Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
~ John 10:1-6
It’s not very hard these days to find a false teacher. In fact, I would argue the opposite, which is that it’s very hard these days to find a faithful one. Most of the faithful teachers are an unknown, existing in faithful Bible teaching churches all over the world. While there are some good teachers that carry the title of “celebrity pastor,” they more likely would want to distance themselves from that label. One of the reasons for this is because they never asked for it. The faithful teacher is the one who finds Christ sufficient in all things, which includes the preaching of His infallible and inerrant Word, the consistent taking of the New Covenant sacraments of baptism and the Lords Supper, and the belief that the Gospel truly is the Power of God for salvation to all who believe. A teacher who believes in these ordinary means of grace that God uses to call His elect to Himself, encourage and sanctify the saints, and that by pointing them to Christ and His finished works would be the greatest thing he could ever do, I would consider a faithful teacher.
But the aim of this post is not specifically concerned with the false teacher. No, what I want to discuss briefly here are the people that sit under their teachings every Lords Day.
There was a time where all of my concern and effort was focused on the poor people that were being tricked under these false teachers. I would beg for them to leave these congregations, either in personal conversations with them, or via social media like Facebook and Twitter. As the years passed and the more I would study God’s word, I would come to see things through a different perspective; a Biblical one. I would come to learn that instead of focusing so much on the false teacher (which is mightily important), I would also learn that the Bible clearly teaches about those who sit under their care.
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4
As the John 10, and 2 Timothy passages mention above, people under the care of these false teachers often are doing exactly what they want to do. The false Gospel they’re hearing really is the good news for them, and the false hope it promises (material blessings, victory over sickness, miraculous healing, money, power, etc.), is something that they really do crave and desire. I would argue that people under these false teachers often get a pass for their actions, but if we would just look a little more closely we would see what truly is in their hearts. Often our desire is that they would just hear the true Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they would leave these congregations and sit under solid biblical teaching. This is an important truth and one we should never stop pursuing. However, I would remind Christians that more often that not it’s the true Gospel of Christ that actually might be keeping these people in these churches, and under these false teachers.
Because it’s the story of Christs’ finished works that simply isn’t interesting enough for them. In fact, it might even seem boring. The actual idea of people taking the focus off of themselves for once, and instead looking to Jesus Christ is not sufficient for them. The idea of putting an end to trusting in their own righteousness, and understanding that it’s Christs’ perfect righteousness that’s imputed into the believer doesn’t carry much weight either. Again, the Bible encourages people to see their sin, understand how much God hates sin (Isaiah 53:10), and then understand that sin is not in some cloud hovering over the local ghetto or state penitentiary, but that it’s in their heart and that they’re in need of a perfect savior. What false teachers have in common is that they push people away from Christ and His works, and focus inward to our own. This distorts the Gospel, waters down sin, and makes the Gospel something that needs to be improved upon instead of the power for salvation that it is.
The beauty of the Gospel is that it really does work! It actually fulfills the promises that it makes. Through the Gospel, Jesus really does give sight to the blind. Through the Gospel hearts of stone are really removed and replaced with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). It’s the Gospel that makes a new creation out of it’s New Covenant members (2 Corinthians 5:17), forgiving the sins of all who are members of this New Covenant, as only those with the promised Holy Spirit belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). The Bible does not give us any example of people being a member of the New Covenant in an outward or external sense, but that’s another story for a different day… 😉
So What Now?
As John 10 mentions above, the sheep will ultimately hear the voice of their Lord which will result in them following Him. What’s amazing is that they will also hear the voice of the false teacher and eventually see him/her for what they truly are, a stranger. As they flee from these strangers we should be willing and ready to point them to Christ and His Gospel. My prayers need to be directed at Christ calling His own to Himself, giving them eyes to see and ears to hear. My Hope needs to be in His promise that he will fulfill this mission (John 6:39), and that I can have peace in the midst of so many false teachers because His own will eventually hear His voice for He knows them, they will know Him (Jeremiah 31:34), and He calls them by name. If you have a friend, loved one, or family member in one of these churches I encourage you to look to Gods Word and His promises. Learning how God saves people, how these false teachers will answer to Him, and how His sheep respond to His voice can be a great encouragement for you, and help you evangelize to them.