What Is a False Teacher?

Of course, in the technical sense, anyone who teaches any error could qualify as a false teacher.  If you stand up in your high school geography class and teach that the world is flat and not a sphere, you are a false teacher.  If you tell your children that Santa Claus is a real person who delivers toys to all the children of the world on Christmas Eve, you are a false teacher.  If you deliver the weather report on most network television news programs, you are a false teacher…most of the time.

In the New Testament however, the false teacher is specifically described in a couple of key books.  I want to briefly survey those books and examine the description of the false teacher.  I’ll draw some general conclusions at the end for the purpose of discussion.

Paul deals with the false teacher in several passages in the book of 1 Timothy including 1:3-7, 18-20; 4:1-5; 6:3-5, 20-21.  In these passages, we learn:

1. Paul commanded that Timothy confront the false teachers. (1:3; 6:3)
2. The false teaching was “of a different kind” (heteros). (1:3)
3. The false teachers were to stop listening to fables. (1:4)
4. The false teachers were guilty of using speculation and questioning to undermine the Gospel.  This is their means of operation, to corrupt the plan (oikonomia) of God, the Gospel by faith. (1:4; 6:4)
5. Paul explains the essence of the church, which is love, and then contrasts it with the false teachers, who are totally avoiding love and instead just making irrelevant noise. (1:5-6)
6. Paul explains that these people just want the position of being a teacher, even though they don’t understand at all what they are teaching. (1:7; 6:4)
7. False teachers violently reject (apotithemi) the faith. (1:19)
8. False teachers are to be handed over to Satan. (1:20)
9. False teachers give assent to demonically-fueled error. (4:1)
10. False teachers are hypocrites who speak lies and have cauterized (kausteriazo) consciences. (4:2)
11. False teachers deny the words of Christ. (6:3)
12. False teachers are proud. (6:4)
13. False teaching produces chaos and discord. (6:4-5)
14. False teachers have unregenerate minds. (6:5)
15. False teachers are deprived of the truth. (6:5)
16. False teachers have a motive: money. (6:5)

Next post will take a look at 2 Peter and draw some general conclusions.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Steve Bradley on May 9, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    So must a false teacher meet all of these requirements, or only some or one to be labeled as a false teacher?


  2. That’s a good question, Steve. What do you think?


  3. Posted by Steve Bradley on May 11, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    I don’t read your blog to find out what I think. 🙂 Honestly, with Sunday coming up I haven’t had the time to look at the text yet. I’d be interested in your thoughts though.


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