True vs. False (V)
TRUE AND FALSE TEACHERS (1)
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 12/17/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to 2 Peter 2. I'll be reading the entire chapter:
2 Peter 2: (1) But false prophets were also among the people, as also false teachers will be among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, and denying the Master who has bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. (2) And many will follow their destructive ways, by whom the way of truth will be evil spoken of. (3) And by covetousness, with well-turned words, they will use you for gain, for whom judgment of old does not linger, and their destruction does not slumber. (4) For if God did not spare sinning angels, but delivered [them] to chains of darkness, thrust down into Tartarus, having been kept to judgment; (5) and did not spare [the] ancient world, but preserved Noah [the] eighth, a herald of righteousness, bringing a flood on a world of ungodly ones; (6) and covering the cities [of] Sodom and Gomorrah with ashes, [He] [condemned] them with an overthrow, setting an example to men intending to live ungodly. (7) And He delivered righteous Lot, who had been oppressed by the behavior of the lawless in lustfulness. (8) For that righteous one living among them day after day, in seeing and in hearing, [his] righteous soul [was] tormented [with] their lawless deeds. (9) [But the] Lord knows to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to keep the unjust for a day of judgment, being punished, (10) and most of all those going after flesh [in] the lust of defilement, and despising rulership, darers, self-pleasing; they do not tremble [at] glories, speaking evil; (11) where angels being greater in strength and power do not bring against them a reproaching charge before [the] Lord. (12) But these as unreasoning natural beasts, having been born for capture and corruption, speaking evil in that [of] which they are ignorant, they shall utterly perish in their corruption, (13) being about to receive [the] wages of unrighteousness, having deemed indulgence in the day [to be] pleasure; spots and blemishes reveling [in] their deceits, feasting along with you, (14) having eyes full of an adulteress, and never ceasing from sin; alluring unsettled souls; having a heart being busied [with] covetousness; cursed children; (15) forsaking a straight path, they went astray, following the way of Balaam the [son] of Beor, who loved [the] wages of unrighteousness, (16) but had reproof of [his] own transgression, the dumb ass speaking in a man's voice held back the madness of the prophet. (17) These are springs without water, clouds being driven by tempest, for whom the blackness of darkness has been kept to the ages. (18) For speaking over-swollen [words] of vanity, by [the] lusts of the flesh, by unbridled lusts, they allure those indeed escaping, the ones walking in error, (19) promising to them freedom, [though] themselves being slaves of corruption; for by whom anyone has been overcome, even to this one he has been enslaved. (20) For if by a recognition of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, [they] have escaped the defilements of the world, and again being entangled [they] have been overcome by these, [then their] last things have become worse [than] the first. (21) For it was better for them not to have recognized the way of righteousness than having recognized it to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (22) But [the] word of the true proverb has happened to them: "[The] dog turning to [his] own vomit;" also, [the] washed sow to wallowing [in] mud.
Today, in our continuing series on the true versus the false, we come to true and false teachers. Peter said that not only were there false prophets among the Old Testament professing church, but that false teachers will be among the New Testament professing church as well. The Bible speaks a lot about false teachers. In fact, if my research is correct, I'm pretty sure that the Bible gives descriptions of FALSE teachers, including false prophets, MORE than it gives descriptions of TRUE teachers, including true prophets. We see time and time again warning after warning about false teachers. I guess the people who say that we should only dwell on the positive don't mind shaking their fists at God for all these negative things about false teachers that He put in the Bible. God shows us that we need to make a clear distinction between the true and the false, not only by describing the true, but also by describing the false.
Because of all the warnings against false teachers in the Bible, I'm going to start with the false teachers. But before I do that, I'd like to briefly talk about the word "prophet." The word comes from the Greek word pro-fay-tays, which is a combination of "pro" and "fay-mee." "Pro" means "forth," and "fay-mee" means "to speak" or "to say." So a prophet is one who speaks forth. Many think of a prophet as one who foretells. But the accurate way to think of a prophet is one who FORTH-tells. There ARE prophets mentioned in the Bible who told what was going to happen. But even these were FORTH-telling the Word of God. In the case of a true prophet, he is one who speaks forth the truth of the Word of God. In the case of a false prophet, he is one who speaks forth lies. We saw in 2 Peter 2:1 that Peter was equating the false prophets of the Old Testament to the false teachers of the New Testament. Both prophets and teachers are those who speak forth. So when John spoke about false prophets in 1 John 4:1, for example, he was talking about those who were speaking forth lies. They could just as easily be called false teachers. There ARE differences between the Greek words for "prophet" and "teacher," but in a passage such as 1 John 4:1, we see that these false prophets WERE and ARE teachers. I don't want to get too deeply into that in this sermon.
As I said before, a false prophet, or a false teacher, is one who speaks forth lies. But we see in many passages that the Bible concentrates on SPECIFIC lies that the false teachers speak. In most cases, these lies are about the character of God - who He is and what He does. Even when the false teachers speak lies about man, they ultimately reflect on the character of God. Let's first go to some descriptions of false prophets in the Old Testament and how they relate to false teachers in our day. Let's first turn to Deuteronomy 13:1-5:
Deuteronomy 13: (1) If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams rises among you, and gives you a sign or a wonder, (2) and the sign or the wonder which he spoke to you occurs, saying, Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them, (3) you shall not listen to the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams. For Jehovah your God [is] testing you, to know if you love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (4) You shall walk after Jehovah your God, and you shall fear Him. And you shall keep His commandments, and you shall hear His voice, and you shall serve Him, and you shall cleave to Him. (5) And that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall die, because he has spoken apostasy against Jehovah your God, who is bringing you out of the land of Egypt, and has redeemed you out of the house of slaves, to thrust you out of the way in which Jehovah your God has commanded you to walk. And you shall put away evil from among you.
Notice that the sign or wonder ACTUALLY HAPPENS. And when it happens, the false prophet tells the people to serve other gods. Now in modern day charismania circles, the sign or wonder is proof that this is a man of God. Doctrine is put on the back shelf. But what does God say here? Which do you go by to tell that it is a false prophet? It's his DOCTRINE. It's his TEACHING. The FALSE DOCTRINE that a man teaches overrides everything else. It doesn't matter what else it is. If a teacher teaches FALSE DOCTRINE concerning the character of God, then he is a FALSE TEACHER. I'm sure you can think of many examples in modern-day evangelicalism that relate to this. "But he's so kind and loving and moral and sincere." Can't you hear them say it? Yet these false teachers of today are telling their hearers to go seek other gods. They're telling their hearers to go seek a christ who died for everyone without exception and wants everyone to be saved. They're telling their hearers to pray to and worship a god who is neither a just God nor a Savior. They are false teachers.
Let's turn over a few pages to Deuteronomy 18:20:
Deuteronomy 18: (20) But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, that which I have not commanded him to speak, and who speaks in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
Again, we see that a false prophet speaks in the name of other gods. A Muslim teacher speaks in the name of a false god. A Mormon teacher speaks in the name of a false god. An Arminian teacher speaks in the name of a false god.
Let's turn to Isaiah 8:19-20:
Isaiah 8: (19) And when they say to you, Seek to the mediums, and to spirit-knowers who peep and mutter; should not a people seek to its God, [than] for the living to [seek] the ones who died? (20) To the Law and to the Testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, [it is] because there is no dawn to them!
We see here that a false teacher does not speak according to the Word of God. He speaks what is contrary to the Word of God. He does not tell the people to seek the true and living God, because he does not know who the true and living God is. Isn't this just like the false teachers today? They speak of a god who shows grace and mercy and love at the expense of his law and justice. They speak of a god who regenerates people and then keeps them ignorant of His righteousness revealed in the gospel. They speak of a god who lets people into heaven because they've been good stewards. To the law and to the testimony - they do NOT speak according to this word, which means that they do NOT have light and are yet in darkness.
Now let's turn to Jeremiah 6:14-15:
Jeremiah 6: (14) They have also healed the break of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace. (15) Were they ashamed when they made an abomination? They were not at all ashamed, nor did they know to blush. So they shall fall among those who fall. At the time I visit them, they shall be cast down, says Jehovah.
Now to Jeremiah 8:11-12:
Jeremiah 8: (11) For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace! And [there is] no peace. (12) Were they ashamed when they had done hateful things? They were not even at all ashamed, nor did they know how to blush. So they shall fall among those who fall. In the time of their punishment they will wither, says Jehovah.
This is a major characteristic of false teachers. They speak forth PEACE to the people when there is no peace. This is the lie that Satan spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan said, "You shall not surely die." And we have a country and a world full of preachers who come in the name of Christ who are telling their lost hearers this morning that everything's okay. They assure their hearers that they are at peace with God. Yet they and their hearers are at WAR with the true and living God. There is no peace between them and God. How do we know this? Because they preach that peace with God is conditioned on the sinner. They encourage their hearers to "make your peace with God." They say that Jesus did all he could do, and now it's up to the sinner to make peace with God. And they tell their hearers that when they do this, they are at peace with God and God is at peace with them. Yet they continue to be at war with the true and living God and don't even know it. They are comforted slightly when the pastor speaks peace to them when there really is no peace.
And there's another kind of false teachers who speak peace when there is no peace. These are the ones who claim to believe the doctrines of grace but who speak peace to those who believe in a gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner. These false teachers say things like, "You might erroneously believe that Christ died for everyone without exception, but as long as you cast all your hope on Christ, I welcome you as a brother in Christ." They say things like, "I don't expect you to know all the higher doctrines right away; realizing that Christ's blood is effectual for everyone for whom He died takes a lot of time and study, and you might even strongly resist it at first, but I know as a brother in Christ, you'll come to know this precious doctrine in time." They're saying PEACE, PEACE. They're saying that there is PEACE between God and those who hold to universal atonement. They say, "You have some wrong doctrine about salvation in your head, but you really love God in your heart." Or they say, "You speak some wrong doctrine about salvation with your mouth, but you really love God in your heart. You're a believer who's just speaking as an Arminian would speak, and you'll realize your error when we confront you." Again, they're crying PEACE, PEACE, when there is no peace. Most who say they believe the doctrines of grace will echo the words of one of the most well-known compromisers, who said this: "A man may be evidently of God's chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold that there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe in the doctrine of perseverance. We hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any wilful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus." PEACE, PEACE, when there is no peace. The false teacher whom I just quoted who was crying peace to the God-haters was none other than Charles H. Spurgeon, who welcomed Arminians into his fellowship with open arms. And as we have seen in past messages, one who does this is just as lost as the most immoral pervert on the face of this earth. Spurgeon was a wicked, unregenerate blasphemer. He's a prime example of one who spoke peace when there was no peace.
Let's turn to Ezekiel 13:1-7:
Ezekiel 13: (1) And the Word of Jehovah was to me, saying, (2) Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy. And say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, Hear the Word of Jehovah: (3) So says the Lord Jehovah, Woe to the foolish prophets who walk after their own spirit and have seen nothing! (4) O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. (5) You have not gone up into the breaks, nor built a wall around the house of Israel, that it might stand in the battle, in the day of Jehovah. (6) They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, Jehovah declares! And Jehovah has not sent them, but they hoped to lift [their] word. (7) Did you not see a vain vision and speak a lying divination? Yet you say, Jehovah declares, though I have not spoken.
We see some important things about false prophets in this passage. First, they walk after their own spirit. This spirit is a false spirit, like what I explained in the sermon on the true Holy Spirit versus false spirits. When a teacher walks after a false spirit, he speaks lies. Oh, he may couch these lies in a little bit of truth to give a semblance of validity, but the falsehood will come out. And when we see even a little falsehood when it comes to the ground of salvation, we can know for certain that this is a false preacher. A preacher can talk about sovereign grace all day, but if he then comes out and says that our everlasting habitation is based on our present stewardship, we can know for certain that this is a false preacher. Second, these false teachers say that they speak "thus says the Lord." We see this in verses 6 and 7. The false prophets were saying, "Jehovah declares." Yet they were saying things that were CONTRARY to what Jehovah declares! We hear the preachers today saying, "This is what God says" or "I only preach 'thus saith the Lord'" or "this is a word from God." Yet they speak forth lies. Remember - just because a preacher says that this is what God says DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN that this is what God says. That is why we are to be Bereans and always measure what a preacher says according to Scripture. In the case of most preachers, their "thus says God" is really "thus says the false god." And most are not intentionally trying to deceive; they truly believe that it's God who says this. Turn over to Matthew 15:14. This leads us into what the New Testament has to say about false teachers:
Matthew 15: (14) Leave them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.
The false teachers are blind, and those whom they teach are blind. The false teachers think they're going the right way, and they lead their followers in this way, but since they're both blind, they fall into a pit. I think of John 10:5 as a contrast to this. Let's turn over there:
John 10: (5) But they will not follow a stranger, never! But they will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of the strangers.
The sheep, those who have been regenerated, will NEVER follow a stranger, because they do not know the voice of strangers. Matthew 15:14 shows us that it is the blind who follow the blind. Those who can see will not follow the blind. Christ's sheep will never follow a false christ. While we're in John 10, let's look at how Jesus Christ describes false teachers. Let's read verses 1 and 2:
John 10: (1) Truly, truly, I say to you, The one not entering through the door into the sheepfold, but going up by another way, that one is a thief and a plunderer. (2) But the one entering through the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
The one not entering through the door but who goes up by another way is not the shepherd. Jesus said in verse 7 that He is the door. So anyone who tries to lead the sheep who comes in any other way than through the true Christ, he's a false leader. Again, any teacher who teaches universal atonement is NOT entering through the door, who is Christ; he's entering by another way, which is a false way.
Let's turn back to Matthew 15 for a moment and read what Jesus has to say about what these blind leaders of the blind actually teach. Let's start with verse 1 and read through verse 9:
Matthew 15: (1) Then the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying, (2) Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread. (3) But answering He said to them, Why do you also transgress the command of God on account of your tradition? (4) For God commanded, saying, "Honor your father and mother," and, "The one speaking evil of father or mother, by death let him die." (5) But you say, Whoever says to the father or the mother, A gift, whatever you would gain from me; (6) and in no way he honors his father or his mother. And you annulled the command of God on account of your tradition. (7) Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy concerning you, saying: (8) "This people draws near to Me with [their] mouth, and with their lips honor Me; but their heart holds far off from Me. (9) But in vain they worship Me, teaching [as] doctrines [the] precepts of men."
Why did Jesus call the Pharisees hypocrites? It was because of their DOCTRINE. They taught man-made ordinances and traditions, claiming that these ordinances and traditions were doctrines from God. This parallels with Colossians 2:8:
Colossians 2: (8) Watch that there not be one robbing you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ.
We see in Matthew and Colossians that one of the ways we can tell a false prophet is if man-made traditions are made into commands, so if someone does not keep these traditions, the leaders say that this person is in sin, and the others who do keep these traditions look down on those who do not. We see this very plainly in the Roman Catholic false church. They have all their traditions which have no support from Scripture, and these traditions are church law. And I'm sure you can think of other non-Catholic false churches that do essentially the same thing. Another very clear description of the Roman Catholic false teachers is in Matthew 23:4-9:
Matthew 23: (4) For they bind heavy and hard to bear burdens, and lay [them] on the shoulders of men, but they do not desire to move them with their finger. (5) And they do all their works to be seen by men. And they make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their robes. (6) And they love the first couch in the suppers, and the first seats in the synagogues, (7) and the greetings in the markets, and to be called by men, Rabbi, Rabbi. (8) But do not you be called Rabbi, for One is your Leader, the Christ, and you are all brothers. (9) And call no one your father on earth, for One is your Father, the [One] in Heaven.
And another description is in 1 Timothy 4:1-3:
1 Timothy 4: (1) But the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, cleaving to deceiving spirits and teachings of demons, (2) in lying speakers in hypocrisy, being seared in [their] own conscience, (3) forbidding to marry, [saying] to abstain from foods, which God created for partaking with thanksgiving by the believers and [those] knowing the truth.
Let's turn over to Mark 13:21-22:
Mark 13: (21) And then if anyone says to you, Behold, here [is] the Christ! Or, Behold, there! You shall not believe. (22) For false christs and false prophets will be raised, and they will give miraculous signs and wonders in order to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (23) But you be careful. Behold, I have foretold you all things.
Jesus says that false prophets will arise and say "Here is the Christ!" and will even do signs and wonders, yet these are FALSE prophets. How could it be that one who says "Here is the Christ" is a false prophet? Again, it must be because they are showing the people a FALSE christ.
Some false teachers are called "wolves in sheep's clothing," such as Matthew 7:15. This means that they are disguised as true preachers. They don't come right out and manifest all their false doctrine right away. They creep in unawares, as Jude 4 says. Turn over to 2 Corinthians 11. We've been in this passage before in this series. In verse 4, Paul talks about those who come proclaiming another Jesus. He then says this in verses 13 through 15:
2 Corinthians 11: (13) For such ones [are] false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. (14) And did not Satan marvelously transform himself into an angel of light? (15) [It is] not a great thing, then, if also his ministers transform themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
These ministers of Satan actually transform into what looks very much like ministers of righteousness. They say for a time that Christ's righteousness is the only ground of salvation. But the transformation is only temporary. They do not STAY there. They do not ABIDE there, as 2 John 9 says. They'll say that the work of Christ is the only ground of salvation, but later on they'll say that your good works will make you more fit for heaven or will recommend you unto God or will give you the right to enter heaven. They'll say that they believe the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, but later on they'll speak peace to those who come with a false gospel of salvation conditioned on the sinner. We've experienced this, haven't we? Let us always be wary.
Let's turn to some passages in First and Second Timothy that show that the issue of false teachers is one of knowledge and doctrine. Because of time constraints, I'll just read them and try to refrain from commenting on them.
1 Timothy 1:6-7:
1 Timothy 1: (6) from which having missed the mark, some turned aside to empty talking, (7) wishing to be teachers of law, neither understanding what they say, nor about that which they confidently affirm.
1 Timothy 6:3-5:
1 Timothy 6: (3) If anyone teaches differently, and does not consent to sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching according to godliness, (4) he has been puffed up, understanding nothing, but [is] sick concerning doubts and arguments, out of which comes envy, strife, evil-speakings, evil suspicions, (5) meddling, of men whose mind has been corrupted and deprived of the truth, supposing gain to be godliness. Withdraw from such [persons].
2 Timothy 3:6-7:
2 Timothy 3: (6) For of these are those creeping into houses and leading silly women captive, [the ones] having been heaped with sins, being led away by various lusts, (7) always learning, but never being able to come to a full knowledge of [the] truth.
Well, it looks like I won't be getting to a description of true teachers today. We'll save that for next week, the Lord willing. I want to end with two things. First, God commands us not to believe every teacher but to test and try and judge the teachers. Let's read 1 John 4:1-3:
1 John 4: (1) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world. (2) By this know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in [the] flesh is from God. (3) And every spirit which does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in [the] flesh is not from God; and this is the antichrist which you heard is coming, and now is already in the world.
We are COMMANDED to judge who is and who is not from God. And secondly, related to this, the Bible makes it clear that those who teach a gospel that is different than the gospel of the Bible are unregenerate. Let's read Galatians 1:8-9 to close:
Galatians 1: (8) But even if we, or an angel out of Heaven, should preach a gospel to you beside the gospel we preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, and now I say again, If anyone preaches a gospel beside what you received, let him be accursed.