Lots of people claim to teach and preach for God. But how do you know if what they’re saying is actually from God?
One test could be to measure how much Scripture is quoted during a sermon. The more the better, right? That would make it easy…if they only quote one verse, we should be suspicious…but if they quote many verses, then their teaching must be “good”. But that doesn’t seem quite right, does it?
Another test could be to gauge how we feel after listening to a sermon. We know that the Word of God should inspire us, right? So, if we leave feeling inspired and motivated, then the message and the messenger must be “good”. But then doesn’t seem quite right, either.
When he wrote to encourage and direct Timothy in his mission to the Ephesian church, Paul repeatedly addressed the topic of false teachers. Closing off the previous section’s teaching on the church’s support for widows, honoring elders, disciplining elders, and the slave-master relationship, Paul says:
1 Timothy 6:2-3
Teach and encourage these things. If anyone teaches other doctrine and does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching that promotes godliness, he is conceited, understanding nothing, but having a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words.
Did you catch Paul’s “Teacher Test”?
If what that person teaches does not agree with the sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and with the teaching the promotes godliness, then we should not be listening to them. We need to keep this in mind:
Since the aim of a Christian’s life is to be like Christ, any teaching that doesn’t match up with what Jesus taught will not make us more like Him.
That statement is so simple, we don’t even bother to think in those terms. However, when we forget why we need a constant relationship with Jesus, we tend to let the Christian life make us comfortable. God richly blesses us in many ways, but our selfishness still drifts us toward a life of ease.
There are many consequences to focusing on getting to the “good life” instead of aiming for the “Christ-like life”. Paul will deal with several of them as he closes out his letter. The one he points out here is that false teachers will come sounding “good”, but they will end up pulling us away from our aim of being like Jesus.
Our Teacher Test isn’t to count the number of verses or rely on our constantly changing feelings. Taking what is taught and comparing it to sound teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ will show us if our teacher is pointing us in the right direction. Every time we’re presented with a new Bible teaching, we need to be asking “Does this teaching promote god-like-ness?”.
We must be alert in this. Don’t go on auto-pilot just because someone claims to have a message from God. Our relationship with Jesus depends on it.