The Reason To Be On Guard
How hard can it be to catch a wolf? In agricultural Israel the shepherds had to be on their guard all the time. Now the early church took very seriously the warning by Jesus:
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."
Here is Paul's last word to Timothy, the pastor of a church he planted in Ephesus:
"20. Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed,, and in so doing, have departed from the faith."
"Which some have professed, and in so doing have departed from the faith." That right there is the definition of a false teacher.
A. The Mysteries That False Teachers Embrace
There are three mysteries that commonly arise in the cults. They are variations on the same old mysteries:
False Doctrine: God wants every Christian to be wealthy. All sickness is a sign of lack of faith. God was once a man like us.
False teachers love Pedigrees and family trees and genealogies. Let's start getting baptized for the dead, doing religious acts to get dead people into heaven. False teachers love extra-Biblical revelations.An angel with the appropriate name Moroni once gave a man special glasses to write a whole religious book. False teachers love mysteries.
B. The Message That False Teachers Ignore
Keeping the main thing the main thing has to be every local church's preoccupation. And what, pray tell Paul, is the main thing? Well, it's in three parts:
A pure heart: "5. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart."
A good conscience: Some people have sinned so much in a certain area that they no longer feel a pang of conscience.
A sincere faith: A pure heart and a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Clearly they all go together.
If all the teaching and religious duties you have given your life to don't add up to a strong love for God and a strong love for other people - you might just be under the influence of the wolves!
C. The Marks That False Teachers Display
Watch out for multiple books, pamphlets and lectures. False teachers love reading rooms, seminars, TV series. It's all about spouting their "special knowledge." The Old Testament observes: "when words are many sin is not lacking."
False teachers have copious knowledge of religious laws. Watch out for anyone who thinksk that religious knowledge is enough to give them spiritual authority. Wolves operate that way.
"20. Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing, have departed from the faith.
Have the wolves left their faith in Christ - you betcha.