The Traits of False Teachers

The Traits of False Teachers

False teachers are, or once were, professing believers. Peter even speaks of them in a way that sounds like Christ had saved them, since outwardly they looked connected to the Savior. But inwardly, something very different was going on, and their outward connection to Christ made their indulgent behavior and false teaching all the more damnable. Of all people, they should have known better. Their fakeness made them that much more accountable.

A few years back, an evangelical organization where I lived put on a debate. It pitted a Christian professor at a well-known university, who was also an ordained minister, against an atheist professor. At one point, the Christian minister was asked an easy question meant to let him defend the evidence for Christ’s resurrection. I can still remember what he said instead: “Of course, when we Christians talk about the resurrection, we’re not saying that Jesus literally walked out of the grave in a bodily fashion. We’re just speaking about a spiritual resurrection of some kind.”

A few weeks later, the committee of Christians who had planned the debate invited me to meet with them. The meeting began with discussion about how the debate had gone, and the response was generally positive. When I raised a concern about the Christian minister denying the bodily resurrection of Christ, one person on the committee said, “Oh yes, I mean, apart from the heterodoxy, I think it was a great success. We all knew that minister was a bit heterodox, but the debate got the most downloads on the internet we’ve ever had!”

What struck me that day was not an inability to discern false doctrine. The gentleman on the committee admitted this minister was heterodox—out of line with right doctrine. No, what struck me was the indifference and apathy toward false doctrine. In the Bible, false teaching is never a matter of indifference or apathy. It is serious business. False prophets and false teachers get damned for it. (For example, see Deuteronomy 13:5Jeremiah 23:14–15Matthew 7:13–15Galatians 1:8.)

That’s because false teaching is a deadly virus that attacks the organism of Christ’s body, the church. Peter repeatedly says these heresies lead to “destruction.” In the New Testament, the word he uses often means damnation to hell. The response of Christ’s body to such viruses should be to identify them and then eliminate them. The church must have a doctrinal immune system.

False teachers will always be with us. Peter points out how they have hidden among God’s people since Old Testament days. In fact, it all began in the garden of Eden with the first false teacher, the serpent—Satan himself—who twisted God’s words, leading to death.

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