So Many Teachers… (May 2012)

By Matt Dabbs

By Edward Fudge

A gracEmail subscriber believes we should say more about false teachers. How do we recognize them? What can we look for in order to avoid their influence?

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I understand your confusion and appreciate your concern. Jesus himself warned to beware of false prophets (Matt. 7:15). He does not call them “false” because they are confused, mistaken, or imperfect in understanding. Jesus calls them “false” prophets because they are counterfeits–fakes and frauds to the core. In fact, Matthew’s word for these folks is so clear it needs no translation. If we spell it in English letters, the Greek word Matthew uses is pseudo-prophets. Jesus compares the false prophets to starving wolves that disguise themselves in wool overcoats and pretend to be sheep. That does not happen accidentally or by mistake. It requires planning and execution.

Jesus then tells us another way we can identify the bad guys. “You will know them by their fruit,” Jesus says (Matt. 7:16). Pseudo-teachers have results different from the results of genuine Christian teachers. As different, Jesus says, as grapes differ from thorns, as unlike as figs and thistles. The Apostle Paul continues the theme. Healthy teaching produces what Jesus calls “good fruit”–such as greater faith, deeper love and a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:3-7). “Rotton fruit” includes quarreling and suspicions, which Paul describes as sick, depraved and to be avoided (1 Tim. 6:3-5).

I encourage you to make it your priority to read and study the Bible for yourself. Ask God to give you spiritual wisdom (Col. 1:9). As you read and reflect on his word, God will give you understanding (2 Tim. 2:7). In addition, God gives his people gifted teachers (among others), who help equip us all to serve each other with the gifts he gives to each person (Eph. 4:11ff). But with so many choices at our disposal, to which teacher(s) should we listen?

After exercising the grace-gift of teaching for a half-century myself, I suggest the following tests. Does this person focus on Jesus and glorify him? Does he/she make clear that our salvation is God’s free and undeserved gift, which we enjoy by trusting in Jesus? Is the teacher’s own lifestyle Christlike, or entirely different from the lifestyle of Jesus? Does this teacher make me want to do right, to trust God, and to love other people — or does he/she have exactly the opposite effect? Two final reminders: who we know is more important than what we know (Matt. 7:21-23). And it does no good to hear and understand what Jesus says unless it shapes the way we live (Matt. 7:24-27).

Copyright 2012 by Edward Fudge. You are urged to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail, but only in its entirety, without change and without financial profit.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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