Drifting Away: A Sailing Story

Discernment: Flatteries of false teachers

We are told in many verses about the false prophets and false teachers coming to deceive the people. They use false words, flatteries, and smooth speech. The antichrist will be the most full version of a false prophet ever, being full of sin. His name will be Man of Sin. (2 Thess. 2:3)

All the false prophets and teachers that come before the Man of Sin will be less potent, but no less dangerous. They use the same methods. Satan sticks with what works.

Sometimes I discuss false teachers with friends. I might mention Beth Moore or Billy Graham etc. One thing that I hear most often when I discuss this with people is "But they talk about Jesus!"

This tells me we need to look at how false teaches deceive by using rhetoric, oratory and speech. Earlier this week I looked at false teachers' motivations. Now let's look at their methods.

For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. (Romans 16:18)

In Greek smooth talk means a kind speech, from the word chr─ôstologias
In Greek flattery means praise and adulation, from the word eulogias. It's our word eulogy, the kind and flattering speech given at funerals for the dearly departed.

Gill's Exposition says,
"by good words and fair speeches"; either by making use of the words of Scripture, and a show of arguments taken from thence; ... by using words and phrases that faithful ministers of Christ use, such as the grace of God, the righteousness of Christ, the Spirit of Christ, but in a different sense...or by an elegant style, a set of fine words, a flow of rhetorical expressions, great swelling words of vanity, which such men generally affect, and so work themselves into the admiration of the common people.
And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:3)

Here the term false words is from the Greek plastois, meaning made up, contrived, something artificial; from which we get our word plastic.

Gill's Exposition says,
made words, words of their own devising, and not which the Holy Ghost teacheth...new words and phrases are always to be suspected and guarded against, great swelling words of vanity, having men's persons in admiration

As Gill's says, "they make use of scripture". They use it, to further their own ends and satisfy their own appetites and to get money. Those are the motivations of the false teachers. They use scripture. That know scripture but they use it by twisting it, ripping it from context, referring to it but stripping the meaning from it.

Gill's said, "They use words and phrases that faithful ministers of Christ use". Every group has jargon. Christianity does too. False teachers will talk the same talk that pastors and ministers use. "Praise the Lord!" they'll say when someone has a breakthrough,. "Bless your heart!" "I'm missional." "You'll receive a blessing." "Gifted for ministry." In other words, as wolves come in sheep's clothing, they will imitate the sheep, right down to adopting the same phrases and terms we use every day. This makes them blend in.

Gill's said they will use these terms but in a different sense. When a prosperity preacher talks about sending money to him or her, he or she will use the word blessing. 'Sow a seed and get a blessing' they will say. In the eternal words of Inigo Montoya, "You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means".

Gill's says also of the Romans 16:17-18 verse, false teachers will have an elegant style. They are good at what they do. Salesmen are salesmen because they're talkers. If you're not a talker, you're usually a writer or a hermit, lol. False teachers' apply their gift for talking to their dastardly work inside a church. Or within Christianity, as is the case with so many of them these days. Many are not even associated with a church. They're smooth, plausible, facile with words and skilled at linguistic nuance.
People sometimes speak of sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of commission are those sinful actions that are proactively done. Lying or stealing are examples of sins of commission. A sin of omission is a sin that takes place because of not doing something that is right. Examples could include not praying, not standing up for what is right, or not sharing Christ with others. James 4:17 is often used as a key verse regarding sins of omission: "So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." This overarching theme provides the basis for the concept of a sin of omission. Read more: source
There is one sort of sin that is a half-kind of sin of omission. It is not a sin of commission. It's called being disingenuous. Here's the definition:

The definition of disingenuous is: "not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does. ...giving a false appearance of simple frankness ... Pretending to be unaware or unsophisticated"

A "good" example of smooth speech designed to flatter and praise is rife in Beth Moore's Heresy Hunting article and also in her emails to the woman she was writing about. Remember, compare what they say with what they do. Do not be deceived naively by smooth words. Moore said of the 22 year old woman she was writing negatively about,
Anyway, the odd thing of it is, I loved her immediately. My calling is discipleship and my focus is women. 
But the actions didn't match up. Moore condescended about the woman's age, her ability to discern, her ability to think for herself, and blocked her from commenting on Moore's twitter stream, not to mention the entire article was uncalled for to begin with. That's not love. But it is smooth speech.

Let me share one small example of how a false teacher can be disingenuous, by performing a half sin of omission. Let's look at how a false teacher uses smooth language to present a different appearance to the naive. This is from Beth Moore's recent blog essay about heretic hunting. Moore wrote:

I only have one small desk from which to watch our world so I miss a lot but, among the things in my eyeshot...
Not Beth Moore. However, it's the impression Moore's scene sets
in your mind. Just a small desk and a sliver of a view. Source.
Really think about the words here. This is the woman who has a 2000+ square foot home in a nice subdivision in Houston. Her corporate office is three floors and 8000 square feet. The first floor is where the workers pack and ship. There is also a conference room with candles and pillows and tissues. Moore's private office is on the third floor. (source) The entire property, including the 18,000 sf land, is worth $673,397.

This is the woman who travels the country on a constant basis. She is President of a multi-million dollar corporation, one which employs 16 people (or did in 2010.) Perhaps her desk is small in fact. Likely not. Her 'eyeshot' is certainly not small. However, think about the picture Moore's sentence creates in your mind  - and then compare it to the reality. It's the exact definition of disingenuous.

BTW here is the reality.
Actual property at Living Proof offices
Another example of being disingenuous, by using speech to appear to be transparent but actually obfuscating, was Diana stone from the She Reads Truth Editorial Board. I also wrote about this recently.
With a sweet daughter in tow, Diana clings to God’s Word daily through the struggles and beauty of being a woman who loves her Lord. You can find her in the mornings with a cup of coffee and her Bible flung open, preparing for the day ahead.
The website She Reads Truth is a mommy oriented site, lots of bible studies and devotionals for 'busy moms'. (I do NOT recommend their studies or devotionals). The impression the women want to give is they're harried moms just like you. Just like you! doing the mommy thing and trying to get the laundry done and making sure to read our bible every day. And all that is no doubt true. Except in order to have enough time to write about all this stuff, Diana drops her kids off at daycare first. A stay at home mom with out of the house kids. Now, she didn't lie, she wrote about switching from having a nanny to to using daycare (First world problems!) on her blog. But the disingenuous impression put forth, especially in the bio, is the overwhelming mommy appearance. The nanny-day care appearance...you have to dig for it.

This is what it means by having sheep's clothing. Sheep's clothing is not skin. You'll see frays, tears,
it might be ill-fitting. Sheep's clothing is a disguise. At some point, their mask slips.

The Romans 16:18 verse also said that false teachers use language to deceive the naive. The Bereans were not naive. They listened to Paul but then eagerly went home and compared what Paul said to scripture to see if it was so. He was an effective speaker, certainly knowledgeable. The Bereans were called noble, because they checked it out. There were lots of apostles in Paul's day, some true and many false. What if the Bereans did not check to see if it was so, but instead were impressed with his speaking ability, his ability to connect with audiences, his charisma or his sincerity.

Now let's say that next comes along Hymenaeus and Philetus. (2 Timothy 2:1). They preached that the resurrection had already taken place. The duo had gone astray from the truth. No doubt they were also effective speakers, charismatic, plausible, sincere. Failing to check against scripture meant that they easily upset some in the faith. Titus wrote that in Crete, whole families were being upset by the false teachers over there.

Check any teacher's words against the bible! Dig! Pray! Check again! Look at their lives to see if it is above reproach!

No matter how many scriptures they use, no matter how long they carry a bible around in their hand, no matter how charismatic and fervent 'for the Lord' they may sound, don't be deceived by being naive. Not all who claim Christ are one of His. Beware. As Matthew Henry said, "it is an easy thing to be godly from the teeth outward."

But do you know what else is easy? Praying to the Holy Spirit for discernment after hearing a teacher. Opening the bible to check. Asking a trusted elder for advice on the credibility of teacher so-and-so.

The Lord's glorious Word is so precious, wonderful, filling, and good. When a false teacher USES God's word to deceive, get money, destroy people, or lie about Jesus, it is one of the very worst things I can think of. What a terrible thing to do, take the holy word and pollute it for carnal gain.

But we can use it for its intended purpose- to point to Christ, to edify , encourage, build up, and train. We can use it to know Jesus better. We can use it to cut a heart to the quick, unto salvation. (Acts 2:37).

As precious as the word is, O joyous day when we see Him glorified, in person, in holy heaven! No more false teachers. His blessings are manifold.