Slippery Little Fellas: 10 Common Signs of False Teachers

It seems most natural for man to fear serpents.  All the world over snakes find themselves the repeated targets of panicked ophidiophobics (snake-fearers).  Two memorable occasions stand out in my experience that prove my point.  One was watching a “macho” fifteen year old boy run out of the tobacco field screaming like a lady and cussing like a sailor because he saw a rattlesnake.  The other was observing twenty or so African men in Zimbabwe, along with a few Americans, gathering  around a puff adder with rocks in hand.  I imagined in that moment what it must have felt like to be the woman caught in adultery or Stephen who was martyred for his testimony about Jesus Chirst.  As with Stephen, the puff adder died for his testimony–the adder’s testimony being, “Yes, I am an adder.  Here I lie!”

In some ways, man’s fear of serpents is unwarranted and more often rooted in frenzy rather than fact.  Serpents, however, can be dangerous creatures depending on the ones you encounter.  Perhaps one of the reasons that man has such difficulty with snakes is because they are simply so stealthy.  Yes, most snakes bite and/or coil, and some snakes use venom on their prey.  But at the end of the day, these predatory features are only as useful as a snake’s slipperiness.  They accomplish such stealth via their God-cursed ability of slithering from place to place.

We can draw many parallels between serpents and the perennial enemy of God’s church.  Satan, with false teachers under his direction, have always posed a threat to the health of the local expressions of Christ’s body.  While we all freely admit that false teachers are dangerous for the church, it is their slithery character that catches us off guard.   Jude reminds us of this dangerous aspect of false teachers when he writes, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.  For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 3-4).   Notice that they “crept in” (the verb literally means, “to go down into” or “to come alongside”).  The implication of the word is saturated with creepiness and stealthiness.  False teachers are indeed slippery little fellas.

Well, since false teachers are so dangerous, what exactly are the dangers?  I will attempt to answer this question only briefly and partially using Scripture as our guide.  False teachers may have one, more, or all of these ten dangerous characteristics:

Dangers of False Teachers

1.  They disguise themselves as sheep but are really ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15)

2.  They will bring destructive heresies into the church secretly (1 Peter 1:21)

3.  They lead many astray (Matthew 24:11)

4.  They are spoken well of by “all” (Luke 6:26)

5.  They attack true believers (1 Corinthians 11:26)

6.  They preach a form of works-righteousness rather than grace (Galatians 2:4)

7.  They stray from core Christian beliefs (1 Timothy 6:3-4)

8.  They are arrogant, though this may be hidden beneath sheep’s clothing (1 Timothy 6:4)

9.  They are greedy and liars (1 Timothy 6:5-10; Titus 1:10-16)

10.  They seek to please man rather than God (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Therefore, Christians ought to be on the lookout for such Slippery Little Fellas.  Prayerfully, these ten dangers will remind us of their character and tactics.  May God continue to protect His church and His truth from the wiles of the Serpent and all his brood.

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2 thoughts on “Slippery Little Fellas: 10 Common Signs of False Teachers

  1. Excellent post, Jeremy! Well thought out and engagingly written! I’ll have to tell you about my rattlesnake incident sometime. Today’s media capabilities make the spread of heresy so much easier. Usually all you have to do is to flip on the TV to TBN!

    Here’s my question for you: in your opinion, what are the 5 biggest false teachings that we need to watch out for?

    Sorry, one more: do you have any teachers by name that we should be weary of?

    Thanks again for your insight!

  2. Ben, I can’t wait to hear your snake story. If you’re a secret snake-handler, then we need to talk because I don’t think West Main is ready for that.

    You’re right about contemporary media capabilities. It’s impossible to curb all that floods the airwaves and cables around the world. I agree that TBN is one of the most serious offenders in this department. For every decent segment they air, there’s probably ten that are either border-line or outright heresy.

    Apparently you don’t think I have seen enough hot water in 2010, so you had to ask the hard stuff. Off the top of my head, the five biggest false teachings that I see today, in America at least, would be:

    1) Word of faith, also known as “name it and claim”. It is really an authority issue
    2) Egalitarianism,which can be expressed in many forms. Two examples are feminism (men and women have equal roles), homosexuality (heterosexuals and homosexuals have equal moral status). Both come down to the issue of authority
    3) Practical hedonism, meaning many professing Christians believe that living for worldly pleasures is sinful, yet in practice so many of us are driven by them. Again, an authority issue at its core.
    4) Denial of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, again demonstrating the foundational issue of anti-authority.
    5) Denial of the sovereignty of God over all things. This one sums up all the previous. In essence, all heresies, like all sin, come down to the issue of God’s authority over all. When man attempts to supplant his will and actions in place of God’s sovereign authority, then heresy has occurred.

    Regarding false teachers to look out for, I need to say first that we must be extremely careful here. Ultimately, only God knows the heart of a man and to call someone a heretic is in essence calling them an unbeliever. So generally, I prefer to label a man’s teachings as heretical rather than the man himself as such. To name only a few, I would include heretical teaching coming from people such as:
    1) Joel Osteen (word of faith, self-help)
    2) Kenneth Copeland (word of faith)
    3) Joyce Meyers (word of faith, egalitarianism)
    4) John Dominic Crossan (denial of Bible’s authority, especially on core issues). This is one where the word “heretic” can be used because he denies the resurrection of Christ.

    Hope this helps.

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