February 28, 2011

False Teacher Traits, Part 1

Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. Jude 8

If you work in a bank, you need to be able to recognize counterfeit bills. In fact, bank tellers usually get some level of training in doing so. They are shown some common marks of a counterfeits, and given some easy ways to discern a fake. And that is much the same kind of training Jude provides in the eighth verse of his epistle. In very short order, he rattles off some of the obvious marks of a false teacher; some of the easiest ways to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Indeed, he list four marks of such a man (or woman). That is not to say that every false teacher will necessarily possess all four. Nor that these are the only four marks. But it is to say that these are some of the easiest things to spot. Even before you begin to pick up on question marks in the content of his teaching, a false teacher is often discernible because there are question marks in his behavior and character; and in the very methods with which he pursues his ‘ministry’.

So, without further adieu … four characteristics of false teachers

First, they are dreamers. Not dreamers in a good, visionary kind of sense. No, these men are dreamers in that they base a significant amount of their teaching, not on the plain reading of the Bible, but upon visions that they have had; or upon ‘special insights’ into the Bible (to which the common man is not privy). These are the kind of men who are often heard to say things like: ‘the Lord spoke to me’ … and then who make whatever the Lord ‘spoke’ law for their hearers. Watch out for men like that … whose ministry is based on what ‘God said to me’ in prayer or in a dream, rather than what God says to all His people on the pages of the Bible!

Second, false teachers are often unclean in their character. “Dreaming, they defile the flesh.” In other words, it is no coincidence, Jude says, how often the dreams of these self-appointed prophets end up being of such kind that they make the ‘prophet’ above the law. Or, to put it more simply, isn’t it strange how these special messages from God so often seem to mean that the recipient of the message has a special anointing, and therefore plays by a different set of rules? Sometimes the different set of rules has to do with authority in the church; sometimes with financial responsibility; and sometimes with sexual and marital ethics. But it’s always the same. ‘God speaks to me differently than He speaks to others. And therefore, my boundaries are different from those of others, too’!

Third, Jude says that false teachers reject authority. They usually run their churches or organizations as a one man show; as an autocracy. And why shouldn’t they? After all, God speaks to them differently than He does everyone else! They have special insights that no one else has. So they cannot be expected to be made accountable to a group of elders, or to regular congregational approval. “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” is their battle cry. And it’s no surprise. These men and women have already, in large measure, rejected the Scriptures (since God speaks to them directly!). So, if they are not going to listen to the Bible, why should we ever expect they listen to a bunch of ‘normal’ Christians?

Finally, says Jude, false teachers have a habit of pride. In the first century, they reviled angelic majesties. In other words, they thought so highly of themselves that even the angels should bow down to them; even the angels should walk at their heels. And, of course, that especially goes for the dark angels, or demons! And there are men and women like this today. They’ve got the devil by the tail! They know the magic words. And, of course, they have the special anointing. So there is no need for them to follow the biblical injunction and “resist the devil”. No, no. They are strong enough to make a full frontal attack on the price of darkness! And the same is true of other people who oppose them. ‘Don’t these people realize that I have an anointing? I am invincible. I am the unique servant of God!’

O, how we should beware! And how we should be watchful of a man’s character and method of ministry. If we do, we often won’t even need to wait around long enough to see that his words contradict scripture. It will be obvious in his character, and in the fact that he does not appeal to scripture for his authority … but to ‘the anointing’! So beware, I say! And stay close by the Bible!

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