Class: What Is a False Teacher


 

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What Is a False Teacher?

Is everyone with whom we disagree a false teacher?

By Don Ruhl

How much division over the past 1900 years could have been avoided, if we understood just what a false teacher is? Church history is a history of countless division. Most people think that anyone disagreeing with them makes them a false teacher.

The church will never be free from issues and controversy. From the first century till now, an issue challenged the church and men studied, discussed, and debated whether the issue was a matter of fellowship or not.

Issues and controversy make some people study the Bible more, but others harden in their position, and it causes them to miss other crucial things, such as what I have told you I missed in Acts 2.38, that Jesus would forgive His executioners, because I had focused upon whether “for” the remission of sins means to show you have been forgiven, or to do what the Lord said that He might forgive you. I had also focused upon what is the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we harden our attitudes toward a position, we become blind to other things, including how to treat others who disagree with us.

The Bible shows that a false teacher is someone who is deceptive and knowingly teaches things to lead people astray.

False Teachers Deceive

Matt 7.15

Rom 16.17–18

2Co 11.13–15

Eph 4.14

2Pe 2.1–3.5

Be Careful in Labeling Someone a False Teacher

False teachers exist.

However, simply because someone disagrees with you does not make him a false teacher. He might be sincerely mistaken or misinformed, but he does not seek a following nor is he doing the other things that make him a false teacher.

Have You Ever Believed or Taught Error?

Were a false teacher back then?

If not, why not? Is it possible that you believe, practice, or teach falsehood now? If so, and you are unaware of it, does that make you a false teacher? I do not believe so, and we should give the benefit of the doubt to others also.

How to Avoid Following a False Teacher

Jesus assured us, as recorded in John 10.8, 14, 26–29, that knowing Him and following Him will keep us from following someone who is not of Him.

How Should We Handle Issues?

Should we focus upon the issue or the people involved? We should deal with both the issue and the people. In Romans 14 Paul makes it obvious that both the issue and the people demand careful handling. Verses 1 through 13 give primary attention to the people involved, verses 14 through 23 focus upon the issue.

The Issue of circumcision in the first century shows us how to operate. Why did Paul circumcise Timothy? (Acts 16.3) Paul did not ignore the issue, but in wisdom knew how to use it to save souls and to edify the brethren. Why did Paul refuse to circumcise Titus? (Gal 2.3–5) Notice Acts 15.1.

We cannot bring an opinion to the point of division. How do we know when an issue is simply someone’s opinion? We cannot make biblical issues mere personal opinion.

We have to remember that there are people involved. In First Corinthians 9.19–23; 10.23, Paul deals with this very subject. Troy Cummings used to say, “Agree as much as you can, for there will be plenty of times when you will have to disagree.” When an issue arises, exercise discernment to differentiate between faith and opinion, knowing that an opinion may be lawful to hold and to practice, it may not be expedient to practice it around people who have a problem with that particular opinion.

[See additional handout for the case of Aylett Raines, starting on page 5]

First Peter 4.11 gives the right course of action.

Issues and Fellowship

Follow your convictions, but it cannot violate Scripture (Rom 14.22).

Has anyone understood the Bible completely yet?

Interestingly, Jesus did not initiate many of the confrontations He had with the Pharisees. The Pharisees pressed their opinions to the point of testing fellowship.

Contending for personal opinions does not edify the body or save others because such a person loves his opinion more than his brethren, causing him to destroy brethren and congregations.

Romans 14 explains that we may hold an opinion, but do not cause division.