The Benefits of False Teaching
by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
An old cliche says there is a silver lining in every cloud. In a sense this is true for the follower of God. In Romans 8:18-39, Paul tells us that God can turn the wicked events that happen to Christians into an advantage for the righteous. Joseph's life is an excellent example (Genesis 39-41). After being sold by his own brothers, Joseph spent 13 years as a slave and in prison. I can't think of many good things to say about Joseph's situation, yet Joseph rose from his miserable state to become the second highest man in Egypt. However, we often overlook an important point. Pharaoh appointed Joseph to manage Egypt's produce during the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine. How did Joseph, the son of a nomadic herder, learn to manage the wealth of a nation? Much of it came from the wisdom that God granted him, but notice that in both Potiphar's house and in jail, Joseph was placed in a position of management. In both places, Joseph was second only to Potiphar and the jailer. He ran their affairs so well, that neither man had to concern himself with his daily affairs. In other words, God used Joseph's bad situation to train Joseph for a larger future task.
God turns many bad events into something good for every Christian, but have you ever wonder if anything good can come from the works of a false teacher?
Peter warns us that there will always be false teachers among God's people (II Peter 2:1-3). Because of them, many Christians will be lead to same destruction reserved for the deceivers. Paul prophesied that Christians would depart from the faith, following after false teachings (I Timothy 4:1-4). Not only would God allow this to happen, but Jesus said it is impossible for this not to happen (Luke 17:1-2). Now don't take this to mean that God approves of the actions of a false teacher. God will still punish those who lead His people astray. However, false teachers will come. In fact, Jesus bluntly says, in Matthew 18:7, that such offenses must come.
Why does God allow false teachers access to His people? Why must a person be lead astray? We begin to see the answer in I Corinthians 11:17-19. Paul states that there will be divisions among Christians. These factions show whom God approves and disapproves. In order for Christians to grow in Christ, they must learn to use their knowledge to combat error (Hebrews 5:13-14). A Christian cannot distinguish between good and evil without using the knowledge God gives them. Paul explains it a different way in Ephesians 6:10-20. We must imagine our lives as Christians as constant warfare. We don't fight on a physical plain, but on a spiritual battlefield. Our weapon is our own Bible -- our spiritual sword. Nevertheless, how accomplished would a swordsman be if he never welded his weapon in the heat of a battle? Oh, he may know the technical aspects of sword fight, but we would never call him an accomplished sword fighter until he had a chance to put his knowledge to use against a real opponent. The same idea applies to Christians. We may have a lot of technical knowledge about the Holy Scriptures, but until we put our knowledge to use in combating false teaching, we will never be accomplished fighters for God.
John shows, in I John 2:18-19, that there is another benefit to false teaching. When faithful Christians stand against false teachings, they put the spotlight of truth on the corrupt ways of the false teacher. Many Christians would never notice falsehoods if other, more mature, Christians did not point them out. When false teachers run from the truth, they show they are not a part of the Lord's body. A few may be lost, but the Lord's bride remains pure. Her members grow stronger as they learn from first-hand experience the methods Satan uses to taint the church.
Even under the Old Law, God told the Israelites that He would allow false prophets to go among the people (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). God uses the false prophets to test the people's commitment to the Lord. Claiming we love God when there is no resistance is easy for followers of God, but will we love God when someone is actively trying to persuade us to leave God? We cannot know until God has tested us.
Jesus was not a false prophet, but He did cause the rising and falling of many people (Luke 2:34-35). Peter describes Jesus as a stone in a path that people trip over (I Peter 2:4-10). In other words, Jesus forces people to come to a decision. When people face the glorious news of the Gospel they must decide either to accept it or reject it. This decision shows us the true heart of the people. Accepting or rejecting Christ becomes more than an outward acknowledgment. God designed the Gospel to reveal the true inward feelings of a person. Why does the division come? It comes because some people lack true faith in God (Romans 9:30-33).
Amazingly enough, God can derive benefits for His people from the wickedness of false teachers. The benefits are not for the false teachers or for the people they lead astray. Eternal destruction awaits them at the end of this world. However, for those of God's people who overcome -- who successfully resist the wiles of the Devil -- they derive the benefits of strength and joy (James 1:2-4).