The Gospel and Discerning False Teachers

Here’s Martin Luther on how a clear grasp of the heart of the gospel brings great stability in the midst of diverse teaching.

The principal topic and sum of the Christian doctrine is this, that God has sent and given his Son, Christ, and alone through him forgives us all our sins, justifies and saves us. That you are to cling to, and nothing else.

[If we settle this, we will be] with such an understanding safe against all external masks… [but] he who does not hold this main truth, or know how to regulate everything by it, cannot avoid being deceived.

(Martin Luther, Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, 260).

Jesus said false teachers wouldn’t just be ‘out there’ in the world, but part of the mix ‘in here’ with the church. They would be wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). We won’t find them in a dim-lit, cobweb-covered ‘heretics’ section at Barnes and Noble. They’ll be next to the Bibles.

The best way to recognize and not be led astray by a wolf is to get one thing straight: to be sure of the central doctrine of the gospel. If we cling to the central truth of the gospel and “know how to regulate everything by it,” we will be able to see through a thousand lies. They may have cool video shorts. They may write bestsellers. They can say they’ve been to heaven or hell and back. They may tell hundreds of stories about prosperity for those who donate. They may call themselves Christians. But if they have abandoned “the principle topic and sum of the Christian doctrine,” it’s not an emerging Christian group or a different denomination they represent; it’s a different religion.

Those who spot counterfeit money fastest and best are those who know the real thing intimately.


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2 Responses to The Gospel and Discerning False Teachers

  1. Charles McKinney says:

    When the glorious message of the gospel is jettisoned by those who want to accommodate it to the culture or make it more appealling to the masses by watering it down, the whole fabric of the New Testament’s message is distorted. Paul declares that effort to be rejected because it is not the gospel of God but rather “man’s gospel” (Gal. 1:6-12). He warned the Ephesian Elders to “pay careful attention to yourselves and the flock”….and those who would arise speaking ‘twisted things,’ to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:26-30).

    History proves the absolute necessity of each generation following Paul’s pastoral example of standing firm on the biblical definition of the gospel. May we, like Paul, not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God! “Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).

  2. Drew Hunter says:

    Hi Charles.

    “…the whole fabric of the New Testament’s message is distorted.” Wow. Well said. Thank you for this.

    – Drew

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