Reversing the trend of apostasy in the church is preventing believers from leaving the church completely because of “tares among the wheat.” The task of combating false teaching requires the Christian believer to engage the source of the threat itself.
This is done directly by identifying and revealing false teachers, and indirectly by equipping Christians to avoid the environments in which these teachers flourish. The willingness to obey God, a thorough understanding of Scripture and a strong faith are the non-negotiable and critical components of a successful defense strategy.
But false prophets also arose among the people,
just as there will also be false teachers among you,
who will secretly introduce destructive heresies,
even denying the Master who bought them,
bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
~ 2 Peter 2:1 ~
Two truths regarding the presence of false teachers are revealed immediately through God’s Word. First, their existence is absolute; there will be false teachers, who will introduce destructive heresies. Second, they’re not outsiders; they’re already among you, in the church. God knew humans would be no match for Satan on any level, so He gave us His divine protection through Christ, and a look into Satan’s game plan through His Scripture as well.
The strategy is rather straightforward: the one in control, implementing the plan, is Satan, a master of deception.
No wonder, for even Satan disguises
himself as an angel of light.
~ 2 Corinthians 11:14 ~
Satan is also a counterfeiter. He can’t create anything, so he copies God to create a counterfeit gospel and false teachings.
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called
you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really
not another; only there are some who are disturbing you
and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
~ Galatians 1:6-7 ~
Satan then plants the counterfeit gospel in the minds of his false teachers. These false teachers will insert themselves in church congregations – or lead congregations – and intentionally deceive Christians with Satan’s false gospel.
I know that after my departure savage wolves
will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
~ Acts 20:29 ~
If the false teachers are successful, their false gospel will create a new generation of false Christians. These deceived souls will be biblically illiterate, challenge the authority of Scripture, and reject the core beliefs of the Gospel of Christ.
They profess to know God, but by their deeds
they deny Him, being detestable and
disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
~ Titus 1:16 ~
The false Christians then send their children into the world, to receive further false teachings from a secularist perspective (God doesn’t exist, immoral behavior is OK, pride is required, etc.). The false secular message, mirroring the beliefs of false Christians, remains unchallenged and continues. This isn’t a situation in which a fellow Christian disagrees with a non-essential aspect of theological doctrine.
This is a situation in which deceived souls believe they are Christian (they’re not), believe they’re saved (they’re not), and believe they will stand righteous in judgment before God (they won’t).
And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;
depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
~ Matthew 7:23 ~
How is it possible that well-meaning Christians, seeking a relationship with God, end up in this position? The answer is simple: people don’t read God’s Word. The deception remains because the culture doesn’t know otherwise, and eventually it replaces God’s Word as truth.
Consider the following anti-Gospel deceptions many self-professed Christians believe to be true.
1. God won’t give you more than you can handle. Of course He’ll give you more than you can handle; life is more than we can handle. If we could handle life on our own, we wouldn’t need Christ. We can’t handle it by ourselves, which is why God the Father sent Christ to an unsaved world – to allow us to have a relationship with God in which He handles it for us. This statement is false teaching and undermines God’s Word.
2. Bad things happen to good people. Two issues arise immediately with this false teaching. First, Jesus Himself taught us there are no “good” people: And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone" (Luke 18:19). Second, to label something as “bad” – even if it appears to our finite minds to be so – is imposing our judgment on God’s Will.
3. God helps those who help themselves. This false teaching is so anti-Gospel, it rises to the level of heresy. Christ taught us to die to ourselves, and Salvation was a gift of Grace from faith alone. Every Christian has been blessed with gifts and talents, but they are to be used for His Glory, not ours. This message – you start working first, and God will jump in when He thinks you’ve worked hard enough – should never come out of a Christian’s mouth.
4. We are ALL God’s children. We were all created by God; that fact is undisputed. However, our relationship with God the Father is not by virtue of our existence. Our relationship with the Father is a result of our relationship with His Son: For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26). When Christians make this statement, they are rejecting the necessity of the Cross.
These teachings aren’t harmless; they’re anti-Scripture. If you didn’t know that, you now know how Satan deceives us.
There are a number of strategies Christians can employ to combat false teaching and teach others in the Body of Christ how to avoid this deception. It should come as no surprise that every strategy begins with the Bible.
1. Study God’s Word in the Bible. Don’t just read the Bible, study it. The Internet allows easy access to the writings, books and sermons of well-established Christians who are strong in their faith. Nothing replaces the study of God’s Word, but access to credible leaders with the proper interpretation of biblical truth provides a significant asset to those who are serious about learning sound doctrine.
2. Share God’s Word with your family daily. Parents whose faith is grounded in doctrine raise children whose faith is grounded in sound doctrine. Daily prayer, Bible study and devotionals strengthen the entire family, and allow the family’s faith to mature together. If you don’t have a worldly family with which to study the Bible, seek out your spiritual family instead: your Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
3. Reveal false teaching to your family. As knowledge and understanding of God’s Word becomes established, expose others to false teachings that are commonly held by the culture. Stand ready to prove your message with Scripture, and guide them through the process of how false doctrine enters Christian minds unknowingly.
4. Devote yourself to fellowship in church. Armed with the knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, find a church that teaches biblical truth. Once found, immerse yourself (and your family) in fellowship with the Body of Christ. Being engaged with a church not only surrounds your family with support and collective strength, it offers the opportunity to help others as well. When parents are “doers of the Word and not just hearers,” children see the example and are less likely to succumb to false teaching.
None of these strategies, practiced in isolation, will ensure no exposure to false teaching is experienced. When combined, however, they contribute to a solid foundation of sound doctrine and biblical truth. Regardless of the strategies employed, the best defense against false teaching is understanding God’s Word.