Editors note: this series of articles also appear in both the Sentinel Echo newspaper, Friday edition, weekly, London, KY and the Saturday edition of the Corbin Times-Tribune. They are a part of the teaching/evangelism efforts of the Mill Street church of Christ, 415 N. Mill St., London, KY.
Is your preacher a false teacher? Part 12
“…that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine…which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.” - 1 Timothy 1:3, 6-7
The Bible “character profiles” a false teacher
What does the Bible reveal about false teachers and false teaching? The bible makes mention of Satan and of his ‘messengers’ (2 Cor. 11:14-15). The context in which this statement is made of Satan and his efforts is dealing with false teachers and false teaching. Religious convictions are directly related to that which is taught in religion. There are several warnings from the Bible about how and why false doctrine would arise. These provide us with an accurate picture of the moral status of people as well as the answers to why there is religious division today. In regard to the Bible, it does not “read” one way to you and another to me. Neither do not have the ‘right’ to interpret it as we see fit. In order for the Bible to benefit, our attitude toward it must be that is infallible and inspired of God. Most everyone who believes the Bible to be from God claims this; yet when a passage is presented that contradicts their preconceived idea, they make the claim that, that particular text or passage ought ‘not’ to be a part of the Bible. In reality, they create a proverbial “loophole” so that their preconceived idea can be retained. I have heard people make the statement along this line of “that text is unreliable because it is not in the ‘oldest’ manuscripts. Therefore it cannot be trusted and ought not to be in the Bible.” To those who may be of this persuasion, please consider: What are the “oldest” manuscripts? Can you provide the names of the “oldest” manuscripts? How did you come to know about ‘oldest’ or ‘youngest’ manuscripts...what is your source of information on this? Further, at what point does a manuscript cease to be a part of the “oldest”, and by what means is this determined? Do you not see that your faith must be placed in some uninspired person’s testimony in order to hold to this position? This is how Satan operates. He wants man to doubt the authenticity and inspiration of the scriptures. It is in this way that Satan succeeds in preventing us from accepting the fact that truth can be determined. If Satan can convince us that we cannot identify truth, then no one can label anything as sin. If we cannot determine sin, then Satan has accomplished his purpose. How has Satan gone about to do this? He has convinced man that “the faith” (Jude 3) cannot be determined. He has gotten people to accept that we cannot agree on what the Bible teaches, and that therefore the many differing churches are all just pursuing their own understanding of the Bible, and no one ought to question the other, or “pass judgment”. Satan wants men to just accept sincerity without any emphasis upon the doctrine. Thus we hear such phrases as “there are many different roads to heaven and that we are all traveling a different road, but they all head to the same place”. Consider the following passages and see if sincerity without regard for doctrine will suffice.
Matt. 7:13-14 – “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
If it doesn’t matter which ‘way’ you travel, as long as you are sincere, why bother trying to “find” the narrow way? Does this suggest that it matters what one believes and practices in religion?
Hear the apostle Paul’s warnings to Timothy in 1 Tim. 1:3-4, “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”
Notice the phrase, “…teach no other doctrine”. If doctrine doesn’t matter, why did Paul tell Timothy to charge some “…that they teach no other doctrine?” What “doctrine” did Paul want Timothy to teach? For example, what was Timothy to teach about how one “calls upon the name of the Lord”? Was Timothy to teach the same pattern of ‘calling’ that Paul taught? Did Paul and Peter preach the same pattern? Later in this same epistle in chapter 6:3-5, Paul gave this warning, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” Did you notice again, Paul’s statement to “IF ANY MAN TEACH OTHERWISE…AND CONSENT NOT…”? Teach other than what? He said, “…even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Does this mean anything other than to teach the same thing that Jesus taught? More importantly, could Timothy know what Jesus taught? Could Timothy teach the same thing? How could this warning be carried out if Timothy could not distinguish “the truth” from “the fables”?
Paul wrote to Titus in Titus 1:11-16, of false teachers saying, “Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.” What things were not to be taught? Paul went on to tell Titus how to deal with false teachers. “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth” How can you turn from the truth if you can’t define what truth is?
Paul also warned Timothy in 2 Tim. 4:1-4, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine...” What about people’s attitude toward ‘sound doctrine’ today? Do people want ‘sound doctrine’ preached? Do they refuse ‘sound doctrine’ on how to be saved; on divorce & remarriage only if fornication has been committed? What about ‘sound doctrine’ on abortion, homosexuality, gambling, drinking, etc.? Does the Bible contradict itself on these matters? Are there those today who want a preacher who will not condemn their ungodly lifestyles? Are there also preachers who are afraid to preach ‘sound doctrine’ on these matters for fear of loss of employment? These passages clearly teach that truth can be known, and if it can be known, then it can be understood, and if it can be understood, it can be agreed upon!
But Satan has deceived many into accepting the “broad way”; the ‘one church is as good as another’ concept. Such was done in the first century, and the apostle Paul called them what they truly are…false & deceitful. He said in 2 Cor. 11:13-15 of false teachers, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
Notice that Paul by inspiration of the Holy Ghost said that their end will be according to their “works”. Their “works” refer to their false teaching. What if error is believed and obeyed? If error is believed and obeyed out of ignorance, will ignorance excuse in the Day of Judgment? How would this affect one’s salvation? Does doctrine matter? What if one was preached error in regard to what to do to be saved…would he be saved? In view of the fact that Satan does not want anyone to be saved, we have warnings such as the apostle Paul’s about how Satan’s ministers transform themselves into apostles of Christ.
False teachers existed in Jesus’ day, they existed in the apostles’ day, and they exist today. That is why doctrine matters! It is why we must teach only what Jesus commanded to be taught in order for sins to be forgiven. Yes it is true that all must come to Jesus, or ‘call upon the name of the Lord’, but the question that needs to be given careful study is, HOW DO YOU CALL? What does the Bible teach…by sincere prayer or by faith and obedience? Which of the two is ‘sound doctrine’? Which do you find taught and followed in the book of Acts?