If false teachers want the same thing as all teachers – for people to believe their message and follow their teaching – why are they so dangerous?
What’s the Danger of False Teachers?
(1) False Teachers use the same methods and platforms as those preaching the gospel
Take Joel Osteen for instance — he’s a false teacher, if you didn’t know. His ministry though looks no different than your average churches ministry. He preaches a message every week using the Bible. He writes books and blogs. He uses social media. He speaks at conferences. His facility is nice and accommodating.
Even though his ministry looks no different than your average churches, he is not preaching the same gospel. He’s preaching a prosperity gospel — One centered on wealth and health instead of Jesus.
But because his method and platform look no different than those preaching the true gospel, he is able to deceive 1000’s every year. So we can’t just go off of looks alone because looks are deceiving.
(2) False Teachers put forth the same or greater effort as those preaching the true gospel
Jesus tells us in verse 15 that the scribes and Pharisees:
“travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte,” (Mt 23:15b)
A good modern day example of this is the Mormons. All Mormons, especially young men, are encouraged to participate in missionary work. Their work often takes them far from home, it requires them to learn other languages and cultures, and raise their own support.
The Mormon model mirrors that of Christian missionaries. I have several friends overseas right now working as missionaries. In order to do that, they had to travel far from home, learn other languages and cultures, and raise their own support.
False teachers aren’t sitting back and letting people come to them.
No, they are going out and winning people to their beliefs. They are doing the same thing we are doing. In some cases, they are putting forth more effort.
Their missionary effort makes them particularly dangerous because it means people will come into contact with their message. Many who do aren’t prepared and will be deceived.
So false teachers are dangerous because they both look the same and put in the same effort to reach people with their message, as those who are preaching the true gospel.
(3) False Teachers preach a false gospel that has eternal consequences
Jesus makes this clear in verses 13 and 15. He starts in 13 by saying,
““But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.“
And then in verse 15 Jesus says that the scribes and Pharisees
“Travel great distances to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Mt 23:13–15)
Instead of leading the people to God, the scribes and Pharisees lead them away from Him. Instead of making people children of God, they make them children of Satan. Instead of pushing them towards a Savior, they pull them away.
The way the scribes and Pharisees deceived people was by teaching them that keeping the Law was what saved you. I would argue that all others who are not preaching the true gospel are doing that as well – they are preaching a works based salvation.
A works based salvation, however, can never save us.
It can’t save us because God requires not just our best, but perfection. None of us have ever been or ever will be perfect.
You can think of it like this. If you were to take a glass rod, a perfect glass rod with no blemishes, and smash that rod against a stone. What do you think would happen? I will tell you what would happen. It would shatter into a thousand pieces.
Now, say you could collect all the pieces and you had the patience to glue them all back together. If you did that, you might be able to recreate something that looked like the original glass rod. However, it would be impossible to recreate a perfect glass rod without any blemishes.
That’s the same with us. You see, Adam and Eve broke our chance of ever living a perfect life. In that one instance, when they ate the fruit in the garden, rebelling against God, the whole world was plunged into sin.
Their sin means everyone born after Adam and Eve are born as imperfect sinners. No matter what we do we can never, in our own effort, return to the pre-fall state of Adam and Eve. The state where we could walk with God in the cool of the garden. It’s impossible.
Anyone, or any organization, that teaches that you can become good enough to have a relationship with God through your own effort is teaching a false gospel.
A gospel that doesn’t save, but kills. A gospel that doesn’t make you a child of God, but a child of Satan. This is true even if the message of the false teacher gives us hope. Makes us feel good. Helps us in this life. Or makes us into a good person.
So this isn’t a game. We shouldn’t dabble with false teaching. We shouldn’t come anywhere near it because we are dealing with something that has eternal consequences.
For next time:
Next time we will look at two more reasons false teachers are dangerous.
Question for Reflection
- Which of the three strike you as particularly dangerous?
Post adapted from my sermon False Teachers – Their Desire, Their Danger, Our Response