Christians live in a dangerous world. It is a world full of evil influences and every disciple of Christ must guard against possible inroads into his thinking by Satan's onslaught. However, such challenges may not be the greatest danger which the saint faces.
The truth of God sets men free, but false doctrine will cause men to be lost (Jno. 8:32). The apostle Peter wrote, "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed" (2 Pet. 2:1,2). Not only do false teachers bring "swift destruction" upon themselves, but they also will contribute to the destruction of others, i.e., those who accept their "destructive heresies."
It is often not too difficult to recognize the false teacher. He is suspect first because of the context of his teaching. He (or she!) is associated with a religious denomination and such denominations are founded upon false doctrine. Second, his teaching may obviously contradict the plain teaching of the New Testament.
The more dangerous false teacher is the one who looks like the sheep! Using the figure of the flock to describe God's people, Jesus characterized the false prophets (or teachers) as "ravenous wolves" who appear in "sheep's clothing" (Matt. 7:15). The thought is that the false teacher may appear to be a faithful Christian upon cersory examination.
That's what makes him so dangerous. Not just that he teachies doctrine which will condemn, but that he is hard to recognize. Some sheep will be "devoured" by his false doctrine because they trusted him. He doesn't wear a sign proclaiming himself to be a predator. He secretly brings in destructive heresies, sidling up to sheep after sheep to plant his unscriptural views (2 Pet. 2:1). He often doesn't proclaim his view from the pulpit. Instead he works behind the scenes, questioning sound teaching, always ready to offer a "better view" to those who are made receptive to his deceptive words by flattery (2 Pet. 2:3, 13,14, Rom. 16:18; Jd. 16). He doesn't devour a sheep quickly. He distracts a sheep from the Shepherd's voice until that Christian is so enamored with the false doctrine that he doesn't recognize the truth anymore. Eventually that same disciple is advocating the false doctrine, having "discovered" how wrong the doctrine he once accepted is. He has been devoured by the wolf who, by now, is concentrating on his next victim.
It is not the purpose of this article to cause brethren to view each other with suspicion and distrust. We do need, however, to be able to recognize those false teachers who are dressed in sheep's clothing. Jesus taught that we can recognize them by their fruits (Matt. 7:15). The ultimate test for false teachers is the doctrine taught -- do the Scriptures support it?
By Allen Dvorak via Gospel Power, Vol. 14, No. 13, April 1, 2007.
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