Galatians 1:8-9 (KJV)
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
The Danger of False Teaching vs. the Importance of Truth
How serious is the problem of false teaching? Does the Bible contain many warnings about religious error and false teachers? Should we compromise and overlook differences in doctrine and fellowship people regardless of their errors? How important is spiritual truth? How concerned should we be about false prophets?
I once heard a preacher say, “There is only one passage in all the Bible that mentions false teachers.”
Why would a man, professing to be a teacher of God’s word, say that? He sought to convince people that false teaching is not a great danger: The Bible does not warn against it often so it we don’t need to be very concerned about it. You might see it occasionally, but not very often.
Why would someone want us to believe that? He advocated overlooking most points of disagreement about Scripture and fellowshiping people who are involved in obvious religious error.
This idea has many labels: “ecumenism,” “political correctness,” etc. People defend it by saying we should not “judge” others but should have a spirit of love and be more Christ-like, etc. The basic idea is that we should achieve fellowship among various groups by compromise: i.e., by ignoring differences in doctrine and practice. They say we should oppose immorality, hypocrisy, or open denial of God, etc. But we should not teach that, in order to be acceptable to God, people must repent of errors in worship or religious practices. As long as they sincerely seek to worship God, we should fellowship them.
The purpose of this study is to consider just how serious a problem false teaching really is.
Surely we must agree that we should not condemn practices that harmonize with God’s will. But the question is: Should we view false teaching as a serious threat, or should we tone down our opposition to it and seek unity based on compromise with those whose practices cannot be found in Scripture? Does the Bible contain many warnings against false teaching, or is it a minor concern rarely mentioned?
Consider the following Bible teachings:
I. Warnings against False Teaching
Is it true that false teaching is rarely discussed in Scripture, or are there many passages that mention it?
2 Peter chap. 2
This is the one passage that expressly mentions “false teachers.”
Vv 1,2 – There will be false teachers today just as there were false prophets in Israel. They bring destructive heresies, cause destruction, and many follow their error. They forsake the right way and go astray (v15). Those who follow their error would be better to have never known the truth (vv 20-22).
This may be the only passage that technically uses the words “false teacher,” nevertheless this passage itself shows it is a serious problem. The context discusses the problem for an entire chapter and gives a stinging rebuke. It warns that “many” will be led astray by false teachers. But it is not the only passage on the subject! Note: “False teachers” are called “false prophets” (v1).
Beware of false prophets, who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Many people who follow their teachings will think they are pleasing to God, but will be rejected because they have not done His will (vv 21-23).
Note that these false teachers come in disguise. They do not appear to be false teachers. V21 shows that they don’t necessarily deny Christ: they call Him “Lord, Lord.” They appear to be “sheep,” not “wolves”; they appear to be godly, sincere, good moral people. But they teach enough error to cause people to be lost.
This passage uses the phrase “false prophet,” instead of “false teacher,” but it shows that false teaching is a serious problem. Jesus expressly warned us to be on guard for it; He said false teachers will be hard to recognize, and that “many” will be rejected because of their influence. Doesn’t that sound serious?
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
False apostles are deceitful workers who pretend to be apostles of Jesus. They are like Satan himself, who pretends to be an angel of light. One reason false teaching is so dangerous is that it is deceitful; numerous passages warn about this danger.
Before I make any major purchase, I like to go on the Internet and read product reviews written by people who have actually bought the item. You may read something like: “This product consists of cheap materials assembled by shoddy workmanship. It is sure to break within a month, and then you will learn that the company does not stand behind its warranty. In short, it is a lousy product and you would be better off buying a different brand.” Obviously, such reviews must be taken with a grain of salt; the reviewer may have gotten a lemon or may have ulterior motives, etc.
But when you shop in a store, would you find such a label attached to a product? Who would buy it? Even if they knew it to be true, neither the manufacturer nor the store would admit it.
The same is true of false teaching. If it came clearly labeled as error, who would buy it? So, Satan’s favorite trick is to disguise false teaching and make it appear as truth.
V3 illustrates this. Satan led Eve to sin by deceiving her. (See notes below.) The first sin resulted from deception, and Satan has used that technique ever since. He makes counterfeits that fool people because they are so much like what God made, and he promotes them by men who seem to be so godly, but there is just enough error to cause people to be lost (Matt. 15:14).
Again, this passage does not use the words “false teacher.” It uses “false apostle.” But who could deny that it is intended to show the serious danger of false teaching?
1 Timothy 4:1-3
The Spirit expressly warns that some will fall away from the faith and speak lies and doctrines of demons. This includes doctrines such as forbidding marriage, commanding to abstain from meats, etc.
A person does not have to be an openly immoral rebel to teach such doctrines. He might claim to believe in God and the Bible and live a decent, moral life. He could be a hypocrite, but a hypocrite is a deceiver: he fools people to think that he is upright and godly when he is not. So those who believe his teaching may be honest, sincere people who have been deceived.
That is the danger of false teaching.
2 Timothy 4:2-4
The time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine, but will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and will turn aside from truth to fables. So he charged faithful teachers to preach the truth and rebuke such errors.
The passage does not mention the words “false teachers,” but who can deny that it discusses the subject and shows that it is a serious problem?
1 John 4:1
Do not believe every spirit, but put them to the test, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This warning about false prophets expressly says it is a common problem: there are “many” false prophets.
If you only consider the exact phrase “false teacher,” then it is technically correct to say the expression is used only once. But the statement itself illustrates the kind of deceitful half-truths that all these passages have been warning about, because there are many, many passages that warn against the concept of false teaching; they simply use other phrases to describe it.
Table of Contents
- 1 Galatians 1:8-9 (KJV)
- 2 The Danger of False Teaching vs. the Importance of Truth
- 3 How serious is the problem of false teaching? Does the Bible contain many warnings about religious error and false teachers? Should we compromise and overlook differences in doctrine and fellowship people regardless of their errors? How important is spiritual truth? How concerned should we be about false prophets?
- 3.1 I. Warnings against False Teaching