ROMANS 16:17-18: “Brothers and sisters, I urge you to watch out for those people who create divisions and who make others fall away [from the Christian faith] by teaching doctrine that is not the same as you have learned. Stay away from them. People like these are not serving Christ our Lord. They are serving their own desires. By their smooth talk and flattering words they deceive unsuspecting people.” (GW)
OBSERVATION: How can one discern those who are teaching the truth from those who are teaching false doctrine? Even at the time that Paul wrote his letter to the Roman Church, false doctrine had become a common place, so much so that Paul felt it necessary to warn them in these closing words from this Epistle. Today there is a plethora of false teaching of every kind waiting to lead the unassuming believer astray. How can one discern the truth from the error?
Jesus also warned about false teachers and doctrines that would lead men away from the truth. Both Jesus and Paul first point to a very obvious flaw within the false teacher. The false teacher is more concerned about himself then they are about the flock of God. Therefore, they quickly sow seeds of division among the believers. They are not concerned about the believer’s welfare. They are concerned about their own popularity and following. They constantly sow seeds of superiority and feign a “hidden knowledge” that they claim no one else knows. And all the while their personal lives lack the very moral fiber and character that is the true hallmark of one who is both living by and teaching the truth. Jesus said,
- “Beware of false prophets. They come to you disguised as sheep, but in their hearts they are vicious wolves. You will know them by what they produce. “People don’t pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles, do they? In the same way every good tree produces good fruit, but a rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a rotten tree cannot produce good fruit. Any tree that fails to produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into a fire. So you will know them by what they produce.” (Matthew 7:15-20 GW)
The second characteristic of a false teacher is that there teaching is not Christ-centric. It does not lead one to a full and complete dependence upon Jesus Christ, but leads them to a dependence upon a method of man made steps and doctrines. False teaching reestablishes the dependence upon the law as a means to righteousness. It is never enough to have faith in Christ. The false teacher requires faith in Christ – plus adherence to their own ideology and system. And those who do not follow this ideology are simply outside the realm of the enlightened. To the false teacher Jesus is but the beginning, not the end. To Paul – Jesus is the sum total of all truth. Jesus is Truth. Everything we are called to learn, do, and become is found in Christ alone!
Paul summarizes the activities of a false teacher – “…Stay away from them. People like these are not serving Christ our Lord. They are serving their own desires. By their smooth talk and flattering words they deceive unsuspecting people.” There is no middle ground when it comes to truth. Either truth leads us to Jesus Christ and full dependence upon Him, or it leads us away from Jesus Christ and a weak dependence upon man. A Christ centered life will lead to the fullness of truth and the outworking of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Jesus is our Savior, our Sanctifier, and our Full Redemption! He alone must be the center of all we do, all we teach, and all we become!
In Jesus Name!