With so many women popping up with ministries on social media and sharing the gospel, the label false teacher is thrown around a lot. I hear the term “false teacher” at least once a week, especially with new documentaries dropping monthly on churches and pastors claiming to be an expose, wink Hillsong. So what really makes someone a false teacher? Are they deliberately leading people astray, or are they simply immature in their faith? We’re really quick to label someone a false teacher these days whenever we see something we believe does not align with a sound exposition of scripture.
So let’s take a closer look at what it means to be a false teacher, how to identify one, and how we can respond with grace.
What is a false teacher?
The New Testament actually has a lot to say about false teachers. In general, a false teacher is someone who misleads others about the nature of God or the teachings of Christ. False teachers often have ulterior motives (Romans 16:17-18), such as financial gain or political power. They may also seek to undermine or subvert the authority of the Church (2 Peter 2:1).
False teachers can be very persuasive (Romans 16:18), and their errors can be difficult to detect. For this reason, it is important to be well-versed in the teachings of the Church and to prayerfully discern any new teaching that comes our way. If we are alert and diligent, we can protect ourselves and others from the dangers of false teaching.
How can we identify a false teacher?
Not all false teachers are easy to spot, but there are some clues that can help us identify them. False teachers often:
– teach doctrines that are contrary to scripture (e.g., heresy)
– promote themselves or their teachings above the Bible
– emphasize personal revelation or experience over Scripture
– twist scripture to fit their own agenda
– have divisive or heretical beliefs
– lead people away from Christ and the Church
It is important to remember that not every false teacher will exhibit all of these characteristics, and there may be other signs of false teaching as well. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s best to err on the side of caution and seek out reliable information from trusted sources.
Now a false teacher isn’t necessarily the same thing as someone who is a false teacher. A false teacher is someone who deliberately sets out to mislead people, while someone who is immature in their faith may not have bad intentions but simply doesn’t know any better. So how can we tell the difference?
It can be difficult to discern whether someone is a false teacher or just immature in their faith, but there are some things to look for. Immature believers often:
– have a shallow understanding of scripture
– lack biblical knowledge or discernment
– make careless statements about God or the Bible
– repeat false teachings without checking them against Scripture
– rely on their feelings or emotions rather than sound theology
– are easily influenced by others
If you encounter someone who displays any of these characteristics, it is best to approach them with gentleness and compassion, pointing them towards reliable sources of information. It may take time for them to grow in their faith, but with patience and prayer, they can come to a deeper understanding of the Bible and grow in their relationship with Christ.
Ephesians 4:14-15 actually covers this very topic. It reads, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”
Someone who is spiritually immature does not yet realize they are spiritually immature and do not intend to be. A false teacher knows what they are doing and the consequences.
So how can we tell the difference?
Typically, false teachers are more vocal and dogmatic in their teachings, while those who are immature in their faith tend to be more questioning and open-minded. False teachers often have a very black-and-white view of the world, while those who are maturing in their faith begin to see the complexities of life and scripture. False teachers often resort to manipulation and coercion, while those who are growing in their faith learn to love and serve others sacrificially. Finally, false teachers typically lead people away from Christ and the Church, while those who are maturing in their faith are more likely to lead others closer to Christ.
It can be difficult to discern false teaching, but with prayer and diligent study we can protect ourselves and others from the dangers of false doctrine. Let’s continue to grow in our faith and maturity so that we can love and serve God faithfully.
How should we respond to false teaching?
When we encounter false teaching, our first response should always be prayer. We should ask God to protect us from deception and to give us discernment so that we can identify false teaching for what it is. Next, we should reach out to trusted friends or mentors for help in discerning the truth. If necessary, we can also consult with qualified theologians or other experts who can help us evaluate new teaching in light of scripture.
It’s important that we avoid getting into arguments with false teachers. Their goal is to sow discord and division, and they will not be swayed by rational arguments. Instead, let’s focus on building relationships of love and unity within the Church.
We should also be careful not to judge others based on our own understanding of scripture. Instead, we should prayerfully seek God’s guidance in discerning whether or not someone is a false teacher. If we are uncertain, it is best to avoid them altogether until we can get a clearer picture.
It is also important to remember that not everyone who makes a mistake is a false teacher. We are all sinners saved by grace, and we will all make mistakes along the way. If someone repents and turns back to Christ, we should extend forgiveness and compassion.
It is important to remember that false teachers are not always easy to spot, so we should never jump to conclusions. It is important to be well-read in scripture and have a good understanding of Christian doctrine before trying to confront someone about their false teaching.
If you do feel confident that someone is teaching false doctrine, the best thing you can do is approach them with gentleness and grace, pointing them towards reliable sources of information. It may take time for them to grow in their faith, but with patience and prayer.