In Ephesians 5.6 we talked about false teaching. A couple of times whilst working through 1 and 2 Thessalonians in 2021 we came across the idea of false teaching, too. Sadly, false teaching is as common in the church as good, sound, correct teaching. As we read in Ecclesiastes 1.9, there is nothing new under the sun: what has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again.
There seems to be two types of false teaching floating around, and our response is different based on what we encounter.
First, we may encounter teaching that is wrong due to the lack of information given, the mixing-up of ideas, the misunderstanding of context, the uninformed teacher, or just forgetfulness. For example, teaching that says ‘well, there are three of us gathered here today, so we know Jesus is with us, as we read in Matthew 18.20‘, shouldn’t be met with a call to the heresy police. This should be met with kindness and love. Someone is trying to apply Scripture, but has just got it wrong. Matthew 18.15-20 talks about dealing with sin in the church and church discipline not the presence of God for a prayer meeting or a service. So, gently and lovingly, show the uninformed the truth but with lots of love.
Then, there is the kind of teaching that John speaks about in 2 John 10-11:
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching [about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus], do not receive him into your house and do not give him any greeting, because the person who gives him a greeting shares in his evil deeds.”
(NET, explanation added)
The kind of teaching that presents a different Jesus to that which we read of in all of Scripture is the kind we are not to legitimise by even talking about. To be clear, the people caught under false teaching still need a friend to show them the truth (Jude 1.22-23), but those bringing this false teaching, well, the Bible says that if anyone preaches another Gospel, let him be accursed (v.11, cf. Galatians 1.8-9).
Simply, stay away from false teachers.
This is hard in our modern day and age when the internet and social media makes everyone and everything so accessible. These modern tools can be used to spread the Good News and for personal accountability, or they can be used for the spreading of other versions of the Gospel.
The key thing to determine teaching that is true or false is this – who or what is being glorified?
If you watch/see/hear/read Bible teaching where you (or even the teacher themselves) are the hero,
where you can do all that Jesus did,
where you are being held up as the single most important person in the world,
then this is false.
A friend of mine phrased it like this – faithful Bible teaching consistently shows Jesus to be the hero. Not you, not me, not even us the church. Jesus (John 5.39-40).
He will then work wonders in your life, for sure.
He will transform and change you into the person God made you to be, but you need Him to do it.
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