False Teachers and Prophets, Part 2

September 2, 2020 at 10:48 AM 2 comments

Though we’ve begun this series dealing with false teachers and prophets, I’d like to back up to do something I should have done from the beginning. I want to define the words heretic/heresy and false teacher.

Heretic vs False Teacher
A heretic is the term originally used way back during the time leading up to and including the Reformation of the Middle Ages. Then, the term heretic was applied to anyone who dissented from any accepted Roman Catholic dogma/teaching. People like Martin Luther, Zwingli, Tyndale and others were considered heretics because they parted ways with Roman Catholic doctrine. Often, heretics were vilified and even tried, convicted and executed for their “crimes” of disagreeing with Roman Catholicism.

In a more general sense today, we refer to people as heretics who deny fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith (Protestantism). For instance, a person who believes that salvation is given by free grace but the recipient of that salvation must then work toward or continue to earn that salvation is said to believe in heresy. Though the Church has stood against heresies like this since their inception, often these heresies remain with us in some form and to some degree.

The term heretic can also be applied to those within political circles. A person who spent his or her life being conservative in beliefs then one day comes out as a liberal to Leftist, would be considered a political heretic among his or her peers.

But again, the term originated with those who opposed aspects of Roman Catholicism during the Middle Ages. Today, it might be more accurate to refer to people who espouse unbiblical doctrines as simply being false teachers. The label “false teacher” or “false teaching” has a far broader scope it appears because so much can be considered false by so many. However, not all false teaching qualify as heresy.

For instance, let’s consider the debate surrounding the Rapture. There are groups who believe the Rapture is not at all taught in the Bible. Others believe the Rapture will occur before the start of the Tribulation, while others believe it will occur in the Middle of the Tribulation, and others believe it will happen at the end of the Tribulation. Still some believe that there is something called the PreWrath Rapture, which happens after Revelation chapter 6, allegedly when God’s wrath is poured out. Still others believe in a “secret” Rapture where only the truly “faithful” will be raptured, while carnal or fallen Christians will remain on the earth to experience the Tribulation.

While it is clear that most who hold to any sort of Rapture position do so often convinced that theirs is the only correct opinion (after all, how can all versions of the Rapture be correct?), this in and of itself is not grounds for kicking people out of the church or “avoiding” them based on what is perceived to be a “false teaching” about the Rapture. People should still be able to get along, love one another and even fellowship together in spite of the difference of opinion over the Rapture.

Some who believe in a PostTributlation Rapture have concluded that anyone who believes specifically in the PreTribulational Rapture is fully “deceived” and because of that, they also believe if those people are alive when the Tribulation begins, and the Rapture does not happen, those folks will become so disenchanted upon entering the Tribulation that the bottom will fall out and they will eventually accept the Mark of the Beast and be sent to eternal damnation.

This particular belief assumes a great deal, really. Notice it assumes that a person – even if truly saved – could actually lose their salvation because of their “false” belief in the PreTrib Rapture. This is nonsense because the Bible does not teach that salvation can be lost. So those who believe this have more difficulty than simply regarding if/when the Rapture happens.

Now, it is important to understand what the Bible says about dealing with people who teach false doctrines. Should we be friends with them? Can we fellowship with them? Should they be warned and then avoided? Should we always pray for them?

Generally speaking, it really depends upon how bad their false teaching is. For instance, those who falsely teach that God never wants us to experience sickness (often within the Word of Faith camp), should be avoided, not because we are “better” than they are but because it is very possible that being around them will produce anxiety, frustration and confusion in us. In a worst case, we may actually come around to embracing their beliefs. Their teachings can easily spread like gangrene and affect the entire local church body or even if it moves one solid Christian off the path of the truth, it has caused damage.

Paul had a huge problem with a group he referred to as the “Judaizers” (Acts 15) These were Jewish men who believed that even those who followed Jesus (as Jewish people), were supposed to be following all aspects of the Mosaic Law. This is why these Judaizers chased or followed Paul from one village to the next. Wherever he stopped to preach, they were there to thwart his efforts. They did this with what they believed were altruistic motives, believing that God would punish the entire nation of Israel if some went off following other “gods” (Jesus). In essence, they were protecting Israel from God’s judgment because they knew how often that happened in the Old Testament.

Unfortunately, for them, they themselves were completely deceived about who Jesus was and what He actually accomplished. The New Covenant via Jesus had superseded the Old Covenant and created the Church. While God still has plans for Israel, His work through Christ provided salvation that the Old Testament law and sacrificial system could not do. The Judaizers could not see this due to their own entrenched blindness.

To hang around with people like that would mean being forced to do things their way, instead of God’s new way. And by the way, salvation – whether in the Old or New Testaments – has always been about exercising faith in God and His promises. It was never earned (cf. Hebrews 11). Ever. But being around people like these who believed in the Mosaic Law for salvation, would obviously create problems for new Christians who would be then tempted to literally go backwards toward the Old Testament sacrificial system instead of understanding and relying on the once for all, perfect sacrifice of Jesus through which we gain eternal life/salvation in Him.

Bearing this in mind, a reader recently asked: “Can you be deceived and not a heretic?

I think the easy answer to that question is that, yes, a person can be deceived and not be a full-blown heretic, if we go by the above definition of what makes a true heretic.

I believe there are many of us who can find ourselves in that category but as we grow in Christ and we sincerely seek His and only His truth, He will guide us into that truth. Things I held when I was younger have given way to other truth based on my greater understanding of God’s Word. This happens with all Christians or should. It is impossible to have perfect knowledge right out of the gate and in fact, it can take a lifetime to truly understand many of the doctrinal truths of Scripture. We should always be learning, to an extent.

For instance, I believe my involvement in the Charismatic Movement years ago was due to deception. I allowed myself to chase after what turned out to be an emotional connection to something that I thought I was missing. I wanted the “experience” of knowing Jesus welling up within me. So I pursued the experience instead of simply relying on Him to live the life through me and learn what it meant to be at peace in Him because of how I was living.

Was I a heretic? I don’t believe so but I also do believe that had I continued down that Charismatic road, I may well have come to a point of being truly heretical. I’ve read of some who continued within the Charismatic Movement and ended up embracing some of the most blasphemous heresies. It’s all so insidious and such a slow process that often, people don’t even realize they are moving away from true doctrine to embrace false.

Some of the leaders within the modern day New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement, an offshoot of the previous Charismatic Movement, embrace some of the most awful false teachings. But they’ve come to embrace them over a great deal of time and are constantly tinkering with them to flesh them out more thoroughly. They become word smiths who cleverly conceal the truth and blind others to it.

Can people come to embrace heresy or false doctrine and still be saved? I think that is quite possible and Paul appears to allude to this in 1 Cor 3 when he discusses the BEMA Judgment Seat of Jesus where every Christian will stand before Him and give an account for our live here – our words, our thoughts and our deeds. Some, as Paul notes, will escape with their lives in tact, but will lose everything else.

So, yes, I believe – unless I’m mistaken – that authentic believers can ultimately adopt heretical or false doctrinal viewpoints. I also believe that there are many Christian leaders today who do not know Jesus at all, but are using religion as a means to enrich themselves. To them, it’s a career that allows them to call their own shots and build their earthly empires.

Still others do not start out that way. They are authentic Christians but over time, due to the growth of their ministries, have compromised their faith and teaching to keep money and accolades coming in. They point to the “success” of their ministries as proof that God has blessed and will continue to bless them. If we go by that, then it is clear that most prophets of the Old Testament and even Jesus Himself were not “successful” because they weren’t blessed with riches and perks of ministry. They were often despised, hated, vilified, beaten, imprisoned and even executed. What a marked difference between the way many Christian leaders are depicted today.

I’d like to emphasize that anyone I list in this particular series on False Teachers and Prophets, is simply only discussing the error of their teaching as I understand it. I highlight their views and compare them with Scripture. I’m not endeavoring to determine whether or not any of these folks are authentic Christians or not. It seems Paul made known specific people and errors and often told us that we should mark and avoid people like that. He is not saying necessarily that they are not authentic believers. He is simply saying that for us to hang around those people or to sit under the teaching would do us more harm than good. To that end, they should be avoided and we are welcome to share that information with others to warn them as well. We should also continue to pray for those folks.

We will be back next time with some error from a few more individuals. Again, the purpose is to point out error, not to determine whether or not certain people are actually saved. That is not within our purview.


Further Reading:

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, christianity, Communism, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Cultural Marxism, Demonic, devil worship, Emotional virtue, eternity, new age movement, Political Correctness, Politically Correct, Politics, Posttribulational Rapture, Pretribulational Rapture, rapture, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation, Satanism. Tags: , , , , .

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