3 Bible Texts On Discerning False Teachers

Note: This article originally was published in Highlands Ministries magazine "Every Thought Captive" October 2016 edition.

False Teachers are purveyors of falsehood that harm the lives of all who embrace it. Recognition of a false teacher requires more than a biblical check list. It requires discernment and sensitivity from the Holy Spirit. What then are we to look for in a false teacher? From the Word of God, I offer three texts to help:

First, Romans 16:17-18 reveals that false teachers create divisions to doctrinal unity
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

The Apostle Paul says to “watch out,” for false teachers because they create divisions over the unity of doctrine and confession. They bring into the fold doctrines outside the bounds of orthodoxy, and do so in the name of unity. They slyly demean brothers and sisters who believe the doctrines rightly taught. They nit pick over differences with others, and exploit the brethren where they are weak. While true teachers help the brethren in their weakness, false teachers divide over weaknesses and create harmful and unneeded obstacles, so as to always be seeking unity but never arriving at it. They smooth talk others to believe their divisions are right and proper. Their teaching is meant to protect themselves while simultaneously indicting others. When they feel attacked, they divert attention away from themselves, usually with deceit and flattery that yields to another’s naiveté.  

Secondly, Titus 1:10-11 reveals actions that flow from the character of a false teacher
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

According to this text, false teachers are rebellious and resistant towards their authority. They teach with religious tones and with religious words that have no value. They try to coerce others for selfish gain of power and others confidence in them.

Third, 1 Timothy 3b-11b explains the effects of false teaching
"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. Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…”

See finally that false teachers create “speculations” of God’s nature, works and ways, and lead others in “vain discussion” of the speculations that will bring no lasting fruit. This is confirmed through the lives of those reared under their work. These are lives filled with “swerving and wandering” from the faith by unholy and profane lives, filled with violence, lies, disobedience and disrespect. Sadly this happens because of that which links all three passages together. The false teacher is “without understanding” of the words they say, the Scripture they profess to believe, and the God they profess to worship.

October 2016 A.D.