I am currently not working . That may turn into a permanent situation soon, but until then, I try to make the best use of my time. That means that I am involved with several bible studies during the week, and I hang out with some of those same guys for coffee. Lately the subject keeps coming back to false teachers.
By myself, in a calm atmosphere, I want to see if I can sort this out and understand how to decide if someone is a false teacher.
According to my acquaintances’, the point of origin is 2 Peter 2:1. A quick read on the background of Peter’s letters gives you an understanding of the church to which he is writing. These churches are all Mediterranean and he calls them aliens. In 2Peter 3:2 he tells them to remember the words of the holy prophets. When we consider that God tried to get Peter to, not only accept the Gentiles, but go to them also (Picture the whole Cornelius incident), and how we do not see that happening beyond that, these must have been primarily Jewish believers. That for me brings no condemnation, but an understanding. A Jew, steeped in learning and tradition would have knowledge of characters like Balaam, or the sons of Eli. It also implies a basis for understanding and a solid foundation of traditional learning – the law.
One of my acquaintances repeatedly stresses the importance of teaching the “foundational doctrines”. I suppose they are like a return to the law for him. That is easy to assume, as he is more of a legalist, often setting aside grace. Each time he rants about doctrine, I find myself thinking, I am not even sure what those are. In essence, these are the “We believe” statements of the church. It is really our living apologetic, the basis of what and why we have a hope, the promised eternity with the Father (The one who first loved me). My lack of understanding prompted me to look up doctrines. There are many and few agree, but I get it. This is foundational stuff – the bread and butter of our faith. How do I come to Jesus Christ, in faith, and receive what he is offering, if I do not know what he is offering? I suppose many do, but shortly afterwards, someone should be teaching them the basics. I tend to see it as the cement upon which the large building is supported.
Assuming I know the basics, I should then be able to spot a false teacher. Have you seen any those doctored photos that has a wolf covered in sheepskin, standing among the sheep. Much depends on how good the person was with the photo-editing program, because in one case the wolf is covered in a ragged, hanging sheepskin. There is no doubt he is a wolf waiting for a free lunch. However, some blend the fur so well that you have to study the facial features to convince yourself that this is a wolf standing there. The second example scares me the most. In either case, my reaction is, someone is going to be eaten. Maybe that is Peter’s concern. I am not terribly concerned if the wolf is feeble and has no teeth, but just that it is standing there tells me that it is on the hunt. Consider this though, if a sheep were eaten, though they cease to be on earth, do they cease to be a sheep? Even in our reference to them in the past tense, we still call them a sheep. There is a point to this. Jesus told us, and John’s gospel recorded it, I lose none of them. Is a consumed sheep then lost? It does not sound like it. Now what we do not know is if that was really a sheep? You see we all have the same clothing on (skin), but none look-alike, and I cannot see into your heart, only God can do that. The only thing I have that tells me you are a sheep is your consistent conversation and the fruit you bear; chew on that for a moment.
2 Peter 2:1 KJV But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
The word false is the Greek word pseudodidaskalos and means: a spurious teacher, that is, propagator of erroneous Christian doctrine: – false teacher.
See how that works. I try to figure one thing out and I am forced to momentarily pursue another. What does spurious mean?
SPURIOUS, a. [L.] 1. Not genuine; not proceeding from the true source or from the source pretended;
Therefore, the 100,000-dollar question is what is the basis for truth. I am not an apologist, but I have listened to people who are, and they have discussed the idea of truth in-depth. Essentially God is truth. He is the basis for all that exists and all things were formed by his word. God’s word is truth.
John 17:17 Jesus praying said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
In John 18:37 Jesus answering Pilate stated, “for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” If that was not enough, he added, “Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.” However, this was Jesus testifying about himself, so what else do we have.
Luke’s gospel tells us of Peter, and others, seeing Jesus on the mount with Moses and Elijah, and hearing God’s voice testify of his Son.
Luke 9:32-36 NASB Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. (33) And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”–not realizing what he was saying. (34) While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. (35) Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (36) And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.
This was not the first time God had acknowledged Jesus publicly, but this time the witnesses could understand what was being said. That was not the case when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan.
If you know the story behind Balaam, then you may understand when I use the word absurd to define him as a witness. He would not be described as righteous man, or a defender of the faith. We assume that the word prophet and God were synonymous; apparently, that was not the case, as Balaam was a hired gun – a prophet for hire. Because Balaam’s motivation is other than religious, I perceive his testimony to be a little more credible. Here is a portion of what happened and what God said to him.
Numbers 23:16-20 NASB Then the LORD met Balaam and put a word in his mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.” (17) He came to him, and behold, he was standing beside his burnt offering, and the leaders of Moab with him. And Balak said to him, “What has the LORD spoken?” (18) Then he took up his discourse and said, “Arise, O Balak, and hear; Give ear to me, O son of Zippor! (19) “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (20) “Behold, I have received a command to bless; When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.
Now, if there were an example of a false prophet, it would be Balaam. He was definitely spurious. Although the excerpt makes it sound like he is a noble guy, he is not. Balaam ignored God’s warnings, went after money and gave the enemies of Israel intelligence that allowed them to be destroyed from the inside out. A clear defiance of God’s will. Notice that Balaam understood the serious nature of what was said to him. You see this in, “Behold, I have received a command to bless; When He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.”
God defined his character to Abram.
Genesis 17:4-5 NASB “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. (5) “No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
This was not the first time he had done this. Abram could not reciprocate with an irreproachable nature; he had none. God made his statements, and then he backed them with action. God followed through; this dominates any study you might do about God.
Jonah might be one of those that people will read and then say, this proves that God lies and changes his mind. Do not be so narrow-minded and foolish. Even Jonah understood the character of God for he said you are going to relent. Why is that important to the story, because Jonah hated these people, the Assyrians/Ninevehites, and wanted them dead. God relented when they repented (I had to do that), but make no mistake, their sins did catch up with them and the remains of that metropolis was discovered in mounds outside of Mosul, Iraq. Therefore, God followed through.
Now, since we understand that God is believable, we should have a foundation of belief. How then does this wolf approach us and with what do they deceive?
John McArthur says, “The greatest sin of Christ-rejecters and the most damning work of Satan is misrepresentation of the truth.”
Misrepresentations may end up being big stuff if they go on long enough, but it is typically subtle and small in the beginning. Those same guys that squawk so loudly about false teachers have introduced things of late that really irritated me. One example: a guy pulls an article out of his pocket, that he printed about “that boy” that went to heaven, and has since told his story, and got a book published. He and the family, are now recanting his epic tale. Ironically, the family name in this article is Malarkey. I attempted a challenge because you cannot merely say, “that boy” as it is misrepresentation. You have to distinguish between this Malarkey and Colton Burpo, whom I happened to value.
It is not the information on the paper that is bad, and could easily have been used to make his point about false teachers, but it was his adamant, overbearing, one-sided delivery. Coming from the mouth of a trusted teacher, he is going to be listened too. However, the manner in which he delivers it creates a false understanding about God.
Come on now, what are you trying to say when you say, a false understanding about God. Because, those same doctrines, which my friend rants about, tell me that there is a hope of an eternity with the Father. Jesus declared these things repeatedly – I will come back and take you to the Father, with me. Why would he have to say this so many times, because we are rock heads and easily swayed I suppose. Perhaps we are not so quick at recognizing the well-cloaked wolf among us.
My other friend leads a bible study. That fact alone should show some skills and knowledge that I wish I had. Recently, in an effort to define grace, he sets up a quick visual in front of him. If you are operating on the truth that Christ died once for all, and that sin is covered by his blood, then you can probably agree that God, looking down upon us (that means everyone, even your Muslim neighbors) sees nothing but forgiven people. The visual display represented that, as he acted as if his hand was God and he was looking through a bottle of water (Jesus blood) at the bell on the table, which represented people. All well and good to this point, but then he added a twist, which befuddled me and pushed us back into having to work for our salvation. He essentially said that this forgiveness is not yours until you come out and ask God to forgive you. Now which is it? Did Christ die for no reason and all this is a lie, or is God’s word true. This is an in-depth discussion and is precisely what Paul talked about in his letter to the Romans. (This discussion goes far beyond bread and butter does it not, and yet it seems to be essential. It demands that you get your understanding clear, which lessens your ability to be deceived.) God is not judging the world for sins any more. He is judging based upon what you did with Jesus. It is that simple. Allow me a simple example from the mouth of Jesus:
John 12:47 ESV If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
Therefore, what that bible study leader did was a misrepresentation of the truth, and, he was loud, and adamant about it. He was even challenged about some of the things he said and seemed unwilling to yield to the truth, and, I can tell you from first hand experience that this happens repeatedly. Is it deliberate? I will say no, but what is it when you have the potential to understand the truth and yet refuse it because it does not fit within your doctrinal scheme?
Most of us know about the blatant ones, the false teachers that have their own television shows. One in particular has apparently stated the he is a motivational speaker. Those tend to be easy to spot. When the studio set is lined with gold, you should know that you are about to be fleeced.
One of the techniques for studying scripture is to let the scripture define itself. I just went through pages of what some might call a rant. I admit I am put off by false teachers, but at the same I need to watch myself so that I do not fall into that same trap. Many will read this and do what I do, build a false image about the person doing the writing, for I may come off as having all the answers. That is not the case at all. I struggle with a bad memory and self-esteem issues all the time. It makes me think of Paul as he spoke about his perceived presence in one of his letters, compared with the reality of how he actually presented himself and looked. I, because of my internal bad image, would put on the persona of an angry bear. It seemed good at the time because I thought it kept me safe. I was wrong; it kept me lonely. I have to fight that desire and imagery all the time. I think about a song done by the group Mercy Me, which states, “the last thing I need is to be heard, and the funny thing is, that’s okay.” I believe it the Holy Spirit keeping me in check because I know me. If I could have pulled an array of scriptures out of my memory, against the recent misrepresentations, I would have used them like a club, and God does not want that from me. It misrepresents him.
I am compelled to give you one more example of misrepresentation. Moses was told to speak to “the rock” because the people were whining for water. Now they may have needed water and God noticed that, but it seems that God wanted the people to see the loving, caring side of him, so he tells Moses to speak to the rock. Moses is mad, no doubt about it, and he slams his staff against the rock. Yes, water came out. Thankfully, we have a merciful God, but Moses paid for his disobedience, which misrepresented God, and he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land; what a drag that would have been.
As I looked at Second Peter, it became obvious that this explanation of false teachers and prophets is intertwined all through the chapter. Again, I run long, sorry.
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. (2 Peter 2:1 ESV)
And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:2 ESV)
Jesus defines blasphemy for us nicely. It is the attribution of the things of God to the devil.
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. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly (2 Peter 2:3-6 ESV)
and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (2 Peter 2:7 ESV)
This is vague because you may not see what God saw.
(for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, (2 Peter 2:8,9 ESV)
This verse brings hope for the believer surrounded by wolves, and condemns the false teacher, which he labels the unrighteous.
and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, (2 Peter 2:10 ESV)
“Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme” What do you suppose that means?
whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, (2 Peter 2:11,12 ESV)
This is a bit overwhelming. I do not see much of what is done as being so intentional. Maybe there is more to people like this. I am thinking about Paul telling the church body to turn so and so over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his spirit might be saved. The more I think about things like this, the more I am glad that I am not the judge.
suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. (2 Peter 2:13 ESV)
There are more of them intertwined among us. I suspect that this is the tares Jesus spoke of.
They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! (2 Peter 2:14 ESV)
Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, (2 Peter 2:15 ESV)
“They have followed the way of Balaam” Remember that name? I brought him up earlier.
but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness. (2 Peter 2:16 ESV)
The day will come when they will be rebuked. It may not be so pretty. Sadly, Balaam only paid a minimal amount of attention.
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. (2 Peter 2:18,19 ESV)
We use this passage in Recovery. The emphasis for recovery is “whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved”, and so many are enslaved. I am not sure that I can recall any freedom that was set forth in the teachings of my acquaintances.
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. (2 Peter 2:20 ESV)
Who is the “they” here, the believer. In recovery that is what you hope to see, escape from defilements of the world. However, the misrepresentations did not bring freedom, they become more entangled.
For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:21 ESV)
How is that possible? A statement that says it was better to never know Jesus, the way of righteousness, all because of misrepresentations. Do you realize how destructive this is.
What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:22 ESV)
I reading the John Eldredge book, Beautiful Outlaw, he points out that too many of us, go to church, but only allow Jesus/God to work within our limits. Really? Was it misrepresentation that created this in us?
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