“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
We are well into our special series about identifying false preachers and teachers. However, some Christians wonder what all the fuss is about. Some people have told me I should not oppose any preacher or teacher who names the name of Jesus. That’s an interesting thing to say in light of what we read in the Bible and see in the history of Christianity.
In the last part of our study , we looked at how the Old Testament prophets approached the issue of false preachers and teachers. Moses told God’s people they should kill false preachers and teachers.
Wow! I wonder what the New Testament has to say about that.
[Podcast version available at the end of this post.]
Turning to our Layman’s Guide To False Preachers and Teachers we read this –
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15
It didn’t take Jesus of Nazareth long before He warned His disciples about false preachers and teachers. He warned them in the early part of His ministry and as He prepared His disciples for what would happen after He returned to Heaven and prior to His return to earth –
“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you … Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many … Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” Matthew 24:3-4, 11, 23-25
Jesus knew the great danger of false preachers and teachers and warned His disciples, then and now, of the danger they would bring to the preaching of the truth. True preachers and teachers should always warn God’s people about the dangers of false preachers and teachers.
#1 – false preachers and teachers are ungodly and dangerous to your spiritual health
We saw in the last part of our series how a Jewish audience listening to Jesus of Nazareth in the early part of the 1st Century AD would understand the words “false prophets” and ‘wolves’ in ‘sheep’s clothing”?
Let’s now look at what the disciples of Jesus taught about that after Jesus Christ returned to Heaven, with a view toward false preachers and teachers being both ungodly and dangerous.
False preachers and teachers are not just a ‘nuisance’ in churches, conferences and denominations. They are UNGODLY and DANGEROUS! The fact that there are so many of them (false preachers and teachers) and there is so little warning about them boggles my mind. How could we let this happen when Jesus and His apostles were so clear in their warnings almost two-thousand years ago? It’s not like we just found out in 2020 that there are people in churches who preach and teach false doctrine. We’ve known about it since the beginning of Jesus’ preaching!
What about this statement do we not understand?
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15
And this warning from the Apostle Paul to the elders of the church in Ephesus –
“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Acts 20:29
This warning from the Apostle Peter –
“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies.” 2 Peter 2:1
This warning from the Apostle John –
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
And this warning from Jude –
“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”Jude 1:4
Jude identified false preachers and teachers as ungodly men. The Apostle Peter said that false preachers and teachers would secretly bring in destructive heresies. The Apostle Paul called false preachers and teachers savage wolves who would come in among them (e.g. fellowships, churches, conferences, denominations) “not sparing the flock.” Jesus called them ravenous wolves.
We will look at many other warnings from Jesus and the apostles as we go through this series, but the first point is one of the most important –
False preachers and teachers are ungodly and dangerous!
The Danger of ‘Celebrity’
You may be saying an ‘amen’ right now, but what if you learned one of your favorite preachers, teachers or worship leaders was really a ‘wolf’ in sheep’s clothing?
Would you, could you, still say amen if you found out your pastor was a false preacher or teacher?
Would you, could you, still say amen if you found out a favorite speaker at a conference you were attending was a false preacher or teacher?
Would you, could you, still say amen if you found out some of your most important denominational leaders were false preachers or teachers?
Would you, could you, still say amen if you learned some of your favorite ‘Christian’ authors or devotional writers were false preachers or teachers?
Would you, could you, still say amen if you found out some of your favorite ‘Christian’ song writers were false preachers or teachers?
What would you say if you discovered that some of your favorite ‘Christian’ TV preachers or teachers were really false prophets – just like the kind Jesus and His apostles warned about in the New Testament?
What would you say? What would you do? Would you follow Christ or ‘celebrity’?
There is a big danger in following a ‘celebrity’ – someone famous, well known, celebrated by others. Unfortunately, we have become a ‘celebrity culture.’ We love celebrated people so much that we want to see them in person, on television and video. We want to hear them speak. We want to hear them sing. We want to read their books. We want to hang on their every word. We want to read their hourly ‘tweets’ and ‘like’ their social media pages. We want to text our friends about the latest thing our ‘celebrity’ did or said.
We have allowed celebrated people to transform their celebrity into personal brands that make them millions of dollars off the backs of people who can barely afford to pay their bills. Even worse than that, we have allowed preachers and teachers to become ‘celebrities’ and many of them are false preachers and teachers.
Even some of our Christian leaders who do preach the ‘true’ Gospel have been fooled by ‘celebrity’ and have invited false preachers and teachers to speak at their churches or in their conferences. Some have even appeared on the celebrity’s stage or TV show and by doing that have given their approval to false preachers and teachers.
We have watched Christians around the world get swept up into a type of ‘celebrity culture’ that doesn’t allow for critical thinking, reason or logic. Anyone who does think for themself and raises questions about the theology of these so-called ‘Christian celebrities’ is often accused of being small-minded, bigoted, biased or unloving.
We have allowed preachers and teachers to become ‘rock stars’ in this Christian celebrity culture. We have turned our brains, hearts and souls over to people who very well may be ungodly and dangerous. WARNING!
Clear and Present Danger
We often romanticize what it must have been like to be part of the 1st century Church; to personally know the apostles and hear stories about what it was like to walk with Jesus and see Him alive after His Resurrection.
The fact is that 1st century Christianity was dangerous. We learn that as soon as we open the pages of the Book of Acts and read what Christians faced in those early days. They were often persecuted, jailed and even killed for their faith in Christ.
We also learn about the dangers as we read the letters the apostles sent to various churches in the 1st century. False preachers and teachers were already busy tearing into the flock of God.
Here are two examples of what Jesus thought about the danger at the end of the 1st century. He dictated letters to John the Apostle to deliver to seven churches in the region of Asia Minor (western part of modern-day Turkey).
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” Revelation 2:14-16
“Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.” Revelation 2:20-23
The Apostle Paul also warned Christians about the dangers of false preachers and teachers. This is from his letter to churches in the region of Galatia (central part of modern-day Turkey).
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9
Keep in mind that Jesus and Paul were pointing out people who the Christians receiving the letters would have known personally. Some of the false preachers and teachers may have been family members of church leaders. Some may have been church leaders.
What Jesus and Paul said to church leaders and members would have been received as personal. There’s no way around that. We can’t talk about the dangers of false preachers and teachers without it becoming personal. They are persons known and often loved and admired by other persons. The point here is that the danger is clear and present – personality and celebrity cannot and should not be an issue.
Why Not Name Them Now?
I was asked recently why I’m not identifying modern-day false preachers and teachers by name in this series (so far). That’s a fair question since many Christian writers do identify people they believe to be false preachers and teachers. They may or may not be correct depending on the criteria they use to make their determination.
I’m following the example of Jesus and His apostles. They did not, for the most part, name the false preachers and teachers of their day (Jesus did identify groups like the Pharisees, Saducees and Nicolaitans). What they did do was give Christians a clear description of what false preachers and teachers look like and what they say and do. If we look closely at what Jesus and His apostles said and then look closely at today’s preachers and teachers (including authors, singers, etc), we should be able to identify them without much difficulty. We will share examples of false preaching and teaching during the series to help make that identification a little easier.
Jesus and His apostles spoke and wrote for the long game. Their teachings have helped Christians identify false preachers and teachers for almost two-thousand years. Their teachings will continue to do that for as many years as we have between now and our Lord’s return.
What is important for us to remember is that false preachers and teachers are described as being ‘ungodly’ and ‘dangerous’ to your spiritual health.
We will look at how false preachers and teachers are everywhere and into everything ‘Christian’ in the next part of our special series – A Layman’s Guide To False Preachers and Teachers.
Engage Your World! Online Evangelism Training – Faith & Self Defense
We have been publishing articles and eBooks about false preachers and teachers for many years. Here are some you may find helpful:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.