The practice of vigilance in exposing falsehood

Acts 20:30-31 – Men will rise up even from your own number and distort the truth to lure the disciples into following them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I never stopped warning each one of you with tears.

As Paul was preparing to leave the Ephesian congregation, he gave an eloquent speech specifically to the leaders of the group, that they would remain as faithful overseers of the believers. He tasked them with remaining on the alert for false teachers, those who would distort the truth and gain followers who would abandon the Way for some other substitute.

His admonition to the leadership in Ephesus is one that we should heed today. There are scores of individuals and groups that promote falsehoods regarding the Bible, which is why the the Way of truth is so badly maligned and misunderstood in this generation.

1 Timothy 1:18-19 – Timothy, my son, I am giving you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies previously made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the good fight, having faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and have shipwrecked their faith.

Paul cautioned his protégé Timothy that retention of faith and a good conscience is a primary method of avoiding falsehood. Our consciences should never be jeopardized or silenced in the pursuit of godly living.

2 Timothy 2:16-19 – Avoid irreverent and empty speech, since those who engage in it will produce even more godlessness, and their teaching will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are among them. They have departed from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and are ruining the faith of some. Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, bearing this inscription: The Lord knows those who are his, and let everyone who calls on the name of the Lord turn away from wickedness.

Paul spares no words in calling out, by name, those who were representing falsehoods. The reason is that irreverent and empty speech, he says, spreads like gangrene and ruins the faith of those who are sincere. This type of false teaching can lead to wickedness and godlessness, the very things we are taught to turn away from.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 – For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.

This famous passage illustrates how false teaching can be identified by how it attempts to satisfy our own desires and cravings. Those who only listen to what they want to hear cannot have a full understanding of the truth of God which, many times, challenges and confronts us with our own wrong behaviors and attitudes.

Myths, like the Mormon stories of Jesus among the South Americans, or the Catholic concept of the Virgin Mary being sinless and also ascending to heaven, generate unnecessary complications over the truth and simplicity of the biblical narrative.

The apostle Peter, in like fashion to Paul, brazenly calls out the false prophets that were already evident among the congregations.

2 Peter 2:1-3 – There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved ways, and the way of truth will be maligned because of them. They will exploit you in their greed with made-up stories. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.

He mentions their ways were depraved, and how they were exploiting people with made-up stories for the sake of their own greed. A large number of “televangelists” such as Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Creflo Dollar, and Robert Schuller could easily fall under that banner. Hal Lindsey falsely predicted a rapture in 1981 with the end of the world in 1988. Harold Camping had a large conservative following and also famously and falsely predicted the end of the world in 1994 and then again in 2011. These types of slick, popularized leaders and failed prophets are the primary reasons that believers today are lumped together and characterized as blind followers of charlatans.

Being vigilant in our faith means that we have to exercise godly discernment in what we are accepting as biblical teaching. The Bible is not meant to be a means of gaining superficial wealth or to be used as some sort of magic incantation, saying the appropriate phrases in the correct language of an approved version to get what we want. It is not some sort of self-help manual to help us overcome our inadequacies. We need to be aware of group-think when the results go against basic reason and conscience.

We should, however, follow the instruction of Paul to the Thessalonians in “testing everything, and only holding to that which is good,” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We live in an age and culture (in America) in which the Word of God is readily available and accessible to just about everyone. If we are serious enough to only read it thoroughly and constantly, we would be able to identify falsehoods much more readily. And if we pray sincerely for understanding and wisdom, God is faithful to provide our every need.

Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
James 1:5 – Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God ​– ​who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly ​– ​and it will be given to him.

But being vigilant is harder than just waving our hand and dismissing these blatant types of exploitation as just “people believing whatever they want to believe.” While people in our culture certainly have that freedom and right, we also should recognize that if there is truth in the Bible, then there are distinctions between falsehoods and truth. If individuals and groups are misrepresenting God, it is up to us to ensure that his name is not defamed due to the perverse actions of popular figures.

The example of Yeshua sets the stage for confronting the hypocrisy of the religious establishment.

Matthew 23:33 – “Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to the judgment of Gehenna?

Almost the entire chapter of Matthew 23 contains Yeshua’s tirade against the inconsistencies and selfish exploitation used by the scribes and Pharisees of his day. If we consider ourselves his followers and we are serious about the truth, then the biblical falsehoods, and those promoting them, need to be exposed for what they are.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

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