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Contending For The Faith

Who Are the False Teachers?

2 Timothy 2:17-19
17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort,18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
NKJV

Who are the false teachers? What do they look like? What are their characteristics? How does this relate to their false doctrine?

In simple terms, the false teachers do not stand on the established foundation of the Gospel, the deposit of truth. They fail to turn from the evil of the world. Worldly desires are placed in front of God. The Lord loses His priority in life, ultimately falling to the bottom of the trash pile! The desires of the false teachers made them "treacherous, reckless, conceited, loving pleasure rather than loving God" (2 Timothy 3:4, NET).

Peter provides us with a vivid description of the false teachers and their actions in his second epistle. 2 Peter 2:1
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. NKJV

These pseudo-teachers thrive on destructive teachings and face the ultimate charge of blaspheme as they deny the Person of Jesus. Notice, there is nothing new in this description. Centuries earlier, using Jeremiah as His spokesman, God gave another vivid description of false teachers.

Jeremiah 14:14
And the Lord said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart. NKJV

False teachers spread "a worthless thing."

Jeremiah describes those bringing false doctrine nine times, in the same specific terms. Interestingly, there is a distinction in the Hebrew text and its Greek translation, the Septuagint. The Greek translation uses the term "false prophets" (pseudoprophetes) where the Hebrew text merely uses the term prophet (nabi). But, reading the context makes it clear the Greek translators hit the nail squarely on the head! In 23:9-39, Jeremiah condemns these men as immoral (v. 14) and as seeking popular acclaim preaching only good news (vs. 17-22). Further, they substitute their dreams for the Word of God (vs. 25-29) and steal words from each other, calling them the Word of God (vs 30-39).

It is easy to carry this description into today&s environment. The characterization of false teachers presented by Jude (and Peter) support the continuity of the existence of such ungodly men throughout the ages. These men are those who deny the sovereignty of Jesus and live worldly lives, as though Jesus was unimportant.

Referring to Jude&s and Peter&s second letter, consider the number of descriptions he gives to these false teachers:

Jude Reference
Description
2 Peter Reference
Description
4
ungodly
2:1
ungodly, leading to swift destruction
4
morally perverted
2:15
forsaken the right way
4
denying Christ
2:1
denying Christ
8
defiling the flesh
2:10, 13, 14
spots and blemishes, full of adultery
8
rebellious
2:13
carousing in the day light
8
reviling Holy Angels
2:10
speaking evil of dignitaries
10
dreamers
2:13
carousing in their own deceptions
10
ignorant
2:10
walk according to the flesh
10
corrupt
2:15
following the way of Balaam
16
grumblers
2:12
speaking evil of things they do not understand
16
fault finders
2:12, 18
speaking great words of emptiness
16
self-seekers
2::2
following their own destructive ways
16
arrogant speakers
2:3
exploiting with deceptive words
16
flatterers
2:3, 10, 18, 19
promising freedom
18
mockers
2:3, 10, 18
alluring through the lusts of the flesh
19
creators of divisions    
19
worldly minded    
19
without the Holy Spirit    

Consider further that Peter describes the false teachers as having "eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children" (2 Peter 2:14, NKJV).

So, why do these false teachers generate such large followings?

Consider the real meaning of these descriptions. These teachers are merely "human" and they appeal to the sinful traits ever present in mankind. Superior pride, special knowledge, "freedom" for materials desires, a license for immorality, are all offered to the followers of these special teachers. They are especially troublesome for the new, immature Christian, because so many of their teachings "sound" like the Bible. By quoting verses, these prophets entice new believers into following bad doctrine, first a little, then a lot. Followers are taught to strive for riches, for position, for more than they desire or deserve.

How do we overcome the false teachers? With Scripture and godly imitation. By giving gentle instruction.

2 Timothy 2:23-26
23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. NKJV

We need to remember that this is, ultimately, spiritual warfare. This warfare is being fought at both a corporate and an individual level. The church as a whole must fight. We as individual&s must fight. We must stand firm, and argue for, the foundation of Christ.

We must contend for the faith delivered once for all time to all of the saints of God.

 

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