“When the devil sees that he cannot hurt the cause of the Gospel by destructive methods, he does it under the guise of correcting and advancing the cause of the Gospel. He would like best of all to persecute us with fire and sword, but this method has availed him little because through the blood of martyrs the church has been watered. Unable to prevail by force, he engages wicked and ungodly teachers who at first make common cause with us, then claim that they are particularly called to teach the hidden mysteries of the Scriptures to superimpose upon the first principles of Christian doctrine that we teach. This sort of thing brings the Gospel into trouble. May we all cling to the Word of Christ against the wiles of the devil, “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
For more quotes by Martin Luther see:
Martin Luther on God’s Word
Martin Luther on Sin
Martin Luther Quote #2 on Facing Challenges
In our class about false teaching, we learned there that there are two main ways the church falls into error today. These are not associated with a particular denomination, but one or the other can be observed in any number of church traditions.
The first is legalism. Some churches may require adherence to laws that are impossible to keep. (This is the same problem that the Jewish people faced.) When this kind of error is present, it often leads to the church either diluting the law, to make it easier, or inventing new rules that are easier to keep, but not biblical.
The second way churches can go astray is by espousing antinominanism. This is a big word which basically means that the law is no longer of use to Christians because it has been superseded by the gospel. In this case our behavior really doesn’t matter.
Lutherans, of course would say we need a balance between law and gospel. Both are necessary, neither should dominate. We must teach the law in order to see that we are sinful people who can’t save ourselves. We must teach the gospel to understand that through the sacrifice (once and for all) of Jesus we are saved saints of God. We will never be able to keep the law perfectly, but good works are our response of gratitude to the One who loved and saved us.
Our weekday Bible study has been discussing various false teaching– but what is that? How can it be defined? Well, we started out by reviewing the things that are essential to the Christian faith. You might say these are core values, and the basics are found in the Creeds– the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.
- Revelation, both general (things everyone can see and be aware of, as the complexity of nature) and specific (the Bible).
- God is the starting place for truth–everything must be tested against His Word.
- Man was created in God’s image, to relate to God.
- Sin. Man sinned and that sin became part of us.
- Christ is the perfect teacher and our atoning sacrifice.
- Salvation is by grace alone, faith alone, scripture alone, through Christ alone, for the glory of God.
- Eternity. Christ will redeem us, there will be judgement and God’s chosen people will live with Him forever.
False teaching always says Scripture can’t be trusted, at least not alone. However, God’s Word is a clear and sufficient guide. It has three functions: as a curb (keeping us in the right path), a mirror (revealing our sin) and a ruler (a guide with which to compare ourselves).
All of us, and all denominations are sometimes guilty of false teaching. That is why the apostle John advises us:
“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
In order to do this, we must know the Scriptures well and be ready to contend for the faith by describing our beliefs.
“… in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15
For more about false teaching see:
False Piety #2
I would like to hear what others think about how to identify false teaching. What are your thoughts on this Lutheran ladies and readers? Do you agree with John Calvin that it’s easy to identify? Please post and comment with your thoughts.
If you read through Chapter 5 of Ephesians, you’ll get some advice about spending time.
- Be imitators of God; walk in love and sacrifice yourself for others
- Stay away from immorality of all kinds (this includes silly talk, covetousness ,impurity and drunkenness, not just the “big” sins)
- Give thanks to God for everything. Praise Him with music.
- Don’t be deceived by false teaching, or associate with those who are. Look to Christ for the truth about things
- Be filled with the Holy Spirit
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of the time because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15
If we’ve studied the Bible, learned from Christian teachers and pastors, we really have no excuse for wasting our time. We know what it is to serve God; we know certain things are His will, and others are clearly not. Often we just choose to do something else. Often we tell ourselves, everyone does it, it can’t be so bad. We think there will be plenty of time to repent and make things right with God. Sadly this is not always the case. And the further we walk away from God, the harder it is to come back.
The best advice for spending time? You hear it every Sunday at the end of the service:
Go in peace, serve the Lord!
If you do this, you can be part of God’s redemption story. What better way to use your time?
“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Jude 2:20-21
I love it when Michele does one of her study blogs, because it encourages me to go to the same scripture and see what stands out for me. It’s always great to have a friend to sharpen us in our Christian study.
So, I read Jude over several times (it’s a short book) and the verse above stands out for me. As Michele said, Jude is cautioning us against false teachers. This verse gives us what I like to call -YBH –Yes, but how. It tells us how to avoid falling prey to lies about the faith.
First of all, we must pray in the Holy Spirit. The Lutheran catechism says the Spirt “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies” us. That means we can pray for the Spirit to open our minds to the truth, to give us the wisdom and discernment to rightly divide truth from error.
Then we are told to “keep yourself in God’s love.” In other words, stay close to God and God’s people. Avoid what pulls you away from the Scripture and what you have been taught by godly pastors and leaders. Attend worship and Bible study. Learn and grow in the proper environment.
As I said, Jude is a short book, but it has a powerful and important message. Will you read it this week? What questions does it raise in your mind? What stands out for you?
“Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. ” Acts 17:11
This verse gives us a really good reason for studying the scriptures for ourselves: to recognize whether what we are being taught is true or false. Certainly the world teaches many lies, but the Bible warns us that even within the church there will be false teachers. Every believer needs “test the spirits” and one way to do this is to be familiar with scripture.
Here are some examples I have encountered of teachings that are questionable:
- I once picked up a book on vacation that had a Christian sounding title and was put out by a publishing house with a cross as part of their logo. However, about half way into the book, the author described the crucifixion as a “downer” that we shouldn’t really dwell upon. Guess you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.
- At a class that was interdenominational in nature, the leader mentioned that we should assume anyone looking for spiritual direction and growth were “basically good.” I approached her afterwards and asked: “what about original sin? aren’t we all basically bad? ” Turns out she understood my theological viewpoint, she just didn’t agree with it. So you can’t believe everything you hear, even in a Christian gathering.
My point is not that we should avoid every book or every person who may not agree with us. We’re not called to do that. My point is we need to know what scripture teaches. If we haven’t read the Bible for ourselves, we are in danger of accepting opinions that sound good, but contradict the word of God. There’s an old saying that goes, “if you don’t know where you stand, you’ll fall for anything.”
So, read the Bible. It’s the only way to know where you stand.