What is False Teaching

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There are two kinds of false teachers described in the Bible (2 Peter 2 and Matthew 7), which I will explain below. I would also explain how easy our job is to spot false teaching compared to the days of the early Churches. The bible description of false teaching is simply the misuse of the truth. Any message that is used intentionally to contradict the scriptures for personal gain or human recognition is also false teaching. If my opinion on a topic contradicts the biblical truth, then my opinion is wrong - plain and simple. An example is me telling you that taking the communion is not a must for Christians when Jesus Himself clearly said to "...do this in remembrance of me."

A false teacher is someone who carelessly preach or support false teachings (Galatians 1:8-9). The two types of false teachers described in the bible are: The "false teachers" that we often talk about and the hypocritical false teachers that Jesus talked about but we often ignore. The difference is one is mostly focused on relaying false or untruthful messages for personal gain. The other mostly trample on the truth with human traditions or with their lifestyle.

1. The "false teachers" we often talk about are those who teach destructive false doctrines. Some even go as far as to denying the existence of God(2 Peter 2:1-2; 1 John 4:1-6). These kind of false teachers have no interest in knowing or preaching the truth about any doctrinal issue as long as their personal satisfaction and needs are met. Their focus is on falsehood to those who would listen and cheer them on. Some of them are often referred to as "feel good" or "prosperity" preachers whose only concern is their pocket. They will tell you anything you want to hear to satisfy your ears as long as you are willing to fill their pocket and celebrate them.

Among other excuses we hear for not allowing capable members of local congregations to teach, preach, etc during worship services, the biggest one is the misuse of 1 Peter 2:1. Some have taken this scripture out of context to the point that even when you disagree with them on a matter of opinion, you are automatically labelled a "false teacher." You are also labelled a false teacher when you don't "go with the flow" in a congregation that knows something is gravely wrong but would rather sweep things under the carpet and prefer you agree with it and go with the flow even when it clearly violates the scriptures.

When Peter made that statement in second Peter 2, the Bible was not fully complete as we have it today. The apostles were still receiving direct inspired messages from God and as a result, they were writing these epistles to the different congregations in different locations on how to act and what to look out for. Peter's concern was mostly about those who were pretending to be receiving the same direct message from God or lying about delivering messages from the apostles. These were the false teachers Peter primarily warned about.
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Is this scripture still applicable in today's society? YES, YES, YES but in a different way than most would have you believe. Now that we have the Bible in our possession (2 Peter 1:3), we can be like the Berean Jews in Acts 17; or should I say be like "half" the Bereans because we have less work than they did, and I'll get to it later.
  • "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." - Acts 17:11.
2. The hypocritical false teachers are those that make the good message meaningless due to their lifestyle - Matthew 7:6. We don't talk much about these kinds of false teachers because most of them are in leadership positions among us. No, I'm not talking about their sins or mistakes, I'm talking about their overall lifestyle, which is what Jesus was talking about. Their message or teachings may not always be false but it is often meaningless and this is why Jesus, when describing these kind of false teacher, He said "...not all that say to me Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." You can't go outside, light up a cigarette every hour of the day and then turn around to tell the guy smoking next to you that "smoking cigarette is bad." The great message is seen as a joke by the receiver and trampled upon as if it has no value.

In the same way, you don't toss expensive priceless pearls to dogs or pigs because they don't see the value in it; they trample and play with it as described in verse 6 of Matthew 7 above. Another example will be to insult someone all week long and when they insult you on a Sunday morning, you turn around and tell them that insulting people is not nice. Then on Monday morning you begin with the insults again. How well do you think they will receive or treasure the great message you gave them that Sunday morning about being nice? A hypocritical lifestyle if different from someone who commits sin as a human. The big difference is the continuity to make it a lifestyle and unwillingness to sincerely admit wrong doings while vehemently condemning similar or less alarming actions.

Jesus described hypocritical false teacher as someone who pretends to be a "godly person" but their overall lifestyle is far from anything good. They give sweet messages like a sheep but inwardly they are wolves who don't even believe in what they preach much less practice what they preach (Matthew 7:15-23). These hypocritical false teachers sometimes go as far as to mix up human traditions with God's word in order to keep people under their control. They preach human rules as if it were God's own commandments (Matthew 15:7-9). Having hypocritical actions doesn't mean you are living a hypocritical lifestyle (Galatians 2:11-13). Peter had a mishap but I'm sure we'll see him in heaven because of grace. We all know the difference between a mistakes and lifestyle.
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If you have an opinion about a biblical issue and honestly doing your very best to study the bible to make sure you have it correct (2 Timothy 2:15), then I do not consider you a "false teacher." However, if you intentionally mislead people for personal gain or you refuse to acknowledge the truth due to pride even when it's made clear to you in the scriptures, then you are a false teacher especially if you continue spreading the same message without biblical backings or intentionally taking the bible out of context.

Our job or ability to spot false teaching is actually easier than the days on the early Christians. They had to review their past experiences and messages with other apostles that they knew to be truly from God. Then match it with the present or the new apostles like Paul with the same true message to make sure it is the same and true. Not to mention, reviewing these past and present teachings along with the other teachings coming from various false apostles and teachers claiming to be directly from God. Imagine the stress that comes with such devotion to get it right. All we have to do today is match it up with the Bible to see if it's true.

If people are easily misled by social propaganda even to the point of infiltrating one society from another location or country, what makes you think there are no false teachers out there on TV and on the web doing the same with Christianity? Anyone with a phone or keyboard these days can preach or teach anything they so choose; and anyone who refuses to do their own due diligence will fall for anything (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Know the Lord your God and His truth.