One of the common conversations taking place in back seat of my car is a discussion between my children asking, “What does that road sign mean?” One of the very interesting signs you see on the road is warning signs. Warning signs on the road are important because they help regulate our driving activity, but they also inform us of a potential danger so that we can be protected.
As you take time to read the Scriptures you will come across many warnings signs. One of a regular warning signs that appear and you cannot miss is a warning concerning false teaching. Have you ever noticed how much of the Scripture is devoted to warning again false prophets, false teachers and false shepherds? These warnings assume the fact that there will be individuals in the church who are going to claim to be Christians and authorized teachers.
Just as we ought to be thankful for clear warning signs on the road, we ought to be especially grateful and familiar with the warning signs in Scripture. They are there to help regulate our thinking and warn us against impending danger. In my next two posts I will discuss the methods of a false teacher and the marks of a false teacher.
THE METHODS OF A FALSE TEACHER
In is the familiar story of the Shepherd and the Sheep. In this passage Jesus speaks of a sheepfold, sheep, a door, a gatekeeper, thieves and robbers, and the shepherd. The thieves and robbers sneak into the sheepfold whereas the shepherd goes through the gate. The thieves and robbers enter so as to steal and destroy, whereas the shepherd comes to save and sanctify. So what we will see in this passage is a contrast between Jesus who is the true Shepherd and the Pharisees who are false shepherds. I would like to use the opening verses of this passage as a way to unmask the methods of false teachers.
The normal way to ender the sheepfold was through the gate. However, Jesus points out that there are those who climb into the fold using a different and deceptive way. Their method is wrong, deceitful and according to their own desires. What is Jesus talking about here? Jesus is saying that there are certain individuals who had crept into roles of authority without being authorized. They are doing it on their terms and not God’s terms.
How does this relate to the Pharisees and modern false teachers? Despite their claims, the Pharisees did not draw their authority from the Scriptures but from tradition. This means that when they were teaching the people of Israel, they were not doing this according to God’s authorized method. Instead, they were self-styled shepherds doing God’s business their way.
There are many people today who find themselves in positions of authority in the church and they teach and preach, but when one carefully examines what they are saying it is based on tradition. You even have others who preach but the basis of their message is drawn from their own experience. Some people have based an entire theology on an unverified and even bizarre experience. Whether it be a dream, a voice or gold dust falling from the ceiling, . They will have crowds following them, reading their books and lapping up their teaching. Sadly, in the end these teachers are not standing on the Word of God, but on tradition or experience. We should beware of any teacher who propagates ideas and teaching that is drawn from tradition or their own experience.
Notice that Jesus calls the individual using this method of entering the sheepfold “a thief and a robber” (10:1). Why is that? Their method actually reveals what their motive is. They are cunning, crafty and self-absorbed. On another occasion, Jesus boldly said to the Pharisees,
The methods false teachers will employ include things like, spiritual intimidation, worldliness, an emphasis on money and softened messages. This is because their authority is not based on the Word of God, but rather is drawn from things like tradition and experience.
False teachers are not interested in seeing their follows know Christ and grow in Him. What they are really interested in is the satisfaction of their own desires. Whether it is seen in the accumulating of wealth or popularity, they are nothing more than thieves and robbers.
10:1 “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. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.