Today we can find nearly any truthful propositional statement from God’s Word being challenged. If you have a favorite verse or text in scripture, the Evil one is actively trying to distort that same text. The remedy in this world of disinformation, distortion, and disdain is to cling closely to the Word of God and the faithful teaching of God’s Word.
New Testament and False Teaching
In nearly every New Testament epistle, regardless of their human authors, there is a common theme of vigilance and discernment. Vigilance among believers to discern the truth of teaching and the practice of faith within daily living. Last summer I preached on a very “little big book” from Jude that highlighted some of the early churches’ struggles, and the similar struggles we share today in contending for the Faith of Christ. The need for vigilance and discernment expressed through the Scripture was applicable in the first-century church. The problems, temptations, dangers, and sins which so easily ensnare, are also present today.
In 2 Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul engages in some hyperbole and rhetorically engages with the false accusations about him from the false teachers in Corinth. He starts off by saying that this entire method of controversy is foolishness. Then, with no shortage of sarcasm, the Apostle Paul apologizes for engaging in such foolishness and dives in headlong from 2 Corinthians 11:1-12:13 into an argument riddled with “foolishness”. He systematically takes on the accusations laid about himself and the tidings of Jesus he brought to the Corinthian church.
For a moment, he states clearly that the false teachers in Corinth are striking at the vitals of the Corinthian’s belief in Jesus. These teachers and their teaching are not simply people who have gotten a few details wrong and are in need of correction. This brings me to the namesake of this piece – the hallmark of false teaching. While there could be a great many marks of false teaching and a great many characteristics of false teachers – there is a single undeniable result of false teaching.
First Warnings in Old Testament
In order to take a look at some of the first warnings of false teachers, we’re going to need to start at Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:15-22.
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.