Discerning False Teachers

As Solomon mentioned in Ecclesiastes 3, there is nothing new under the sun.

Each year, season, dispensation, or revelation, we find ourselves wrestling with what people of that time consider false. Whether it be teachers, apostles, prophets, or even doctrine, we are hypersensitive to all things ``false.”

Such emphasis on the falsehood of teaching is not without merit as the 21st century church is battling the impact of such instruction. I would like to submit that often, what we assume to be false is merely a challenge to mindsets contrary to who God called us to be.

Foundationally, we must accurately define what a false teacher is.

We assume someone who teaches poor theology, wrong eschatology, or the mixture of covenants to be false teachers.

The lack of accuracy, relevancy, or theological soundness are not markers of a false teacher; however, the motive or heart posture is what denotes false teaching.

The Greek term for a false teacher is pseudodidaskalos, a combination of the words pseudés and didaskalos. Pseudés means lying, deceitful, or untrue. Didaskalos definition is not simply teacher but emphasizes that the individual has a mastery of the subject matter, whether theologically or otherwise.

If mastery is a prerequisite, then many of the people we call false are not teachers at all. Perhaps they are simply those who are still ignorant of the more profound things.

We often quote scripture when identifying false teachers and even prophets. 2 Peter 2:1-3 seems to be one of the main talking points of this means of identification:

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”

My favorite is Paul’s admonishment in 1 Timothy 1:3-7. Paul was careful to explain the why behind what makes a teacher false.

"As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

To that end, a false teacher is someone who intentionally and maliciously perverts scripture to pull you away from God.

We have incorrectly ascribed a false teacher to anyone who teaches anything that challenges one’s thoughts or views of God.

For example, many of us have been taught that God is sovereign, Lord, and the King of Kings. If I were to come along and tell you above all, God is a Father, and because He is a Father, there is nothing you can do to change that fact.

Much like a biological father, you share His DNA. No matter what you proclaim verbally or by action, you cannot change your DNA. If seeing God as a father is foreign to you, one might say that it is a false teaching, that nothing can change God’s DNA in you.

You may disagree with the concept of God being a Father; however, if my heart is pure, if my motives clean, and my teachings do not pull you away from God, should I be considered a false teacher?

Instead, our standard should be is the overarching message being taught one of reconciliation and love.

I will end with this. Jesus was accused of being false in a great many ways. His presence was an insult to the religious sects of that time. He preached of liberation, of the true love of God, and of inclusion.

All of the things that were counterintuitive to what it was to be a Jew of that era. His message was not popular with Israel's religious leaders as his doctrine took money out of those leaders’ pockets; it was downright offensive and heretical.

However, it was the message of our Father, our Redeemer; it was a message of Love. Although the message seemed different to the religious teachers of that day, His heart, posture, and message proved that He was indeed a true Teacher.

Elder Nakia O. Shy

Founder, Covenant Praise Ministries

Co-Owner, The Word Stained Qui

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