We cannot defend the truth unless we know it first.
Acts 17:11 ESV “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them, the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
I will never forget turning on the Lakeland revival with Todd Bentley for the first time and being dumbfounded, at the irreverent behavior in the service, the crass stories he told, and the utter lack of Bible teaching. I thought to myself, “this won’t gain any traction.” But, sadly, I was mistaken. The charismatic world ate it up, and nine months later, everything ended in flames. But that wasn’t the end. A couple of years ago and way too late, a panel of charismatic ministers deemed Bentley unfit for ministry. But, unfortunately, that didn’t stop his ministry or deter the biggest names in the movement from standing with him and disparaging the panel. It was at that moment I realized the complete spiritual bankruptcy of the charismatic movement.
How did that happen? It’s simple. We quit comparing manifestations to the Word of God. We didn’t question teaching that seemed off, and when you did, you were accused of quenching the Spirit or operating in the spirit of a Pharisee. The problem is that mentality is contrary to Scripture. The looseness of the movement is what caused me to reexamine teachings and ultimately leave.
Unfortunately, the aversion to testing teaching and calling out false teaching isn’t only a problem within charismatic circles but the Church at large. We have put discernment on the shelf and value unity more than doctrinal accuracy. As a result, we are seeing second Peter play out before our eyes. Most in the Church today would condemn the Bereans for not just believing Paul because he’s Paul. But they did the right thing; they searched the Scriptures to see if Jesus fulfilled the prophecies to be the Messiah. There had been many false Messiah’s in Israel’s history, and they didn’t want to take Paul’s word for it just because he was a popular teacher.
We are commanded repeatedly in Scripture to test things. It’s time for us to take the many warnings more seriously. There have been false teachers in the Church from the very beginning, and that will never change. There will always be a fresh revelation, a new insight, or some twisting of doctrine contrary to what the Bible says. We need to know the Bible so that we can detect false teaching. In addition, we need to be acquainted with church history because all old heresies are repackaged for each generation.
Jude 1:3-4 ESV “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Deceived people and false teachers will always promote unity over dealing with false teaching. They’ll say things that are true but misapplied like, unity in essentials, but charity in non-essentials, they’ll say doctrine divides, and several other things to get you to not contend for the truth. When leaders start embracing unbiblical doctrines, they condemn those who call them out; they separate from faithful teachers whom they once associated. Some even begin uniting with false religions, or at minimum, say we can learn from them.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV “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.”
Don’t let that be you; hold fast to the Word of God, test things that you hear. We don’t need to be afraid of false teaching, but we need to be able to recognize it. You can more easily recognize false teaching by reading the old books of men like Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, and the Puritans. Learn about the heresies condemned in the past so you can recognize them when they are repackaged for our day.