By Rick Becker 4 October 2018
False teachings have serious consequences, not only for those who teach error, but also for their hearers. The Apostle Paul took false teaching seriously: “ I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.“ Acts 20: 29-31.
If the apostle Paul were alive today he would have been accused of being a heresy hunter, judgemental, divisive, unloving, and would have been rejected by certain well known churches and teachers that are adored by millions. Paul was however judging righteously when he warned of false teachers. He was dividing correctly by making a distinction between truth and error, and he was loving in that he presented the truth in order to save those being tossed about by the various winds of doctrine. It is these winds of doctrine that are systematically poisoning millions within the Evangelical Industrial Complex. It may take some time for false teachings to have an effect, but when they do, they are destructive. In this article we explore seven effects of false teachings.
1. SENSUALITY that leads to destruction.
“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.” 2 Peter 2:1-3.
I don’t think I even need to list the church scandals of the past few decades. Pulpits have become a platform for predators of the worst kind. Sexual abuse, affairs, abuse of power and the lust for money in the visible church have made it difficult for unbelievers to make a distinction between the immorality of the world and what takes place in the church. This is how the way of truth is blasphemed.
The word that translates as “sensuality” is ἀσελγείαις – which means lascivious, and is used in the majority of manuscripts as opposed to the word ἀπωλείαις – meaning destructive or pernicious. The lasciviousness of these false teachers meant that they satisfied the lusts of their flesh, particularly sexual pleasures. I found Mark Dunagan’s commentary on these verses above helpful: “The ethics and morality of such men have become a matter of private choice or personal opinion. The key words they use are ‘self-expression’, ‘fulfillment’, rather than purity and obedience. ‘If there is no longer a master to please, then there will only be ourselves to please; and if someone starts speaking a message that flatters people rather than calling them to repentance and faith, and that encourages them to enjoy their darkest and most secret wishes rather than hard discipleship and learning, it will not be surprising that many will follow. Such a message makes no demands other than the ones we want to make on ourselves”
These false teachers avoid the message of the cross and justify the lusts of the flesh. They avoid messages on sin, God’s wrath, eternal judgement, and death to self. Their ear tickling messages will satisfy the souls who want to fulfil their dreams and appease their carnal appetites. They don’t preach tithing because they want you to prosper – they need your tithe to pay for their new building and opulent lifestyle. They won’t tell you that they got rich from exploiting biblically illiterate people due to their own greed; instead they will tell you that tithing worked for them. They justify their divorces by blaming their spouse, and within months marry that other woman from their own congregation. They are admired and revered as influential voices in the visible church while secretly abusing women in their own congregation. They teach on accountability yet they are accountable to no one. These are sensual and greedy people whose version of god is merely an expression of themselves. And here’s the effect – “many will follow their sensuality.”
2. SELF is appeased.
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Timothy 4:3
Those who sit under false teachings are not interested in death to self, but in elevating self. They want to satisfy their passions; they want to appease self. And so they listen to those teachers who commend themselves in this regard. These teachers boast of their exploits. Some have cameras following them as they perform their crafty “miracles” in public. Others will let their followers on twitter know all the details of their lives, from their pets names and activities to the latest colour nail varnish they are using. Their followers know more details of their idol’s lives than they do the gospels. One thing is for certain -they are going to let you know “the Lord” told them this or that. This gives credence to their teachings and revelations, and elevates them above the ordinary believer.
Not all of them are blatant motivational speakers and easy to discern as being a fraud. Some of them talk of mysteries, deep revelations, and the desire to bring in billions of souls for Christ. It is these “apostles” and “prophets” in particular that are luring many into their web of deceit, simply because they come across as passionate, deep, and spiritual. Those who are prepared to “search the scriptures” and compare the teachings of these well known celebrity teachers will find that they twist and narcigete scripture. While it’s easy to identify those who are wallowing in the obvious lusts of the flesh, it is more difficult to spot subtle sins like spiritual pride. Spiritual pride captivates those who have been told that they are an amazing breed who will supersede the works of Christ. Many are swept up in movements such as the New Apostolic Reformation. Their ministry, their stories, their revelations, and their claims of how God has used them are simply a spiritual veneer over rotting flesh. The really tragic part is that many sincere and passionate people who want to do God’s will are deceived by this version of appeasing self.
A W Tozer warned of deception tailored to ensnare the passionate:
“Strange as it may seem, the danger today is greater for the fervent Christian than for the lukewarm and the self-satisfied. The seeker after God’s best things is eager to hear anyone who offers a way by which he can obtain them. He longs for some new experience, some elevated view of truth, some operation of the Spirit that will raise him above the dead level of religious mediocrity he sees all around him, and for this reason he is ready to give a sympathetic ear to the new and the wonderful in religion, particularly if it is presented by someone with an attractive personality and a reputation for superior godliness” – The Best of A. W. Tozer, compiled by Warren W. Wiersbe.
False teachings are not Christ centered, and as a result the gospel becomes a story about what men and women can do, instead of what Christ has done. The gospel becomes a means to gain, instead of a cross that slays self. Many deceived by these man centered teachings imagine that the atonement guarantees perfect health, financial increase and superpowers. We would be wise to heed the words of Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
3. SLAVERY instead of freedom.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Galatians 5: 1-6.
Paul is warning the Galatian believers not to fall for the false teachings of the Judaizers. These false teachers were persuasive, but their teachings were based on the law instead of grace. Unfortunately legalism did not end with the early church. Today there are movements and denominations that place a heavy and unnecessary burden on their followers. Considered by many evangelicals to be a cult, The Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) have a legalistic approach towards dietary laws and keeping the Sabbath. A greater threat however, and possibly influenced by SDA is the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM). I say greater threat in the sense that I know many folk who have become disillusioned with Charismania, or who have come out of the New Apostolic Reformation, and have somehow get entangled with the HRM.
In this article, Fisher, G. Richard writes the following:
“Many Christians don’t realize that there is a battle being waged between Jewish externals and rituals as a means of spirituality and sanctification and truly biblical means that are internal heart issues…It’s hard to define the HRM because it is so diverse and made up of so many disparate groups and individuals. It’s a moving target. It’s a vast smorgasbord of everything from scholarship, as in the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, to so-called Third Questers, to individuals practicing subjective pop (make-it-up-as-you-go) Judaism. It can even include the medieval mystical Kabbalah, with its esoteric numerology. More often than not there are no distinctions made between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant or between the Bible and the Talmud. This movement can impose legalism with a vengeance or in some instances may simply suggest Jewish practices that they say will give us deeper insight and understanding as well as make us more “authentic” believers.”
Some within the HRM claim to have superior insight and an authentic faith through engaging a Hebrew mindset, keeping certain feasts, using the real names of “G-d” such as Yeshua or YHWH. In reality, it’s just back to another form of slavery. Read about the Dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement here. While types and shadows in scripture are beneficial, and serve a purpose, they do not make us one bit more spiritual or accelerate our conformity into the image of Christ.
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Col 2:16-17.
4. SHAKEN in mind concerning end times.
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” 2 Thessalonians 2: 2-3
Somehow believers in Thessalonica had got the impression that the end of the world was near – a time of judgement on the earth and the second coming of Christ. How they got that impression is not clear, but Paul suggested three possibilities:
• by a spirit – prophetic word or revelation
• spoken word – teaching
• letter – they had possibly misinterpreted his first letter to them, or there were forged letters doing the rounds.
Whether they had misconstrued Paul’s teachings on the subject or been purposely misled by others, they had fallen for a false teaching and Paul’s warning to them is clear – “Let no one deceive you in any way.”
The result of the false teaching was that they were shaken in mind, meaning that they had lost sound reasoning due to their fear or agitation of what might shortly transpire. They were like a ship being tossed on the high seas. If there is one subject that troubles people, or can cause them to be shaken in the mind, it’s eschatology, and that’s the context of these verses. It’s a subject that still causes much consternation. Natural phenomena such as the blood moons, books such as The Harbinger by false prophet Jonathan Cahn, and the fear-mongering by Jim Bakker in an effort to sell his survival food buckets, have caused many to be shaken in their minds.
While I believe we are in the closing stages of time on earth, I also know that “.. concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” Matthew 24:36.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul writes concerning the day of the Lord and encourages the believers to : “be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:8-9.
We have no need to fear, or to be shaken in our minds regarding the end of the world – in fact the opposite is true:
“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:18-20.
“so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:7-8.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:11-13.
“and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
1 Thessalonians 1:10.
An eschatology that causes you to fear, feel superior, or divide you from brothers and sisters in Christ needs to be revisited.
5. STABILITY is lost.
“..just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.” 2 Peter 3:15-17
Albert Barnes describes the “unstable” as follows: “And unstable – Who have no settled principles and views. The evil here adverted to is that which arises where those undertake to interpret the Bible who have no established principles. They regard nothing as settled. They have no landmarks set up to guide their inquiries. They have no stability in their character, and of course nothing can be regarded as settled in their methods of interpreting the Bible. They are under the control of feeling and emotion, and are liable to embrace one opinion to-day, and another directly opposite to-morrow.”
While the context of the passage from second Peter is about scoffers of the second coming, the methodology of the scoffers are applicable to all false teachers – they twist the scriptures. Many of the well known pastors, “apostles” and “prophets” that people flock after today are ignorant and unstable. They don’t know the basics of exegesis, and as a result are unable to rightly divide the word of truth. These are the men and women who concoct the various winds of teaching that sway the immature and cause them to be “carried away” into error. Despite all the conferences, courses and impartations on offer, followers of these ignorant and unstable teachers are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” They become unstable themselves, as they rely on “revelations” and teachings laced with error. They cannot mature in the faith, and are unable to explain what scripture actually teaches on different subjects. Scripture is downplayed and new revelations, interpretations and experiences are elevated. The result is a fall from steadfastness.
6. SEPARATION from the body and head.
“I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Acts 20:29-30
Those who distort the truth are often narcissists; they speak of themselves more than they do of Christ. Instead of pointing their followers to Christ, they magnify themselves and their own teachings. They separate their followers from truth, and from true fellowship with other believers. Those of us who warn our friends and family of teachers who twist the truth are often accused of being divisive, but the real dividers are those who draw away disciples by twisting the truth – “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.” Romans 16:17.
It is the “humble” false teacher whose deep “spirituality” and “revelations” beguile many. To the biblically illiterate and naive, they seem to be on the cutting edge of what the “Spirit” is doing and saying, but they are speaking and operating from their flesh: “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” Colossians 2:18 – 19.
Many people who come out of Word of Faith, Prosperity and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) churches can struggle to find a church where sound doctrine is taught. For a time, they may be isolated, which is not ideal but understandable in their situation. It’s common for them to be condemned by those who remain under the “covering” of NAR and other unsound churches. The fact is that those who have come out of those churches have done so because they are connected to the head, and covered by Christ, while the one’s deceived are in danger of being disconnected from the head (if connected at all) and are under a carnal covering.
7. SHIPWRECK of their faith.
“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1 Timothy 1:18-20.
Paul is warning Timothy about false teachers in Ephesus. These false teachers had “swerved” from a good conscience and sincere faith, and were described as people who were “without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” 1 Timothy 1:7.
Hymenaeus is probably the same individual Paul identifies in 2 Timothy 2:15-16, who taught that the resurrection had already happened. Rejecting a “good conscience” caused Hymenaeus and Alexander to swerve from truth, and the result was increasing ungodliness. The word “rejected” implies that they had wilfully thrust away faith and a good conscience. When a good conscience is rejected, the result is a seared conscience : “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.” 1 Timothy 4:1-2.
A sure way to shipwreck your faith is to neglect the anchor of God’s word. In doing so, the winds of doctrine will toss you around and like a ship adrift in a stormy sea, you will soon find yourself on the rocks. Hymenaeus and Alexander had rejected the faith in the sense that they were not teaching sound doctrine. When the gospel is replaced with error, the result can only be destructive. This does not mean that those who have shipwrecked their faith are beyond redemption. The hope remains that discipline and God’s chastisement will restore those who are true believers. Although Paul’s words towards Hymenaeus and Alexander seemed harsh, his intentions were clearly remedial: “By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1 Timothy 1:19-20.
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