The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 4:2-4). We are certainly in a time wherein God’s people are not enduring sound teaching. Too many are throwing themselves at false teachers. In the words which God spoke through Jeremiah, I believe we find ourselves in this situation: “For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that sets snares; they set a trap, they catch men. A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so…” (Jer 5:26; 30-31).
Too many among God’s people today are in love with man’s worthless words instead of God Holy Word. Thus, they love to hear what men say, but they are not at all interested in what God has to say. This is the trend that leads people to false teachers. This mindset is what turns people from the word of God to the words of men. Such warnings as we read of in the New Testament are not being heeded to today. Paul warned: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision” (Philip 3:2). Yet, today we find those who love the bark of a false teacher. We need to make sure that we are aware of those who would “spoil us through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col 2:8). Instead of awareness, many are waiting with open arms to be taken captive of the devil through the smooth words of false teachers. We need to cry out and stop the mouths of those who are carrying away so many with their corruptions of the word of God.
We Need to Silence Those Teaching Error
Let me state first that false doctrine will always exist. In fact, there will be many who teach false doctrine (Matt 24:11; 24 ff; 2 Pet 2:1-3; 1 Jn 4:1). However, we have the ability to make known the identities of those teaching false doctrine (1 Tim 1:19-20). We err when we think there is nothing we can do about false teachers. Even worse than that error, we slip further when we take no interest in exposing false teachers to stop their mouths.
When Paul wrote his single epistle to Titus he had many things to say. One important task that Titus had was to set things in order in local congregations and appoint elders (Tit 1:5-9). Within this context Paul told Titus: “For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. 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” (Tit 1:10-14). Today, we need to heed to the same instruction. We must stop the mouths of false teachers, for they are liars who are turning people away from the truth. Why aren’t we rebuking false teachers? Moreover, why aren’t we exposing those who will not repent of their errors?
False Teachers Need Exposed
False teachers creep in among the flock secretly (2 Pet 2:1 f; Jude 4). Sometimes those who are seeking to draw away disciples can even arise from among the flock (Acts 20:28-31). Some will have a form of godliness (2 Tim 3:5). The point is this; the false teacher is often the one we like. They are the ones who seem to be the “nice guys” among the group. Sometimes they are the ones who are always studying and they seem to have knowledge of God’s word. We cannot forget that there are those who understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm (1 Tim 1:7). There are also those who are ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim 3:7). False teachers often seem as though they are good workers in God’s kingdom. Paul said: “But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. 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” (2 Cor 11:12-15).
The word of God demands that we mark and avoid false teachers (Rom 16:17-18). We need to forewarn others who may be in the path of those who are false (2 Tim 4:14-15).
Consider the following passages: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was” (2 Tim 3:1-9).
When Hymenaeus and Philetus taught error, Paul took the action of marking them: “But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tim 2:16-18). We too must take this action to stop the mouths of false teachers so that those in their path can be forewarned. If we don’t, many can be lost to false teaching, and those who did not forewarn will be held accountable (Ezek 3:17-21).
Conclusion: The next time you hear someone speak favorably of one who teaches error, consider these words: “Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He says. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, says the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, says the Lord” (Jer 23:30-32). As the prophet of God established just before these words, he wrote, “The prophet that has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that has my word, let him speak my word faithfully (Jer 23:28).
False teaching will always cause souls to be lost. Both those that teach and follow error will be condemned by God (1 Kin 13). There is always going to be those who are willing to twist the Scriptures causing people to be led away (2 Pet 3:16-17). It is important therefore to realize, there will be those who use Scriptures in a way in which they are no longer the truth (Gal 1:6-8). Those who do so are false teachers who are just lying in wait to deceive anyone they can (Eph 4:14). Paul warned: “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13). We can avoid this through our knowledge of the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:14-17). And by searching the scriptures daily to make sure what they say is the truth of God (Acts 17:11). It is very difficult for a false teacher to creep in among a militant group of brethren who know the truth and the identifying marks of false doctrine.
John warned us not to be gullible. He wrote, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jn 4:1). False teachers are out to deceive you because they are making gain from you. When the money is all dried up, they move on to other prey. Notice the words of Paul who wrote, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom 16:17,18). This was a similar warning he gave to a young Timothy. “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim 6:3-10). How many times have you be taught that Paul was in reference to preachers and teachers who would engage you in arguments and debates over the meaning of words (e.g. Hebrew and Greek)? How many times have you been taught that Paul was warning Timothy of preachers and teachers who are greedy for money which do such things to you? Once they have divided the congregation, these same preachers will devour the weak among you and take whatever is left in the treasury.
It is easy to turn away and ignore those who teach error. We have already seen that we are to avoid false teachers. Yet, we cannot close our eyes and ears to the point of unawareness. God instructs us to not allow any man to deceive us (Eph 5:6). We need to know about the errors that are taught and we need to be prepared to defend the truth when they come our way (Philip 1:17 ff; 1 Pet 3:15; Jude 3). Let us all study to know the truth, but let us also be mindful that many are waiting for the opportunity to lead us astray. When we do happen to come upon those false teachers let’s do all that we can to stop their mouths.