Throughout history, our enemy has raised up many false prophets and false teachers, but perhaps never before in history has the church itself raised up so many of its own false teachers, parading them and welcoming them into their homes and churches. False teachers abound on many of the so-called Christian television networks, and books by false teachers fill the shelves of many so-called Christian bookstores. And while many Christians are rightly concerned about the growth of religions such as Islam, the greatest threat to orthodox Christianity is not other religions but false teachers who creep into the church unnoticed.
False teachers creep into the church not because they look like false teachers but because they look like angels.
False teachers creep into the church not because they look like false teachers but because they look like angels. They disguise themselves just as their master Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. When false teachers attempt to creep into the church, they typically don’t look like wolves because they wear sheep costumes and use some of the same language that the sheep use. They regularly quote Scripture, and they are often able to quote more Scripture than the average Christian. False teachers are not always argumentative or divisive; often they are some of the nicest people we know. They usually creep in not with scowls on their faces but with big smiles. They don’t normally creep into churches and teach obvious heresies and falsehoods; they usually subtly question the truth and teach partial truths, and they are not always identified by what they actually teach but by what they leave out of their teaching. They often speak of Jesus, salvation, the gospel, and faith, but they twist the words and concepts of Scripture to fit their own versions of the truth, which is no truth at all. They typically don’t attempt to creep into churches where the Word of God is preached boldly and passionately, in season and out of season, and where the people are eager for the sound preaching of Scripture and are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, they usually target those churches where people are indifferent to doctrine and apathetic about the preaching of the Word of God.
The surest way, then, to prevent and stop the spread of false teaching is for Christian leaders and laypeople, pastors and parishioners, teachers and learners, to be committed to the sound preaching of God’s Word and to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Only then will false teachers be recognized for who they are and the sheep of Christ be protected from error, all to the end of living coram Deo, before the face of God, for God’s glory according to God’s unchanging truth.
Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is cotranslator and coeditor of A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.