Why are there so many false teachings in the church of the living God?
There are many Catholics, Lutheran's, Methodists, Pentecostals etc. who are genuine, Holy Spirit filled, believers, so why do they so strongly hold to lies, and why can’t they see the truth? There is only one teacher, God.¹ But God chose to teach his church through Spirit filled men, who do not always follow the Spirit. I found that at the beginning of most denominations, there is a godly man, who is exceedingly gifted by the Holy Spirit. John Wesley's followers became known as the Methodists; George Fox’s followers became known as puritans, Luther’s followers became known as Lutherans, and the Catholic Church claims their first pope was the apostle Peter. Each one of these Spirit filled men would roll over in their graves, if they found out what men are doing under their name. I have read the biographies and writings of all the men I mentioned. These men where all blessed, because they drew near to God and he drew near to them. They sought and knocked, and the door was opened to them. They found intimacy with God and he personally taught them the truth. They labored for God and they reaped what they sowed. They did some things we might disagree with. For example, Luther tolerated statues of dead saints in his church, but he taught against praying to these statues. John Wesley believed so strongly in stewarding time, that he required those who taught, under his leadership, to wake up at 4 or 5 AM (I can’t remember which). George Fox refused to take his hat off to anyone even judges and kings; and he refused to swear any oaths, because of how he interpreted certain scriptures. None of these men would have claimed to be perfect, but they were trying to submit to the leadership and teachings of Christ. They were teachers of God and God was their teacher.
God’s spiritual gifts are transferable, but only to the degree that the disciples are obedient to God. Every God ordained teacher has the Holy Spirit, but not every God ordained teacher is obedient. They can either increase in God’s grace and bless others, or stagnate and loose the grace God initially gave them.² If a believer pulls away from God, God will pull away from them. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.³ Paul said, some men ought to have been teachers but instead they still needed to be taught.⁴ If we do not obey what God tells us, we know God will not entrust us with more.⁵ We can give only what is given to us by God, because from him, through him, and too him are all things, and apart from him we can do nothing.⁶ Even some of the purest and best teachers in the bible were disobedient and God allowed their gifts of teaching to mislead and harm the church. Solomon set up alters to foreign god’s in Israel. And the apostle Peter stopped eating with gentiles, and lead others to do the same.⁷
If even the most gifted men in the bible can go astray, and lead others astray, who can we possibly trust? There are several principles God tells us to consider before listening to someone:
1) God says not to give a new convert the position of overseer, so we too should be extra cautious of the teachings of new believers.
2) You will know them by their fruit. Only someone who has taken the speck from their own eye can see clearly to take the speck from his brothers eye.⁸ So even if a believer started out good ten years ago, but is now showing arrogance, selfishness, greed… we should shy away from his teachings, because he himself has been deceived by Satan’s lies and schemes. Paul says, you foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, having begun by faith are you now perfected with works? Believers can start good but go astray. We need to look at the current fruit of their lives, to know if their teaching is pure or defiled. From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, and a good tree does not produce bad fruit, but a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.⁹ If their lives are full of sin: selfishness, impatients, pride, anger… the overflow of their heart will be in their teachings. They will be harming us with the bad fruit of the lies and disobedience in their own lives. It’s the renewed mind that transforms us; its the truth that sets us free. We cannot expect God to bless anyone who is resisting him. How can they see clearly to teach us what they are not practicing? Jesus said to beware of hypocritical teachers, because a little leaven can leaven the whole batch.¹⁰
3) Are we seeking truth in the right places, the order of places to start matters. Truth comes from God, so we should start by asking God to teach us. And we should continue to ask his guidance as we continue to seek. We should also read the bible for ourselves. If we don’t understand the bible, how can we know if we are being taught the right interpretation? I think even the best churches have some false teaching.
God told us to be extra careful who we let teach a church. But we also need to remember that no teacher is perfect, except God. Ultimately, God is our teacher. He can teach perfect truths through imperfect people. He doesn’t choose qualified teachers; he qualifies the teachers he chose. When we see a gifted teacher, we are looking at an active outpouring of God’s grace in a redeemed sinner. Although God’s grace has no limit, he doesn’t promise to continue pouring it out. What’s good can be tainted, but what’s tainted can be made pure again. Ultimately God's grace isn’t dependent on the teachers around us, its dependent on God and his promises. If we seek the truth and obey God he promised to teach and reward us, even if he has to do it himself.
① Matthew 23:8 ② 2 Timothy 4:10 ③ 1 Chronicles 28:9 / 2 Chronicles 15:2 / Hebrews 12:14 ④ Hebrews 5:12 ⑤ Matthew 13:12 / Luke 16:10-11 ⑥ Romans 11:35-36 / John 15:5 ⑦ 1 Kings 11:5-6 / Galatians 2:12-13 ⑧ Matthew 7:3-5 ⑨ Luke 6:43-45 ⑩ Galatians 5:9 / 1 Corinthians 5:6 / Luke 12:1
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