If you grew up in the 1980’s you are probably familiar with the following
you are probably familiar with the following scene from the Karate Kid, where Mr. Miyagi shows up just in time to rescue Daniel from further harm:
Now this is not the best analogy, but at least it gives us somewhat of an idea of what it was like when Jesus came on the scene. The so-called “religious” leaders of the day were not just burdening other people with rules to follow, they were actually leading them further away from what it means to know God and follow him. Jesus was sick and tired of this and came to clearly speak out against false teaching.
Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:6-7:
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”
And in Matthew 7:15: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."
And then there is the scene in Jerusalem just days before Jesus’ death:
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18, NIV)
I believe there are a couple of reasons why the crowds were amazed at his teaching. The first has to do with the content of his teaching. It was from the very heart of God, so people recognized it as being authoritative and true. The second reason they were amazed was from the method of his teaching. No one had stood up against the false teachers in a way that he had. Certainly others had recognized that what was going on in the temple was wrong, but they had not stood up to it in a way that Jesus had.
The disciples, who carried out the ministry of Jesus, had to continue the “fight” against false teachers. It is a theme that comes up frequently in Acts and the New Testament letters, so I will just mention a couple of instances here.
Galatians 1:7-9: Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
2 Peter 2:1-3: But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
Sadly, there are still many around today who use “religion” as a means for gaining wealth, power, and fame. This should not be surprising as they have been around throughout the centuries. We may never cross paths with these religious leaders, but in our everyday lives we still may have opportunities to stand up for the truth. With out mouths we may correct, teach, and rebuke someone with the truth of Scripture. With our lives we may obey God even when it is difficult.
Lord, may we be lights of truth which stand out against a dark world!
Questions to consider:
When was the last time you had the opportunity to speak out against false claims?
Why is it important for us to take a firm stand for truth?
For further reading:
(all Scripture quoted in this post is from the NIV)