We often think of the church as a safe place, which is certainly how it should be. Everything we hear at church should be truth. Sadly, however, that’s not always the case. People in the church can and do spread false teaching, either knowingly or unknowingly.
False Teaching Arises from Within the Church
Consider what Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:6-7,
“Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (1 Ti 1:6–7)
The certain persons to whom Paul is referring are not those outside the church, rather they are those who are members of the church at Ephesus. These folks have sate under Timothy’s preaching week in and week out. Despite hearing the truth, they have started spreading a false message.
The Importance of Recognizing False Teaching Can and Does Arise From Within the Church
Since false teaching is spread both out and in the church, we have to be vigilant in comparing everything we hear with what God’s Word says. Every sermon, Bible study, conversation, and saying has to be run through a biblical grid.
In order to for us to run everything we hear through a robust and accurate biblical grid, we have to be biblically literate, which means we have to put a premium on reading and studying God’s Word. We have to know our Bible’s.
How Could Those in the Church Start Spreading False Doctrine?
Presumable Timothy was preaching the truth of God’s Word, expounding the text, and proclaiming the gospel week in and week out. How could someone sit under Biblical teaching week in and week out only to start spreading false doctrine?
Paul says it happens when we swerve from the truth. Specifically, he tells us in verse 5 that those in the Ephesian church have swerved from “a pure heart…a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Ti 1:5b). Leaving these things behind, some in the Ephesian church ventured into false doctrine.
A few explanations for why they swerved toward false teaching are possible that they sought to puff themselves up, gain a reputation, or even power in the community. We aren’t told exactly why, but what we do know is that their motives for doing so weren’t pure.
It didn’t matter, then, if they knew what they were talking about or not. They just started talking, making things up as they went. They didn’t check what they were saying against Scripture. They just said it.
We Can Easily Spread False Doctrine If We Aren’t Careful
Honestly, that can happen to us. If we don’t check what we are saying against Scripture, we might end up spreading false doctrine. Let me show you how easy it is for that to happen. I came across an article just the other day highlighting common sayings of church goers. Consider some of the ones they mentioned:
- God helps those who help themselves.
- God wants me to be happy.
- We’re all God’s children.
- Cleanliness is next to godliness.
- God won’t give you more than you can handle.
- When you die, God gains another angel .
I’m sure most of these are familiar to you, you may have even said one or two of these before. You know what? They are all false teaching. Not one of them is true. When we say them, then, we are spreading a false message.
Sure, we may be doing so unknowingly. Today maybe the first time you heard these were false teaching. But do you see how easy it is for false teaching to creep into even a biblically minded church? Do you see why it is important that we are always on guard, even at church? Do you see why we always have to check the things we hear against Scripture?
False teaching can and does arise from within the church, so we have to check everything we hear against God’s Word in order to guard ourselves and others from it.
Question for Reflection
- Do you have a well developed biblical grid by which you can protect yourself and others from false teaching and teachers?
Post developed from my sermon: How Do We Guard Ourselves and Others From False Teaching and Teachers?