Wednesday, August 25, 2010

True and False Teachers

If there is one thing that Christianity produces a lot of, it is teachings and teachers. In a way, this is as it should be—the Great Commission of Jesus to the church is to “teach”, “proclaim” and “evangelize.” However, everyone agrees that not all teaching is equal, and some teaching is acceptable, while others are not. But how are we to evaluate teaching? How can we determine what is “good Christian teaching” and what needs to be rejected as false?
The primary understanding we have of anything “Christian” is whether they follow the teaching and example of Jesus and the apostles. This is not to say that there might not be many models of Christian education, but it is on the basis of Jesus’ principles that we can call something “Christian” or not. Here are some principles that Jesus taught was characteristic of teaching that represents Jesus:

1. Jesus’ teaching and life is the basis of the content of the teaching
Jesus alone is the one who explains the teaching of God and helps us know what we are to believe and how we are to live. Jesus alone is our teacher (Matthew 23:10), and whether a teaching’s content is true or false is based on whether it is in agreement with the teaching of Jesus or not (I Timothy 6; II John). The commands we are to teach are the commands of Jesus.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Is Jesus only one source of many equals that one gains knowledge from?
 Is Jesus’ teaching secondary to a theology, philosophy or practice?
 Is right or wrong determined by community standards, not the New Testament?

2. Only well-trained disciples should teach.
Jesus said that a fully trained teacher is one who acts like the Teacher, Jesus (Luke 6:40). The main characteristic of a teacher should be Christ-likeness. A teacher should not only teach well, but have a life to back it up.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Is the main requirement of a teacher their education?
 Is the main requirement of a teacher that they be popular?
 Is the main requirement of a teacher that they have a particular philosophy?

3. The teaching encourages disciples to enact righteousness
The content of Jesus’ teaching was to “repent” and the disciples taught that right belief was represented by right action. Even as teachers should provide an example of proper living, they should also teach this in line with Jesus’ teachings.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Do teachers encourage people to act in opposition to Jesus’ commands?
 Does the teaching never talk about correct action or righteousness?

4. Teachers have control over their speech at all times
A person’s action and speech reflects who they really are. A teacher of Jesus would take care over every word they speak, not just while they are teaching. Jesus taught that we would be judged for every “careless word” we speak (Matthew 12:33-37)—and this is especially true for those who claim to be speaking for God.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Does the teacher say foolish, hurtful or rude things on a regular basis?
 Does the teacher use humor as excuse to use evil speech?
 Does the teacher participate in gossip?

5. Teaching is offered to everyone, especially the lowly.
Jesus specifically sought out the outcast and needy to receive his message. Jesus said that God has chosen the poor and foolish to accomplish his purposes in the world. Disciples are specifically to be made up of the lowly, as well as others.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Does the ministry exclude some because of economic or social inabilities?
 Does the teaching specifically put down or exclude people based on economic or social lowliness?
 Does the ministry show favoritism for the wealthy or popular?

6. The teaching is in a context of mercy, not judgement
Jesus said that we would know true or false teachers by whether they were focusing on condemning others or if they are interested in showing mercy to all, offering God’s forgiveness and grace to everyone (Luke 6:36-42).
 Is the teacher only interested in condemning people?
 Does the teaching offer hope for everyone?
 Is the teaching prejudiced against some social groups?
 Does the teaching refuse forgiveness for some sins?

7. The teaching is given without cost.
Jesus said, “Freely you have received, freely give.” Jesus gave his teaching without cost to all who wanted it, and insisted that his disciples do the same. Anyone who charges for their teaching up front is opposed to Jesus’ methods of teaching.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Is money required up front before you can receive the teaching?
 Does the teacher have an extravagant lifestyle?
 Does the ministry give to the needy of their excess or do they keep the money for its own benefit?

8. Teachers are supported by the people of God.
Jesus said in reference to his teachers, “the laborer deserves to be paid.” (Luke 10:7). A teacher gains his livelihood from the people of God in gratitude for the message he or she is giving. This is offered by donations.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Does the teacher receive a commission for sales of his teaching?
 Does the teacher require a salary, payment and/or benefits package?
 Is the teacher not allowed to receive gifts or donations from those who benefit from the teaching?

9. The goal of the teaching is to create disciples of Jesus
Jesus said that the purpose of the ministry of the disciples is to “make disciples of all nations”. (Matthew 28:18-20). This is the only work that builds the kingdom of God, and the work Jesus wants us to do.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Does the ministry have goals other than building a community of disciples?
 Is the heart of the ministry other than making disciples, such as a building program, a political agenda, etc.?
 Does the ministry do anything, which discourages believers from being disciples?

10. Teaching is to be done with authority.
Jesus’ teaching was accompanied by healings and exorcisms. He said that the teaching of the disciples would be accompanied by healings and greater works.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Does the ministry or teacher try to stop works of the Spirit?
 Is there opportunity given for prayer for the sick or exorcisms?
 Is there evidence of the power of the Spirit among those in the ministry?
 Does the teacher speak with authority, or on the basis of scholarship?

11. Teaching is to be done in humility
Jesus taught against the Pharisees who loved titles and wanted the best places at the banquets. The true teacher of Jesus is humble, not seeking praise of men, but looking for God’s approval and reward alone.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
 Does the teacher allow his titles to be emphasized?
 Is the teacher trying to be popular?
 Does the teacher try to give himself positions of power?

12. Teaching is done in the context of service
Jesus said that the leaders of His church are to be servants, not "lords". This means that all in leadership need to be focused on the needs of the people and all leaders-- including teachers-- need to be participating in the lowly service of ministry.
Signs that a teaching ministry is not Christian:
Does the teacher refuse to do service because it isn't his "job" or "gifting"?
Does the teacher hold the poor in disdain?
Does the ministry not offer any real help to the needy?

1 comment:

  1. Clearly scriptural and faithful evidences of false teachers. Well done!

    However, I am a little confused about this one: Does the ministry or teacher try to stop works of the Spirit?

    Care to illuminate a cessationist? I believe in miracles as an exception, not a rule, today and that signs and wonders are not in use except to deceive the foolish (the so-called Lakeland "Revival" for example)-2 Thess 2:9. I believe they were only used to prove to pagans and others that the original Apostles had authority from God. -Romans 15:19, 2 Cor 12:12, Hebrews 2:3-4 (attested by those who heard Jesus. Many, if not all, of these scriptures appearing to be past tense.