Teaching a Different Gospel – Galatians 1:7-8

Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! – Galatians 1:7b-8 NIV

It is tempting to read this passage and apply it to many of the strange variations of the gospel that are being proclaimed today. And indeed, Paul would likely include many of them as being under God’s curse. But Paul’s warning was not just to others who might be perverting the gospel. There is also a very personal component to this warning as well.

I am a teacher. And I need to be very careful as I teach and write. Am I being faithful to the Scriptures? Or have I perverted the message, allowing my own thoughts, or those of others, to change the message? All of us who are Bible teachers have a serious responsibility, and should not take it lightly. Ultimately we will be held accountable for what we teach or preach. And we will also have to give answer for any that we have led astray. It is a serious responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

Lord, may the words that I speak, as well as the words that I write, be acceptable and pleasing to you. I pray that you would be glorified and your church strengthened by them. Help me to be faithful to you and your word and not be guilty of teaching a different gospel.

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Masquerading as Servants of Righteousness – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. – 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 NIV

Con artists! They abound in the world today, like they always have. All too many of them have found their niche within the church, duping the unwary. These men, and sometimes women, are false apostles, deceitful workers, masqueraders, or servants of Satan. Overall, they have an outward appearance of righteousness and easily deceive the undiscerning.

There are a couple of ways to recognize these masqueraders. First, examine the gospel they proclaim. Is it solidly based on the Bible? Or do they only cherry pick from it, frequently expressing a new revelation that God has given to them (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Cor. 11:4). You should run from these ‘preachers’.

A second way to recognize these servants of Satan is to examine their focus; who is at the center of their ‘ministry’. Are they focusing on the crucified and resurrected Christ? Or does the focus seem to center on them and their ‘ministry’ (2 Cor. 11:12)? You should be very cautious of those who talk about themselves and their work more than they do about Christ and his work.

In the letter to the Ephesian church in Revelation, Jesus commends the church for testing and rejecting these false apostles. “I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false (Rev. 2:2).” Maybe we should follow their example.

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Antichrists – 2 John 1:10-11

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. – 2 John 1:10-11 ESV

John has written about deceivers, specifically those who claim that Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh. John calls them antichrists, people who are advocating a different Christ than is presented in the New Testament. Some antichrists deny the incarnation, that God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus. Others deny that Jesus is God. And still others will deny that Jesus is the only way to the Father. But what each of these share is that they are antichrists.

And John, in his typically blunt fashion tells us to have nothing to do with these antichrists; do not offer them hospitality, do not welcome them, and do not offer them God speed. For in doing so we encourage them and become participants in what they are doing.

Many of our doctrinal differences are not overly significant. But what we believe about the person of Christ is essential. Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is of one essence with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but is a distinct person, as is the Father and the Holy Spirit. The one who would teach otherwise is antichrist. Don’t fall under their influence or encourage them in any way.

Following the Shepherd – John 10:3-4

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” – John 10:2-5 ESV

I have little experience with domesticated sheep, other than watching small flocks walk down the road in Sicily. But all that I have heard is that they are not the brightest bulbs in the animal kingdom and depend on the shepherd for leading them to food and water and protecting them from predators. In this extended passage Jesus identifies himself as a shepherd and his followers as his sheep. And that is an apt example. We are dependent on him for our spiritual nourishment and protection. Psalm 23 paints a familiar picture of our dependence on Jesus as our shepherd.

If my understanding of sheepherding in New Testament Palestine, and this passage, is correct, the local area shepherds would sometimes bring their flocks into a communal holding pen at night for safeguarding. In the morning each shepherd would go to the gate of the enclosure and call out his sheep, who would respond only to him. The shepherd would then lead his sheep out for the day. For each sheep pen there could be multiple shepherds calling sheep and leading them in many directions, but the sheep knew who to follow.

But this account is not just about shepherds and what they do. Look at what Jesus says here about the sheep. His sheep recognize and listen to his voice, and they follow him where he leads. If I follow him, then I am his sheep. But if I follow another shepherd, then I belong to that shepherd. Whose voice do I hear and follow? There are many voices calling to us today. Do we follow Jesus’ voice? Or some other shepherd?

False Teachers – 2 Peter 2:1

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. – 2 Peter 2:1 NIV

Peter warns us here about false teachers who proclaim destructive heresies, doctrines that are unbiblical and detrimental to our walk with Christ. You don’t have to look very far today to find teachers who are proclaiming a gospel other than what is taught in the Scripture.

So how can you tell if it is a false teacher you are hearing? Sometimes their error is obvious, while other times it is more subtle. The best way to protect yourself from them is to know the Scriptures. Be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and study the Scriptures. If someone teaches contrary to it, or introduces other writings to support their teachings, you should reject them. Another way is to look to see who is at the center of their teaching and ‘ministry’? Is it Christ? Or are they the center of attention? If Christ is not the focus, then you should not get caught up in their ‘ministry’ (John 3:30). And, finally, let the Holy Spirit lead you into the truth (John 16:13). Don’t be led astray from the true faith by those who are facing destruction.

Are you a teacher? Be sure that your teaching is grounded in the Bible, the word of God. Don’t be guilty of leading others astray. The consequences are devastating, both to you and to those you have led astray (James 3:1).

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