I’ve always liked the comic strip The Far Side, by Gary Larson. In one of his comics, he shows how God (he calls it nature) provides warnings signs for things we should not touch.
False teachers are not always so easy to spot. As we read in 2 Corinthians 11:
“12 But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”
Unlike a cat with an arched back, false teachers come as an “angel of light”, seeking to deceive believers to have them follow them. While difficult to detect, God does give us ways to determine if a person is a false teacher. As in the passage above, we will know them by their deeds.
Perhaps you have noticed, however, that there seems to be another warning sign to which we should pay attention, one I believe God has given us. In addition to their deeds, have you noticed that false teachers tend to name their ministries after themselves? I have not done an exhaustive search, so I’m sure there are some exceptions. Still, it’s hard to deny this.
Why would false teachers do this? It’s to draw you away after themselves, and not the Lord. Acts 20 says, “29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Paul also speaks about this in 1 Corinthians 1:
“10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
We are to be unified as the body of Christ. True teachers will preach the word and will not bring the focus of their ministry on themselves, for it is by the preaching of the word that we are made complete in the same mind and the same judgment. False teachers, on the other hand, lead you away from Christ. Their focus is on themselves, as we read in Jude:
“10 But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.”
So, the next time you come across a ministry named after the person, beware! Consider that a warning sign the Lord has provided. Again, while this is not always the case, you should be on the alert, making sure this is a teacher who wants to help you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.