I watched about five minutes of one of those prosperity gospel television preachers the other day. The cameras panned through the audience focusing on head-nodders, note-takers, and Amen-shouters. The preacher man was spitting nothing but straight heresy and these people were eating it up.
This led me ton wonder, how in the world these people were swallowing this false teaching. Then he started talking a bit about Jesus and I got it. He was parroting gospel talk all the while allowing these congregants to keep their Americanized Asherah poles. In other words these preachers had a form of godliness but denied its power.
Getting to Know the False Teachers
These false teachers are described well in 2 Timothy 3:1-9. In the first four verses Paul is giving a list of vices. Vices that these false teachers had running rampant—but notice most of them are the deep and hidden things of the heart. They are the things you can hide.
Verse 5 is the key verse, “having the appearance of godliness but denying its power”. This was a wonderful writing technique used in Paul’s day where you’d give a list and then end it with a zinger. Then you’d expand on that zinger a bit. This is what Paul is doing here because he compares these false teachers to Jannes and Jambres.
Who were those guys? Likely these were the names of the magicians in Exodus 7 who parroted the signs of Moses and Aaron during the Exodus. Do you see what Paul is doing there? These magicians could parrot the work of God for awhile—but eventually they were exposed. Paul is encouraging Timothy with the truth that these false teachers will be exposed as well (v9).
In sum, these men are getting rich off a parroted gospel void of the actual Spirit. Which leads me to my next question—who falls for a parroted gospel that is void of the Spirit?
Why You Might Buy Into It
In verses 6 and 7 Paul gives a description of the type of person who would buy into this. He refers to them here as weak women—but I don’t believe it is their gender which makes them susceptible to a fall. It is their heart. They are “burdened with sins” and “led astray by various passions”.
Psalm 32 is true and sin will ravage you…body and soul. This is what you would call “burdened with sins”. These ladies are burdened but they don’t want to give up their darling sin—they are still led astray by various passions. And so they have a deep and abiding guilt because of sin but they don’t want to change.
Imagine with me a guy who is driven by material possessions. He is overcome with greed. This isn’t an inconsequential sin. It wrecks his family, it’s destroying his body, and it is withering his soul. He feels the burden of his all consuming love for money—but at the same time he can’t stop dreaming of dead presidents and all the things they help him acquire.
Burdened with sin but not really wanting to change.
Enter Jannes and Jambres. They parrot the gospel of forgiveness and grace and all these wonderful things to help lift the burden of sin that this dude is feeling. But they also deny its power because rather than actually confronting the sin of greed they coddle it and tell him what his itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3).
This leads me to say that we are most susceptible to false teaching when we are feeling the weight and burden of sin without the desire to actually engage in repentance for that darling sin.
We want to keep our darling lust without the consequence of our harlotry. And we’ll sign up for any false teaching that gives us this promise. Sadly, there are many false teachers who will gladly line their pockets and stroke their egos while selling you this promise.
The true gospel is way better than it’s shiny imitation. The false gospel never works because Psalm 32 is always true. Sin will continue to ravage you. No matter how many false teachers you acquire to coddle your darling lust—it’ll never work. Eventually Jannes and Jambres will be exposed for the charlatans they are.
But Jesus really can forgive and heal. He will not only lift the burden of sin he will also work to change those passions which are bent on destroying you and dethroning God. That is the Gospel with power.
Don’t fall for a parroted gospel void of the life-giving Spirit.