The Word of God is very severe in its condemnation of false teachers.
And this condemnation does not only concern their false doctrine, but also their motives and methods.
Many Christians often are inclined to assume a sympathetic attitude to the preachers of false doctrines, even though they do not agree with their tenets. We speak of having respect for the opinions of others, and forget that the doctrine of the Word of God is not a matter of opinion. Or we take the charitable view that a man may honestly err, and that, therefore, you cannot ascribe the teaching of false doctrines to evil motives. Again, we are inclined to be “broad-minded” and rejoice in the fact, that even though a preacher of the gospel may depart from the truth in some of the fundamental doctrines like the total depravity of man and his incapability to do any good, and the truth of God’s sovereign predestination, he still preaches Christ, and does much good. Wrongly understanding and applying that passage of Scripture they refer you to the first chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians, and point to the fact, that Paul even rejoiced in the preaching of Christ by those that differed from him, even though they did not preach Him purely. But the apostle is not referring to the contents of the preaching of these men, but only to their motives. And thus we are inclined to condone the work of those that depart from the truth of the Word of God.
But the Word of God knows nothing of such an attitude.
When the Lord warns against false prophets, he describes them as hypocrites that come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Intentionally they assume the appearance of the sheep of Christ, but only in order that they may have the opportunity to devour the sheep. In his second letter to the Corinthians he speaks of the false teachers as those that “glory in appearance, and not in heart,” II Cor. 4:12. In his epistle to the Galatians he attributes the false doctrine of those who would impose circumcision upon the church of Christ to the desire to escape persecution, Gal. 6:12, 18. When he warns the Church of Ephesus against being tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, the apostle speaks of “the sleight of men” and of “their cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive,” Eph. 4:14. In the epistle to the Philippians he writes: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision,” with reference to the same teachers of false doctrines, that always emphasized the necessity of circumcision, Phil. 8:2. And in his letter to the Colossians he speaks of them as men that “beguile the believers with enticing words,” Col. 2:4. And concerning those that cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which the believers in Rome have learned, he writes that “they are such that serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by their good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
From all these passages, and many more could be quoted, it is evident, first of all, that the motives of false teachers are carnal. It is true that these carnal motives that impel preachers and teachers to depart from the truth and to teach a false doctrine, do not always appear on the surface. It may not even always be clear to the false teacher himself that he is motivated by evil and carnal impulses. To us a teacher or preacher of the Word may appear very earnest, devoted to his calling and work, motivated by the love of Christ, even though he is propagating a doctrine that is not according to the Word of God. We cannot judge the motives of men. But God does. He knows the hearts. Before Him the deepest recesses of men’s hearts are as an open book. He trieth the reins. And He warns us in His Word that the false teacher is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a man that does not serve the Lord Jesus, but his own belly. This means, of course, not merely that the preacher of false doctrine does not serve the Lord in the objective sense, that is, that his preaching of false doctrine is not service of Christ; but also that he does not intend to serve Christ. He wants to serve his own belly. And he uses the gospel and the ministry as a means to serve his carnal ends. What he desires is to fill his stomach. He loves to eat and to drink and to have a good time. He loves the world and the things that are in the world. He seeks the honor of men, a good position, a name. He would never suffer persecution for Christ’s sake, if he can possibly avoid it. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Thus the Word of God exposes the secret motives of one that teaches false doctrines.
If we could trace the origin of any false doctrine to its source in the heart of him that propagated it, we would certainly find the desire to serve one’s own belly rather than the Lord Christ to be its fountain.
And Scripture wants us to know this.
For it does not want believers to be simple little children, that are easily deceived by the beguiling words and fair speeches of men, that boast in appearance and not in heart.
Nor is it hard to understand that this must be the case, that the root of false doctrines must be in the heart of a man that would rather serve the lust of the flesh than the Lord Christ.
The preacher that would serve his own belly needs false doctrine!
He cannot do anything with the truth to realize his carnal purpose. The truth, as it is in Christ, as it is plainly revealed in the Scriptures, is never according to the flesh. It is quite contrary to the flesh. It condemns the world, the flesh, the natural man, without compromise, implacably. It leaves the sinner nothing, absolutely nothing; nothing to flatter him, nothing in which he may boast, nothing in self on which he may build his hope, no excuse for his sin, no way out in the way of sin. The Word of God is a sharp two- edged sword. It cuts into the flesh. It condemns also the flesh of the Christian. It preaches righteousness. It demands of the people of God that they depart from Babylon and have nothing to do with her ungodly deeds. It knows of no compromise. Light and darkness it never causes to merge. Christ and Belial never go arm in arm. The believer has no fellowship with the unbeliever. And thus that Word always does its work. It either humbles a man in the dust, so that he is filled with sorrow after God; or it makes a bitter enemy of him, hardens him, so that he can never be brought to repentance.
It is because of this pure, uncompromising, implacable, unbending character of the Word of God, that always condemns the flesh, that the preacher who through the gospel will not serve the Lord Christ, but his own belly, cannot use the truth, is in need of false doctrines.
He appeals to the flesh, not to the Spirit.
The world, and also the “flesh” in the Church he must by all means have on his side.
Their friendship and support he seeks.
And he does so by denying the truth, so that it still looks like the truth, but is actually the lie.
For his own belly’s sake he grinds down the sharp edges of the truth, so that it does not hurt the flesh, does not humble the pride of men.
And he destroys the Church!