The Dangers of False TeachingEdison Dsouza
Facing death, what would be your priorities? Paul was in Rome awaiting his execution when he had written to Timothy exhorting him to boldness, endurance, and faithfulness in the face of false teaching. Paul was concerned for sound doctrine. Timothy was at this time, the pastor of the church at Ephesus.
The second chapter of Paul’s second epistle to Timothy is his advice to Timothy on how to be a good soldier of Jesus. As a soldier, his mission was to raise faithful teachers of the gospel (vs 2) and to be dedicated to this task alone (vs 4, 5).
These faithful teachers ought to be reminded of the importance of the preaching of the gospel – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, according to scripture (vs 14a). Further, they ought to be charged not to quarrel about words (vs 14b).
Timothy is particularly charged with the task of being able to rightly handle the word of truth – the scriptures.
The word of rightly handle is more accurately translated as “be able to make a straight cut” – like a tailor. The expectation is steady hands that can make straight cuts so as to be able to join the pieces together to stitch up a garment or a tent (remember Paul was a tent maker). Thus, Paul expected that Timothy would spend his time learning and teaching the Bible as well as training men to be able to do likewise.
In verse 16, Paul’s exhortation changes from a positive tone to a negative tone. He asks that Timothy avoid ‘irreverent babble’. The sense behind the word irreverent is profane – where one violates the sacred character of someone or something – a place, object or institution. And Paul here is specifically referring to the believer’s hope of resurrection. Hymenæus and Philetus were two such persons in Ephesus who taught that the resurrection has already happened.
In the early church there were a lot of false teaching surrounding the resurrection of the saints. Some claimed that there is no resurrection (e.g. in Corinth); others claimed that the resurrection has already happened and there is no more looking forward to a bodily resurrection of the saints. I hope you realize that this is a basic hope of us Christians – that we will be raised as Christ was raised (The Nicene creed of 381).
In teaching that the resurrection had already taken place, these men were upsetting the faith of some. How so? Should you care? What is the big deal?
The gospel promises that we will be raised from the dead with new bodies – glorified bodies like Jesus’ resurrected body. That is what is referred to as glorification. And as taught in Romans “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Thus when Chris- tians are taught that the resurrection is over, then they have no more hope in the message of the gospel and the work of Christ in his death, burial and resurrection is of no value to such a believer. And thus, this false teaching hits at the very heart of our faith in God’s work of redemption.
However, this was not the only false teaching during the early church times nor in the history of the church. This implies that there are false teachers and they are dangerous to your soul.
Why should you care about the dangers of false teachers?
1. Because they are deceptive.
False teachers do not come to you and announce that they are false teachers. Instead, they proclaim that they are the wise ones, like they have seen some light that others have supposedly missed. They are so subtle that they twist the doctrine one verse at a time.
2. Because they are close to what is good and true.
False teachers are not easy to spot. The reason is that they are affirm truths that you and I would affirm with much pleasure. Many careful pastors are afraid to call out a false teacher because they see what is good and are uncer- tain if they should cry wolf!
3. Because they will give you what you want.
Paul told us that itching ears will surround themselves with false teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. Their ‘sermons’ will be pragmatic, full of testimonies, rational and will touch your heart.
4. Because they cannot be innocent.
False teachers may have begun by deceiving themselves before they deceived others. But, there rarely gœs a false teacher who has not been challenged to be faithful to scripture. At first they debate an orthodox view, eventually they mock that view. They are definitely not innocent.
5. Because they will divide the church.
False teachers mock good and true doctrine. At first this will cause minor altercations in a church between members who ‘like’ the false teacher and those who are uncertain. But as the ‘itchy ear’ listeners begin to emulate the false teachers’ style of rhetoric and mockery, they will start a controversy in a church that will lead to a division if not dealt with properly.
No church is immune to false teachers creeping into it. Therefore be vigilant, be accountable and above all be a student of the Bible.
Edison Dsouza is a maverick for Jesus with a passion for the Truth. He works at the Mysore campus of Infosys and pastors the Cross Cultured Church in the city. He is married to Laura and tthey have two daughters.