HOW TO TEST RELIGIOUS TEACHERS
In Matthew 7:15—18 Jesus gave this important teaching, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” This scripture suggests the theme to be pursued in this message. I want to discuss with you the subject, “How To Tett Religious Teachers”. Jesus said in the plainest terms, “Beware of false prophets.” The apostle Peter saw fit to deliver a similar warning in 2 Peter 2:1, “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.” The apostle John called upon Christians to carefully test all religious teachers in I John 4:1, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Since Jesus warned us about false prophets, it is logical to ask first, “What is a false prophet7 It also raises the question, “Do we still have prophets in the church today? A false prophet was a teacher or preacher who acted the part of a divinely inspired messenger of God but uttered falsehoods. For personal advantage of some kind, he refused to faithfully communicate God;s word to man. The word prophet means one who announces or brings a message from God. While the prediction of future events was a definite part of their work, their chief function was to serve as religious and moral teachers of their own day and time. Most of their teaching was aimed at calling God's people back to obedience and faithfulness. The prophets received supernatural revelations from God by means of visions, open calls by a voice, dreams, and silent inspiration in which the Holy Spirit worked silently upon the thought processes. Tempted by the love of money, the love of the world, and worldly power, some of these prophets became unfaithful to God. When this happened they would not faithfully communicate God's message, and this made them false prophets. In Bible times, the human race had a difficult time distinguishing a true prophet from a false prophet. This was due to the fact that most any good thing can be counterfeited. There are no prophets in the church today because God no longer reveals divine truth to mankind. All inspired truth from God is now complete and has been committed to writing in the sixty six books of the Bible. The office of prophet ceased to exist, along with all other miraculous gifts, with the close of the first century A.D. Any person who claims to be an inspired prophet today is a false prophet because supernatural messages from God no longer take place. There are no prophets in the church today, however the work of ancient prophets is now carried on by teachers and preachers of the Bible. Consequently, the human race is having the same problem today with preachers that the ancient world had with prophets. it isn't always easy to distinguish a true Bible teacher from a false Bible teacher, but Jesus has revealed an infallible method to identify a false Bible teacher. Jesus revealed that we can detect a false Bible teacher by using the fruit test. The Lord said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit"(Matthew 7:16). When Jesus classified Bible teachers figuratively as good trees or bad trees, the reference was to their character. A Bible teacher with a good character will produce good in people's lives like a sound, healthy fruit tree will produce literal fruit. On the other hand, a Bible teacher with a defective character cannot produce holiness in people's lives, even as a diseased, unsound tree cannot produce what it was made to produce. A preacher with a good character cannot be a false Bible teacher, and a Bible teacher with a bad character cannot be a true Bible teacher. This is a rule given you by Christ; write it on the tablet of your mind and hide it in your heart. The key to the whole matter is character or integrity. Character is the secret that will eventually let the~t out of the bag on any Bible teacher or preacher. But how does one go about testing the character of a teacher of religion? It is a recognized fact that all Bible preachers teach some truth and accomplish some good. Furthermore, most Bible teachers in Christendom and the denominational world profess more or less to believe the Bible. Nevertheless, the acceptance of these fundamental truths can ~be very deceptive, and the fact that one preaches and teaches right out of the Bible does not necessarily mean that this person is a true Bible teacher. A false Bible teacher must teach some truth, otherwise he would have few followers. What we need to know are the marks of character that will show the person to be good or bad. In Matthew 7:15—20 Jesus revealed two decisive tests of character pertaining to a religious teacher. The first is the morality test. Jesus made this remark in Matthew 7:21— 23, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in
heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. This is passage speaks of Christians who were inspired prophets and others who had miraculous gifts, yet Jesus said He would reject then at the day of judgment because they had worked iniquity in their lives. His words, “I never knew you” mean He never recognized or endorsed them as being true Christians. In their every day lives they were not good, moral, and upright. Morality, chastity, and uprightness are essential elements in Christian morality. A Bible teacher who is loose in personal morals cannot be a true Bible teacher. This is necessarily true from what Jesus said. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. God is a holy and moral Being, and a Bible teacher cannot sincerely serve the holy God of the Bible when his own personal morality is consistently defective. Any religious teacher who will not practice what he preaches is insincere and lacks personal integrity. If a Bible teacher has shown himself to be weak in morals, this disqualifies him to teach others. Even if he would teach correctly the truth which he does not practice, it would not change the picture. A preacher who will not practice what he preaches is dangerous, insincere, and a very poor religious counselor. It can be safely concluded that his heart is not in his work. This is not to say that a Bible teacher is above sin and never commits it. No one is sinlessly perfect. David was one of the great religious teachers in Bible times, but he commItted the sin of adultry. However, he was filled with shame and remorse, repented of the sin, and corrected it.
never read of him committing that sin again. Bible teachers can and do sin, but if honest and sincere, they will repent and receive God's forgiveness. On the other hand, if the preacher's life continues to be sub—standard and sub—Christian, he cannot be a true Bible teacher. Another important test of a Bible teacher's character, as revealed by Jesus, is the doctrine test. This is expressed in Matthew 7:24—27, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods caine, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fells and great was the fall of it.” Jesus stated that a person who hears His teachings and obeys them is a wise man, but one who hears His teachings and does not do them is a foolish man." The meaning is that the only way a person live a life acceptable to God and be saved is by hearing the true teachings of Jesus and practicing them in his life. However religious the life may be, if it is not founded on the true teachings of Christ, God will not accept that person. Since we must hear the teachings of Christ, understand them, and obey them, a true Bible teacher will teach strictly what the New Testament says and not something else. We are saved by the true teachings of the New Testament and not church manuals, human creeds, and church traditions. To hear, believe, and obey religious teachings which disagree with New Testament teachings is to build your house on the sand. The Lord's teaching about a wise man building his house on a rock and a foolish man building his house on the sand is given in the context of warning people to “beware of false teachers.” If you build your religious life on the religious teachings of a false teacher, you will not pass the judgment. People seldom rise above their teachers in knowledge and understanding. A true Bible teacher will not knowingly teach contrary to New Testament doctrine. This is perhaps the most important test of a true gospel preacher. This is a rule which must be remembered and never forgotten. A true Bible teacher will not teach doctrinal error. But what if the preacher is teaching error and doesn't know it? Ignaance is no excuse for a gospel preacher; it is his responsibility to know the truth. God calls no man to preach error. If he is uninformed, he has neglected to study. He is obligated to come to a knowledge of the truth which God has revealed about conversion, worship, and Christian living. There is absolutely no excuse for a preacher to be in error on matters that pertain to eternal salvation. I am not speaking of difficult subjects hard to be understood in the Bible; I am speaking of basic, New Testament doctrines which can be understood. If indeed a preacher is sincerely in error in his teachings, when the truth is presented to him he can no longer claim sincerity, if he persists in his doctrinal unsoundness. Whatever desirable abilities and characteristics a preacher may have, he cannot be a true Bible teacher and be doctrinally unsound. When a preacher teaches contrary to clearly revealed New Testament truth, do not look at what some call charizma, his dynamic personality, his great speaking ability, his popularity, his great following, or his fund—raising ability. One can be possessed of all these desirable characteristics and still be a false Bible teacher. False teachers are deceiving millions of people today with these special talents. Remember the words of Jesus, “Beware of false prophets..”
Although the religious teacher may be of the highest moral standards, a good family man, and a respected citizen in the community, if he is doctrinally unsound, he cannot be a true Bible teacher. For the sake of your soul and your eternal salvation, you must accept this rule by faith and walk by faith in this matter of identifying false religious teachers. Moral character will not atone for erroneous religious teachers. For example,if if a teacher claims that the Bible does not condemn sex before marriage, extra—
marital relations, and homosexuality, this man is a false teacher whether or not he personally practices these vices. Moreover, if a religious teacher refuses to teach faithfully what the New Testament says about the plan of salvation, the punishment of hell, the divinity of Christ, the inspiration of the Bible, and scriptural worship, then that person is a false religious teacher. All who listen to them are building their houses on the sand, and Jesus said such a life will not pass the judgment. If we will use the morality test and the doctrinal soundness test, we will not be in danger of being deceived by false religious teachers. But people who think that one preacher is as good as another, who thinks one church is as good as another church, who blindly accept the religion of their parents, people who hold rigidly to the traditions of their ancestors, these people are going to be deceived by religious teachers. God will hold you responsible for any religious deception you fall into. In conclusion, Jesus gave us this final warning on the subject of false religious teachers: Enter in at the strait gatei for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”(Matthew7:l3—l4). Jesus meant that there are so many deceptive religious doctrines in the world it is extremely hard to find the right and true religion. The narrow gate in the passage refers to the true teachings of Christ on conversion, and the narrow way represents the true teachings of Jesus on the subject of Christian living. You must start according to His teachings, and you must live your entire life according to His teachings. You must become a christian exactly as Jesus taught, and you must live your life as Jesus taught. False teachers have always used the deceptive argument that we should be broadminded and not judge other preachers, churches, and religions. One of the most dangerous of all false religious teachings in the world is that it doesn't make any difference what you believe as long as you are sincere. But Jesus didn't leave any room for broadmindedness when he said, “Enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction." Every accountable person has but two choices: the broad way which leads to destruction or the narrow way which leads to eternal life. There are but two ways a human being can travel, and that is as broadminded as any one dare to be. May God help you to find the narrow gate by which you become a Christian and enter into God's spiritual family the church. After one becomes a Christian, he must live a faithful Christian life which Jesus called the narrow way which leads to life.