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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6


At the heart of the Reformation in the 16th century, there were two basic questions. The first question was, “How is a person made right with God?” The Reformers answer to that came from the Scripture and said this, “A person is made right with God, by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in the work of Christ alone, for the glory of God alone.” That's how a person is made right with God.

A second question that was part of the Reformation, however, had to do with this, “What is the source of special revelation and the ultimate standard of spiritual authority?” The Reformers answer from the scripture was, “Sola scriptura, or scripture alone.” You see, your view and treatment of the Scripture matters. And in 1 John 4 in the passage we're studying together, John explains that how a teacher, someone who claims to speak for the Christian God, for the Christian Jesus, how a teacher responds to Scripture, how they treat the Scripture, enables us to distinguish between true and false teachers.

We’re studying the doctrinal test of eternal life here in 1 John 4. Let me read for you one more time this paragraph that we're going to conclude today. 1 John 4, verses 1 through 6:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess (that) Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and (you) have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

In this passage, John demands that we apply several biblical tests to every spiritual idea, to every spiritual message, in order to distinguish genuine teachers who teach God's truth from false teachers who teach damning error. Now, as we've seen in these verses, there are two crucial details about false teachers. The first is “The Continual Danger of False Teachers,” as we see in verse 1. It was true in John's day; it's true in ours, and because of that, he says, therefore, don't be spiritually naive, don't “believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they're from God.” The rest of this paragraph verses 2 through 6, unfold then “The Chief Tests for False Teachers.” There are several doctrinal tests. By the way, let me just say that there are other tests given in the New Testament for false teachers. They are, look at their converts, look at their lifestyle, look at their character. But here, it's focusing on their doctrine. Several doctrinal tests help us recognize false teachers.

In verses 2 and 3, we looked at those verses at length because there are really three separate tests there. First of all, ask yourself, “Do they have a different God?” Secondly, ask yourself, “Do they have a different Jesus?” Thirdly, “Do they have a different gospel?” And then in verses 4 through 6, as we saw last week, ask yourself, “Do they have a different authority, a different standard?”–a different authority that is the source of what they believe and how they live. Now last time, we looked at the biblical test as it's outlined in verses 4 through 6; do they replace the Scripture, do they add or subtract from the Scripture, or do they pervert the meaning of Scripture by wrenching it from its context, and claiming that it teaches something that is against the overall teaching of Scripture?

Now, just to remind you of the structure of verses 4 through 6, it's very easy to see the flow because the point of emphasis is the emphatic pronoun, both in Greek and in English, that begins each verse. The ‘you’ in verse 4 is true believers. The ‘they’ in verse 5 are the false teachers. And the ‘we’ in verse 6 is the Apostles and, by implication, the other authors of Scripture.

So, here's what we learned then from these verses. In verse 4 we saw “The True Believers Victory over False Teachers.” Notice verse 4, “You (you true believers) are from God, little children, and you have overcome them; (the false teachers); because greater is He (the Spirit) who is in you than he who is in the world. (That is Satan.)

Now, this isn't a promise that we won't be influenced by, or in some way, distracted by false teaching. That happens, Ephesians 4 talks about that. Instead, this is saying that true believers are protected from the damning error of false teachers by God's Word and God's Spirit. While you can be distracted, misled, sort of taken down a side path that's unhelpful that undermines your spiritual growth, you will never, as a true believer, believe damning error because you have the Holy Spirit, “The Anointing,” as we learned back in chapter 2, and you have God's Word.

In verse 5, we learn that “The False Teacher Has a Deadly Substitute for Scripture.” Look at verse 5, “They (That is false teachers.) are from the world.” That is, they don't know God, they’re fallen human beings, that's all they've got to offer. “Therefore, they speak as from the world, (They speak and appeal to fallen human values, and therefore the) world listens to them.” False teachers substitute fallen human desires and values for the truth of Scripture. They appeal to what all unbelievers want, and therefore they gain a great audience.

In verse 6, we learn “The Scriptures Authority over True Believers.” Verse 6 says, “We (that is the Apostles, John says, and by implication, the other authors of Scripture) are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” The authors of Scripture wrote the very words of God and true believers put themselves under its authority. Whereas false believers, that is those who claim to know Christ but really don't–have never experienced the new birth, they refuse to put themselves under the authority of the Word of God to both believe it and to obey it. That's the biblical test.

Now, today, I want us to consider “The Scripture’s Qualities.” And what I really mean by that is, what do the false teachers deny about the Scripture? They have a flawed perspective of the Scripture; what exactly is it they deny? Well, what we're going to discover is they tend to deny the major qualities of Scripture that the Scripture teaches about itself. Now, there are many places we can go to discern what Scripture teaches about itself, but I want to focus this morning on what Paul believed and taught about this issue. He was confident in certain qualities of the Scripture. And these qualities appear throughout his letters, but they all appear together in one passage, a very familiar passage. I want you to turn to 2 Timothy, chapter 3. Now, before you turn me off because you say, “Yeah, yeah, I know what this passage teaches,” please stay with me because I hope to bring some things out that I hope will provide some additional insight to us.

So, here in 2 Timothy 3, Paul begins in the first 9 verses talking about false teachers. That's the thrust of the first 9 verses, false teachers and their influence. They are a chief source of the attacks that come against the Word of God. In fact, in verses 11 and 12, Paul says the persecution that he himself faced in Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra came from the religious community. And in verse 13 he says, and religious deception and false religion are only going to get worse, “evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Now notice the contrast beginning in verse 14, “You, however,” Timothy, stay committed to the Scripture. Look at what he writes in verses 14 and 15:

You, however, (in contrast to the false teachers who have abandoned the Word of God, you,) continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you've learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

He says, “I want you, Timothy, to stay in the Scriptures.” And the reason I want you to do that is because of the very nature of the Scripture itself which is unfolded in the following verses. Let's look at these verses together and these qualities of the Scripture.

The first quality of Scripture, again, is a very familiar one, “Inspiration,” inspiration, verse 16. “All Scripture is inspired by God.” Now, by “all Scripture,” Paul obviously means the Old Testament. Back in chapter 3, verse 15, he refers to the “sacred writings” that Timothy learned as a boy–that has to mean what we call The Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. So, all Scripture includes that, but it also includes the New Testament. How do we know that? Well, back in 1 Timothy, chapter 5, verse 18, Paul quotes in that one verse from Deuteronomy 25 and from Luke 10. So Old and New Testaments, and he calls both of those passages “Scripture.” And in 2 Peter 3, verses 15 and 16, Peter calls Paul's letters, Scripture. So, this quality is true of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Now, notice the quality itself. He says, “All Scripture is inspired by God.” Now ‘inspired’ has been the traditional English translation from the beginning. But sadly, it can be misunderstood to mean something it doesn't mean. Because, actually, the word ‘inspired’ means ‘breathed into by God.’ How did that happen? Well, when Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate, around 400 A.D., to translate the Greek word in this verse, he chose the Latin word ‘inspirada which was eventually translated into English as ‘inspired.’

There's a problem with that though, because the word ‘inspired’ again, means ‘to breathe into.’ But that is not what Paul is saying here about the Scripture. The Greek word is ‘theopneustos,’ which appears only here in Greek literature. It's possible Paul even coined the term. And what does this word mean? Well, if you have the NAS with marginal notes, you'll notice that they give you the, in the marginal reference, the sort of literal translation, “God breathed.” When Paul says, “All Scripture is ‘theopneustos,” he means all Scripture is not breathed into by God but is breathed out by God.

Now, why is that important? Because he's saying that all Scripture is the product of the breath of God in the same way that my words right now are the product of my breath. The words that I'm speaking to you are formed and shaped and directed by Tom's breath. When you speak, your words are the product of your breath. Paul is saying the Scriptures are the product of the breath of God in exactly the same way. These are God's words, the product of His very breath; every word of Scripture comes from God. That's the point! As Luke 1:70 puts it, God spoke “…by the mouth of His holy prophets,” God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets. The Scripture is God speaking. 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, verses 12 and 13, Paul says that he and the other writers of Scripture received “The Spirit (The Holy Spirit.) …so that they may know the things freely given to us by God.” And then he says this about the writers of Scripture, “which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the (Holy) Spirit, combining the thoughts (of the Spirit) with (the words of the Spirit).” (Paraphrase) This is a remarkable claim. It's put this way in 2 Peter, chapter 1, verse 21, “…men (speaking of the Scripture, men) moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” That's the Scripture you hold in your hand! “Men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

It's interesting, that word ‘moved;’ it's actually a Greek word that appears twice in Acts 27:15 in reference to the ship. You remember, Paul is shipwrecked in that passage. And it says there that the ship on which they were was “driven along,” that's the Greek word, they were, the ship was moved, it was “driven along” by the wind. Peter says, the writers of Scripture, “were driven along by the Holy Spirit so that they spoke the word of God.”

Jesus further develops this concept of inspiration, in Matthew, chapter 5. Turn there with me for a moment, keep your finger here in 2 Timothy, we’ll come back. But look at Matthew, chapter 5, as He begins the Sermon on the Mount. He says this about the scripture in verse 18, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass (away) from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Now Jesus, in this verse, is teaching us a couple of things about the Scripture and its inspiration. First of all, He's teaching us what theologians call “Verbal Inspiration.” You see, God is not only the source of the thoughts of Scripture, but the very words in Scripture. That's what we mean by ‘verbal.’ Verbal inspiration means these aren't just good ideas that came from God, these are the words that came from God. But Jesus goes even further, notice what he says in verse 18, let me translate it for you literally from the Greek text. Look at verse 18 and let me read it. This is how it unfolds in the Greek text, “One iota’ or one stroke, no, not at all shall pass away.”

Now, the ‘iota is the smallest Greek letter. But here, because Jesus is talking about the Old Testament, He probably is using it to refer to the smallest Hebrew letter when He spoke originally in Aramaic, probably spoken of the smallest Hebrew letter, which is ‘yod.’ ‘Yod’ is equivalent, the Hebrew letter yod, is equivalent to our English letter, ‘y.’ But if you want to know what the Hebrew letter looks like, think our apostrophe, in the apostrophe we use to make something possessive. That's what the Hebrew ‘yod looks like. There are more than 66,000 ‘yodsin the Old Testament. Now, I didn't count them all; I take that on the authority of someone else. But there are 66,000 ‘yods’ in the Old Testament. How bad could it possibly be to leave out a single small letter that looks like an apostrophe? Jesus says, “Not one, not one!”

The Greek word translated ‘stroke’ there in verse 18, means literally ‘little horn.’ And it refers to a pen stroke that distinguishes one letter from another. But we do this in English. Think for a moment with me in English, you have got to picture this in your mind, the capital letters, ‘O’ and ‘Q,’ capital letter ‘O,’ capital letter ‘Q.’ What distinguishes those two letters? It’s just that small little stroke at the bottom of the circle, that makes it a ‘Q.’ Well, the same is true with a couple of Hebrew letters. There's a little stroke that distinguishes them. So, Jesus here is making a remarkable claim. He's saying the Scripture is breathed out by God, not only in its individual words, but even in its individual, smallest letters and its smallest pen strokes. As one author put it, Jesus declared that the Scriptures were letter perfect. Jesus affirms verbal inspiration, every word.

But Jesus also affirms here in Matthew 5:18, “Plenary inspiration,” plenary. He says, “…not the smallest letter or stroke (not one) shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished (fulfilled).” Now in theological terms, the word ‘plenary’ simply means ‘all.’ Not only is every individual stroke, and every small letter, and every word of Scripture, the product of the breath of God, but it is all true in its entirety.

Jesus then goes on to affirm by application, the complete trustworthiness or we could say “Inerrancy of the Scripture.” Look again at verse 18, “…truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” The word for ‘accomplish’ means ‘to happen’ or ‘to come to pass.’ You hear what Jesus is saying? He says, “Listen, the universe will be destroyed before anything written in the Scripture fails to happen.” He was emphasizing its utter trustworthiness, its truthfulness, its certainty. Whatever it says is so true, it will happen. Brothers and sisters, take a look at that Book you hold in your hand. On the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, He says, “You can trust that Book and what it says; it is the product of the breath of God. It’s completely trustworthy in every detail.

Now, let's go back to our text in 2 Timothy 3. The first quality of Scripture is “Inspiration.” A second quality; let's call “Relevancy,” relevancy. Look at verse 16, “All scripture (the whole, the entirety, Old and New Testament) is…profitable.” He says, “it's profitable.” And he goes on then to define that even further. Notice what he writes, “…for teaching (for doctrine), for reproof (to correct or to inform you, confront your misunderstanding in thought or behavior), for correction (to put you back on the right path, and), for training in righteousness.” That last word literally means ‘child training.’ The Bible is to us what a parent is to children. It trains us, it brings us up as Christians in the faith. It is useful, it is beneficial. Listen, we don't make the Bible relevant; it simply is relevant. If God has breathed out these words to us, how could anything be more relevant?

I'm embarrassed for those, pastors who get up and are ashamed of the Bible. You know, they read a verse or two and shove it over to the side and then say what they want to say. They might as well say, “Look (And I say this respectfully, but they might as well say,) you know, poor God, He couldn't really pull off a Scripture that's going to be consistently helpful to people in all generations. So, we have to help Him, sort of modernize and bring it up to, you know, our generation.” They've lost confidence in the Scripture.

Listen, the fact that the Bible is always relevant doesn't mean people always believe that it's relevant or always want to hear it. Look at chapter 4, verse 3, “…they will not endure sound doctrine; but…will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” Let me challenge you, read through 1 and 2 Timothy and notice how often Paul tells Timothy to teach the Word instead of the things that were currently popular in that culture, whether it's genealogies or whatever it was. He says, “Don't do that stuff; teach the Scripture.” A teacher with a high view of Scripture won't believe he has to make the Bible relevant; he'll be convinced that it is eternally relevant because it is the product of the breath of God Himself.

A third quality of scripture in verses 15 to 17 is its “Sufficiency,” its sufficiency. Scripture contains all that is necessary for faith and practice. First of all, for salvation. Look at verse 15, “…from childhood (Timothy) you have known the sacred writings (the Hebrew Old Testament) which (those writings) are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” He's saying, “Listen, you want to know how you can be made right with God? It's right here. It's in this Book.”

If you're here this morning, and you've never repented of your sins and believed in Jesus Christ, you want to be right with your Creator; there's no other way for you to find out how to be right with God than right here. This Book will tell you how you can be saved, how you can be rescued from the penalty your sins deserve, through the fact that God sent His eternal Son into the world. He became flesh, He became like one of us except for sin, He lived a perfect life of obedience, died the death of a sacrifice, to satisfy the justice of God, to purchase forgiveness for all who would believe in Him, and then God raised Him from the dead. And for everyone who repents of their sins and believes in Him, they experience spiritual rescue–salvation. This Book tells you that.

But the scripture is also able to produce sanctification. Look at verse 16:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that (Here's how capable it is, how sufficient it is. So that) the man of God (That's a technical term from the Old Testament; he's talking specifically here about leaders in the church, those who have been identified as elders and are serving in that capacity, but of course by implication, includes every believer, so that elders and all believers) may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Now, can we just admit that the word adequate falls a little flat? It's, it's adequate, you know. “So, so, Sweetheart, what do you think about dinner?” “Well, it's, it's adequate.” That's not this word, okay? It says, so the man of God may be adequate. The Greek word is used only here in the New Testament. And this is what it means, ‘capable, proficient, able to meet all demands.’ The Scripture will enable you to meet every spiritual demand in your life.

And then he says, “…equipped for every good work.” The word ‘equipped’ means ‘fully equipped, fully supplied, completely outfitted for every good work.’ In fact, this word ‘equipped” is used in secular Greek to describe a wagon that's been fully supplied. You're going on a road trip, everything's packed in, you’ve got everything you need. Paul says, “Listen, as you journey through this life, you are fully supplied. You’ve got everything you need right here.” That's the sufficiency of Scripture. Both the Westminster and the Baptist Confessions of Faith put it this way:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life (That's fairly comprehensive.) is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture, unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the spirit or traditions of men.

A teacher with a biblical view of Scripture will believe that it is sufficient, that we don't need to add anything to it, or we're not going to take anything away from it. Deuteronomy 4:2, “You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it.” Scripture is the only resource necessary to fully equip the Christian. You don't need to go to the local bookstore, if you can find one, and buy some self-help book that's going to help you wire your life. You don't need to go find some guru on the internet whose own life is probably a wreck, to tell you how to make things good in your life. Everything you need to live your spiritual journey here on this planet is in this Book. That's Paul's point.

A fourth quality of Scripture is “Authority.” Look at 2 Timothy 4, verses 1 and 2:

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

Look at the word ‘preach.’ There are at least thirty-three different verbs in the New Testament that are used to describe Biblical preaching. But this is the primary one, translated ‘preach here.’ It's the Greek word kerusso,’ and it means ‘to proclaim like the representative of a king.’ Listen, it implies formality. It implies gravitas. It implies speaking with authority. Preaching is not supposed to be a conversation in a coffee shop. It is a proclamation from the King that must be heard and obeyed.

Look at 1 Timothy, chapter 4. This is what Paul says to Timothy, 1 Timothy 4, verse 11, “Prescribe and teach these things.” He says, literally, “Keep commanding and teaching these things, keep commanding them, speak with authority.” Go over to Titus, chapter 2, verse 15, he says to his other son in the faith, Titus, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. (Notice the marginal note, literally, “with all command.”) Let no one disregard you.”

Now, this authority is not Timothy's authority; it's not Titus’ authority; it's not even Paul's authority; it's not my authority as a speaker–it's the authority that is inherent in the Scripture itself. The Scripture carries the authority of God Himself. It is the final authority in faith and practice, what we believe and how we live. So, ask yourself, “Does that teacher truly embrace or deny the inspiration, relevancy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture?”

So, we've considered the biblical tests and the Scriptures’ qualities. Thirdly and briefly, let's consider “Some Common Heresies,” some common heresies. I wish I had time to develop this a little more, but like we've done with the other doctrinal tests, let me just give you a little brief list of some of the more common heresies related to Scripture. First of all, “Denying the Inspiration of Scripture.” This is the position of old Liberalism, and that's still out there. And of today's sort of cool, popular idea of “Deconstructing the Christian Faith.” You heard that expression? Somebody's deconstructing their faith. What is that? Deconstruction is a post-modern philosophical term that means ‘rejecting specific biblical doctrines or the Christian faith all together.’ In biblical terms, most of the time, deconstruction is either unbelief or apostasy. So don't be fooled by some high-sounding word. It's simple unbelief or it is apostasy from the truth. Deconstructing the faith typically starts with Scripture; it starts with an outright denial either that Scripture is God's Word, or oftentimes it's more subtle. It's a denial that Scripture only has one meaning, the author's meaning, or that Scripture can be understood at all. “Well, you know, we can’t be sure.” Here's an example from one Deconstructionist:

If you grew up like me, you were taught that passages of Scripture only mean whatever the original author intended it to mean. The problem, of course, is that’s simply not true. Words are not stable as we think. They aren't stand-alone entities that represent just one objective reality.

That's ridiculous, because if I went to that guy and I said, “Listen, I get what you're saying. You're saying the Bible is completely trustworthy, and you can believe it entirely.” He'd go, “No, no, no! That's not what I'm saying. It's not what that means.”

And I can say, “Well, you know, words are, you know, hard to nail down and you know, open to interpretation.” It's ridiculous. It doesn't work in the real-world; post modernism doesn't! You can't live like a Post-Modernist, you can only do it in religion and philosophy. But it's out there, beware!

A second heresy is “Subtracting from the Scripture,” subtracting from the Scripture. And there are several ways this happens. Liberals and Modernists discount the Old Testament. “You know, well, you know, the God of the Old Testament, He was that sort of angry, wrathful God, and so we don't pay much attention to that. But aren't you glad we have Jesus, this loving, wonderful, peacemaking, Jesus?” They’re subtracting from the Scripture.

Another way is in the first century, the Judaizers, and today the Black Hebrew Israelites, and many in the Hebrew Roots Movement, reject or downplay the New Testament. They want to live by the Old Testament Law; they want to magnify the Old Testament Law. And the New Testament is either rejected outright in some cases or certainly downplayed. Some in the Hebrew Roots movement reject Paul's letters. And of course, theological liberals in the mainline Protestant denominations deny biblical miracles–they are subtracting from the Word of God.

A third category of heresies related to Scripture is “Adding to the Scripture.” What are some of the contemporary additions to Scripture? Well, there are a couple of tried-and-true ones. The first is “Tradition,” tradition. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that ultimate authority resides equally in two sources–Scripture and tradition. Let me give this to you in direct quotes; here's The Council of Trent, the response to the Reformation. “This Synod receives and venerates with an equal affection and reverence all the books both of the Old and the New Testament, as also the said, traditions,” that is the unwritten oral traditions they just talked about. It’s even clearer in the 1994 Roman Catholic Catechism:

The Church does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.

It couldn't be clearer; they are adding to the Scripture.

Another way people add to the Scripture is through other inspired books or prophecies, and the Mormons do this. The Mormons accept the King James Bible as part of the Word of God, and then they add this, “As far as it is translated correctly.” But then they add to that Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and The Book of Mormon, and those become their canon of authorized Scripture. They are adding to the Scripture and bring on themselves the curse that God brings on all who add to His Word. Many charismatics, especially those in the New Apostolic Reformation, who believe that there are apostles today who have equal authority to the Twelve Apostles in the New Testament. They speak “inspired” prophecies; they're adding to the Scripture.

A fourth category of heresy regarding the Scripture is “Distorting the Scripture,” distorting it. Look at 2 Peter, chapter 3, verse 15, middle of the verse, he says:

…our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Boy, this is really common. People, false teachers say, “Oh, we believe the Bible. Let me show you something from the Bible.” But they pull something out of its context, and they make it say something contrary to the rest of Scripture. There are so many examples but let me give you a couple. First of all, Jehovah's Witnesses. They pervert the Scripture in their New World Translation, first published in 1950. The translation committee, by the way, had no known translators with degrees in Greek or Hebrew, but claimed all translations, all other translations, “have fallen victim to the power of human traditionalism in varying degrees,” and that their translation would free the Scriptures from “The misleading influence of religious traditions which have their roots in paganism.” You want me to give you the short version of that? Jesus isn't God.

Prosperity teachers regularly distort the Scripture. There are so many examples; here are just a few that could be multiplied. Let's start with Joel Osteen. “I believe God wants you to prosper in your health, in your family, in your relationships, in your business and in your career. So, I do, if that is the prosperity gospel, then I do believe that.” and he does. And he is very consistent in that. He lives in a $15 million home, has a second one worth $2.8 million, and a $68 million airplane, and I'm just getting started. Joyce Meyer, Joyce Meyer teaches that Jesus stopped being the Son of God on the cross, “He had become sin. He was no longer the Son of God, He was Sin.” That's heresy! She teaches that Jesus paid for our sins in hell. And a very common theme among false teachers in the prosperity movement, that we are little gods.

Here's Kenneth Copeland; he's talking about Adam, don't forget that, Adam.

Adam was not a little like God; he was not almost like God; he was not subordinate to God even; Adam is as much like God as you could get, just the same as Jesus. Adam, in the Garden of Eden, was God manifested in the flesh.

And of course, he goes on to say that we are gods too.

Benny Hinn, “When you say I am a Christian, you are saying, ‘I am Mashiach in the Hebrew, I am a little Messiah walking around on Earth.’ In other words, that is a shocking revelation.” It certainly is! And then he says, “May I say it like this? You are a little god on earth running around.”

Robert Morris, at Gateway Church here in our own community, has prosperity preachers regularly, heretics regularly preach in his pulpit. People like Todd White, Joyce Meyers, Creflo Dollar. I have heard him with my own ears say that Mormons are brothers in Christ. He says, and again, I've heard this myself, “Failing to tithe opens the Christian to demonic oppression, while tithing guarantees financial success.” In the last chapter of his book, The Blessed Life, is called “Guaranteed Financial Success.” Recently, and I can only assume that he means what those he has in his pulpit mean and teach, he recently said that Christians are partly divine.

A final heresy that overlaps with the others, and this isn't unique, this sort of overlays the rest of them. And that is “Telling people what they want to hear,” telling people what they want to hear. Jeremiah 23, verses 16 and 17, and verses 21 to 22, God says, “You know, the false prophets are telling people peace, peace when there is no peace when I'm saying I'm bringing judgment.” (Summary paraphrase.) That is a common theme for false teachers. False teachers give people a false sense of security that makes them comfortable in their sins. They don't warn them about God's coming judgment. They emphasize the love of God but avoid the holiness, righteousness, justice, and wrath of God. They emphasize the value of man, but they avoid the issues of total depravity and the sinfulness of man before a holy God. They offer the wide gate and easy salvation that avoids Jesus’ demands for discipleship. These teachers “Speak out of their own hearts,” Jeremiah says. Jeremiah 14:14, “…the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name…they are prophesying to you…the deception of their own minds.” They “Plagiarize from each other.” You heard that even in some of the quotes that I shared with you. Jeremiah 23:30, “’…I am against the prophets,’ declares the LORD, ‘who steal My words from each other.’” And as we saw in 1 John 4:5, they appeal to fallen human desires and values. They speak as from the world because they are of the world, and all they've got is to appeal to people based on their fallen human values and desires and not a commitment to follow Jesus Christ as Lord.

So, how should we respond to those false teachers who distort the Scripture? Turn again, or if you're still there, look at 2 Peter 3. Right after he says in verse 16 there are those who distort the Scripture, he says here are the two responses you should have. Response number one, verse 17, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.” Be on your guard, or in the words of 1 John 4:1, don't be spiritually naive, “…don't believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” test them to see if they have a different God, a different Jesus, a different gospel, and a different authority.

And then, secondly, here's your other response, verse 18, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our (Lord Jesus Christ) our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. How? Well, we just saw it in 2 Timothy 3, stay in the Scripture, the very product of the breath of God which is able to equip you in “every good work.”

Let's pray together. Father, thank You for our time together this morning. I pray that You would use it for those of us who know and love You. Help us to love Your Word more, to treasure it more, to read it more, to meditate on it more, to obey it better. Lord, remind us often of the treasure that we hold; that this is the product of Your very breath. And, Father, I pray that You would help us to be on our guard, that we wouldn't be gullible, spiritually naive, but that we would test the spirits behind teachers to see whether they are the Holy Spirit or some demonic influence. And, Father, help us to love the Scriptures and to be in them so that we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.


Recognizing False Teachers - Part 5

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6

Recognizing False Teachers - Part 6

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:1-6

This Is Love - Part 1

Tom Pennington 1 John 4:7-21

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1 John


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The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 2

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The Apostles' Proclamation - Part 3

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The Believer's New Relationship to Sin - Part 6

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Loving One Another - Part 1

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Loving One Another - Part 2

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A Child of the Father

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Do Not Love the World

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 1

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 2

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 3

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 4

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 5

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It Matters What You Believe - Part 6

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The Christian's DNA - Part 1

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The Christian's DNA - Part 2

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The Christian's DNA - Part 3

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The Christian's DNA - Part 4

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The Christian's DNA - Part 5

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Love as a Sign of Life - Part 1

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Love as a Sign of Life - Part 3

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Love as a Sign of Life - Part 6

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 2

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 3

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 4

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 5

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Recognizing False Teachers - Part 6

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This Is Love - Part 1

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This Is Love - Part 2

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This Is Love - Part 4

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This Is Love - Part 5

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The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 6

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The Nature of Saving Faith - Part 7

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Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 2

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Real Christians & Deep Fakes - Part 3

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