Have you ever met a false teacher? I bet you have.
While Jesus was alive, He warned His disciples, “Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people” (Matthew 24:11).
Very shortly after His resurrection His words became a reality. False teachers sprang up everywhere. As the early church evangelized people all over the Mediterranean world, new converts began to deviate from orthodox Christian teaching so the apostles gave stern warnings:
- “Contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals, whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you” (Jude vv. 3–4).
- “There will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).
- “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings” (Hebrews 13:9).
- “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).
How To Interact With A False Teacher
The reality is that the false teachers the apostles confronted were everyday people with regular jobs who were trying to raise families and do their best to make life work.
They were normal people who simply had their own ideas of how Christianity ought to be taught, and freely expressed those ideas over dinner, on the job, or while caring for their children.
The stark reality is that you and I can become a false teacher at any time.
Or we can be influenced by one.
That’s why the biblical advice for how to interact with false teachers is clear:
- “Command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer” (1 Timothy 1:3).
- “Guard what has been entrusted to your care” (1 Timothy 6:20).
- “Defend the gospel” (see Philippians 1:16).
- “Refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9).
- “Stand firm” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
- “Fight the battle well” (1 Timothy 1:18).
Admittedly, those are all hard things to do when the person who’s teaching false doctrine is your grandmother, your friend in accounting, or your small-group leader.
Yet these are some of the important but unpleasant duties of every Christian.
Everyone Is Accountable
Outside of Billy Graham, there was probably no more influential twentieth-century Christian than Mother Teresa.
When asked if people became Christians before they died through her ministry to the poor in Calcutta, Mother Teresa responded,
“Oh, I hope I am converting. I don’t mean what you think … If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives, then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are, and then by being better we come closer and closer to Him. If we accept Him fully in our lives, then that is conversion. What approach would I use? For me, naturally, it would be a Catholic one, for you it may be Hindu, for someone else, Buddhist, according to each one’s conscience.”
What do you think the apostle Paul would have done if he overheard Mother Teresa make that statement?
He would have freaked. No question about it.
Jesus Himself clearly taught, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Did Mother Teresa get a memo from heaven stating that Jesus changed His mind?
The apostle Paul warned, “If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8–9).
That includes seminary professors.
And soccer moms.
Your Sunday-school teacher.
And Joel Osteen.
And believe it or not, even Mother Teresa.