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Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 23:16-22

False Teachers Among You


1.  A spirit of accommodation has spread among us:

   a.  With worldliness (dress, speech, entertainment, values,...)

   b.  Fellowship with teachers and practitioners of error (MDR, worship, work, organization, moral issues), 2 Cor 6:14; Eph 5:11; 2 Jno 9-11.

2.  Fashionable to suggest that a person cannot be called a false teacher or position labeled false doctrine unless it can be proved the teacher is insincere or dishonest.

3.  Results include:

   a.  We must read hearts in order to determine a false teacher.

   b.  Bible not clear enough for definitive positions to be held, preached and applied to our fellowship.

   c.   Unassailable positions and open-ended fellowship (unity in doctrinal and moral diversity).



   A.  A Prominent View among Brethren:

    1.  Dishonest motives and/or ignorance of the subject. (Ed Harrell)

    2.  cf. Homer Hailey (Ed Harrell, FC, 1991)

    3.  “False doctrine” is an unscriptural term.

*  4.  So, we are told a person is not a false teacher unless there exists:

      a.  Dishonest motives (Hypocrite; teaches error with a conscious intent to deceive). (He knowingly and deliberately teaches error.)

      b.  Insincerity and ignorance of the issue.

      c.  "False doctrine” is an unscriptural term. (R. Andrew Parker)

    5.  On this basis:  Must receive every teacher and saint we judge to be: sincere, honest and spiritual! (Why not Oral Roberts? ... Ed Harrell, Preface to Oral Roberts biography, p. ix, par. 4)

  B.  Bible Definition of False Teacher.

    1.  Honesty, sincerity and knowledge of the teacher do not determine whether his teaching is true or false. These are motives by which he teaches (whether truth or error).

    2.  Dishonesty and insincerity may exist, but their presence is not the basis for determining the truth of teacher’s doctrine, Phil 1:15-18.

         a.  False (pseudos): “Falsehood, perversion of religious truth” (Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised, Moulton).

         b.  False teacher (psuedodidaskalos): “One who inculcates false doctrines.”

    3.  In the NT, false teachers

         a.  Promote destructive heresies (opinions, sects) opposed to truth, 2 Pet 2:1-2 (cf. 1:19-21).

         b.  Cause divisions and stumbling contrary to the doctrine learned, Rom 16:17.

         c.   Teach contrary to sound doctrine, 1 Tim 1:10-11.

         d.   Contrary doctrine is prohibited, even though the teacher is an angel or an apostle, Gal 1:8-9 (2:11-14).

         e.   False prophets are assessed by his teaching, not by his moral character, 1 Jno 4:1, 6. (This does not condone immorality; God judges that, too!)

*  4.  Teaching takes its nature (good or evil, moral or immoral, lie or truth) from its relation to God’s revelation, not from the attitude of heart with which one engages in it:

      a.  Nadab and Abihu, Lev 10:1-3. Who doubts their good intentions? Yet, these “teachers” taught error by their actions.

      b.  Saul was no less a blasphemer because he was honest, sincere and ignorant, Acts 23:1; 26:9 -- 1 Tim 1:13.

*  5.  Same holds true for a teaching and its teacher!

      a.  Erred from truth (nothing of dishonesty, insincerity, ignorance), 2 Tim 2:16-18.

      b.  Can be deceived in error; it is still “evil”, 2 Tim 3:13 (Matt 15:14).



  A.  To Identify a False Teacher We would have to Read a Man’s Heart.

    1.  Jesus can read hearts; we cannot, Jno 2:25; Matt 9:4.

    2.  Miraculous gift of discerning spirits has ended (1 Cor 12:10).

    3.  Not heart readers; fruit testers, 1 Cor 2:11; Matt 7:15-20; 1 Jno 4:1, 6.

    4.  Objective standard of testing: Revealed, inspired word of God.

    5.  cf. Baptist on Acts 2:38 (“because of”): Honest and sincere; wrong!

    6.  cf. Brother on remaining in adulterous remarriage after baptism: Honest, sincere -- But wrong.

      a.  Why is the Baptist wrong (and reject in fellowship) though he is sincere and honest, but a brother can be received into fellowship because he is sincere and honest in his error?

      b. Do only members of the church of Christ have honest hearts??

 *   c.  Or, have we loosened our view of fellowship to avoid controversy, and make error a matter of subjectivity?

  B.  The Clarity and Absolute Authority of Gospel Truth is Doubted.

    1.  “Always been differences”; So many different positions held by sincere men, how can we be confident of the truth?

    2.  Sam Dawson on differences. Same appeal is made for institutions, sponsoring churches, instrumental music, ad infinitum.

       -This objection is based on men and not God, 1 Cor 4:6.

    3.  This ultimately makes God’s word suspect on all disputed subjects.

       -Deity of Jesus, plan of salvation; work of church; ad infinitum. Rom 3:4; 2 Cor 11:3-5; Eph 3:3-4; 5:17; 2 Tim 2:15

*  4.  We are becoming a people who are willing to compromise the purity and clarity of truth for the sake of peace, friendships and relationships with family and the world. (Matt 10:34-37) Jer 6:14

  C.  It will become Impossible to Close the Door to any Error.

    1.  Anyone with sincere heart and honest motives must be received upon the basis being advocated some brethren. 

    2.  Baptist with his plan of salvation; the homosexual’s advocacy for  acceptance; the woman’s “right” to preach; the Christian’s “liberty” to drink and dance socially -- No stopping place!

    3.  Contending for the faith will be hindered, opposed and rejected, Jude 3.



1.  Some brethren say we are being alarmists, watchdogs, legalists and extremists. But the fact is that more and more brethren are taking looser and looser views on moral and doctrinal purity (including but not limited to MDR and fellowship). Jer 5:30-31; Isa 30:9-11

2.  This will not end (is not ending) with MDR; Error never does.

3.  Ignoring the problem only gives error freedom to spread. Instead, we must equip ourselves with the truth to combat error and its teachers and the moral courage to do so (2 Pet 1:5; 1 Tim 6:12). We must uphold and support the defense of the truth. We must strive for proper fellowship with God and our brethren (1 Jno 1:3-4).






·   Ed Harrell:


“A false teacher is surely one whose dishonest motives and/or ignorance distinguish him from the sincere brother who has reached an erroneous conclusion.”

Ed Harrell

“Homer Hailey: False Teacher?,” Christianity Magazine, Nov., 1988, p. 9




“I do not regard Homer Hailey as a false teacher...because I am persuaded by his conduct and his arguments that he honestly believes that he is faithful to God’s teaching on the subject.”


Ed Harrell, “Divorce and Fellowship”

(Written speech at FC Open Forum, Feb 1991)



·   “False teacher” not a Bible term:


“You have noticed that I have said little about false doctrine. There is a reason for that: ‘false doctrine’ is an unscriptural term!”

R. Andrew Parker

Sentry Magazine, XVII:1, Mar 31, 1991)



“First, I judge Oral Roberts to be a sincere and honorable man. I would not make such a sweeping statement about many of the religious leaders I have studied...Nonetheless, I suspect that some readers will be troubled by an objective biography of Roberts which does not conclude with a harangue against religious quacks and profiteers. The facts simply will not bend to such a clear and moral interpretation.”

David Edwin Harrell

Oral Roberts: An American Life, ix


·   Samuel G. Dawson:


“There have been significant differences on these issues since the beginning of the restoration of the New Testament way of Christ in America …Campbell…Scott…Brewer…McGarvey…Lewis…Otey…Srygley…Hardeman …Whiteside… The point is that we regard these men as giants, and rightly so. We use their commentaries, often quote from them, and are thankful for their service. Why all of a sudden must we now press each other to draw lines of fellowship when men of similar stature have such differences?”


Samuel G. Dawson

Fellowship on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage, 23-24