HOW TO DEAL WITH FALSE TEACHING

STUDY 1: KNOW THE BIBLE’S PERSPECTIVE ON HUMAN IDEOLOGIES

© Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007

Throughout the Bible there is clear evidence that belief in the God who claims in the Bible to be the only true God, has, since Genesis 3, been repeatedly either distorted or replaced by other belief systems or ideologies.

The rejection of the word and the authority of God in Genesis 3 resulted in, indeed expressed, a rejection of God. This rejection of God resulted in an increasing ignorance about him and a substitution of human ideas about ‘god’ in the place of accurate knowledge about him. Some of these human ideas about ‘god’ contain varying residual memories of the original knowledge of God, but these residual memories are distorted, diluted and altered so seriously that the true God can no longer be recognized.

This escalation of ignorance and erroneous belief is summed up in Romans 1:18-32:

      • The truth about God is clearly available to all in the things he has created [19-20]
      • Men, by their godlessness and wickedness have suppressed that truth [18]
      • Knowledge of God was there, but men did not respond appropriately; by not responding appropriately their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened [21]
      • Men claimed to be wise, but they exchanged the true God for imitation gods [22]
      • They exchanged the truth of God for a lie [25] and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.
      • They held knowledge of God in contempt, thinking it not worthwhile to retain [28]
      • They know God’s decrees, but deliberately do what he has forbidden and approve of those who do so [32]

Accompanying this corruption and rejection of the true truth about God is an increasingly corrupted lifestyle [Romans 1:24, 26-32].

While in the Old Testament the corruption and rejection of the truth was expressed specifically in idolatry or in occult beliefs and practices, in the New Testament corruption and rejection of the truth occurred when ‘false teaching’ or ‘false prophets’ undermined, corrupted and rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ either by subtracting or re-defining one or more of its essential components, or by non-biblical concepts being added to and imposed upon the biblical Gospel.

A. THE BIBLE DEFINES SUBSTITUTE RELIGIONS AND HUMAN IDEOLOGIES AS FALSE

The Bible does not hesitate to label substitute religions and human ideologies as ‘false’. It considers:

      • That God is the only ‘true’ God, and that all other ‘gods’ are false.
      • That the message God himself gives to humans is the true message, and that messages originating from humans or from Satan and demons are false.
      • That watered-down concepts of God are false.
      • That those who speak messages that do not derive from or are contrary to God’s message, are ‘false prophets’ or ‘false teachers’ who are deceiving the people, either deliberately or in ignorance.

In the Old Testament:

      • All gods other than God are forbidden [Exodus 20:2-6; Deuteronomy 4:2-31]
      • Everything related to the occult is outlawed [Deuteronomy 18:9-13]
      • God alone is God; there is no other God [Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10-12]
      • Rejection of the one true God, and the worship of idols instead of the one true God, is portrayed as incredibly abhorrent [Jeremiah 2:10-13]
      • False gods are human creations, weak and impotent substitutes for the one true God [Isaiah 40:18-26; 44:6-26].

In the New Testament:

      • Jesus exposed the current perceptions of God as false [John 8:19]
      • Jesus described false teaching as extremely deceptive [Matthew 24:24; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 John 7]
      • False teaching is described as destructive [John 10:10; Titus 1:10,11]
      • It is taught that false teaching blinds people to the truth [2 Corinthians 4:4]
      • Paul taught that false teaching expresses the principles of this world and holds people in bondage [Colossians 2:8,20]
      • Paul taught that false teaching has its source in Satan [2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 Timothy 4:1,2]

According to the Bible, to embrace error, whether idolatry, the occult, or ‘false teaching’, is to demonstrate lack of true, biblical faith. It is to identify oneself as one who does not know God and who is alienated from him for ever.

Our attitude to false teaching is not an optional part of our faith; rather it reveals the very nature of our faith. If we believe that God is no different from or no better than an idol, then we obviously neither know nor believe in the one who calls himself the one, true God. If we believe that faith in Christ is just one option among the many religious beliefs on offer, then we neither know nor believe in the Christ revealed in the New Testament. If we thank Jesus for ‘salvation’ but have no desire or intention to obey him, then we have not yet met the biblical Jesus. If we teach that we must gain and maintain salvation by our own good works then we have no concept at all of what it was that Jesus did when he died on the cross.

      • To know the God of the Bible is to know that there is no other.
      • To know Christ of the Bible is to know that he alone is the way, the truth, the life, the light.
      • To know this Christ is to know that he is the Lord, the Almighty God of all the earth, to whom every knee will bow, and who commands our exclusive allegiance.
      • To know what Christ did on the cross is to know that no good works of mine can contribute anything to gain or maintain my salvation.

The Bible is precise and clear: It affirms that its message alone is truth and that all else is false.

B. THE BIBLE AFFIRMS THAT CHRIST ALONE IS THE ONE TRUE TRUTH

Christ himself affirmed this:

      • ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty’ [John 6:35]
      • ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’ [John 8:12]
      • ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ [John 14:6]

The apostles confirmed this:

      • ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.’ [John 3:36]
      • ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’ [Acts 4:12]
      • ‘Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God’ [1 Corinthians 1:24]
      • ‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ [2 Corinthians 4:6]
      • ‘Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ [Colossians 2:3]
      • ‘… in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son … The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being …’ [Hebrews 1:2,3]
      • ‘We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life’ [1 John 5:20].

In the coming of Jesus Christ God has given us his final self-revelation, his final definition of truth. To reject this revelation and this definition, to corrupt this revelation and definition by either subtracting from it or adding to it, is to reject God in a final and irrevocable way. Yet that is precisely what false teaching always has done and always will do. It alters, adds to, or subtracts from, what God himself has revealed as the truth.