Have you ever slummed through a sermon by a preacher like Steven Furtick or Andy Stanley? Have you ever really just sat and listened to them preach. It’s easy to be drawn in to the charismatic mood changing, emotionally-driven style of speech or worship. They quote from Scripture and speak with such passion that can leave you wondering, how could someone so passionate about what they’re saying be so off?
Someone who seems to be so dedicated to their teachings — so caring and so loving towards their congregations — how can they be so far removed from the truth? Does God actually allow teachers who are truly dedicated to him and his word to be raised up undisciplined and allowed to shepherd a flock of such magnitude without any accountability to his truth? Can a false teacher be saved and just be wrong? Or are these truly wolves in sheep’s clothing who are on their way to Hell?
Ever since the fall of God’s creation through Adam, man has been a slave to sin (Romans 5:12). Sin affects every aspect of our lives. It affects the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we perceive and understand things as well as the way we communicate. It affects our desires, our motives, and our purposes. Apart from Christ, we are inseparable from sin.
Yet, God chose to allow sin to flourish without an immediate end to it. Instead of instantaneously stopping sin, he has chosen to redeem us through Christ while allowing sin to continue as we suffer the temporal consequences of it. As a result of our sin, 1 Corinthians 2:14 says
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Apart from God, man — in his own state of sin — will not and cannot accept the truth.
So why do so many false teachers seem to be so caring, passionate, and sincere?
One thing you will notice with false teachers is that they always want to downplay the importance that Scripture places on warning against false teachers. You may hear defenses like “The Bible doesn’t say a whole lot about false teachers, so we really shouldn’t be too concerned with it,” or “Christians need to stop bickering and judging each other, and just be more loving and Christ-like.” Some false teachers, like Beth Moore, will refer to their critics as “scoffers,” who are “stopping unity.”
Christine Caine of Hillsong — in the video below — twists Scripture to make a point about an unbiblical form of unity.
Steven Furtick (below) refers to discerning believers as “haters” and says that they are afraid of change or afraid of anything that is “new” and “different.”
But they always make it sound like anyone that is against them, or their unbiblical teachings, are somehow working against God and his people. However, this common unifying trait among false teachers is necessary for their survival and even their thriving within the visible church. They have to devalue the importance of biblical discernment while making it look like they are being more discerning by doing so. It’s trickery.
They must also maintain control and dominion over their congregations. If you remember the story of Jezebel, one of her characteristics was to maintain spiritual control over people. When she became queen, she eradicated all of God’s prophets and replaced God’s altars with those of Baal (1 Kings 18:4, 13). But she didn’t just take control of people by force. She was cunningly deceptive. Her doctrine (1 Kings 21:1-29), cleverly dubbed The Jezebel Doctrine, is strikingly similar to what we know today as the Prosperity Gospel. This false prophetess seduced her husband Ahab by only “prophesying” good things and endorsing covetousness. Teachers and pastors who are seduced by these spirits maintain that they are one hundred percent right and can not be corrected.
These people can stand in front of crowds and elicit real emotional responses — even tears. They appeal to the worldly senses of people and carnal desires of their nature. Their impassioned speeches are often intertwined with a seemingly supernatural sense of urgency coupled with breathlessness, sweating, and even cracking voices — that to the undiscerning person — can feel surreal in nature.
“This person must be passionate about God,” one thinks. But the Bible says that even Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). False teachers are very good at deception (Matthew 24:23–27), and have many tactics that they use to carry out their sinful purpose (2 Peter 3:3). And often, they may not even realize that they are a false teacher as they have been deceived themselves (2 Tim 3:13).
The fact of the matter is, often, they are passionate about what they are saying, and they do, very often, believe the lies that come from their own lips. They are in fact so passionate about it that they will use whatever method they deem necessary to get you to believe it as well — and this most often involves evoking your emotions through deceitful tactics.
Can false teachers be saved?
First, I want to be clear, I’m not referring to the average preacher, or Bible teacher, who sincerely has a desire to see people be saved, but may have some doctrinal errors that don’t affect one’s salvation. I’m referring to those who deliberately and unrepentantly teach a message contrary to the Gospel of salvation by grace. Those teachers who, for example, would lead people into believing that they are saved apart from Christ’s teachings. People like Beth Moore who leads Catholics to believe they are part of Christ’s church, or Steven Furtick, who preaches a false prosperity gospel. The Bible teaches that those teaching these doctrines are the enemy of the Gospel. 2 Peter 2:1 says:
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.
Scripture also teaches that those who are truly saved do not depart from the faith (1 Cor. 15:1-2). Preaching a false gospel would certainly be a departure from the faith. The Bible refers to saved people as “believers” (Acts 5:14; 1 Tim. 4:12). But if you are teaching and/or believing something contrary to the truth, how can you be a believer? This isn’t to say that a false teacher can’t ultimately repent and be saved, but you can’t be actively teaching a false gospel while believing the true one.
Further, one of the marks of a saved person is the act of God’s discipline on his children. Hebrews 12:7-8 says:
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
God disciplines his children — his believers — just like we discipline our own children. We don’t generally go around disciplining other people’s children. As with God, he doesn’t go around disciplining those who are not adopted into his family through Christ. I’m not saying he doesn’t punish, but punishment and discipline are two different things. Discipline is to correct inappropriate behavior. False teachers generally lack any discipline in their lives and doctrine.
Punishment, on the other hand, is God’s wrath. God hates those who are contrary to his nature (Psalm 5:4-6; 11:5, Proverbs 6:16-19), and desires to take his wrath out on them. In the Book of 1 Kings chapter 11, Solomon’s heart was turned against God, and God raised up an adversary against him. This was for the purpose of tearing Solomon’s kingdom away from him. So we know that God does raise up enemies, but this enemy was raised up for the purpose of God’s judgment.
Do false teachers serve the purpose of God’s judgment in this way? Does God raise up false teachers to serve his purpose of turning over the unrighteous to their sinful lusts and desires? Yes. False teachers do fulfill God’s purpose — they are not a random phenomenon.
I’ll leave it with this Scripture, Romans 1:18-31:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.