My teenage years were spent in prodigal living. I was horribly addicted to drugs by the time I was 17. After the Lord rescued and redeemed me, I heard someone liken false teaching to drugs. He said, “Heretics are like drug addicts. Those who do drugs think that they are doing themselves good, when, in fact, they are progressively destroying themselves. So, those who play with false teaching will be subject to its destructive influence.” This is an apropos illustration. False teaching has a progressively destructive influence on the life of the one who entertains it.
Quite a number of theologians have insisted that if there were no false teaching, there would be no New Testament. So much of the New Testament is taken up with apostolic warnings about the many varieties of false teaching that had infiltrated the fledgling churches and threatened the spiritual life of those Christ had redeemed. Characteristic of the pastoral letters is the Apostle Paul’s insistence that ministers of the gospel must be on guard against the subtle ways in which false teaching wrecks havoc.
The first thing we have to keep in mind is that words matter. There is no such thing as an inconsequential word. God spoke the world into existence by the Word of His power. He then spoke a Word to His image bearers about His intentions for them as residents of the habitable world over which He had given them dominion. If our first parents were to rightly interpret the newly created world in which they lived, they would need the Word of God to do so. After the fall, Adam and Eve needed God’s Word about the promise of redemption (Genesis 3:15). Listening to the revealed Word of God is the greatest need you and I have today.
It should then come as no surprise to us to discover that the attacks of the evil one are directed at the Word of God. After all, when he tempted our first parents, Satan’s first words were, “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1). The power of this temptation lay in the fact that the evil one sought to convince our first parents that it was a noble task for them to question the truthfulness of the Word of God. This continues to be his most potent attack on the members of the Church today.
Ministers of the gospel are “not to quarrel about words” (2 Timothy 2:14). Instead, they are to “avoid irreverent babble” that will “lead people into more and more ungodliness” (v. 16). There is a progressively destructive nature to false teaching. The more one entertains it—often under the guise of academic sophistication or open-mindedness—the more destructive influence it has on the minds, hearts, and lives of God’s people.
By way of contrast, the more we stay in the truth of God’s Word, the more it will impact our spiritual well-being. But, a failure to reject false teaching will cause those who propagate it to “swerve from the truth,” upsetting and weakening the faith of the members the Church (v. 18).
Written by Nick Batzig