Because of the vital importance of practising Biblical discernment and the abundance of false doctrines being proliferated these days by many false teachers and prophets, I am going to provide “the meat” from Tim’s entire series on “Deadly Doctrines” via “selected excerpts” obtained from the 7 direct links of the “Deadly Doctrines” series, authored by Tim Challies, which can be viewed here.
Please bear in mind that the vast majority of what Tim teaches in this series is indeed “meat”, which explains the overall size of this particular post. But, in all fairness, I have also reduced it somewhat.
Obviously, if you have the available time, I would strongly advise you to literally go through the entirety of the 7 posts of Tim’s series. However, I am aware that not everyone has that amount of free time, so as a “next best option” I am providing these “selected excerpts” here, which contain the”meat” of these 7 posts.
Each post in the series will be individually identified with “selected excerpts”.
What Tim advocates in his series is of prime importance when it comes to discerning what is the whole counsel of God’s Holy Word and if followed by all professing Christians, it would greatly diminish many from being so easily lead astray. I am aware that this post is both quite lengthy and multi-layered but the importance of utilizing Biblical discernment is critical and of paramount importance. Rightly dividing the Word of God takes considerable time and dedicated effort. Studying God’s Holy Word to show yourself approved unto God, to become a workman or woman that needs not to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15), is what we are all called to do. There are some who would say that because they trust in God, God’s Holy Spirit, will keep them from error. God’s Holy Spirit works in unison with God’s Holy Word and glorifies Christ. Remember that Peter had to be corrected by Paul when Peter was in error (Galatians 2:11-14). If it could happen to Peter, it can happen to any of us. God’s Holy Word is the yardstick by which we test (or measure) everything. Everything that originates from God the Holy Spirit, will be in accordance with the whole counsel of His Holy Word.
1st Post: https://www.challies.com/articles/false-teachers-and-deadly-doctrines/
“Never has it been more important for Christians to commit themselves to rejecting false doctrine and pursuing sound doctrine, to ensure they are following teachers of truth, not peddlers of error.”
“In a new series of articles, we will consider false doctrine, sound doctrine, and how to train ourselves to distinguish between them. We will see how God calls us to respond to false and sound doctrine, as well as false and sound teachers.”
“Doctrine simply means “teaching.” Doctrine describes what Christians believe based on the entirety of the Bible. Because God has given us a completed revelation of himself in the Scriptures, we can search this revelation and arrive at confident conclusions about his nature and works.”
“In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word that parallels the English word “doctrine” typically refers to truth revealed by God, and it is most often rendered as “teaching,” “learning,” or “instruction.” The word translated from the New Testament Greek has a wider range of possibilities. It can refer to either the content of the teaching or the act of teaching. Titus 1:9 captures both of these uses when it describes a qualification and task of the elder: “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught [“as doctrined”], so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” It is most often translated as “doctrine(s)” or “teaching(s)” and is frequently modified by adjectives such as “sound,” “false,” “good,” or “different.”
“Doctrines can be categorized in many different ways. Theologians arrange them systematically, thematically, biblically, and historically, to name just a few.”
“Yet doctrine can also be categorized in the simplest terms: It is either true or false. To determine if a doctrine is true or false in its content, we can use biblical terminology to ask several questions. In origin, is it from God the Creator or from God’s creation? In authority, is it biblical or unbiblical? In consistency, is it familiar or unfamiliar? In quality, is it sound or unsound? In benefit, is it healthy or unhealthy? In value, is it profitable or unprofitable? When we have properly evaluated the doctrine, we ascertain our responsibility toward it: we must either hold to it or reject it.”
“True doctrine (content) originates with God (origin), comes from the Bible (authority), and agrees with the whole of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is sound (quality), it is healthy (benefit), and profitable (value) for us, and we are responsible for holding it (responsibility).”
“False doctrine (content) originates with man (origin), does not come from the Bible (authority), and contradicts portions of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is unsound (quality), it is unhealthy (benefit) and unprofitable (value) for us, and we are responsible for rejecting it (responsibility).*
“The Christian’s responsibility is clear: We are to learn God’s truth by searching God’s Word. We must carefully evaluate every teaching according to God’s unfailing standard. What passes the test is sound doctrine, and what fails the test is false doctrine.”
“False doctrine confuses truth and error, while sound doctrine distinguishes truth and error. False doctrine fails to distinguish between what God has revealed in his Word and what has been fabricated by men or demons.”
“False doctrine prevents godliness, while sound doctrine promotes godliness. False doctrine undermines godliness by promoting what is novel or speculative in place of what is true.”
“False doctrine promotes sin, while sound doctrine prevents sin. False doctrine allows sin to take root in our hearts and minds and work its way out in our lives. Sound doctrine confronts our sinfulness and motivates us to repent.”
“As Paul says to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The doctrine contained in Scripture teaches and reproves, it corrects and trains, purging sin and motivating righteousness.”
“False doctrine elevates ungodly leadership, while sound doctrine qualifies godly leadership.”
“False doctrine permits false teachers, while sound doctrine protects against false teachers. Propagated false doctrine weakens a church’s defense, providing an easy opening for more false teachers to spread through the congregation.”
“False doctrine removes God’s blessing, while sound doctrine ensures God’s blessing. Revelation is bookended by promises of God’s blessing upon those who hold to the doctrine it teaches.”
“False doctrine debilitates the church for times of difficulty, while sound doctrine equips the church for times of difficulty.”
“By the time Paul sends his second letter to Timothy, he is anticipating a time when churches will no longer tolerate truth. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). How should Timothy prepare his church for such a time? By preaching the Bible and teaching the doctrine it contains. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Nothing better equips a church for times of trial than the Bible’s deep doctrines.”
“False doctrine weakens the future church, while sound doctrine strengthens the future church.”
“False doctrine confuses truth and error, prevents godliness, promotes sin, elevates ungodly leadership, permits false teachers, removes God’s blessing, debilitates the church for times of difficulty, and weakens her for the future. Sound doctrine distinguishes truth from error, promotes godliness, prevents sin, qualifies godly leadership, protects against false teachers, ensures God’s blessing, equips the church for times of difficulty, and strengthens her for the future.”
2nd Post: https://www.challies.com/articles/7-false-teachers-in-the-church-today/
“The history of Christ’s church is inseparable from the history of Satan’s attempts to destroy her. While difficult challenges have arisen from outside the church, the most dangerous have always been from within. For from within arise the false teachers, the peddlers of error who masquerade as teachers of truth. False teachers take on many forms, custom-crafted to times, cultures, and contexts.”
“The Heretic is the most prominent and perhaps the most dangerous of the false teachers. Peter warned against him in his second letter. “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). The Heretic is the person who teaches what blatantly contradicts an essential teaching of the Christian faith. He is a gregarious figure, a natural leader teaching just enough truth to mask his deadly error. Yet in denying the faith and celebrating what is false, he leads his followers from the safety of orthodoxy to the peril of heresy.”
“The Charlatan is the person who uses Christianity as a means of personal enrichment. Paul charged Timothy to be on guard against him. “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:3-5). The Charlatan is only interested in the Christian faith to the extent that it can fill his wallet. He uses his leadership position to benefit from others’ wealth.”
“The Prophet claims to be gifted by God to speak fresh revelation outside of Scripture—new, authoritative words of prediction, teaching, rebuke, or encouragement. In reality, though, he is commissioned and empowered by Satan for the purpose of misleading and disrupting Christ’s church. John offered an urgent warning about him. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Christians must “test the spirits” to determine if they originate with the Holy Spirit or with a demonic spirit.”
“The Abuser uses his position of leadership to take advantage of other people. Usually, he takes advantage of them to feed his sexual lust, though he may also desire power. Both Peter and Jude were aware of the Abuser’s lechery: “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:2). “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 4). The Abuser claims he is tending souls, but his true interest is ravishing bodies.”
“The Divider uses false doctrine to disrupt or destroy a church. He gleefully divides brother from brother and sister from sister. Jude warned about him: “‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’ It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 18-21). The Divider is devoid of the Holy Spirit whose first fruit is love and whose special work is holding believers together in the bond of peace (Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 4:3). This false teacher brings strife, not love. He generates factions, not unity. He desires discord, not harmony.”
“The Tickler is the false teacher who cares nothing for what God wants and everything for what men want. He is the man-pleaser rather than the God-pleaser. Paul thought of him as the ear-tickler: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The Tickler craves popularity and praise from the world. To maintain his follower’s respect, he preaches only the parts of the Bible they deem acceptable. Therefore, he speaks much of happiness but little of sin, much of heaven but nothing of hell. He gives them only what they want to hear. He preaches a partial gospel which is no gospel at all.”
“The Speculator is the one obsessed with novelty, originality, or speculation. The author of Hebrews warned his church of these “strange teachings,” while Paul told Timothy to protect the church against any “different doctrine” (Hebrews 13:9, 1 Timothy 1:3). Teaching focused on speculation displaces the sure and steady doctrine of Scripture. The Speculator tosses aside the bulk of the Bible’s content and the weight of the Bible’s emphasis in order to obsess about matters that are trivial or novel. He grows weary of the old truths and pursues respectability through originality.”
“Satan’s greatest ambassadors are not pimps, politicians, or power-brokers, but pastors.His priests do not peddle a different religion, but a deadly perversion of the true one. His troops do not make a full-out frontal assault, but work as agents, sneaking into the opposing army. Satan’s tactics are studied, clever, predictable, effective. Therefore, we must always remain vigilant. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16a).”
3rd Post: https://www.challies.com/articles/test-every-doctrine-test-every-teacher/
“…John tells us to “test the spirits” and Paul says, “test everything” (1 John 4:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). It is our sacred responsibility to examine every doctrine to determine if it is true or false. But how can we distinguish sound doctrine from false? How can we distinguish teachers of truth from teachers of error? In our opening article, I said that putting a doctrine to the test is the best way to determine if it is true or false. As we test the doctrine, we learn our responsibility toward it: We either hold to it or we reject it. I am returning to those tests today to explain them in greater detail. They provide a grid that is useful for testing any doctrine.”
“The first test is the test of origin. Sound doctrine originates with God; false doctrine originates with someone or something created by God. The Apostle Paul went to great lengths to convince the church in Galatia that the gospel he taught was not his own, but God’s. “For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). Even Jesus was clear that he taught only what God had instructed him to teach: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me” (John 7:16). True doctrine originates with the God who is true (Titus 1:2).”
“Just as true doctrine is marked by its divine origin, false doctrine is marked by its worldly origin. Paul warned the Colossian church to avoid doctrine that is “according to human precepts and teachings” and told Timothy that some would “depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (Colossians 2:22, 1 Timothy 4:1). It is this simple: Sound teaching originates with God and false teaching originates with men or demons. When it comes to doctrine, if man made it, then we should not hold it. God is the Father of truth and Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).”
“The test: Does this doctrine originate with God or has it been fabricated by someone or something else?
This leaves us with an obvious question: How can we know the origin of a doctrine? Sometimes its origin is obvious, but more often it is not. When we are uncertain, we can turn to our second test.”
“The second test is the test of authority. Sound doctrine grounds its authority within the Bible; false doctrine grounds its authority outside the Bible. The Bible is God’s inerrant, infallible, sufficient, complete, and authoritative revelation of himself to humanity. Doctrines that originate in the mind of God are recorded in the Word of God. There is a clear and necessary correlation between origin and authority, between God and his Word.”
“Sound doctrine originates in the mind of God and is recorded in his authoritative self-revelation, the Bible.
The test: Does this doctrine appeal to the Bible for its authority? Or does it appeal to another scripture or another mind?
But a concern remains, because two teachers may both claim the authority of the Bible while teaching very different things. How can we know whose interpretation is correct? This is where we turn to the third test.”
“The third test is the test of consistency. Sound doctrine is consistent with the whole of Scripture; false doctrine is inconsistent with some parts of Scripture. There is a sameness or familiarity to true doctrine and a strangeness or unfamiliarity to false doctrine.”
“This is tied to a key theological principle, “the analogy of faith,” which is often explained with the phrase “Scripture interprets Scripture.” If the Bible originates in the infallible mind of God, it must be consistent throughout. Because there can be no contradiction in the mind of God, there can be no contradiction in the revelation of God. What the Bible teaches in one place it cannot refute in another. Therefore, any true doctrine must be consistent with the whole of Scripture. Doctrine must never be treated in isolation, but always in light of a correct understanding of the entire Bible. Too many false teachers isolate verses or ideas that cannot withstand the scrutiny of the whole Book.”
“The test: Is this doctrine established or refuted by the entirety of Scripture?
Once we have tested doctrine and found it to be true, according to these three criteria, we can also see its soundness by its effects on us and those around us. That requires two more tests.”
“The fourth test is the test of spiritual growth. Sound doctrine is beneficial for spiritual health; false doctrine leads to spiritual weakness.”
“Sound doctrine makes spiritually healthy, mature, knowledgeable Christians. False doctrine makes spiritually unhealthy, immature, ignorant Christians who may be no Christians at all.”
“The fifth test is the test of godly living. Sound doctrine has value for godly living, false doctrine leads to ungodly living. Truth never stands on its own, but always has implications in life. Doctrine is always meant to lead to doxology, worship, and purposeful living. “All Scripture is breathed out by God,” says Paul, “and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Scripture is not to be known in an abstract sense, but intimately. It is to inform not only our minds, but our hearts and hands as well.”
“Paul charged Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” reminding him that such doctrine is “excellent and profitable for people” (3:8, 2:1). “What accords with” sound doctrine is its far-reaching implications, the duties that flow out of it. Thus, sound doctrine has value. It is profitable in teaching us to live as we ought to live. It equips us to do those things that are are good for our neighbor and that bring honor and glory to our God. Truth has not been grasped until it has been lived. Sound doctrine profits us by training us to live in a way that pleases God. False doctrine weakens us by training us to live in a way that dishonors God.”
“At this point we simply take all of the evidence from the three tests and make a conclusion about the quality of the doctrine in question. Sound doctrine originates with God, is recorded in the Word of God, is consistent with the whole revelation of God, and leads to both spiritual health and godly living. False doctrine originates with men or demons, is foreign to the Word of God, is inconsistent with the whole revelation of God, and leads to spiritual weakness and ungodly living. It must pass all of the tests in order to be sound. If it fails one, it fails all of them. This word “sound” refers to health and appears often in the New Testament. For example, Paul instructed Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound [“healthy”] words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13). To Titus he said, “Teach what accords with sound [“healthy”] doctrine” (Titus 2:1).”
“Doctrine that passes the three tests is sound doctrine. It is pure and undefiled, true according to God’s unfailing standard of truth.”
“Having thoroughly tested the doctrine and examined its effects, we are able to determine how to respond to it. Sound doctrine must be accepted and held fast; false doctrine must be denied and rejected. When Jesus spoke to the believers in Thyatira, he commended them for clinging to truth and told them to “hold fast what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:25). Paul described the elder as a man who “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).”
“Our responsibility is clear: We must accept and hold fast to what is true, and we must deny and reject what is false. Likewise, the church must welcome those who teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who do not. If they do not heed correction, the church must reject them, removing them and their influence (1 Corinthians 5:9).”
“In summary, true doctrine (content) originates with God (origin), is grounded in the Bible (authority), and agrees with the whole of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is sound (quality), it is healthy (benefit), and profitable (value) for us, and we are responsible for holding it (responsibility).
False doctrine (content) originates with man (origin), is not grounded in the Bible (authority), and contradicts portions of Scripture (consistency). Because such doctrine is unsound (quality), it is unhealthy (benefit) and unprofitable (value) for us, and we are responsible for rejecting it (responsibility).”
“In his last words to Timothy, Paul makes sure to warn him about the danger of false teachers. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).”
“He outlines four steps that can progressively lead any congregation from health to death.”
“Step 1: Reject truth. Paul warns Timothy that people “will turn away from listening to the truth.” The first step in destroying a church is a corporate rejection of the plain teaching of the Bible. First, one individual turns away, and then another, until most of the congregation begins to question what they once held to be true.”
“Step 2: Reject truth-tellers. As a church turns away from the truth, its members soon turn against truth-tellers. Paul tells Timothy that in that days to come, people “will not endure sound teaching.” Such people will no longer tolerate the teaching they once enjoyed. Because they have begun to question the truth, they will turn against those who boldly proclaim it. The very teachers who once drew and delighted them will begin to repulse them.”
“Step 3: Embrace false teachers. Once a church has rejected those who teach the truth, it will replace them with teachers who give them what they want to hear. “Having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” This church now desires novelty over truth, platitudes over exhortation. They want religion, and they even want the label “Christian,” so long as they can keep society’s respect and stay palatable to a godless world.”
“Step 4: Embrace false doctrine. Once people have rejected truth and truth-tellers, and once they have found teachers who will lead them into twisting truth, they will “wander off into myths.” Now they will embrace full-out heresy. They will become so hardened in their sin that they will elevate error to the status of truth. In their rebellion, they will celebrate in the name of God the very things that God hates. Under the guidance of false teachers, they will fully embrace deadly doctrine. They will wander off, like sheep straying away from the watchful care of a good shepherd into a pack of wolves.”
“Paul outlines a tragic progression that begins with people growing weary and ashamed of truth. No longer willing to endure sound teaching, they get rid of the truth-tellers and accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions. Inevitably, they turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. Countless churches have been destroyed by this deadly pattern.”
“Remember that Paul is writing to young pastor Timothy to instruct him in protecting his congregation. How can Timothy guard his church against succumbing to false teachers and deadly doctrine? Should he study the methods of the heretics so he can anticipate their every move? Should he study the doctrine of the heretics so he can refute it point by point? Paul offers a far simpler solution: preach. “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).”
“The solution to false teachers and deadly doctrine is not to obsess with falsehoods, but to pursue truth. The church that remains faithful to God is the church that remains faithful to the Word of God. Here is how Paul tells Timothy—and each of us—to protect the church against the pattern of deadly doctrine.”
“Preach the Word. The church that wishes to remain healthy must preach the word of God. Preaching is only as powerful as its faithfulness to the Bible. The most faithful way to preach the Word is to preach expositorily (or expositionally), to ensure the point of a text becomes the point of the sermon. This form of preaching constrains the pastor to God’s Word and ensures the congregation that every word is drawn faithfully from the Scriptures.”
“Preach with persistence. The church is to persist in this preaching, to “be ready in season and out of season.” There are times when preaching the Bible is loved and considered effective, and there are times when it is hated and considered woefully ineffective. Today we hear from many so-called experts that expository preaching is dying, and that it will soon cause a church to dwindle and collapse. But this kind of faithful, Word-based preaching must be central to the church in season and out of season, when it is popular and when it is unpopular.”
“Preach for application. Preaching must involve an element of teaching the facts of the Bible, but it must also “reprove, rebuke, and exhort.” It must always have a practical dimension that addresses the heart of the listener and confronts his unbelief. Whereas teaching is meant to accumulate facts, preaching is meant to save souls, to transform lives, and to motivate holy living. Faithful preaching confronts and corrects false doctrine and sinful patterns of living (reprove, rebuke), and it trains and encourages those things that honor God (exhort).”
“Preach with patience. The church must continue such preaching “with complete patience…” A congregation must never grow tired of this kind of preaching and never lose confidence in its goodness and effectiveness. They must never ask their pastors to something beyond Scripture, never waver in their commitment to the faithful exposition of the Word of God as the very heart of Christian worship.”
“Preach sound doctrine. Finally, Timothy’s preaching is to have an element of doctrinal “teaching.” Preaching is to be full of Christian truth. It is to communicate all of God’s truth from all of God’s Word. People who turn away from God will not endure sound teaching, but those who follow God will require and demand it. The best preaching is full of sound doctrine and never contradicts sound doctrine. The kind of preaching Paul calls for teaches the whole counsel of God by preaching the whole Word of God.”
“Paul looks to a future in which people will not tolerate the truth, and he tells Timothy to remain faithful to his central calling—to lead the church with and through the Word of God. It was Paul’s charge to Timothy two thousand years ago and that charge continues today to you and to me. As God’s people living in an age of itching ears, we must remain committed to nothing less than the faithful, week-by-week preaching of God’s precious Word.
Individually, we are responsible to find and join such a church. Together, we are responsible to build such churches up and ensure they continue to faithfully preach God’s Word. The healthy church is the preaching church, the church firmly grounded in the Word of God.”
“… Paul was seriously concerned about false teachers and deadly doctrine, warning of them in almost every one of his letters. As he comes to the end of his letter to the Romans, he reminds the church to be on guard, since false teachers are skilled at using flattery and smooth words to deceive even believers. Paul loves this church and wants them to be aware of the challenges they will face from predatory teachers. But his solution may strike us as surprising. He tells these Christians “to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b).”
“Paul seems to be echoing Jesus here. In the book of Matthew, we read of Jesus sending out his disciples and warning them of impending persecution from enemies of the gospel. He tells them how to behave in the midst of such trials: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Jesus and Paul both call for wisdom and innocence. Let’s see how these two passages instruct us on protecting ourselves and our churches from false teachers and their deadly doctrine.”
“Jesus had taught and mentored his disciples, and he was now ready to send them on a short-term mission. They would go to their fellow Jews to tell them of the Messiah. They were like sheep being dispatched into a pack of dangerous wolves. Wolves are vicious, and sheep are helpless. Wolves are crafty, and sheep are dumb. How could these sheep survive? They would need to learn from two other creatures—snakes and doves.”
“Snakes are shrewd animals, able to make astute judgments. They are able to evaluate circumstances and behave in a fitting manner. When they see danger, they slither out of sight without hesitation. Doves, meanwhile, are innocent animals. Doves are simple, pure creatures who cause no trouble. Yet their simplicity is prone to lead them into danger, for they may not take flight when a predator draws near. Their purity is associated with their gullibility.”
“Where Christians are prone to be as innocent as snakes and as shrewd as doves, God calls us to something far more noble and far more effective. Douglas Sean O’Donnell puts it this way: “We are to be godly but not gullible—snake smart, but not snake sneaky. For our character commends Christ; our godliness proclaims the gospel.” We are to behave in a way that draws attention to the gospel, not to ourselves. We are to ensure that any offense we give is the offense of the gospel, not the offense of our own depravity. We are to preach the gospel wisely, evaluating situations to discover the most appropriate way to speak the clearest truth. Wisdom and innocence best serve the cause of the gospel.”
“Paul borrows the words of Jesus and applies them to a different context. If Jesus calls for a pure witness, Paul’s call leans toward a pure mind. Paul leaves us no simile to unpack and interpret. Knowing that false teachers and their deadly doctrine are close at hand, Christians are “to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b). J.B. Phillips paraphrases it this way: “I want to see you experts in good, and not even beginners in evil.”
“Paul was aware of the temptation to grow so concerned about evil that we develop an obsession with it. We may assume that the best way to guard our faith is to become experts in false doctrine, to study the fine details of error so that truth may stand out. But there are at least two grave problems with this approach. First, we are too weak and evil is too strong for us to immerse ourselves in evil and remain untouched. Our acquaintance with evil can soon become an attraction to evil. Second, defending truth by studying error is a fool’s errand. God’s truth is profitable, but evil is a useless counterfeit, a perversion of the truth. God’s truth is fixed and unchanging, but evil is always morphing, always adapting to the trends of the age. Becoming an expert in truth by studying error is dangerous and wasteful, a backward, perilous approach.”
“Paul offers a far safer and far more effective solution. We must focus the best of our attention on what is good and pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8). We must make truth, rather than error, the focus of our studies and the delight of our hearts. We must trust that the foolproof way to identify false doctrine is to become experts in true doctrine. As John MacArthur says, “Don’t study false doctrine, don’t study sin, don’t study error. Stick with the truth and godly obedience.”
Our priority must always be the truth. We defend the Christian faith best when our grasp of sound doctrine is both deep and wide. The believer with great knowledge of truth is equipped to defend against every error.”
“When it comes to false teaching, the appropriate posture is acquaintance without obsession. We do well to know of the existence of error and its strategy for infiltrating the church. The shrewd Christian will be familiar with the primary challenges of his day, the most prominent errors, the foremost peddlers of heresy. Yet he will remain innocent by equipping himself with truth, rather than obsessing about error. As heresies arise, he will respond by increasing his familiarity with God’s Word, trusting that the light of God’s Word will expose the darkness of every error.”
“I will grant, of course, that there will be times when it is wise to gain greater familiarity with prominent and pernicious errors—the kind of errors that threaten to “deceive the hearts of the naive” (Romans 16:18). Some believers are especially equipped to study false doctrine so they can refute it with the Word of God. Many of us have benefited from the labor of such men and women. Yet, as Robert Mounce says so well, “God never intended his children to become intimate with evil in order to communicate the gospel to those in its grasp.” We must never allow the study of error to hinder our pursuit of the truth.”
“There are many reasons that ignorance pervades today’s church. For decades, Christians have focused on felt needs rather than doctrinal truth. We have focused on immediately-applicable topical sermons rather than verse-by-verse exposition that unleashes the whole truth of God’s whole Word. We have ceased catechizing our children, building within them a solid, systematic foundation for their faith. We have emphasized Christianity as a relationship with God at the expense of Christianity as an established body of truth. In so many ways, we have focused on feelings rather than facts. We have attempted to make Christianity palatable by making it simplistic.”
“While the Christian faith is much more than facts, much more than doctrines, it can never be less. Christianity is dependent upon truths that are taught by God’s Word and received by God’s people. Every Christian is responsible to learn sound doctrine, to be trained in the truth in order to discern error. Here are three means God has provided for us to train ourselves in sound doctrine.”
“Every Christian is individually responsible to study sound doctrine and learn it for themselves. Paul told Timothy, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (1 Timothy 4:6). Paul wanted Timothy to know that this training would be hard work: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).”
“To know sound doctrine, we must know the Word of God, for “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Every Christian must read, study, and know the Bible and the truth it contains. King David models an appropriate love for God’s Word when he exclaims, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). By day and by night he read the Bible, he learned the Bible, and he applied it to his life.”
“Christian, you must know the truth of the Christian faith. And to know the truth of the Christian faith, you must know the Bible. You must sit under the teaching of God’s Word week by week in the local church. You must ensure a habit of regular, consistent Bible intake, reading the Word, pondering the Word, and ensuring you are living consistent to it. You have access to myriad resources to help you in this—books and commentaries and web sites that will help you further understand, embrace, and apply the truths of God’s Word. Commit your life to the pursuit of the sound doctrine by a deep commitment to God’s Word.”
“Every Christian is responsible to personally know and embrace sound doctrine. Every Christian parent is also responsible to teach sound doctrine within the home. Moses commanded this from the very beginning when he said, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Parents have a sobering, God-given responsibility to instruct their children in the Word. This involves reading the Bible to their children, but also explaining it in age-appropriate ways and applying it to specific situations.”
“Parents, it is your solemn responsibility to instruct your children in the Word of God and in its doctrine. Familiarize them with the Word, with the story it contains and the characters it describes. But also ensure that you also familiarize them with its pattern of sound doctrine. Take advantage of the many devotionals, creeds, and catechisms Christians have created for just this purpose. Instruct your children so they, too, will know the truth.”
“Just as parents bear the responsibility of teaching sound doctrine with the home, pastors bear the responsibility of teaching sound doctrine within the church. As Paul writes to his colleagues Titus and Timothy, he pleads with them to teach sound doctrine, to guard it faithfully, and to ensure its preservation by entrusting it to others (Titus 2:2, 2 Timothy 1:13, 2:2). Paul himself taught sound doctrine by instructing believers both “in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). In public ministry and private ministry, in big groups and small groups, Paul actively taught the people the Bible’s key truths. Paul’s most solemn charge of all was for Timothy to preach the Word and its every truth: “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).”
“But it is not just pastors who bear the weight of training in sound doctrine. Every church member must be rooted in truth. Paul commanded all believers in Ephesus, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” God has provided fellow believers in the local church to admonish us in sound doctrine and to guard us against falling away from it.
When Paul spoke the word to the Jews in Berea, they “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Likewise, all Christians are called together to test all things according to the Scriptures. This is a noble calling in God’s sight.”
“Training ourselves in sound doctrine cannot happen without diligence. But even as we use all of the means God has given us, training in sound doctrine cannot happen overnight. It requires small, daily investments of mornings in private study, evenings of worship with the family, and weekly faithfulness in gathering with the church. Over time, these small seeds of training will yield the fruit of righteousness.
Christian, start training in sound doctrine today. Make daily investments of faithfulness in private, with your family, and with your church. Then you will be “equipped for every good work,” ready to hold God’s unchanging truth and reject any deadly doctrine.”
“It’s a good time to be a false teacher and to espouse deadly doctrine. It seems that today’s most brazen heretic will be granted a hearing and, in all likelihood, a book deal. Novelty is appealing, orthodoxy boring. It’s the ones who sound the warning and issue the challenge that bear the risk—the risk of being labelled “haters.” There’s more patience for those who smilingly subvert the truth than for those who boldly defend it. Conviction is a sign of arrogance, while humility is expressed in uncertainty. Love, it seems, requires us to bear patiently with any amount of error. And this kind of love, we are told, is modeled after Jesus. Jesus did not judge, Jesus welcomed all opinions, Jesus would have accepted different kinds of teachings—so long as those teachings contained love and hints of truth.”
“A quick scan of the gospels, however, shows that this impression is a far cry from the Jesus of the Bible. It shows that society has reimagined Jesus through the relativism of our day. When Jesus interacted with people who were seeking, wandering, or misguided, he was invariably compassionate. He answered them with patience and gentleness. But when Jesus engaged with religious hypocrites and false teachers, he responded with righteous fury and bold conviction.”
“Today, those who love the truth must learn how to show such bold conviction through the old discipline of polemics—the practice of engaging in public debate and dispute. The purpose of polemics is not to score points or flex theological muscle, but to rebuke peddlers of error and to express concern for those caught up in their lies. Like the ancient heretics of Crete, today’s false teachers “must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:11). As we do this well, we imitate Jesus Christ who was a skilled polemicist.”
“We see an example of Jesus’ polemics in Matthew 23, where Jesus speaks to the crowd about the scribes and Pharisees. What unfolds in this scene is not private pleading but public censure. Jesus publicly addresses the deadly doctrine of these religious leaders for the benefit of their victims and potential victims. He holds nothing back. He does not make time to commend them for the things they do well. He does not temper his speech to give them the benefit of the doubt. Rather, he specifies their doctrinal error and unrighteousness actions, he labels them with strong but appropriate language, he warns of the consequences of their error, and he calls his listeners to reject the false teachers and their deadly doctrine.”
“These religious authorities were masking error as truth. Jesus confronts their error by telling the crowd, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:4). In the name of God, these leaders advocate a works-based system of righteousness that ignores and denies God’s free grace. Jesus gives them an example of their false teaching: “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath’” (Matthew 23:15). They have reimagined the faith so they can maintain a religious veneer even as they blatantly break oaths. They adapt their beliefs so they can remain righteous according to the letter of the law even as they violate its spirit. Jesus identifies this as false doctrine and addresses it head-on.”
“When we respond to error by giving it the benefit of the doubt, we come close to committing the same error as false teachers: masking error as the truth. Like Jesus, we ought to love truth and love people enough to call out error for what it is.”
“The religious authorities teach error as truth and, in consequence, act hypocritically. As Jesus warns the crowd of the doctrinal error of these leaders, he tells also of their ungodly actions. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23). And again, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Matthew 23:25-26). Jesus lays bare the unrighteous actions of false teachers.”
“Some may find it difficult to reconcile Jesus’ love and his bold rebuke in this scene, but this betrays a dangerous tendency to separate God’s love from his relentless demand for truth. It dishonors God when we call unrighteousness good (Isaiah 5:20). It honors him when we, like Jesus, call unrighteousness evil.”
“Having called out their unrighteousness, he appropriately describes and labels the false teachers. In Matthew 23 alone, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” six times. Besides that, he calls them “blind guides,” “blind fools,” “blind men,” “whitewashed tombs,” “sons of those who murdered the prophets,” “serpents,” and “brood of vipers.” You get the point. Jesus does not shy away from calling false teachers exactly what they are. “Jesus meek and mild” sinlessly expresses divine wrath toward those who would speak truth in the name of error, who would teach doctrines of demons under the banner of heaven.”
“It is true that we must always avoid slandering someone by calling them what they are not. But it is equally true that when God is slandered by false teachers who claim to teach in his name, we must call them out for what they are.”
“Jesus ensures his listeners know the full gravity of this deadly doctrine. He knows that adhering to such faulty teaching will have the most dire consequences, so six times he repeats the word “woe.” This is a word of divine judgment, of abject misery that portends a final, miserable end. “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:32). They will not, and neither will those who submit to such odious error.
As we have explored throughout this series, false doctrine is deadly doctrine. It leads both teachers and hearers to destruction. It is good and loving to warn them of this destruction, so that “they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:26).”
“Jesus exposes the deadly doctrine and unrighteous actions of these false teachers. He appropriately describes those who espouse it, and he lays out the consequences of such error. However, polemics is not merely confronting error, but also teaching truth. And orthodoxy is not merely knowing the truth, but also submitting to it. For these reasons, Jesus appeals to his listeners to turn away from the absurdity and inconsistency of error toward God’s truth. Contrary to the scribes and Pharisees who do all their deeds to be seen by others, Jesus tells the crowd: “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).
If Jesus’s listeners will only apply reason and logic, they will see that this teaching cannot be true and that these actions do not promote righteousness. They will reject what is false and gladly accept what is true. They will put aside false doctrine and religious hypocrisy to instead embrace sound doctrine and godly living.”
“It’s a good time to be a false teacher and to espouse deadly doctrine. And it will continue to be unless God’s people embrace their responsibility to defend the faith and protect the vulnerable. Jesus has left us with both the mandate and the model. Jesus shows that while polemics gains few friends (after all, it was the ones he rebuked who put him to death and the ones he warned who deserted him), it honors God and saves listeners from falling into the snare of deadly doctrine.”
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!
I’ve bookmarked this to read ALL of it! 😊 I don’t have too much extra time anymore, but I find this topic very important. Especially these days ~ because there are very popular bloggers, tik tokkers, influencers who are “teaching” pretty awful things that are not in the Bible. Thanks for sharing!
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My pleasure, Yari! Blessings!
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This was fantastic. You must have spent a lot of time on it, and I appreciate it! I’m sure all your readers do 😊
Glad it helps, Yari! Blessings!
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Bruce, thanks for all of your efforts in putting this together. Knowledge of the entire Bible and emphasis on sound/solid doctrine is so important these days when many are interested just in devotional pick-me-ups. I appreciate worshipful devotions as much as the next believer, but worship without knowledge leaves us open to false teachers and false teaching as we’re seeing.
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Thanks, Tom. I heartily agree! You have yourself a blessed day!
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Thanks and you have a blessed day, too, Bruce.
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Thanks for the condensed version. Very helpful. I am working 2 jobs these days so my time is very limited.
Well there you go, and you didn’t even have to ask for it! Blessings, Michael!
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Thanks for preparing this summary, Bruce. I have read all of Tim’s articles, but this summary is very helpful. I really like the printed page, so I copied this post into a Word doc and saved it on my desktop. I plan to edit it a little and then print it out. Those of us who God has called to fight for Truth need a lot of encouragement. At least I know I do. Once again, you have encouraged me! Blessings, Brother!
Sincerely my pleasure, Cindy. I’m glad it helped. Considering the importance of Tim’s Biblical teaching, we all need encouragement and God provides! Blessings!
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“The history of Christ’s church is inseparable from the history of Satan’s attempts to destroy her.” How true!
I like the categories he names – the tickler, the abuser, the charlatan, the divider, etc. I think a lot of us are familiar with these people, but in reading a list like this I am amazed at how many different strategies the enemy uses.
I also like what he wrote about not obsessing with all the heresies but pursuing the Truth.
Thanks for sharing this.
My pleasure, Annie. Yes, Tim identified many good points. Glad you liked it!
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TY; haven’t been on his blog for years
My pleasure, Jim! Blessings!
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Blessings sir! I also have internet at home again so should be able to slowly catch up with blog. I say slowly since I am now part of a new ministry that would require more office time and time overseas
Not to worry, Jim! Seriously! Blessings!❤️
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