- What to Teach: God’s Word
- How to Teach
- Traits of False Teachers (I): Their Teaching
- Traits of False Teachers (II): Characteristics
- Guarding against False Teachers
Teaching is one of the main roles of most church leaders. Good teaching is based on God’s word, and should be delivered in accordance with the directions and sound examples found in Scripture. On the topic of teaching, one must also be aware of the characteristics of “false” teachers who are so often present in the church, so as to recognize them and deal with them.
2Tim 3:16-17 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. NET
2Tim 4:2a [Paul, to Timothy:] Preach the word! NKJV
Ex 18:20 [Jethro, to Moses:] You should teach them God’s commands and explain to them how they should live and what they should do. GNT
1Tim 4:6 [Paul, to Timothy:] By pointing out such things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, having nourished yourself on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. NET
In v. 6a Paul exhorts Timothy to instruct the believers in the things that he had been writing about. These things were composed of or in line with the “words” or truths of the faith and the good teaching that Timothy himself had followed (v. 6b).
1Tim 4:13 [Paul, to Timothy:] Until I get there, concentrate on reading Scripture in worship, giving encouraging messages, and teaching people. GW
Josh 8:35 Joshua read aloud every commandment Moses had given before the whole assembly of Israel, including the women, children, and resident foreigners who lived among them. NET
Acts 17:11b The Bereans were eager to hear what Paul and Silas said and studied the Scriptures every day to find out if these things were true. NCV™
Matt 19:3-6 Then some Pharisees came to him [Jesus] in order to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful to divorce a wife for any cause?” 4He answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and will be united with his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” NET
Luke 4:5-8 Then the devil led him [Jesus] up to a high place and showed him in a flash all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, “To you I will grant this whole realm – and the glory that goes along with it, for it has been relinquished to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. 7So then, if you will worship me, all this will be yours.” 8Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” NET
Deut 4:2 [Moses:] Do not add a thing to what I command you nor subtract from it, so that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I am delivering to you. NET
2Cor 4:2a [Paul:] Instead, we have refused to use secret and shameful ways. We don’t use tricks, and we don’t distort God’s word. As God watches, we clearly reveal the truth to everyone. GW
Neh 8:7-8 Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah – all of whom were Levites – were teaching the people the law, as the people remained standing. 8They read from the book of God’s law, explaining it and imparting insight. Thus the people gained understanding from what was read. NET
Acts 28:23b From morning until evening he [Paul] continued to explain the kingdom of God to them, trying to convince them about Jesus from the law of Moses and the Prophets. ISV
1Cor 9:24-25 [Paul, to church members:] You know that many runners enter a race, and only one of them wins the prize. So run to win! 25Athletes work hard to win a crown that cannot last, but we do it for a crown that will last forever. CEV
Here Paul likens the Christian life and the reward of the afterlife to a race and its prize – to emphasize the focus, determination and discipline required.
2Cor 1:13a [Paul, to church members:] For we do not write you anything other than what you can read and also understand. NET
Mark 4:33 Jesus used many other stories when he spoke to the people, and he taught them as much as they could understand. CEV
Titus 2:7b-8 [Paul, to the church leader Titus:] Be sincere and serious in your teaching. 8Use sound words that cannot be criticized, so that your enemies may be put to shame by not having anything bad to say about us. GNT
2Tim 4:2b [Paul, to Timothy:] Be very patient when you teach. GW
Titus 2:1 [Paul, to Titus:] But you must teach what agrees with sound doctrine. GNT
Acts 20:27 [Paul:] I have told you everything God wants you to know. CEV
2Pet 1:12-15 [Peter:] Therefore, I intend to keep on reminding you about these things, even though you already know them and are firmly established in the truth that you now have. 13Yet I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I am living in this bodily tent, 14because I know that the removal of my bodily tent will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, has shown me. 15And I will make every effort to see that you will always remember these things after I am gone. ISV
Rom 15:14 [Paul, to the Roman believers:] But I myself am fully convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. NET
The phrase “filled with all knowledge” suggests that the Roman believers were amply filled with spiritual knowledge (cf. AMP). Thus, such believers are competent to instruct each other.
Note that also included in this and the following sections on false teachers are verses regarding false prophets, ungodly priests and other ungodly religious leaders, including Pharisees. For similar to false teachers in the church, all these were in positions of spiritual authority amongst God’s people and taught misleading things.
Jer 14:14 [Jeremiah:] Then the Lord said to me, “Those [false] prophets are prophesying lies while claiming my authority! I did not send them. I did not commission them. I did not speak to them. They are prophesying to these people false visions, worthless predictions, and the delusions of their own mind. NET
Col 2:8 [Paul, to believers:] Be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. NET
The phrase “the elemental spirits of the world” likely refers either to evil spirits who have great influence on the thinking of the world or to “the basic principles of the world” (ISV).
2Pet 2:18-19 For by speaking high–sounding but empty words they are able to entice, with fleshly desires and with debauchery, people who have just escaped from those who reside in error. 19Although these false teachers promise such people freedom, they themselves are enslaved to immorality. For whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved. NET
Jer 23:16b-17 [Jeremiah, warning his people about false prophets:] They are filling you with false hopes. They are reporting visions of their own imaginations, not something the Lord has given them to say. 17They continually say to those who reject what the Lord has said, ‘Things will go well for you!’ They say to all those who follow the stubborn inclinations of their own hearts, ‘Nothing bad will happen to you!’ NET
Lam 2:14a [Jeremiah, to Jerusalem and her people:] Your prophets saw visions for you that were worthless lies. They failed to expose your sin so as to restore your fortunes. NET
1Tim 1:3 [Paul, to Timothy:] 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, … ESV
2Pet 3:16b [Peter, referring to Paul’s letters:] Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures. NET
1Jn 2:22 Who, then, is the liar? It is those who say that Jesus is not the Messiah. Such people are the Enemies of Christ—they reject both the Father and the Son. GNT
False teachers (in view here) typically deny or dilute key aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Col 2:18b That person goes on at great lengths about what he has supposedly seen, but he is puffed up with empty notions by his fleshly mind. NET
Jude 1:10a But these people attack with insults anything they do not understand … GNT
Acts 20:29-30 [Paul, to people from the Ephesian church:] I know that when I’m gone savage wolves will come among you and not spare the flock. 30Indeed, some of your own men will come forward and distort the truth in order to lure the disciples into following them. ISV
1Tim 4:2a They [unfaithful people] will also be fooled by the false claims of liars whose consciences have lost all feeling. CEV
1Tim 6:4-5 This gives rise to envy, dissension, slanders, evil suspicions, 5and constant bickering by people corrupted in their minds and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a way of making a profit. NET
Here “people” appears to primarily refer to false teachers (cf. v. 3), “people corrupted in their minds”.
Jude 1:18-19 They [the apostles] said to you [believers], “When the last days come, people will appear who will mock you, people who follow their own godless desires.” 19These are the people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit. GNT
False teachers are primarily in view here.
2Pet 2:3a [Peter, to believers:] In their greed these false teachers will make a profit out of telling you made-up stories. GNT
2Cor 11:13-15 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15Therefore it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions. NET
2Pet 2:10b These false teachers are bold and arrogant, and show no respect for the glorious beings above; instead, they insult them. GNT
1Tim 1:7 They [false teachers] want to be teachers of the law, but they do not understand what they are saying or the things they insist on so confidently. NET
Matt 15:14 Leave them! They are blind guides. If someone who is blind leads another who is blind, both will fall into a pit. NET
The Pharisees were spiritually blind. As such they lacked insight and mislead others.
Matt 23:13, 33 [Jesus:] But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in. … 33You snakes, you offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? NET
Matt 7:15 Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. NET
Eph 5:6 Let nobody deceive you with empty words, for because of these things God’s wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. NET
Acts 17:11 The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God’s message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. GW
Matt 7:16-18 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? 17In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. NET
1Jn 3:7-8a, 10 [John, to believers:] Little children, let no one deceive you: The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as Jesus is righteous. 8The one who practices sin is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. … 10By this the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed: Everyone who does not practice righteousness – the one who does not love his fellow Christian – is not of God. NET
John appears to primarily have in view recognizing false teachers (cf. 2:18-26).
Rev 2:2 [Jesus Christ, to the church in Ephesus:] I know what you do, how you work hard and never give up. I know you do not put up with the false teachings of evil people. You have tested those who say they are apostles but really are not, and you found they are liars. NCV™
2Tim 3:5 Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won’t be real. Don’t have anything to do with such people. CEV
2Pet 2:2 And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. NET