The Devil has invaded professing Christian churches on a dramatic scale unbeknownst to their multitude of followers.
The New Testament writers warned repeatedly about false prophets and false teachers, as did Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:15, Matthew 16:6). The history of God’s relationship with Israel is full of examples of false teachers leading God’s people astray. The Bible even tells us how they enticed people! False teachers have always been present, and they always will be. How can you know if you are following a false teacher?
What’s so alluring about false teachers? We learn from Israel’s example that they tell people what they want to hear. The people want to follow them since they already want what the prophet says to be true. In the Old Testament, God’s messengers often had to tell people things they didn’t want to hear, which led to several of the prophets’ deaths. Instead, the Israelites wanted false “prophets” who would tell them “smooth things” (Isaiah 30:10). Essentially, they wanted to be told that they weren’t doing anything wrong or that God wasn’t going to punish them for the evil they had done.
God did not leave His people, past and present, without a means of rooting out false teachers. Instead, He gave us a powerful tool for doing so: the Bible! Since the Word of God is truth (John 17:17), we can use it to judge whether someone is teaching spiritual truth or spiritual falsehood. Either their words are compatible with the Bible or they aren’t. God, in His wisdom, identified for us a specific part of His Word that false teachers would be particularly drawn to distorting.
“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).
What “law” was God (through Isaiah) talking about? The Hebrew word for “law” is torah. The Old Testament consistently equates this same word with the commandments that God revealed to Israel under the Old Covenant. This law includes the seventh-day Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), the Holy Days (Leviticus 23), the dietary laws (Leviticus 11), laws on tithing, and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).
This realization begs a question that may make you uncomfortable. Is the statement about judging teachers according to the law of God still true today? The majority of churches today teach that the law—or at least some part of it—is no longer in effect. If some part of the law has been undone, then the test that God provided in Isaiah 8:20 is no longer useful. In such a case, it’s natural to ask, “What laws are in effect?” That way we can accurately judge false teachers against God’s law. The Bible provides no list of un- commandments, so how can we possibly pick out a false teacher this way? Jesus made a clear statement so we would know without a doubt which parts of God’s law are still in effect!
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).
During Christ’s time on earth, no one was confused over what “law” He was referring to. Just like Isaiah, Christ was referring to the law of God revealed to Israel by Moses. Heaven and earth have not passed away—neither at Jesus’ death nor at His resurrection. In fact, prophecy tells us that heaven and earth will not pass away until after the second coming of Jesus Christ and the judgment of “the rest of the dead” (Revelation 20:5 to 21:2). According to Jesus, the entire law is still valid for Christians living today.
However, some parts of the law are fulfilled for us in Christ, and these parts are specifically identified for us in the New Testament. Hebrews 7:26-27 clearly says that Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins once for all. He fulfilled the multitude of sacrificial laws in a better way. That same passage also shows that Jesus is our High Priest. Jesus also fulfilled the laws concerning the priesthood in a better way than flawed men ever could. Romans 2:28-29 shows that circumcision of the heart fulfills the law of circumcision in a better way than circumcision of the flesh. The New Testament writers carefully informed us of these changes in how the law is fulfilled. They are consistent with the fact that Jesus came to “magnify the law” (Isaiah 42:21) and “not to destroy, but to fulfill” the law (Matthew 5:17). In every case, the law is not abolished--it is upheld!
And this brings us back to the topic of false teachers. Extremely few churches today teach God’s law is relevant for Christians. They teach that you don’t have to rest on the seventh day. They say the day of worship is changed to Sunday and you can work on it if you want to. They tell you that you shouldn’t celebrate God’s Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23. They say that you should instead celebrate some other holidays that aren’t commanded by God. They want you to believe that you aren’t subject to any dietary restrictions. They say that you can eat any animal you want.
Which message do you want to hear? Do you want to hear that you must do things the way God wants? Or would you rather hear that you can do things the way you want? Remember how false teachers lure us in. They gain our trust by telling us what we want to hear rather than the truth. We naturally agree with a commandment that’s morally obvious, such as “do not murder.” As a result, not many false teachers preach in favor of murder. On the other hand, we’re naturally opposed to someone controlling our free time. That’s why false teachers can get away with teaching against “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” In reality, both keeping the Sabbath and not murdering are part of the Ten Commandments. To be a false teacher, someone only has to reject one commandment of God to gain favor with people who naturally want to break that commandment.
False teachers often don’t know that they’re wrong and are typically sincere in their beliefs. The prevalence of false teachers is due more to spiritual blindness than outright deceit. Spiritual blindness is a product of Satan’s influence, and the Bible teaches that Satan “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Satan is the ultimate false teacher, and He has invaded professing Christian churches on a dramatic scale unbeknownst to their multitude of followers.
God allows this widespread spiritual blindness to persist for now, but He’s also opening the eyes of a select few people to see His truth! Jesus Himself said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). If you feel that God is extending that calling to you, then do not be as Israel was: “...a rebellious people... children who will not hear the Law of the Lord, who say...to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things’” (Isaiah 30:9-10).