Wednesday, September 20, 2017
False Teachings and the Church
The following is from a sermon I delivered on 5/21/00 at the Plymouth Brethren assembly we were attending at the time. I was asked to do a sermon about my testimony; the first part of my sermon was my testimony while this part was about what I learned during my Christian walk after having left the Mormons and studying apologetics.
Cults are not the only problem in regards to false teachings. For those who have already been exposed to orthodox Christian teaching, there is a more pernicious danger in the many heretical teachings among even some of the mainline churches, including such things as the Word Faith movement, the Pensacola and Toronto revivals, and even more subtle heresies hidden among various para-church ministries, many of which assure you that what they teach is "God's way,” as they twist the Scriptures to make it appear that the Bible supports their teaching!
The Bible is not silent in this area, rather it warns us about false teachers and false teaching.
a. Jesus tells us in Mat. 7:15: Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (NAS)
b. In Acts 20:29-31 Paul told the Ephesian elders: I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! (NIV)
c. Paul wrote in 2 Cor. 11:3-4: I'm am afraid that, just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (NIV)
d. Further in the same chapter, at vv.14-15, he wrote: Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it's not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants who have God's approval. (GWN)
e. In the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Galatians he charges them: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again; If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (vv.8-9, NIV)
f. You will also find a warning in 2 Thes. 2:9-12: The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (NIV)
g. In Paul's 1st letter to Timothy, he tells him: The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. (4:1-5, NIV)
h. In 2 Pet. 2:1-3 we are told: 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. (NIV)
i. And finally, we are told in 2 Pet. 3:16: Some things in [Paul's] letters are hard to understand. Ignorant people and people who aren't sure of what they believe distort what Paul says in his letters the same way they distort the rest of Scripture. These people will be destroyed. (GWN)
It is quite plain that God is warning us to be alert and be discerning because we can be led astray by false teaching. Jesus himself said, "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect - if that were possible." (Mat.24:24, NIV)
So how are we to recognize these false teachings? After all, food can look good on the outside, even taste like the real thing, but it can be poisonous if eaten, even to one's death. Well, God's Word gives us direction:
a. 1 John 4:1: 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. (NIV/NAS)
b. Deut. 13:1-3: If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, "Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them," you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (NAS)
c. Deut. 18:22: When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. (NAS)
d. 1 Thes. 5:20-21: Don't scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good, keep away from every kind of evil. (NLT)
e. Mat. 7:15-20: Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruits you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (NIV)
The next question becomes, how are we to learn what we need to know to defend ourselves against these teachings?
a. We remember first Prov. 1:7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (NIV)
b. Secondly, Col.2:3-4 tells us that God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ. I say this so that no one will mislead you with arguments that merely sound good. (GWN)
c. Finally, James 1:5 says, If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (NIV)
So we have the fear of God being the beginning of knowledge, in Christ is hidden all the wisdom and knowledge, and if we require it we merely ask of God. God is more than willing to give us the discernment we need if we diligently search His word. So then, we must teach ourselves and our families to be discerning, and to be prepared to deal with false teachings.
John Chrysostom, a great preacher of the 4th century, stated, "The source of all our troubles is in not knowing the Scripture." John Calvin said, "We owe to Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God." And yet, how many of us diligently search the word to learn if what we see or hear is of God?
An anonymous writer has said, "There is no substitute for reading the Bible; it throws a great deal of light on the commentaries!" So let's look at what the Bible has to tell us in this area:
a. Dt. 6: 6-9. These words which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you wall by the way and when you sit down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (NAS)
b. Josh, 1:8. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. (NAS)
These two passages tell us that the word of God must be on our hearts, our thoughts and a part of our every activity.
c. Acts 17:11: Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul had said was true. (NIV)
Do you see that? The Bereans were noble because they examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was teaching was true!
d. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that, The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (4:12, NAS)
e. In 2 Tim. 2:15 we are told to Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. (NAS)
f. And in chapter 3:16-17 we are told that All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteous- ness, that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (NAS)
Psalm 119 is loaded with how we are to hold fast and meditate on the word of God, and let it guide our every footstep.
So, what then is our duty; what do we do with the Word? How do we deal with false teaching? To begin with, we listen to Paul's letter to Titus, chapter 3:10,11: Have nothing to do with people who continue to teach false doctrine after you have warned them once or twice. You know that people like this are corrupt. (GWN)
As Jude tells us, we are to Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (3b, NIV)
1 Pet. 3:15 tells us to Always be ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect. (GWN)
And last, but not least, Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 4:2-4 to: 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, they 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 the truth and turn aside to myths. (NIV)
A large percentage of today's churches are teaching watered-down and apostate doctrine, a lot of which is spiritual junk food fed especially through the youth ministries. We have "revivals" wherein it is claimed that God gives people gold teeth and gold dust falls into the congregation. People break into uncontrollable laughter, and into spasms that stick them to the floor with "holy ghost glue" for hours on end. There are also those who claim that the ceremonial laws of the Torah are morally binding on Christians today. And to top it all off, many of so-called Christian churches are teaching various forms of evolution because they try to fit the latest scientific theories into their theology. Add to this self-esteem gospels, so-called "Christian psychology," and churches led by women. What we end up with is the situation described in Romans 1:18-32 (NAS):
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
Let me stop here for a minute and point out who Paul is talking about: Those people who suppress the truth in their unrighteousness, even though God has made himself known to all of mankind. Let me continue:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
God has shown himself even in His very creation and yet we still have those who teach evolution, even from church pulpits! But I digress:
Therefore, God gave them over in the lust of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.
Have not some of our religious leaders suggested that all is God and God is all? Are there not false teachers who have led their flocks into sexual sin such as polygamy?
But Paul goes on:
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions,; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
Are there not congregations of supposedly Christians that sanction homosexuality to the extent they even have practicing homosexuals pastoring churches? And isn't the due penalty of all this sexual sin the rampant spread of sexually transmitted diseases?
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
What an indictment! All of these errors and false gospels make headway only because Christians don't spend time in the Word and rightly divide it. Rather than compare what someone is teaching with what God's word says, most people are content to assume what they are being taught is true because it comes from someone who has a title or writes books or leads seminars. But when we give up truth, we will receive error in its place.
Apologist G. Richard Fisher said, "There is no perfect denomination or teacher. However, Jesus warned us to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. This has to do with additions and the adding of human error to truth. It has to do with creating traditions and building into the texts what is not really there. It has to do with creating elaborate systems of practice that in the end are a subtle diversion from the pure Word of God and the New Covenant."
Vilhjahmar Stearansson reminds us that, "The soundest reasoning leads to the wrongest conclusions when the premises are false.”
My challenge to each and every one of us is to delve into God's word and examine it daily to see if what is taught is true. Before I close, I want to give a short reminder of what the true Gospel is:
a. Rom. 3:23 All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
b. Rom. 5:8. God demonstrates his own love towards us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
c. Rom. 6:23 The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
d. John 3:16, 17 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
e. 2 Cor. 5:21. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
f. Eph. 2:8,9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast
g. 1 Jn. 5:11,12 God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
h. Rom. 10:9 if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved
Let me also remind you of some scriptural warnings:
Eph. 5:15-16 - Be very careful how you live. Don't live like foolish people but like wise people. Make the most of your opportunities because these are evil days. (GWN)
1 Pet. 5:8-9 tells us : Keep your mind clear and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion as he looks for someone to devour. Be firm in the faith and resist him. (GWN)
And the last warning is from Col. 2:8: See to it that no one take you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (NAS)
Christian apologist Albert Dager reminds us that "It takes only a small dose of cyanide to destroy an otherwise healthy body. In the same way, if the words of a man or an angel contain a small dose of serious error, it would be better not to listen to those words no matter how much truth they contain."
I want to close with this quote from Charles Bridges: "The novelties of fancy, accredited by some favorite name, readily pass for the revelation of God. But here men are ready to drink any cup that is presented to them, like children, who think everything good that is sweet. Errors, never solitary, are built upon some truth...carefully ponder whom we follow. Sift the pretensions. Never set a great name against the Divine testimony. Admit only the one standard; like the noble Bereans, who would not believe even an Apostle's word except it was confirmed by the written testimony."