"Take care then how you hear," said Jesus (Lk. 8:18). Why? Because Christianity and Christians are threatened by "false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Mt. 7:15).
Who are those guys?
Just as Jesus did not leave us comfortless (Jn. 14:18), our Lord did not leave us defenseless against false teachers. Several New Testament passages describe the ravenous wolves in surprising detail. This article is written to present some passages that I was unable to get to in last Sunday A.M.'s sermon.
I Timothy 6:5
In our highly materialistic culture, money and the things that money can buy are elevated far above their genuine worth. Reflecting this greedy covetousness is the "Prosperity Gospel," the belief that financial blessings are the will of God for His children, and that faith, a positive outlook, and donations to select ministries will result in personal wealth and power. According to this "Gospel of Health and Wealth," material success and spiritual success go hand-in-hand.
Paul warned of those "who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain" (I Tim. 6:5). Human imagination and not divine inspiration is the source of this depraved deprivation. There is no direct causal connection between the world's achievements and advancement toward eternity.
More often than not, the opposite is true. As Paul observed, "not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth" (I Cor. 1:26). Instead of connecting godliness and gain, the true Gospel connects "godliness with contentment" (I Tim. 6:6), "Keeping our lives free from love of money, and being content with what we have" (Heb. 13:5).
In the eternal war between righteousness and sin, sensuality is winning. Our times are a mad rush to "invent ways of doing evil" (Rom. 1:30). Just as Prosperity Preachers have erected a god of money, a different kind of false teacher has built a idol of immorality.
Jude described them as "ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality" (Jude 4). Giving a spiritual dimension to the old saying, "Too much of a good thing," these false teachers "make the doctrine of grace universal, extending it equally to all, and thereby encouraging men in sin" (John Gill). They "follow their own ungodly desires" (Jude 18) and "Many will follow their depraved conduct" (II Pet. 2:2).
According to this message (called "Radical Grace"), we can relax because all we need to do is believe that Jesus has taken care of everything for us – there is really nothing for us to do in order to be saved. According to this teaching, it would be nice if we lived holy lives but its no big deal if we don't – because our salvation is assured by what Christ has done for us on the cross and has nothing to do with how we live at all.
Some weeks back I presented statistics regarding the Bible-reading habits of church-goers. The numbers are shocking. A little more than 70% of us seldom or ever read the Bible. Less than 30% of us read the Bible weekly or daily, or engage in regular structured Bible study.
What and who do the 70% listen to? Naive, "ignorant and unstable" (II Pet. 3:16), and susceptible to "fine-sounding arguments" (Col. 2:4), "they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away their ears from the truth" (II Tim. 4:3-4).
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people (Rom. 16:17-18).
Who Are Those Guys
From these passages, three characteristic of false teachers emerge:
- They connect gain with godliness.
- They imply that we should continue in sin that grace will abound.
- They make sense to the modern mind with good words and fair speeches.