False teacher. It can seem like a harsh term, but the Bible talks a lot about false teachers. In fact, it may be interesting to measure the 21st century Christian’s “shock-meter” against how the Bible describes a false teacher. Terms such as “irrational animals,” “dangerous reefs,” and “condemned to Hell” are used in Scripture…not sure how well our “modern” religious culture would tolerate these today.

In the post “7 False Teachers in the Church Today“, Tim Challies makes an interesting list of profiles for the modern false teacher. Included in the list are “The Prophet”, “The Abuser”, “The Divider”, and “The Tickler”. Maybe we can relate to these different categorizations from our church experience?

So how does Scripture define a false teacher?

how Scripture answers "What is a false teacher?"

A false teacher is anyone that is teaching something different than the gospel2,3,4, or word of God. This “different teaching” could be a “distortion”2,8 or an “obstacle”1. Most troubling is the fact that the false teacher won’t be obvious or easy to detect6,7.

Their character is called out as arrogant4, self-serving, divisive1, and greedy6. But the real condemning quality is their intention to lead others from the truth/gospel1,5,6,7,8. False teachers share a special and most dubious designation similar to false prophets5,6.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

Avoid (“mark” KJV) anyone that causes divisions and “offenses’ (KJV) or “obstacles” (ESV) contrary to the gospel “you have learned.” These people are self-serving and take advantage of the naive with smooth-talk and flattery.

Summary remarks to the letter to “all those in Rome” (1:7) admonishing them to be “wise” to what is good and “ignorant” to what is evil.

How does it inform?

They are self-serving and opportunistic and should be avoided. They use smooth-talk and flattery.

Does it apply? Yes

2

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But 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 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

I [Paul] am amazed that you are listening to a different gospel and so refusing the gift of Christ to which you were called by God.  Not that there is a “different gospel” – there is only one – but some do you harm by distorting Christ’s call.  Even if an angel were to come from heaven to preach something contrary to what we have preached and you have heard, they should be doomed to destruction.  We have said this before, but will say it again, if anyone contradicts the gospel of Christ that you have obeyed, let them be doomed to destruction.
Paul opens letter to the churches of Galatia astonished by their quick turning from the gospel and his own confronting of Peter re: false teaching.
How does it inform?

Someone that distorts the gospel.

Does it apply? Yes

3

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

As I have urged you already, remain in Ephesus in order to command certain individuals not to teach “any different doctrine” or to spend time on myths or endless genealogies.  These things only promote speculation rather than “good order” (lit) by our faith in God.  This is love that comes from a dedicated heart (mind), good conscience and sincere faith.  Certain individuals by diverting from this have gone into worthless discussion.  They desire to be teachers but don’t have an understanding of what they teach or the things they confidently assert.

Paul’s instructions to the young preacher Timothy, ending chap 1 with two named individuals that were engaged in false teaching and as a result made a “shipwreck of their faith” and have been “handed over to Satan to learn…”

How does it inform?

A false teacher is anyone teaching a different doctrine. The encouragement against such teaching is an act of love.

Does it apply? Yes

4

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. He has 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, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

Anyone teaching a “different doctrine” is “puffed up” and don’t agree with the sound words of Jesus and teaching that agrees with godliness.  These people crave controversy and arguments over words, which only produces envy, division, slander, evil doubt and churning.  They have a depraved mind and are devoid of any truth.  They think godliness is a way to profit.

Being content in all things is true godliness.

How does it inform?

Fundamentally, the false teacher’s motivation is self-serving and personal gain.

Does it apply? Yes

5

For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

False messiahs and prophets will come with intentions to deceive the elect, and they will do so with seemingly God-given powers.

This chapter documents a discussion between Jesus and his disciples.  Upon leaving the temple, Jesus comments of its destruction (vs 2).  Subsequently, they wanted to know about three things from Jesus: 1) the timing of the temple’s destruction, 2) the sign of His coming, and 3) the end of the age (vs 3).

Jesus begins His answer, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and they will lead many astray.” (vs 4-5) He continues foretelling terrible natural events (e.g. wars, famine, etc.) but also a spiritual “tribulation” (persecution) where many saints will “fall away” (vs 10).  Despite this, He warns again that “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (vs 13) and the “gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world” after which “the end will come”. (vs 14)

The preceding seems to be an overview before beginning to speak about a specific “great tribulation” (vs 21) that they would experience.  He refers to this as “the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel” (vs 15) and prays that their “flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath” (vs 20).

How does it inform?

Jesus promises false teachers will come (using synonymous terms antichrists or false prophets). Their goal is to lead Christians astray and will use means of “great signs and wonders.”

Does it apply? Yes

6

But 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. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Just like false prophets were, greedy false teachers will arise among you and act in secret (infiltrate) to malign the truth, even going so far as to deny Jesus, which will bring them swift destruction.  Many will be persuaded and because of them the gospel message will be blasphemed.  Their greed will cause them to take advantage of you by telling lies.  Don’t be deceived; their destruction is certain.

All three chapters of 2 Peter are really confronting false teaching. Chap 1 confirms the “truth” they already learned and confidence in “all scripture”. Chap 2 further describes false teachers as “bold” and “willful” and their condemnation in the worst ways. In Chap 3 he addresses Paul’s teachings that they will “twist to their own destruction.”

How does it inform?

Maligning the truth (speaking spitefully or critically) while persuading others. Also connects to false prophets of old.

Does it apply? Yes

7

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Certain ungodly individuals have come into your midst unnoticed.  They were designated for this long ago, perverting the grace of our God (gospel) into a base, unbridled lust and deny Jesus.

Jude’s letter is dedicated to addressing false teaching (in lieu of wanting to write about “our common salvation”) encouraging them to “contend” (stand against, defend) their faith against those who are perverting the gospel.  Notably, they have “crept in unnoticed,” comparing them to Cain, Balaam and Korah’s rebellion while recalling and applying a prophecy from Enoch.

How does it inform?

Jude is not restrained in his description of these false teachers, saying, “It is these who cause division.”

Does it apply? Yes

8
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.

Avoid ungodly, empty discussion, because it will lead to more ungodliness and it will spread like a disease.  Such were Hymenaeus and Philetus.  They have left the truth, teaching that the resurrection already happened and are leading some astray.

Paul’s letter to young preacher Timothy, instructing him to remind others of some basic truths (vss 11-13) about their faith and here warning of some that apparently have not held to them – “quarreling about words” (vs 14) and not “rightly handling the word of truth” (vs 15) and later saying, “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” (vs 23).

How does it inform?

A warning to handle truth correctly by avoiding quarreling “about words” and engaging in “foolish, ignorant controversies.”

Does it apply? Yes

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