Seven Characteristics Of False Teachers by Thomas Brooks(1608-1680)
That Satan labors might and main, by false teachers, which are his messengers and ambassadors, to deceive, delude, and for ever undo the precious souls of men.
So guard yourselves and Gods people. Feed and shepherd Gods flockhis church, purchased with his own bloodover which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. (Acts 20:28-30)
These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve. (2 Cor. 11:13-15)
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We wont be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! They are the kind who work their way into peoples homes and win the confidence of vulnerable women who are burdened with the guilt of sin and controlled by various desires. (2 Tim. 3:4-6)
They must be silenced, because they are turning whole families away from the truth by their false teaching. And they do it only for money. Even one of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons. (Titus 1:11-12)
They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception. They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. (2 Peter 2:18-19)
I saw that the prophets of Samaria were terribly evil, for they prophesied in the name of Baal and led my people of Israel into sin. (Jer. 23:13)
This is what the Lord says: You false prophets are leading my people astray! You promise peace for those who give you food, but you declare war on those who refuse to feed you. (Micah 3:5)
Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. (Mat. 7:15)
Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. (Phil. 3:2)
Now, the best way to deliver poor souls from being deluded and destroyed by these messengers of Satan is, to discover them in their colors, that so, being known, poor souls may shun them, and fly from them as from hell itself.
Now you may know them by the following characteristics:
THE FIRST CHARACTER
False teachers are men-pleasers (Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:1-4). They preach more to please the ear than to profit the heart:
Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophecy no unto us right things: speak to us smooth things; prophecy deceits (Isa. 30:10).
A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so. And what will you do in the end thereof? (Jer. 5:30,31).
They handle holy things rather with wit and dalliance (playful come-on) then with fear and reverence. False teachers are soul-undoers. They are like evil surgeons that skin over the wound, but never heal it. Flattery undid Ahab and Herod, Nero and Alexander. False teachers are hells greatest enrichers. Not bitter, but flattering words do all the mischief, said Valerian, the Roman emperor. Such smooth teachers are sweet soul-poisoners (Jer. 23:16,17).
THE SECOND CHARACTER
False teachers are notable in casting dirt, scorn, and reproach upon the persons, names, and credits of Christs most faithful ambassadors. Thus Korah, Dathan, and Abiram charged Moses and Aaron that they took too much upon them, seeing all the congregation was holy (Num. 16:3). You take too much state, too much power, too much honor, too much holiness upon you; for what are you more than others, that you take so much upon you? And so Ahabs false prophets fell foul on good Micaiah, paying of him with blows for want of better reasons (1 Kings 22:10-26). Yea, Paul, that great apostle of the Gentiles, had his ministry undermined and his reputation blasted by false teachers:
For his letters say they, are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak and contemptible (2 Cor. 10:10).
They rather contemn him than admire him; they look upon him as a dunce rather than a doctor. And the same hard measure had our Lord Jesus from the Scribes and Pharisees, who labored as for life to build their own credit upon the ruins of his reputation. And never did the devil drive a more full trade this way than he does in these days (Matt. 27:63). Oh! the dirt, the filth, the scorn that is thrown upon those whom the world is not worthy. I suppose false teachers mind not that saying of Austin, He that willingly takes from my good name, unwillingly adds to my reward.
THE THIRD CHARACTER
False teachers are venters of the devices and visions of their own heads and hearts.
Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent then not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophecy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart (Jer. 14:14)
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophecy unto you; they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord (Jer. 23:16).
Are there not multitudes in this nation whose visions are but golden delusions, lying vanities, brainsick fantasies? These are Satans great benefactors, and such as divine justice will hang up in hell as the greatest malefactors, if the physician of souls does not prevent it.
THE FOURTH CHARACTER
False teachers easily pass over the great and weighty things both of law and gospel, and stand most upon those things that are of the least moment and concernment to the souls of men.
Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned; from which some have swerved, have turned aside unto vain jangling, desiring to be teachers of the law, and understand neither what they say nor whereof they affirm (1 Tim. 1:5-7).
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Matt. 23:2,3).
False teachers are nice in the lesser things of the law, and as negligent in the greater.
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strife of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself (1 Tim. 6:3-5).
If such teachers are not hypocrites in gain, I know nothing, Romans 2:22. The earth groans to bear them, and hell is fitted for them, Matt. 24:32.
THE FIFTH CHARACTER
False teachers cover and color their dangerous principles and soul-impostures with very fair speeches and plausible pretenses, with high notions and golden expressions. Many in these days are bewitched and deceived, viz. illumination, revelation, deification, fiery triplicity. As prostitutes paint their faces, and deck and perfume their beds, the better to allure and deceive simple souls (Gal. 6:12; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Rom. 16:17,18; Mat. 16:6,11,12; 7:15), so false teachers will put a great deal of paint and garnish upon their most dangerous principles and blasphemies, that they may the better deceive and delude poor ignorant souls. They know sugared poison goes down sweetly; they wrap up their pernicious, soul-killing pills in gold.
THE SIXTH CHARACTER
False teachers strive more to win over men to their opinions, than to better them in their conversations.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves (Matt. 24:17).
They busy themselves most about mens heads. Their work is not to better mens hearts, and mend their lives; and in this they are very much like their father the devil, who will spare no pains to gain proselytes.
THE SEVENTH CHARACTER
False teachers make merchandise of their followers.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not (2 Peter 2:1-3).
They eye your goods more than your good; and mind more the serving of themselves, than the saving of your souls. So they may have your substance, they care not though Satan has your souls (Rev. 18:11-13). That they may the better pick your purse, they will hold forth such principles as are very indulgent to the flesh. False teachers are the great worshippers of the golden calf (Jer. 6:13).
Now, by these characters you may know them, and so shun them, and deliver your souls out of their dangerous snares; which that you may, my prayers shall meet-yours at the throne of grace.