 6:4-5). They’ll argue about everything under the sun—including things that do not matter. Be leery, very leery of any Christian leader who likes to argue.
“If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing” (1 Timothy 6:3-4). False teachers will think they have all the answers and forget that Scripture has all the answers. They’ll insist that they are right without examining what the Bible teaches. Be leery, very leery, of any Christian leader who is arrogant.
“False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). These heretics will not want their teaching public until they have plenty of people on their side. They’ll be “going about from house to house . . . saying what they should not” (1 Timothy 5:13). Be lery, very leery, of any Christian leader who teaches secretly.