There are a lot of people out there who are eager to teach about the Bible. But those eager to learn should beware, for Peter warns that there will be false teachers who will secretly bring in heresies. They are not teaching with the purpose of drawing you nearer to God; they are teaching because it feeds their egos. They will say virtually anything that elicits a “Wow!” response from you.
False teachers want to impress you with their knowledge. They will attempt to dazzle you with information from obscure sources or personal revelations or hard to understand passages from the Bible. Paul tells us that knowledge puffs up – it can lead to super egos. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have knowledge; it just means that we shouldn’t build our egos by attempting to impress others with it. Rather, those that have the gift of teaching should instruct in meekness.
I got into a debate with one of these Bible teachers once. He claimed the Pope prays to Satan and the false prophet in Revelation will be the Pope. (I disagree with these positions.) He had some Scripture verses to support his position. He provided Catholic doctrine to bolster his points. Though I am not Catholic, I was able to quote actual Catholic doctrine to demonstrate he was incorrect. Nonetheless, we went back and forth with verses and applications in a stalemate.
Finally, it came down to this: I pointed out that Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Then I asked, “Why don’t you share your experiences so God gets the glory?” Then I listed a series of events from my life and requested him to:
Tell us about the time you visited a widow and she exclaimed that you answered her prayers. Tell us about the time you smuggled Bible materials to a Muslim convert in a foreign country. Tell us about the time you preached in maximum security prisons. Tell us about the time that you preached in an area of a foreign country where it was not legal for you to be. Tell us about the time you helped build a church building or a home for a missionary on a foreign field. Tell us how many Bibles you have provided to people throughout the world. Tell us about people that have listened to your teaching and were motivated to give what little money they had to feed starving Christians on another continent. Tell us about how you gave more than 50% of your income to God and how God marvelously gave money back to you. Tell us about the time you asked God for thousands of dollars to give to mission projects and He gave it to you. Tell us about the times you cared for the sick and visited those in prison. Tell us how you gave drink to the thirsty, fed the hungry, and clothed the naked. Tell us about the time you spent the night somewhere to preach and were told not to go outside after dark because it was dangerous for a Christian to be there. Then we will rejoice with you.
His response was sarcastic and lacking. Not one event was provided. That’s because he had nothing.
James tells us that faith without works is dead. If your teacher has no demonstrable works, his/her faith is dead. If his/her faith is dead, what does that say about his/her teaching?