Beware of False Teachers

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Reading the Word

1 Timothy 4:1–5 (ESV)

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Bible warns of false teaching in many places. In our passage for today, Paul tells us that false teaching will be a mark of the end times. He tells us that false teaching is ultimately the product of demonic influence and liars whose consciences are seared. These are people who do not care about their wrong-doing because they benefit from it in some way. Paul gives two specific examples of false teaching: forbidding marriage and requiring abstinence from food. The reason that Paul gave these two specific examples is because they were likely things that were being taught in the church in Ephesus, where this letter went.

We need to beware of any and all false teaching that may try to creep into our lives and churches. This is why training in doctrine is so vital to our Christian walk. A strong doctrinal foundation shields us from the demonic attack of false teaching. Many churches and Christians have drifted away from doctrinal training in favor of more practical lessons and sermons, but this is problematic in the long run. Doctrinal training may not seem exciting or practical at times, but it is essential for our Christian growth. What does your church do to train believers in correct doctrine?

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It Will Not Be a Secret

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Reading the Word

Matthew 24:23–28 (ESV)

23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Parallel Texts: Mark 13:21-23; Luke 17:23-24

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the days and years leading up to Jesus’ return to this earth, there will be many who will make claims that he has already come when he has not. There will also be those who claim to be him. Jesus warned his followers so that they will be on their guard and not fooled by such false claims. He assured his disciples that when he returns it will be a highly visible event that everyone will see. It will be on par with lightning flashing from the east all the way to the west. It will be known. It will not be a secret event.

Throughout history, there have been false claims by those who say they are Jesus and there have been false teachers who have made the claim that Jesus has already returned, but people missed it. Jesus’ words in today’s reading assure us that he has not returned. We have not missed it. Jesus will come again in the future for his people and it will be a grand event that everyone will know about.

As Jesus’ followers living in today’s word, our responsibility is to continue to proclaim the Good News of salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We must continue to proclaim that Jesus has promised to return for his people and to judge evil. We do not know when that day will be, but we know it is future and it could occur at any moment. We must be ready.

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In Those Days

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do included a Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ in 2019.

Reading the Word

Mark 13:19–23 (ESV)

19 For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. 20 And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. 21 And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. 23 But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

The True Source of Authority

John 717 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 7:14–24 (ESV)

14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching. 15 The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” 16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one work, and you all marvel at it. 22 Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In the middle of the Feast of Booths, Jesus went from attending in secret to becoming very public as he began teaching in the temple. The Greek word heiron indicates that Jesus was in the outer court of the temple and would have been very visible. The people were amazed at his knowledge of the Scriptures as he had never had formal training.

When Jesus spoke, he spoke with authority and did not rely on the teaching of others to back up his teaching. Jesus explained that his teaching had authority because it originated with God, not man. Anyone who knew God and desired to live according to God’s will would recognize the truth of Jesus’ teaching. Others taught for their own glory rather than the glory of God.

We must continue to beware of those who seek their own glory rather than the glory of God. There are sure signs to look for. Does the teacher insist on titles and being recognized as superior to others? Does the teacher like to take personal credit for successes rather than give the credit to God? Does the teacher like to talk about himself? Does the teacher speak down towards others and elevate himself? A true teacher of God has authority not because of who he is or what he has accomplished, but because he teaches the truth of God’s word. The authority is in the word, not the teacher and the teacher must submit to that same word.

May we continue to turn to the Scriptures as the final authority in our lives, knowing that they are the revealed teaching of God. We know that they are true and life-giving in all that they teach.

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Beware of False Teaching

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Reading the Word

Matthew 16:5–12 (ESV)

5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Parallel Texts: Mark 8:14-21

Understanding and Applying the Word

After the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign and he refused, Jesus and the disciples departed by boat (Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:11-13). When the boat landed, the disciples realized that they had forgotten to bring bread to eat. Jesus, knowing the disciples were worried about bread, used it as an opportunity to teach. He warned them about the “leaven” of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Leaven is yeast, which is a key ingredient in bread. It causes bread to rise and is often used as a symbol for evil in the Bible. The disciples did not understand Jesus’ lesson at first, but were stuck on literal yeast and bread. Jesus had to tell them that he was not talking about actual bread, but speaking figuratively (verse 11). The disciples then realized Jesus was speaking about the things that the Pharisees and Sadducees taught. Like yeast, the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees had permeated all of Jewish society and had led many people astray. Jesus warned his followers not to be taken in by such teaching.

As we reflect on Jesus’ words, we must realize that false teaching is dangerous. It can lead people away from the true gospel. When someone teaches something contrary to the central doctrines of the Christian faith it is a serious matter and should be addressed rather than ignored. Far too often, undiscerning Christians fall prey to teachers who twist Scripture and sprinkle just enough truth into their teachings to sound believable. This is why it is so important to learn doctrine and theology and why belonging to a church that is committed to the teaching and preaching of Scripture is vital to a healthy Christian life. If you hear something that sounds wrong, look into it and be sure to attend a good church.

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Beware of Deceivers

John 11 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

2 John 7–13 (ESV)

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 13 The children of your elect sister greet you.

Understanding the Word

This letter is a warning to its recipients about being deceived through false teaching. The false teachers are those who deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. The Apostle John, an eyewitness to Jesus’ life and ministry, has written elsewhere that Jesus is God (John 1:1) and that he become flesh (John 1:14). This means that God came into this world as a man.

However, there were those who denied this truth in John’s day, just as there are people who deny it today. But John warns that believers must remain in the truth that they have received and not be deceived.

Applying the Word

Christians sometimes differ on their beliefs about certain biblical things. That is okay. However, we must never compromise and think it is okay to deny the central teachings of the gospel. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He became a man and entered this world. He lived a perfect, sinless life and then died on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Jesus rose from the dead physically. All who trust in him will be saved from their sins and given eternal life.

May we never depart from these truths as they are the very source of life for those who believe!

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Test the Spirits

Open Book Bible

Reading the Word

1 John 4:1–6 (ESV)

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Understanding the Word

John tells his readers that there will be false teachers who will come. Believers need to know how to test the teachings of these teachers so they can avoid them.

How does a person identify a false teacher? Do they affirm or deny the truth regarding Jesus Christ? Specifically, do they hold to the truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world as a man? If not, they are false teachers and should not be listened to.

Applying the Word

Every generation of Christians faces false teaching that claims to be Christian, but is not. For John, Gnosticism and the belief that matter was by nature evil caused many to deny that the Son of God could become a man. How could sinless perfection take on a physical body if the physical world is evil? Of course, the Bible teaches that the physical world is God’s creation. Evil springs from our sinful hearts, not the world outside of us.

Many false teachings that distort the gospel are present today. Many are willing to admit that Jesus was a man, but they deny he was divine. Others teach that everyone will be saved because a loving God would never send anyone to hell, even though Scripture plainly says otherwise. And still others teach that if you just have enough faith nothing bad will ever happen to you. You will have great wealth, and good health, and God will give you your heart’s desires. Again, contrary to what Scripture says about taking up your cross and following Jesus.

We have God’s word as recorded in Scripture so that we may know the truth. May we test the spirits behind every teaching we hear by that word and may we never be deceived by those who would lead us astray.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links to the right to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!