Higgins Lake Baptist Church
Kevin A. Pierpont
J. Oswald Sanders said –
[The devil’s] overall strategy is to supersede and overthrow the kingdom of God. It is a strategy of destruction. If he was too clever for man in his perfection in Eden, he has a much greater advantage over man in his fallen state.
It has been said that he plans to destroy human government through anarchy. Any student of history can trace this stratagem of the devil, the pervading activity of a malign power, poisoning the stream of human history. He is the mastermind behind the present world system with its lust for power and its political and economic intrigue.
He purposes to destroy human society through debauchery. Any student of sociology can trace a similar pattern in the cycles of human history. In our own day we have seen the world flooded with moral filth to a degree inconceivable fifty years ago.
He aims to destroy true religion through apostasy. Any student of theology and church history can discern recurring heresies and apostasies through the centuries. And in our own day there has been a widespread recrudescence of many of the old heresies in the heretical cults which have been spawned and are now encircling the globe.
Everything about him is false. He uses false and counterfeit instruments to achieve his purpose. He employs false teachers (Acts 20:30; II Peter 2:1) who specialize in his theology and “bring in damnable heresies.” They “creep in privily” into the churches and subtly mix truth with error. He enlists the support of false prophets (II Peter 2:1; Matt. 24:11). Professing to have a message from God, they in reality draw their inspiration from hell. He promotes false Christs (Matt. 24:4-5), self-constituted messiahs and deliverers. He [is] aided by false apostles, deceitful workers (II Cor. 11, 13), and false brethren (Gal. 2:4-5) who steal in to spy out the liberty of believers, in order to draw them back into legal bondage.
Paul sums up this aspect of the devil’s activities in these words: “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (II Cor. 11:14-15). (J. Oswald Sanders, Cultivation of Christian Character, (Moody Press, Chicago; 1965), pp. 81-83)
Unfortunately we all too often take the power of Satan too lightly. We must take Satan and his deceptiveness seriously.
If we are going to take this deceiver seriously we must understand how to expose him when we encounter those he employs in the form of false teachers. One of the ways we do this as followers of Christ is to be committed to sound doctrine; what 1 Timothy 6:3 in the NIV describes as the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So how will we know when we’ve come across someone who does not hold to sound doctrine? What are the characteristics of one who does not hold to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ? What is a false teacher?
There are some identifying marks of a false teacher we’ll discover in our study today and this will help us understand what to watch for. Let’s look at 1 Timothy 6:3-5.
3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,
4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,
5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
Last week we looked at the first two verses of this chapter where Paul was talking about slaves and masters. Throughout our study here in 1 Timothy Paul has been instructing Timothy in the proper behavior of the church. He now begins to discuss false teachers.
Paul says, “If anyone’s teaching is contradictory to this – here’s what you’ll be able to observe about them.” A false teacher is one who teaches false doctrines and doesn’t agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ. And Paul begins to explain how followers of Christ will be able to identify false teachers.
One of the marks of a false teacher is that they do not have a proper respect for authority. We discussed last week the importance of having proper respect for those in authority over us. A false teacher is marked by his lack of respect for authority.
2 Peter 2:1 and 10 illustrates this,
1 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, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,
Peter explains that false teachers despise authority. In 1 Timothy 6:3, the NIV uses the words sound instruction which emphasizes that Paul uses a medical analogy in describing a false teacher. The Greek word for “sound” means healthy. It is critical for us as a church to adhere to sound or healthy doctrine. Unhealthy teaching marks a false teacher. So what is unhealthy or false teaching?
John MacArthur illustrates what it is when he says,
False teaching may take many forms. It may deny God’s existence, or teach error about His nature and attributes. It may deny the Trinity. Error about Christ’s Person and work is also common in false systems. Those who deny His virgin birth, sinless perfection, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection or future return show signs of a dangerous infection. False teachers also teach error about the nature, Person, and works of the Holy Spirit. Yet another strain of the disease of false teaching denies the authenticity, inspiration, authority, or inerrancy of Scripture. That strain is particularly virulent in the church today. (MacArthur, J. F., The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 1 Timothy [electronic ed.])
In verses 4 and 5, Paul goes on to describe a false teacher much like a doctor would diagnose the symptoms of a disease. Look at verse 4
4 he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,
First, Paul says that a false teacher is proud and understands nothing. One mark of a false teacher is that he is conceited, over confident, self-important. His attitude is wrong. He is proud. Yet it is a false pride because really he knows nothing. The conceit, the pride that is characteristic of a false teacher is a sign of his spiritual unhealthiness. J.I. Packer says about pride…
“The focus of health in the soul is humility, while the root of inward corruption is pride. In the spiritual life, nothing stands still. If we are not constantly growing downward into humility, we shall be steadily swelling up and running to seed under the influence of pride.” (J. I. Packer, Rediscovering Holiness, Christianity Today, November 9, 1992, p. 37)
Conceit or pride in our lives is not healthy. Someone once said that, “Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it.” Pride is characteristic of a false teacher and is certainly not a desirable trait. Pride is something that we need to avoid in our lives. God’s Word warns us about pride.
4 The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.
10 By pride comes nothing but strife…
That is what we find in the passage we are studying today.
Paul goes on to say that not only is a false teacher conceited, but he has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels. MacArthur sums up this unhealthy interest in controversy this way,
“The Greek text could be translated this way: “Having a sick craving for questions and word battles.” They have a disease–a morbid preoccupation with useless questions and word battles. They make a fuss about terminology. The Greek word translated [questions/arguments], means “idle speculations.” It is nothing more than pseudo-intellectual theorizing. They make a fuss about theory instead of the truth of God’s Word. So much is written about Scripture from a liberal or neo-orthodox viewpoint. It’s easy to get lost in all the verbiage and speculation. Yet all you need to do is accept the plain truth of God’s Word.” (John MacArthur, The Pathology of False Teachers,
It’s amazing how often people are unwilling to accept the plain truth of God’s Word. There is a tendency by those who don’t accept it to argue over what is meant and God’s Word can easily be twisted to serve self-interests instead of just accepting what God has plainly spoken.
We need to be sure that we are taking Scripture at face value and not reinterpreting it to suit our own desires. What does God say? What has He clearly spoken in His Word? Are we living our lives in obedience to the sound instruction of the Word of God? Or are we twisting the Word to suit our own desires?
We need to be on guard against those who are false teachers. Watch out for those who are puffed up with pride and have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels. What is the result of an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels? In verse 4 we see it results in what the NIV translates as envy, strife, malicious talk and evil suspicions.
A false teacher is marked by envy. Envy is when we desire something that someone else has.
F.B. Meyer held meetings in Northfield, Mass., and large crowds thronged to hear him. Then the great British Bible teacher G. Campbell Morgan came to Northfield and people were soon flocking to hear his brilliant expositions of scripture. Meyer confessed at first that he was envious. He said, “The only way I can conquer my feelings is to pray for Morgan daily, which I do.” (Source unknown)
Do you ever find yourself envying what someone else has? Envy comes in many forms. It could be your friend’s house you envy or another person’s intellect or wealth or spouse or a host of other things. We would do well to follow F.B. Meyer’s example and if we are envious of another, we should pray for him or her instead.
Strife is another mark of a false teacher. Webster’s dictionary defines strife this way;
1 a : bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension b : an act of contention
We experienced some strife in our country after our current president was elected didn’t we? There was bitter conflict over whether George Bush had been elected or not. In the wake of that election, there were two candidates who desired the presidency and there was a good deal of conflict occurring as to who should rightfully be our president elect. It wasn’t a pleasant thing for our country to experience.
That’s the kind of thing that happens when we don’t keep our pride and envy in check. So it’s important that we examine those who would teach us. If a leaders teaching bears undesirable fruit like conceit, envy and strife, then there is something wrong. Sound and healthy doctrine will result in godliness. Unhealthy, unsound doctrine results in godless characteristics.
Also in verse 4, we note that a false teacher is marked by reviling or malicious talk, slander.
“Malicious talk, when directed against God, means “blasphemy,” but when directed against men, as here, it means “abusive speech” or “slander. (Bible Knowledge Commentary)
Colossians 3:8 warns us about this.
8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Slander or malicious talk is something that should have no place in the life of a believer. Watch out if a teacher engages in malicious talk or slander toward others. It is a mark of one who is a false teacher. Proverbs 10:18 says…
He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool.
Haddon Robinson illustrates well the destructive forces of slander.
“Few crimes are as senseless as arson. In late 1993, portions of the Southern California landscape were blackened by a rash of brushfires set by arsonists. Woodlands vanished, homes were reduced to ashes, animals and human beings lost their lives.
Slander is verbal arson. Lies about a person’s character or actions are extremely destructive. They consume reputations and destroy relationships.
In Shakespeare’s play Othello, the character Iago mapped out the damage slander does:
Who steals my purse steals trash;
’tis something, nothing.
‘Twas mine, ’tis his,
and has been slave to thousands.
But he who filches from me my good name
robs me of that which not enriches him
and makes me poor indeed.
King Solomon warned that a scoundrel has evil “on his lips like a burning fire” (Prov. 16:27). In contrast, he said that pleasant words are instructive and soothing, promoting spiritual health (vv.21-24).
When you’re tempted to set a match to your brother’s reputation with fiery words, stop! Ask God to help you speak words that build up instead of destroy. Don’t be a verbal arsonist.
Slandering someone, speaking falsely of them, is destructive and has no place in the life of a follower of Christ or in Christ’s church.
Next, note that a false teacher is marked by “evil suspicions”. In other words, the false teacher suspects others of evil motives. It makes sense doesn’t it? If you are engaging in envy, strife and slander of others, you’ll probably start looking over your shoulder, wondering about other people. You’ll be suspicious of their motives and untrusting of their actions.
And look at verse 5 to see how Paul further describes false teachers. This is my paraphrase of verse 5. “They are guilty of useless wranglings, [they will have] corrupt minds and [be] destitute of the truth, [they will] suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
The false teacher can be noted for constant friction. MacArthur notes that;
“The Greek word translated [useless wranglings] speaks of something in constant friction. In his sermon on 1 Timothy 5:2-7 fourth-century church father John Chrysostom said it was like infected sheep coming into contact with others and thereby spreading their disease.”
“The legacy of error is chaos–one errorist pitted against another, jealously, fighting, blaspheming, insulting one another, suspicious of one another’s motives, creating nothing but constant friction. They produce nothing good at all.”
If a teacher is committed to sound doctrine, the results are going to be healthy and promote spiritual health for all. If he is not, if he is a false teacher, then watch out for the ungodliness and friction that will occur.
Note also that false teachers themselves have been robbed of the truth. Here they are leading others astray who actually think they are pursuing the truth. But that is not the case. These teachers have been robbed of the truth and what they teach is corrupt and leading others astray.
We see also that false teachers think godliness is a means of gain. This is speaking of financial gain. Warren Wiersbe says,
“These false teachers supposed “that godliness is a way of financial gain”. “Godliness here means the “profession of Christian faith” and not true holy living in the power of the Spirit. They used their religious profession as a means to make money. What they did was not a true ministry; it was just a religious business.”
Paul has given us quite a list that helps us identify a false teacher. He has said the false teacher doesn’t agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words. This results in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction. False teachers have been robbed of the truth and they use their position to achieve financial gain.
We need to be on guard don’t we? False teachers were around in Paul’s day, they’ve been around throughout history and they continue in their destructive ways today. As a church and as individual believers we must be committed to the Word of God and to sound doctrine and teaching. We need to equip ourselves to recognize erroneous teaching and to guard against it in our own lives.
A.W. Tozer sums up quite well the importance of sound doctrine in our teaching:
“We have gotten accustomed to the blurred puffs of gray fog that pass for doctrine in churches and expect nothing better. From some previously unimpeachable sources are now coming vague statements consisting of a milky admixture of Scripture, science, and human sentiment that is true to none of its ingredients because each one works to cancel the others out.
“Little by little Christians these days are being brainwashed. One evidence is that increasing numbers of them are becoming ashamed to be found unequivocally on the side of truth. They say they believe, but their beliefs have been so diluted as to be impossible of clear definition. Moral power has always accompanied definite beliefs. Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that lives and abides forever.”
Let’s be firm in our understanding of the truth of God’s Word. Let’s be students of the Word and prepared to see and reject error when it occurs. We need to be clear on what we believe and not be led astray by false teachers who have been robbed of the truth.
Satan is the father of all deceivers and desires that this church and we as followers of Christ are defeated in every effort we make in our service to Christ. It is essential that we each find ourselves in the Word of God daily and that we ask for God’s guidance and wisdom and protection from the ploys of the evil one. Our effectiveness for Christ depends on whether we see and understand and prepare ourselves for certain contact with those who would lead us astray.
We need a thorough grounding in scripture, we need a thorough understanding of it in our own lives. God’s word is a precious gift and if there’s anything in your life that Satan doesn’t want you to have it’s the fullness of God’s Word in your life.
Prayer is such a precious gift. It’s an opportunity we have as believers to communicate with our heavenly father. If there’s another thing Satan doesn’t want you to have it’s a prayer time. You can defend yourself against the evil one by going to prayer daily and by spending time in God’s Word.
I’m not talking about some ritualistic procedure as you proceed through the Word and don’t let it fill and change you. Every one of us is different. One might find the most benefit from reading three or four chapters a day. Another mind find it most beneficial for them to read three or four verses a day. You might find encouragement from reading a devotional book about God’s Word. But be in God’s Word. Use it to guide your life. Allow it to help answer the questions that you face every day. It’s your sword and your shield against Satan’s ploys that would distract us and dilute our understanding of God’s Word.
My prayer for you is that you would become students of the Word and faithful in prayer and through those efforts your heart will be nurtured and protected and growing and as a result others will be lead to Jesus Christ by the outflowing of His goodness from your life.