2 Peter 2:1-3a
1) Vs. 1 They often prefer to operate “secretly,” behind the scenes, cutting some of God’s sheep out of His flock and into another group who follow the teachers’ spurious doctrines.
2) Vs. 1 Their teachings contain “destructive heresies.”
3) Vs. 1 “…even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them”
4) Vs. 3 “in their greed” — if a minister seems to be constantly asking for money, find the exit! I attended a series of evangelistic meetings many years ago. The speaker would take a minimum of a half hour in each meeting coercing a large offering for him with what I call “strong-arm” tactics. After four days of this, I found the exit.
5) Vs. 3 “These teachers will exploit you.” Ask yourself, does the minister seem to care genuinely for your growth, maturing, and victory in the Lord? Or do his interests seem to be foremost?
6) Vs. 3 “…with stories they have made up.” If you sense exaggeration, embellishment, or outright lies, those are marks of a false teacher.
7) Vs. 4 “…nor to devote themselves to myths” — a true bible teacher imparts the plain sense of Scripture. He does not need to put forth ear-tingling ideas to capture an audience.
8) Vs. 4 “nor … endless genealogies” — in the context Paul was addressing, this might have referred to Gnostic “insider information” genealogies. Or perhaps it was dealing with some aspect of the negative influence of some Judaizers, who were trying to get Christians back under Moses’ Law.
9) Vs. 4 “controversial speculations” (controversies, questions, endless arguments) — watch out if a teacher’s doctrines seem to cause a lot of dissension and conflict. By contrast, that which is of God tends to be “pure, peaceable, gentle” (James 3:17, KJV).
10) Vs. 4 “rather than advancing God’s work” — A false teacher’s message will not be likely to emphasize important facets of “God’s work,” such as prayer, evangelism, caring for people, showing mercy, missions, and other biblical endeavors. Rather, he’ll seem to have his own agenda.
11) Vs. 3 “false doctrines … [instead of] the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ” — the false teachers’ bogus doctrines do not focus on our Lord Jesus Christ. Be very much on your guard against a minister who does not consistently honor and glorify Jesus.
12) Vs. 3 “false doctrines … [in contradiction to] godly teaching” — the ministries of false teachers do not succeed in building holiness and godly character in the hearers.
13) Vs. 4 “He is conceited.” If a minister seems self-centered and full of himself, watch out! I was shocked once to hear a minister exclaim, “Lord, if you don’t come down here, I’m coming up there!” Such talk has no place in our relationship with the sovereign Lord God Almighty.
14) Vs. 4 “...an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words” — having lost sight of the Gospel, the false teacher may redirect his attention to controversial ideas and words.
15) Vss. 4-5 False teachers’ ministries tend to “result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction.” Jesus had taught us that “by their fruits you shall know them.” Given enough time, the false teacher will produce in himself and his hearers these negative results, which resemble the “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21, KJV) rather than the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
16) Vs. 5 “…who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” Watch out for teachers who have a major focus on serving God as a stepping stone to financial gain. They have conveniently overlooked the biblical warning that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10, NASB).
SUMMARY of 16 Characteristics of False Teachers:
In closing, my prayer is that these biblical warnings will help you sort out the true minister of God from the false one. May God establish each of you under the beneficial influence of pastors, teachers, church elders, and other godly ministers who will love you, will care for you, and by sound biblical preaching and teaching will help you grow in your faith and your relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
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©2015, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.