False Teachers are a Great Enemy to the Soul - the Critical Necessity of Warning and Separating
Updated: Apr 8
Phil 3:2 warns us to “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.” God calls false teachers dogs, evil workers, and more, even pigs and wolves (Is 56:10-11; Matt 7:6, 15; Ac 20:29; 2 Pet 2:22). The subject of warning against false doctrine and teachers is emphasized more than any other doctrine in the NT, yes even more than love and unity and that is because the most important truth of scripture is sound doctrine — which is absolute truth. God’s Word is truth. And that certainly makes sense considering that truth is absolutely everything, and false doctrine its very enemy. When the truth goes, everything else follows.
Jesus commanded His saints to beware of false doctrine and teachers whom He refuted sharply: Matt 7:15-23; 16:22-23; 23:3-33; 24:4-5,11,23-24; etc. As did the apostles, standing against false teachers with great boldness and conviction and commanding the same: Ac 13:8-12; 15:1-2; 20:28-31; Rom 16:17-18; 2 Cor 11:4,12-15; Gal 1:6-9; 2:3-4; 3:1; 5:7-12; Eph 5:6-11; Phil 3:2,17-21; Col. 2:4,8,18-23; 1 Tim 1:5-7,19-20; 4:1-3; 6:3-5, 20-21; 2 Tim 1:15; 2:16-18; 3:1-13; 4:3-4,14; Ti 1:9-16; 2 Pet 2:1-3,15-22; 3:1-3,17; 1 Jn 2:18-23; 4:1-3; 2 Jn 1:9-11; 3 Jn 1:9-11; Ju 1:3-16; Rev 2-3; etc. Beware cries the Word of God, and the truly saved inevitably recognize false teachers because they have the Holy Spirit. They don’t follow the voices of strangers, at least not for very long (Jn 10).
Lost people cry “judge not” (Matt 7:1; 1 Cor 2:14-16; Jn 7:24; 1 Cor 10:15), “But he that is spiritual [i.e. saved] judgeth all things” (1 Cor 2:15) because he has the indwelling Spirit of God (1 Cor 6:1-5; 5:3; 10:15; 14:29; Ac 17:11; Ps 37:30; 58:1; Pr 21:3, 15; Ze 8:16; Matt 7:15-20; Jn 7:24; Lk 12:57; Rom 16:17; 1 Th 5:21; 1 Jn 4:1-2; 2 Jn 1:9-11; etc). Judging is not optional and “It is joy to the just to do judgment” (Pr. 21:15). It is true Biblical love that produces judgment (Phil 1:9-10). Lost people, false pretending “believers,” do not like to be judged, yet they judge falsely and hypocritically (Rom 2:1-5; Matt 23:1-36; Lk 6:37-49). They are the hypocrites referred to in Matt 7:1-5.
There is a great war taking place between truth and error, and every born again believer is to be engaged in this war for the side of truth and contending against the side of error. Souls are dependent upon it; many lost souls (albeit falsely pretending “believers”) are self- and demonically deceived, the deception helped along by false teachers. We are to be valiant warriors for our Captain (Heb 2:10), good soldiers of Jesus Christ and soldiers of the cross, warring a good spiritual warfare (2 Tim 2:3-4), pulling down strongholds (2 Cor 10:3-4). The whole armour of God is put on (Eph 6:10-20) to go to battle on the offensive, and our primary weapon of offence is the Word of God which is the Sword of the Spirit and that requires preaching it truthfully and faithfully.
This language of warfare is found throughout scripture and exemplified by the saints therein, “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” (Heb 11:33-34). Are you engaged in this war and skilled in the use of the sword of the Spirit? Do you even have a sword—in English that would be the King James Bible—or do you merely have a counterfeit spoon? Are you fighting against error, separating yourself from false teachings/teachers as commanded in scripture & exposing them?
But aren’t we supposed to be nice? Being “nice” is more important than being Biblical to many. Soft spoken, tolerant dialoguing is what people want. The false believer, compromisers and heretics attempt to “muzzle the mouth of the ox that threadeth out the corn.” (1 Cor 9:9a; De 25:1-4). They call evil good and good evil (Is 5:20) in the name of tolerance and sentimentalism. They do the very opposite of what De 25:1-4 demands; they justify the wicked and condemn the just. But “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.” (Pr 17:15). Wasn’t Paul nice when he called false teachers “liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” (Ti 1:12)?
False teaching is simply any teaching that conflicts with the truth as revealed in the Word of God. Most people who embrace false doctrine actually point to Scripture to support their errant beliefs. Yes, people can make the Bible say anything they want it to say . . . that is, to the undiscerning. The indwelling Spirit of God however teaches the meaning and context of every passage of Scripture and its harmony with the rest of Scripture. The Word of truth is rightly divided by true believers (2 Tim 2:15). True Christians WILL understand God’s Word as God meant it to be understood (Pr 8:8-9; 22:20-21; 1 Jn 2:20-21,27). “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” (1 Jn 2:20).
Satan uses the Bible to “proof text” his claims as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and yet Jesus replied with Scripture accurately interpreted. False teachers are actually ministers of Satan, whether wittingly or unwittingly (2 Cor 11:12-15) and regardless of their sincerity, and they do “proof text” Scripture to buttress their heresy. Whether someone follows or doesn’t follow false teachers is a litmus test for true salvation or false. It is God that tests and tries all people (as seen in the parable of the sower: Matt 13:3-23), not just in this area but also whether faith is true or false (Jam 2:14-26), or wisdom is true or false (Jam 1:2-8; 3:14-17), etc.
Here is God’s test concerning false teachers: De 13:3-4, “Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that [false] prophet [see vv 1-2], or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.” This happens to apply to all teachings, not just prophecy and dreams (see Ac 17:11; Rom 16:17; 2 Jn 1:9-11; 3 Jn 1:9-11). When one follows the voice of strangers he proves to be not of God, since God’s sheep don’t follow strangers but the Shepherd (Jn 10:1-5) which voice is the truth of Scripture.
When a preacher or teacher embraces a false gospel, and/or wilfully teaches error from the pulpit in his sermons or in his writings or videos, etc, and refuses to be corrected or even listen to the concerns, the Bible says such a man is a false teacher: Pr 15:10, 31-32; 29:1; 2 Pet 3:16-17; Rom 16:17-18; Ti 3:10; 2 Jn 1:9-11; 3 Jn 1:9-11; Ps 50:21-23; 58:1; etc. They are to be sharply reproved and rebuked for their error and sin (Pr 24:23-25; Ti 1:13; 3:10; Matt 23:13-33; 2 Cor 11:4, 12-15; Gal 2:4-5; 3:1-3). They are to be marked (exposed) and avoided (separated from) (Rom 16:17-18; Eph 5:11). Their false doctrine should be countenanced angrily (Pr 19:27; 25:23; Matt 23:3-33; Jn 2:14-17) because it is destructive (Gal 5:9).
This Biblical truth is very practical. What are examples of false teachers (heretics) today? The book-length list is practically endless, but here are examples of some of the more popular ones:
Among Mennonite denominations: EMC, EBMC (Bergthaler), Mennonite Central Committee, Sommerfelder, Old Colony, Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite Church of Canada, Mennonite World Conference, etc.
Among Evangelicals: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rick Warren, Chuck Swindoll, Chuck Colson, Charles Stanley, Andy Stanley, James Dobson, Larry Crabb, Tim Lahaye, Beth Moore, Ravi Zacharias, Tony Campolo, Ken Blanchard, Emerson Eggerichs, Francis Chan, Bill Hybels, David Jeremiah, Mark Driscoll, Max Lucado, Gary Thomas, Philip Yancy, Lee Strobel, Dallas Willard, Jim Wallis, John Eldredge, Shane Claiborne, Mike Bickle, Joyce Meyer, Bruce Wilkinson, Richard Foster, Rob Bell, Charles Finney, Dan Kimball, Watchman Nee, etc.
Among Evangelical schools: Prairie Bible College, PRBI, Wheaton University, Baylor University, Briercrest College, Steinbach Bible College, etc.
Among Baptist’s: Billy Graham, Albert Mohler, JD Greear, SBC leaders, Steven Anderson, Jack Hyles, Curtis Hutson, Jack Trieber, etc.
Among Reformers/Calvinists: Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John MacArthur, RC Sproul, John Piper, J.I Packer, James White, etc.
Others: C.S. Lewis, Henri Noewen, Thomas Merton, Westcott and Hort, etc.
These are described in texts such as Is 56:10-11:
“His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.”
And 2 Cor 11:13-15:
“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.”