Recognising False Teaching in the Church

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In my previous article entitled The Holy Spirit Imparts to Believers All Wisdom and Knowledge and uploaded a few days ago, we saw that the Lord Jesus Christ is the complete and only source of spiritual wisdom and knowledge and that the Holy Spirit shows us from God’s Word how to grow in grace, knowledge and wisdom. The verse we considered was written by the apostle Paul in Colossians chapter 2, where he says concerning Christ Jesus:

3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Col. 2:3 ESV

However, to what purpose did the apostle pen these words?

It was so that, by the wisdom and knowledge of God, each believer might be able to distinguish true teaching from false teaching in their fellowship. Some Colossian believers were being enticed away from the complete sufficiency of Christ and the Word of God. Thus, in verse 4 of chapter 2, Paul writes;


4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.

This threat to the fellowship was why the apostle Paul laid such stress on seeking the wisdom and knowledge that comes from God. It was to ensure that the saints at Colossae became ever more firmly grounded in the unfailing truths of God’s Word. Only by feeding on the Word and accepting and applying its teachings would these saints become knowledgeable in the things of God as revealed in the Scriptures. This Word of Truth alone could build them up in their most holy faith. Only the Holy Spirit could illumine their minds to comprehend or understand aright what they were reading in God’s Word or what they were hearing from the apostles’ letters as they were read aloud in their church fellowships.

Thus grounded in the truth of God’s Word and filled with wisdom and knowledge from God, they would know how to stand by the truth and recognise and refute error. This knowledge was essential since some individuals attempted to lead these believers away from the truth of sound doctrine. These individuals presented some convincing arguments to the believers at Colossae. Some of these false teachers intimated that they possessed additional or ‘higher’ truths, or greater enlightenment, necessary to their faith in Christ. These misguided instructors suggested persuasively to the Colossians that they could impart these truths to the church members, thus aiding them in their faith and walk with God.

As we shall see, this was a lie of the devil. These men were not acting as servants of the Lord. They had arisen in the church or had infiltrated the fellowship from elsewhere, only to tempt the Colossian believers away from the sound and unchanging truths of God’s Word, including the teaching of the apostles and other genuine servants of the Lord Jesus. They were enticing the believers away from the truth with a series of plausible and convincing arguments. They suggested that the truths they had accepted thus far could and should be augmented by further truths, knowledge, and experiences leading to more significant spiritual enrichment. These were convincing but beguiling, devious, deceitful, and delusional words on the part of the false teachers.

This threat to adulterate or contaminate the pure gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ presented a very great danger to the church at Colossae (and elsewhere). Thus, Paul is about to deal with it. However, for the time being, he is forewarning these believers about the dangers of false, additional teaching in their fellowship. He is exhorting them to seek the knowledge of the truth as revealed by Christ and his commissioned apostles and to remain in that teaching alone. Furthermore, the apostle is exhorting them—with their entirely sufficient knowledge of the truth as it is revealed in the Scriptures—to stand resolutely against any form of false or misleading teaching.

Dear friends, are we being enticed by the teachings of men to add to the truths of the Bible?

Are we being encouraged to add to our faith ‘better knowledge’, ‘greater wisdom’ or ‘higher spiritual experiences’ that are not found in the Word of God?

Should we not abide in the teaching of God’s Word, depending on the completeness of knowledge and wisdom found in Christ Jesus alone and imparted to us by the Holy Spirit?


Adapted from the author’s NT Expository Notes: Colossians, chapter 2 verse 4 (forthcoming). © 2022 Gordon Lyons

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