Dealing with false teachers & bad prophecy is a constant issue today. I’ve spent some time over the past week in conversations on the Gentle Wisdom blog about false teachers and how to handle that issue. Poor Peter! The writer of the blog, Peter Kirk, has been involved in herding cats. This morning I’ve been working on my bible study of the Timothys and Titus. I thought I’d share a short portion of that.
2 Timothy 3:8–9
- These people oppose the truth in the same way that Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. Their minds are corrupt and their faith is counterfeit. But they won’t get very far. Their foolishness will become obvious to everyone like those others. [ceb]
Here we have one of several instances in the New Testament where one of the writers references what we would consider extra-biblical knowledge in the scriptures. In this case Jannes and Jambres are not Biblical but come from a targum. A targum is an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew scriptures that supposedly added and changed things. They came about in Jesus’ day because the people no longer spoke Hebrew.
According to James, Faucett, and Brown these two names came from “the unwritten teaching of the Jews” [theodoret]. Regardless, we have Paul using common cultural usage to make a point. That point is pretty severe as Jannes and Jambres were commonly understood to be the magicians who opposed Moses during the early battle of the plagues (before God ramped it up to the place where the magicians could no longer compete [Exodus 8:18–19] which was the fourth plague).
Dealing with false teachers & bad prophecy How do we deal with these evil counterfeits?
There are several things going on here. First, Paul thought (and we know this from several passages) that the last days were upon them already. So, he is talking about people who fit the description of verses 3:2–5 who were in the church of that day.
The key phrase is found here, “but they won’t get very far”. All the various translations make it clear that Paul’s attitude was that eventually, before very long, their falsehood would become apparent to all. It is important to notice that Paul does not bother to fight them or call them out. There is nothing about specific teachings or teachers in this particular passage. In fact in verse 2:25 Paul writes, “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” [tniv].
In my four decades of walking with the Lord, I have seen many strange teachings. There was the headship group in the 1970s where people were expected to base all of life’s important decisions (when to buy houses or cars, when to have children, and even more ridiculous things like when to have sex) on the word of their pastor, shepherd, or overseer. That lasted less than a decade.
Every year we have several teachers whose book or video or conference speaking become the raging fashion in the church. Sometimes people supposedly worship by barking like dogs which is not heresy, but certainly silly. Currently we have the new style of contemporary praise that depends on rock’n’roll volume and repetition—which I know works because my acid rock band used it successfully in the psychedelic love-ins of the late 1960s. This modern variation is a poor substitute for excellent music and true corporate worship of believers with their God. It won’t last either. [ED: 2020 Sadly, I was wrong about this.] Currently we have a brouhaha about someone who supposedly has promoted the idea that Hell isn’t real or some such nonsense. You can be assured that will blow over and disappear quickly because Hell is real—and you do not want to go there.
The point is that fashion will not last and we are not to worry about it. Remember the technique the US treasury department uses to teach its agents and other people how to recognize counterfeit money.
They ignore the counterfeit and focus on deep, intimate knowledge of the real thing
When you know the real thing, the false becomes obvious. Our goal must be to share the reality of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. As we show forth who Jesus really is and how knowledge of God is truly appropriated, strange, fashionable teachings will be left behind in the glory of reality.