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.