I solemnly exhort you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)
In the scripture above we are given insight into the foundation of any new church community and the responsibility of those who are called to establish this work through preaching, teaching, and instruction. Some years ago, after sitting under some bad teaching, the Lord sent me to get a broad view of Biblical teachings in the global and historic church from a reliable and accountable Christian University. What a blessing this was for me and I came away feeling like this was instruction that every Christian should come to know!
I have seen and experienced first-hand what happens when leaders and individuals "accumulate for themselves teachings in accordance with their desires" (vs 4). This has given me a sober outlook and desire to be faithful to share the Bible in an accurate way. Much of corrupt teachings can come right out of the Bible but without accountability and the witness of the Spirit in the broader Body of Christ one can make the Bible say whatever they want. Today anyone with a social media account and big personality can claim to be a teacher and deceive the simple while stirring people up into a frenzy. This is nothing new though, Paul had to deal with people saying that Jesus had already returned and that the church missed it (wrong end-times interpretation). Others came in trying to bring Jewish laws and mysticism to their worship and lifestyle (legalism and license). Still, others brought gnostic teaching and tried to synergize Jesus with the commonly held cultural beliefs (synchronism and special knowledge).
My prayer is that the Tri-State Churches would show proper respect for the Word of God, that we would patiently instruct people who have unknowingly sat under bad teaching and are living and sharing these things and that we would firmly resist those who refuse to receive biblical instruction while wanting to promote false teaching that would put people under spiritual bondage and draw them away from Jesus.
Below are a few insights based on my experience with “biblical” false teaching/teachers
1) False teachers (FTs) can instruct directly from the Bible (it’s all about the interpretation)
2) FTs are often critical of aspects of the larger church and even other false teachings without being right themselves.
3) FTs promote themselves as being a part of a smaller group of believers who have the truth.
4) Imbalanced with law-based Christian living (OT) and/or special Christian liberty in other areas.
5) FTs can quote from well-established Christian authors/preachers bending the meaning to their own understanding
6) FTs can gravitate on confusing aspects of the Bible without original context (end-times, prophecy, symbolism) and believe they have the correct application – special knowledge
7) FTs often have a my way or the highway mentality. Cast off relationships where there is no agreement. View opposition as persecution. Remove people who disagree with accusations.
8) FTs may not know that they are false teachers (though others may be fully aware). They may be the product of false teaching themselves or completely blinded by their understanding/desires.
Some guards against False Teaching involves the following
1) Humility – Open to the witness of the Holy Spirit in the global and historic church. In general, a teacher should understand that if left unchecked or not accountable, they can become a false teacher
2) The teaching is associated and covered by a local church community with a plurality of elders/leaders
3) The local church or individual is accountable to a larger network of churches and leadership to keep local leadership accountable and ensure the continued sound doctrine of the local church
4) There is a positive view of proper instruction from well-established methods and institutions on how to interpret the Bible along with an understanding of their place in the historic church. These methods and institutions should come from accountable sources which welcome the scrutiny of peers in the larger Body of Christ
5) People should see themselves as just a small part of the larger Body of Christ and not as the only faithful ones who have obtained the actual truth. Non-elitist attitude.