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Bible verses about False Teaching
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Joshua 2:11

Symbolically, adultery is used to express unfaithfulness to God, and we can easily see this in Israel's idolatry. God is represented as the husband of His people. Ezekiel 16:15-59 gives a graphic description of Israel's spiritual adultery, and Hosea 1:1-2 shows the same symbolism in Hosea's marriage. We can fall into spiritual adultery by relying on the world and its false teaching rather than God.

Martin G. Collins
The Seventh Commandment


 

Judges 6:25-28

The first thing God had Gideon do was destroy the altar, the place of worship, the false gods, and the false teachings. If there is a false god, the teaching will not be correct. If God's people do not have the right teaching, they cannot develop in His image! It takes a true minister, speaking the truth of God for people to be prepared in the image of God. As long as a false god is before them, they will be going in the wrong direction! The prophet Ezekiel points out in Ezekiel 20 that it was idolatry and Sabbath-breaking that caused Israel to go into captivity. The same pattern of sin repeats itself throughout its history.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 1): God and HWA


 

Matthew 7:13-14

These verses lead into Christ's teaching on false prophets. From its context, it appears that Jesus says that false ministers will neither acknowledge or teach the narrow way that leads to life, the narrow way that leads to persecution. Instead, they will do just what God shows the Old Testament false prophets did: They will teach "peace, peace"—the smooth, easy, and broad way.

In other words, they will teach that Christians need make no sacrifices in their obedience to God. It is so interesting that, in the last few years in the church, so many things have been liberalized. Are we getting away from the straight and the narrow, the difficult and the sacrificial way?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)


 

John 3:7

John 3:7 addresses a false teaching in which Nicodemus was no doubt well-schooled: "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'" The fullness of the word must as used by Christ here is often misunderstood. People think of being born again as a moral duty that they are required to meet, but that was not Jesus' intention. He does not mean that a person must see to it that he becomes born again. No, Jesus says it in terms of being "something that has to happen to you." He intends us to understand that the Father, by an act of His will, must implant His Spirit in an individual's heart for this birth to take place (Romans 9:6-16).

No one can bring about his own human birth; it is the gift of a person's parents. In the same manner, spiritual birth and life are gifts from our Father in heaven. He is sovereign over His creation, and He is engineering the salvation of His Family Kingdom from the birth of each child to his glorification. Did Rebecca's son, Jacob, in any way initiate his calling and receipt of salvation? Yet, though God had chosen him for that while he was still in her womb, Jacob was not actually called and converted until many years after he was born and had produced a life of sinful acts apart from God. Paul explains God's sovereign choice in Romans 9:11-13:

. . . (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, "The older shall serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."

Undoubtedly, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, had been circumcised and therefore had become a party to the Old Covenant in that customary manner. All of his associates—indeed, everyone in the entire Jewish culture—believed essentially the same things regarding salvation. In John 3, however, Jesus is teaching something a great deal different from what Nicodemus had believed all of his adult life. This passage makes it clear that he was having difficulty grasping it. He is being taught that salvation is a gift of God, and God solely and personally initiates it in a circumstance in which the person is essentially passive. God, by means of His Spirit, is entirely sovereign in this matter of producing the spiritual regeneration of which Jesus speaks.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part Three)


 

John 6:44-45

The "something" that bridges the gap between us and God is initiated by God. Jesus plainly says that no man can come to Him unless the Father makes an effort to initiate a bridging of the chasm to effect a fellowship with us. Man will not do it, and indeed cannot do it. Why? Because he is so deceived. Mankind does not even know where to look for God. Satan has done his work of deception remarkably well. He has the whole world confused and deceived, according to Revelation 12:9.

If a man on his own began to look for God, where would he look? How would he imagine God's form or shape? What kind of ideals would he look for? What would the doctrines be like? What would the hope be? What would the purpose be? What would the plan be? Mankind is helpless in this regard; all he can do is come up with idols, false religions with false doctrines and false ways.

It is absolutely essential that God initiate the bridging of the chasm between us, since we would not do it and cannot do it, being too deceived. If it were up to man, then we could hardly expect to have fellowship with God, and even now, under Satan's deception, our fellowship even with other human beings is difficult.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

1 Corinthians 11:17-19

The phrase "must also be" has the sense of "it being necessary." Paul understands factions as God-ordained because he could see the pattern of them from Old Testament times, as well as the benefits derived from them.

The Corinthian congregation was a troubled group divided into factions by heresies (I Corinthians 1:10-13). This circumstance was not helping the already-calamitous situation, but Paul says that the calamity would eventually produce a good result. The true sons of God would be revealed by their reactions to the false teaching. They would not accept it, and thus would be witnesses to the weaker for the truth of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

2 Corinthians 11:1-4

Paul had to deal with the Corinthian congregation because they had fallen under the sway of false apostles (see II Corinthians 11:13). These false ministers had convinced many of the brethren that they knew more and better than the apostle through whom they had heard, believed, learned, and been converted to the gospel. They were in the process of throwing aside what they had learned from Paul in favor of what they were hearing from these new "apostles."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

Galatians 1:8

Paul says here that if he or any of the other apostles—or even what would appear to be an angel—were to preach a different gospel to the Galatians than what they had first understood, that teacher was to be accursed. Being "accursed" could run the gamut from God's judgment and wrath falling upon him to being an instruction to part company from that person and not allow him to teach any longer.

The underlying thought here is the same as Jude 3: to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints." It is evident that there is a specific gospel which Christ brought, and any variance from that is a falsehood. In the Old Testament, God required the utmost purity in the way He was worshipped. Now, under the New Testament, the purity has to be even greater—Christ came to magnify the law and reveal the spirit and intent, thus doing away with loopholes and technicalities. Just as there were rigid requirements under the Old Covenant, the gospel of the New Covenant is precise and does not allow for variance. There is only one "way" to eternal life—our relationship with God made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). The notion of "many paths, all leading us to the same place" is utterly erroneous. If the gospel is changed, or any of the associated doctrines are changed, the resulting body of understanding will produce a different faith than that which is necessary for salvation. Purity of the gospel and doctrine is extremely important.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 4:14

Paul calls to their mind their first encounter with him, when his physical infirmity could have been a social stumbling block for them, but they received him warmly and without hesitation. He is drawing a contrast between their first meeting and their current rejection of his teaching.

Paul says that they received him "as an angel [messenger] of God." In the beginning of the epistle, part of his stern warning was against any other doctrines from what he had originally taught them, which included a warning against the teachers of such doctrines (Galatians 1:8). Since the Galatians "received [him] as an angel," they may have likewise received a false teacher as a messenger from God and bestowed upon him the same warmth and acceptance.

David C. Grabbe


 

Colossians 1:6

With the phrase "the grace of God in truth," he is beginning to say, "What I have taught you is the truth. What you are being tempted by is not truth." He is not saying it directly yet, but he will. God, writing to the Colossians and us through the apostle Paul, is a master of psychology.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 20)


 

1 Timothy 6:3-5

Paul says, "Leave!" His concern is for those who will be confronted with false doctrines. He urges them to come "to wholesome words" (verse 3). Wholesome literally means "healthy," words that produce health. In the context of food one would say "health food." Paul says, "Eat the good food, not the junk!" The same applies spiritually: Mentally, a Christian needs to eat healthy words that will produce spiritual health.

Then he describes false teachers: They are conceited, have an unnatural craving for debate, and argue incessantly about words. They are theorists who waste time in futile academic disputes or exercises in semantics. God instructs that these characteristics are not a sign of good spiritual health. Out of this kind of thinking come envy, abusive speech, evil suspicions, constant friction, and a warped idea that godliness is a means of financial gain (verses 4-5).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

2 Timothy 4:2-5

Paul gives Timothy a great deal to think about and to do. Notice, though, that he ends with a warning that false teachers and false gospels are inevitable. As time goes on, as he said earlier, things will get worse and worse.

We must be especially careful of this these days because Jesus tells us that, as the end approaches, it will get really bad! Those things will wax, not wane, as the end comes. And in our information society, not only have there been more bad things, but they are coming at us faster and faster. It is hard to keep up with all the false teachings, heresies, and strange ideas. And those are just what are in the church, and not what comes from Protestantism, Catholicism, New Age, or whatever!

The Internet has been a blessing and curse, just for that reason. It is wonderful for transmitting information—especially if it is the truth, but it is damnable for transmitting error. All "media" are. Any kind of media can be used wrongly. The two biggest users on the Internet are, on the one hand, pornographers, and on the other, churches. Is that not crazy? It shows how bad the times are, and how we have to be prepared to face these things, show the error of falsehood, and explain the truth. It is not easy in these times to be a true minister of God, because things are coming at us from right and left at 190 mph.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears


 

Hebrews 2:1-4

Paul's warning to the Hebrews here is a bit stronger than what he says in Philippians 1:27. He says there, "Let's all with one mind strive together to keep the faith of the gospel." Here he says, "Give earnest heed to the doctrine, to the gospel, to the things we heard, because we're in danger of losing it!" He feels he must frighten them, saying, "Don't you remember that under the Mosaic dispensation people were punished very severely for neglecting what they had heard? Every transgression and disobedience received a just reward. How much greater under the dispensation through Christ, the Son?" He is quite serious. Work hard. Be diligent. Make your calling sure!

It is about this same time that Peter and Jude add their voices to his. The brethren were undergoing a rough time because false ministers and false teachers were in the church, and like us, they also had to fight off the pressures from the world to conform. It takes great effort to resist both in the church and out in the world. When there are problems among us, it is tough. When we must also resist all the downward pulls outside in society, it is a difficult, sore trial. Thus, Paul uses particularly strong language to motivate them to stand up, face the problem, give it their all, and vanquish it.

Are we in a similar circumstance? Perhaps some of the details are different; the deception has taken a somewhat different form (this time we do not have to contend with Gnosticism, per se). However, there is enough similarity that warnings here, as well as in the books of Peter, John, and Jude, make a lot of sense. Certainly the results, the fruit of false teaching, are the same: apostasy, falling away, confusion, distrust (especially of those who have been given a measure of authority, the ministry), scattering, and disunity. The apostles, then, are speaking to us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

2 Peter 2:1-3

These verses show us in a general way that traitors will come from within the church and subvert many to follow their carnal ways. Peter uses the word "but" to provide a contrast with the preceding section about the "sure word of prophecy" (II Peter 1:19, KJV). These traitors to the faith are not led by the Holy Spirit as were those God inspired to write the prophecies (verse 21). The apostle immediately warns that these "false teachers" will come from within the church, or as Peter writes, "among you." The implication is that "forewarned is forearmed"! Therefore, be on guard!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Peter 2:1

Alarming as II Peter 2:1-3 is, Peter does not define heresy, but he does tell what one heresy is and will be. He also does not tell us here what the source of heresy is either.

Heresy is the translation of the Greek hairesis—meaning literally "choice" or "selection"—which has an interesting secular as well as biblical history. Until its biblical use, it had no evil connotation. Even in the Bible, it is mostly used to refer to a party or a philosophy with which a person had chosen to identify or ally himself. Thus, hairesis is frequently translated "sect." In Acts, Luke applies it to the Sadducees (Acts 5:17) and the Pharisees (Acts 15:5; 26:5). Outsiders also used hairesis in Acts 24:5, 14 and Acts 28:22 to identify the Christian church.

However, when Paul and Peter's writings began circulating, hairesis meant a destructive element within the church that creates division through consciously formed opinions and ideas in disagreement with the orthodox teachings of the apostles. Paul condemns it in Galatians 5:20 as one of "the works of the flesh." Sometimes it is translated "factions" or "party spirit," but regardless of its translation, Paul says that people who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (verse 21)!

In the ordinary course of secular life, heresy was of little consequence; one person's opinion or choice about most things in life is just as good as another's. A person can be given any number of alternatives, any one of which he may be perfectly free to believe. However, in Christianity we are dealing with revelation, with God-given truth, with absolutes. When God's truth comes to men, we either have to accept or reject it. Thus, a heretic is a man who believes what he wishes to believe instead of accepting the truth of God that he ought to believe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Peter 2:1

If "secretly" ("privily") were translated into the closest English synonym, it would have been rendered "smuggle." They smuggle in heresy by cunning deceit. The word literally means "they bring it along side," that is, they present this heresy in such a way as to make it appear favorably with the truth. "Oh, it's just a refinement. We're not really changing anything. You understand that, don't you? We're not really changing it. It's just a refinement, a clarification."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

2 Peter 2:1-2

Destructive will also translate into the English word "pernicious," which means "deadly." We hear it most frequently in a medical term, "pernicious anemia." What is so interesting is that it may appear innocent, but all the while it is destroying life. It gives the appearance of being not overtly or openly dangerous, but all the while it is undermining one's health. Peter, of course, is talking about spiritual health.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

2 Peter 2:2

The word translated "destructive" or "pernicious" (KJV) is more accurately translated "lascivious." Lascivious means "to excite to lust or lewdness." These heresies will seem to provide something we carnally consider very desirable for our well-being. But, all the while, the liberties (verse 19) they promise in their false teachings will be so destructive that they only serve to deny Jesus Christ (verse 1).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Peter 2:2-3

These ungodly people turn the church into a commercial operation. These are men of evil ambition; they are covetous. Their primary objective is success in argument, not truth. They make changes in order to exploit. This is the reason for the feigned words and the deceptive or phony arguments.

We in the United States, especially, have been conditioned to be tolerant. But, from what is written in II Peter 2 and Jude, it is clear that God is not tolerant of this kind of thing. We are tolerant because we have lost, or we never had, a sense of the diabolical danger of Satan's false teaching. It leads people to their deaths! As a nation, we have become dulled to the distinction between truth and falsehood, not only in terms of right and wrong in behavior, but also in terms of ideas or concepts.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

1 John 2:3-6

This passage helps us understand how we can have the right attitude and emotion in our obedience. We come to know God through the same general process we get to know fellow human beings—by fellowshipping or experiencing life with them.

Around 500 years before Christ, Greek philosophers believed they could come to know God through intellectual reasoning and argument. This idea had a simple premise: that man is curious! They reasoned that it is man's nature to ask questions. Since God made man so, if men asked the right questions and thought them through, they would force God to reveal Himself. The flaw in this is seen in the fruit it produced. Though it supplied a number of right answers, it did not—could not—make men moral beings. Such a process could not change man's nature.

To them, religion became something akin to higher mathematics. It was intense mental activity, yielding intellectual satisfaction but no moral action. Plato and Socrates, for example, saw nothing wrong with homosexuality. The gods of Greek mythology also reflect this immorality, as they had the same weaknesses as human beings.

A few hundred years later, the Greeks pursued becoming one with God through mystery religions. One of their distinctive features was the passion play, which always had the same general theme. A god lived, suffered terribly, died a cruel, unjust death, and then rose to life again. Before being allowed to see the play, an initiate endured a long course of instruction and ascetic discipline. As he progressed in the religion, he was gradually worked into a state of intense expectation.

Then, at the right time, his instructors took him to the passion play, where they orchestrated the environment to heighten the emotional experience: cunning lighting, sensuous music, fragrant incense, and uplifting liturgy. As the story developed, the initiate became so emotionally involved that he identified himself with and believed he shared the god's suffering, victory, and immortality.

But this exercise failed them in coming to know God. Not only did it not change man's nature, but the passion play was also full of lies! The result was not true knowing but feeling. It acted like a religious drug, the effects of which were short-lived. It was an abnormal experience, somewhat like a modern Pentecostal meeting where worshippers pray down the "spirit" and speak in tongues. Such activities are escapes from the realities of ordinary life.

Contrast these Greek methods with the Bible's way of knowing God. Knowledge of God comes, not by speculation or emotionalism, but by God's direct self-revelation. In other words, God Himself initiates our knowing of Him, beginning our relationship by drawing us by His Spirit (John 6:44).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

1 John 2:18-19

John calls the various individuals who were teaching heresy "antichrists." At one time, these people had fellowshipped with true believers, but then had left the church and were now trying to draw others away to follow their heretical teachings. John points out that they were never really converted, or they would have stayed with the body of true believers.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
For the Perfecting of the Saints


 

Jude 1:1

Jude's entire book is based on Matthew 7:15-20, where Jesus tells us, "Beware of false prophets," and "by their fruits you will know them." We should keep this thought in the back of our minds as we study Jude because most of the book describes these false teachers and their false teachings. Jude is giving this warning so that we will be able to spot them when they come out, when they begin to show their fruit.

In this way, Jude and II Peter are both witnesses to the certainty of false teachers, giving us instruction on identifying them and their effects. That said, however, the two epistles are only similar on the surface. They bring out different nuances of these false teachers. It is good to read them together, but it is also good to study them separately, because they are not necessarily saying the exact same things. They agree, but they give us different details, different information, so we can know more fully how to spot these false teachers.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Jude 1:2

Jude wishes upon his readers specific blessings. His salutation is not the same as the apostle Paul and some of the other writers used. He specifically chooses "mercy, peace, and love," as all three are vital in times of apostasy.

He asks for mercy because they probably needed to repent. His whole reason for writing the epistle stems from the fact that they had begun to get lax, allowing false teachers and false teachings in. They needed God's mercy as they began to repent.

He wishes them peace because, obviously, a major result of apostasy is war and division. Remember, his brother writes in James 3:18 that the fruits of righteousness are produced in peace, and these people were not producing the fruits of righteousness for two reasons: false teachings and war. Thus, they needed peace

Finally, he includes "love," the prime virtue. They needed love because it would take love to resolve this situation—and not just love for God but love for one another. This is the agape form of love, not just phileo— not just caring for one another but setting the mind to do God's will for each other and for God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Jude 1:13

Jude continues the nautical theme begun in verse 12 by calling the false ministers "raging waves of the sea." He describes them as storms in the church, causing trouble and turbulence wherever they go. James describes the doubting person in a similar way (James 1:6-8), as wind-tossed waves, double-minded, and unstable in everything. Such people will end up causing problems. Such waves toss people into hidden rocks, or as his brother Jude puts it, hidden reefs. Naive members can become caught in the turbulence and eventually be turned from the truth.

He then describes them as "foaming up their own shame." It is quite a picturesque phrase. He alludes to the foam on the beach after a storm. The strand is littered with all kinds of driftwood and other debris a storm can dredge up. They brag about their past feats as great accomplishments, but a godly eye sees them for what they are: shameful deeds.

He also calls them "wandering stars," another nautical allusion, this time to the movement of the planets. Mariners used the fixed stars - not the planets - to guide their ships over the trackless sea. They would align themselves toward a certain star to reach their destination. These teachers are supposed to be leaders, guides for those who are not as experienced on the road of life, but as we would say, they are all over the map! They go here and there, this way and that. It is the blind leading the blind, and anyone following them will fall into a ditch (Matthew 15:14). They are unreliable guides. They give horrible advice. They are not worth even talking to about one's problems because they will lead a person astray.

Jude foretells their fate at the end of the verse: "for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." The literal translation of this is really dark: "Their fate is the utter darkness of darkness for eternity." Lights out forever! James 3:1 says that those who are teachers will receive the stricter judgment, and this is an example of it: the utter darkness of darkness forever. God takes the deception of His people personally.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Jude 1:15-19

Verse 15 emphasizes ungodliness. These false ministers are the total opposite of what God is, and if we know what God is—what godliness is—then we can identify and avoid them.

Jude then gives four more descriptors to help us identify false teachers: 1) They are discontented murmurers and complainers. They always have something to gripe about. Discontent with their lot in life, they find fault with everything. Nothing is ever right for them. 2) They live to satisfy their every desire, a trait Jude has already explained thoroughly. 3) They speak bombastic bragging words, and 4) they are respecters of persons, if it will benefit them. They will do anything to get ahead.

In verse 17, we were warned that such people will enter the church and try to ruin it, so we have no excuse. They are here already, and we need to make sure they do not stay here by keeping an eye out for them and giving no quarter to them when they begin their ungodly work.

Jude then gives three final descriptions of them in verse 19. He calls them 1) "sensual" or worldly. They are based totally in this world, in the realm of the five senses. They have no connection to the heavenly. 2) They "cause divisions," meaning when they appear, the congregation begins taking sides. 3) He ends his description with the opposite of his description of true church members in verse 1: False teachers do not have God's Spirit. They are not of us. They may be among us, but they are not God's spiritual children (Romans 8:9-17). We can see from their fruits that the spirit they have is not God's.

With these descriptions of false teachers, we can be more confident in testing the spirits (I John 3:24-4:6).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Revelation 2:4-5

The Ephesian church did have a problem. It was not in holding false teachers at arm's length, but in tending to become lax, to "drift with the tide," as it were, and this made them an easy target for false teachers. In this way, their weakness was, in a way, connected to their strength. They approached matters somewhat lackadaisically when times were fairly good, but when times became bad, they seemed to be able to stand up for the truth.

At certain times, their devotion to God's way left a lot to be desired. Just before the apostle John died in about AD 100, this was very much the case, and he really had to rouse them to get them back. From what we know from church history, by this time the membership of the true church was small and concentrated mostly around John in the church at Ephesus and some of the nearby towns in Asia Minor that he directly pastored.

Jude recognized the beginning of this drifting when he wrote in the mid-60s. All the apostles wrote similar things in their epistles: that the members of the church needed to get on the stick because false doctrines and false teachers were already in evidence among them and beginning to cause problems. If they did not root them out quickly, destruction would follow. The brethren were far too tolerant of divergent beliefs and practices, and Jude, especially, makes this point rather bluntly. He basically yells at them. Those who know Greek intimately say his language is very terse and sharp, and with it he lays in to them for being too tolerant of untruth.

His brother, Jesus, is more circumspect in His wording in Revelation 2:5. To paraphrase, he says, "I would rather that you were strong all the time. You need to go back and do the first works and remain strong so that these false teachers do not get a foothold in the church in the first place."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

 




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