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"But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, . . . "
(2 Peter 2:1)
The following is not exhaustive, because, no doubt, other factors may come into play that would clearly identify a person as a false teacher (like a homosexual teacher, or an adulterer who is a teacher, or a female pastor, 1 Timothy 2:11-14; 1 Corinthians 14:34-37; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
But, here are seven identifying marks from Scripture. If any one of these points can honestly describe a man, that they are characteristic of his life, any one of these alone marks him as false. This is not to say that these marks stand alone, that is, that a man would have only one mark and not any others. But, for the sake of simplicity and to help in identification, one mark is all it takes.
I. FALSE TEACHING
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 9)
Since Christ is the Word of God (i.e. the Scriptures, John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 4:12-13; Revelation 19:13), the doctrine of Christ is not just His teaching found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but rather, His teaching is the entirety of Scripture. Therefore, a teacher can be found to be true or false based on the simple fact as to whether he abides within the confines of the word of God, or does not (John 8:47; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 John 9).
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
What are the fruits that Jesus speaks of by which we may identify false prophets? Matthew 7 doesn't tell us what the fruit is, but Luke does.
For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:39-45)
So, what is the "fruit?" The fruit is what comes out of the mouth.
Now, even though Jesus speaks specifically of false prophets in Matthew 7:15-20, in Luke 6:39-45 he speaks in more general terms ("man"). Therefore, Christ's words about knowing them by their fruit is applicable to both prophet and teacher, or anyone else for that matter. You can know a person by what comes out of their mouth (Proverbs 20:11). Yet, this is so often missed.
When the false teaching of highly respected men in the Christian community gets exposed, it is amazing some of the arguments we hear. People will see the false doctrine, and still they say, "But do you know the man? Have you ever talked to him? Have you spent some time with him?" Jesus didn't say, "You shall know them by spending time with them." If what is coming out of their mouths is deceit, bad fruit, on a consistent basis, then you know the man is false! It's that simple! You don't have to personally know the man.
If we were to follow some of the folly we have heard, then we could never study a man's teaching (his fruit) and know if he's a false teacher or not, because we have not called him first, made an appointment with him, sat down with him, and really gotten to know him. We could not take to heart Christ's words, ". . . by their fruits you will know them."
Typically, people seem to think the fruit (good fruit) is the big ministry, like the ministries of someone like Billy Graham, or Promise Keepers, or James Dobson, or John MacArthur or Chuck Swindoll. Or, they might think the fruit is all the masses of people following them, as if this was good fruit. The problem with this kind of thinking is that these very things (a big ministry with many following them) expose them for what they are, ungodly men (Jude 14-15)! Besides Luke 6:26, 2 Peter 2:2 says,
And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
In these last days (2 Timothy 3:1; 4:3; Luke 18:8) a following of many is a sign of a false teacher, not a true teacher. Few follow truth. Many (2 Peter 2:2) follow lies (Mt. 7:13-14). And, even in this, the context of many and few is within the context of the "people of God" (2 Peter 2:1-2). Jesus' warning in Matthew 7:13-14 is to those who are called "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13-14). His warning is in the context of the correct religion, as is exemplified by the following verses (Matthew 7:15-27).
So, how much false doctrine makes a man a false teacher? It doesn't take very much. 1 Timothy 1:3 says, "teach no other doctrine." What is the standard? It is "no other doctrine." It is not, "Well, you can be off on some things," as if to say, you can continue in false doctrine. Scripture says no such thing. 1 Timothy 6:3 says,
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words [Genesis to Revelation has very wholesome words], even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, . . .
If anyone teaches other than the Word of God, it is false teaching. Those who have the Holy Spirit in them will hear God's Words (John 8:47). They will consent to wholesome words. Those who do not know God, will not consent (John 8:47).
Now, what about confrontation? What about giving a man an opportunity to consent to wholesome words? If there are no other signs of him being a false teacher (like those mentioned below), then Scripture gives both instruction and a warning to safeguard the believer.
1 Timothy 5:19-21 gives instruction in how to confront an elder (pastor) who is sinning. False teaching is sin, therefore it should be dealt with publicly ("in the presence of all," 1 Timothy 5:20). If the man has an identifying mark of a false teacher, Jesus warns not to confront him privately (Matthew 7:3-6). False teachers are to be dealt with publicly. Jesus did this in both Matthew 23 and Luke 11.
Now, if you suspect someone is a false teacher and you want to confront them on false teaching, do it Biblically. Do it publicly. If he is simply a sinning elder, then he should be confronted "in the presence of all" (i.e. publicly, in the presence of the assembly of believers, 1 Timothy 3:15; 5:19-20). If he turns out to be a man who simply was in error (like Peter, Galatians 2:11-21), then he will consent to wholesome words (1 Timothy 6:3). If he turns out to actually be a false teacher, he will not consent (1 Timothy 6:3-5) and you should flee such a man (John 10:5; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:20-21). Don't privately rebuke (correct) a pastor who has taught false doctrine. This is against 1 Timothy 5:19-20. If you privately rebuke a pastor, and if he turns out to be a false teacher, you will be torn in pieces (Matthew 7:6).
2 Peter 2:1 speaks of destructive heresies. How do you determine what's destructive and what's not? The bottom line is this: anything contrary to the Word of God has the potential to be destructive, because it diverts the trust away from the Word of God.
For example, in Romans 14:1 Paul tells us not to dispute over doubtful things. He gives as an example the eating of meat. Paul tells us flat out, don't contend for this. You don't contend over doubtful things. What is the realm he's talking about? It is the realm of the conscience, one's own personal conviction (Romans 14:22-23). If it's left in the realm of personal conscience, it's a doubtful thing. It's not to be disputed over (Romans 14:2-4). But, if someone takes this beyond personal conviction, then we have a problem. If they say something to the effect, "We cannot eat meat. We are not pleasing in the sight of God if we eat meat." as if this is what the Bible teaches, they've gone from a doubtful thing to a demonic teaching (1Timothy 4:1-5). The same issue, if left in the realm of personal conviction, is a doubtful matter not to be disputed over. Yet, if it is taught as a doctrine, this becomes a destructive heresy (1 Timothy 4:1-5), and should be contended against (Jude 3). [For more, see Unity of the Saints.]
II. APPEAL TO TRADITION
When it comes to a proper understanding of the Word of God, the Holy Spirit is all the believer needs (1 John 2:27). The believer does not need the "church fathers" (who were Catholic, see The Early Church Fathers), or the supposed great men of God in the past, or church history, or commentaries, or Bible scholars, or some particular man (like Darwin Fish), etc.. Any appeal otherwise is an appeal to the tradition of men. In Colossians 2:8 Paul warned,
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
We do not need the "teaching of the ages" (the tradition of men) to understand the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is all we need to understand the Word of God. 1 John 2:26-27 says,
These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.
Do we need to have the "oaring" or the anchor of church tradition to keep us from wandering from the truth? No. We need the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (1 John 2:20-21)
Found in the context of these verses (1 John 2:20-21, 26-27) are verses about antichrists (1 John 2:18-19). 1 John 4:1-6 says,
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Likewise, 2 John 7 says,
For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
What is it to "not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh"? Basically, it is to deny the truth of 2 Peter 1:3 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17, or to deny what is seen in 1 John 2:26-27 - that all you need is Christ, His Word and His Spirit. If someone comes along and says you need the traditions of men to properly understand the Word of God and/or to live this life as we ought - that is antichrist. If someone comes along with empty deceit, swaying you away from following the Word of Christ - that is antichrist. If someone persuades you toward philosophy or pragmatism (basic principles of the world) - that is antichrist.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. [Why?] For [because] in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:8-10)
In other words, you don't need philosophy. You don't need the tradition of men. You don't need basic principles that work in this world. You need Christ, and Him alone. Because "in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily". In other words, God is in the flesh in Christ. God, Jesus Christ, has come in the flesh. Believers are complete in Christ and need nothing else for living out this life in godliness, holiness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16). You don't need psychology, or traditions (handed down teachings other than the Word of God) or "what works" (basic principles of the world), etc.. 2 Peter. 1:2-3 says,
. . . as His divine power has given to us all things [we are not lacking anything] that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
The believer has all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ (the Word, Revelation 19:13; Hebrews 4:12-13). We don't need anything else. To say we do is to deny Christ has come in the flesh, and is antichrist (against Christ). 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says,
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Word of God is all you need to make you "complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." When teachers or anyone comes along and says, "You need commentaries or the early church fathers or the understanding of the studies of the supposed men of God of the past, in order to properly understand the Word of God," this is antichrist. Some may refer you to "the historic Christian faith" or "Orthodox Christianity." These terms point to the traditions of men (Colossians 2:8). This appeal is antichrist. What is the true standard for truth? It is the Word of God, not "historic Christianity." Such an appeal to tradition exposes a man to be a false teacher, whose trust is not in God, who is in the flesh (Jesus Christ, John 1:14, Colossians 2:9), but rather in the tradition of men (Colossians 2:8-10; 2 John 7).
III. WORLDLY WISDOM
Akin to the above, in 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul wrote,
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
What did Paul mean by this statement? That he didn't teach on other matters of Scripture other than the character and actions of Christ (like what is found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and the fact of His crucifixion? No. Paul taught the whole counsel of God (Acts. 20:27). In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul is not saying that he didn't teach the whole council of God. Actually, his statement means that he did teach the whole counsel of God, because Christ (the Word, John 1:1, 14; Revelation 19:14; Hebrews 4:12-13) is the whole counsel of God. He is the Word of the living God. So, what Paul was basically pointing out here is that the knowledge he let out of his lips was the knowledge of the Scripture (Christ), and Him crucified. The wisdom of this world he determined not to know (1 Corinthians 3:19).
Paul didn't come along with a bunch of great worldly wisdom. He says, "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Appeals to the wisdom of this world (like psychology) or wanting to bring any worldly wisdom in to help out on how to deal with living this life before God and ways that please Him, or how to deal with sin, or demented minds (Romans 1:28), etc., identifies a man as a false teacher, as antichrist (Colossians 2:8-10; 2 John 7). Because, Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (2 John 9). He took on the same kind of flesh as we have (Hebrews 2:14). He suffered in this flesh and was tempted as we are (Hebrews 2:18). He learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). He even feared God as we ought (Hebrews 5:7).
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
Jesus Christ is in the flesh, even today (1 Timothy 2:5), and He is the God of all flesh. Is there anything too difficult for Him (Jeremiah 32:27)? No.
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness . . . (Jude 3-4)
A common identifying mark of a false teacher is someone who turns the grace of our God into lewdness. Another description of lewdness can be found in 2 Timothy 3:5 which says, "having a form of godliness but denying its power." They have a form of Christianity (godliness), but deny the power of true Christianity (true godliness). They deny the power that is manifest in a true conversion where the grace of God has saved a soul (Ephesians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17). How do false teachers deny the power of godliness? How is this "lewdness" seen?
A. Practical lewdness
There are many who turn the grace of God into lewdness and basically teach that a person can actually know Christ, be saved, be on their way to heaven, and live in and practice sin without repentance. This concept goes against much of the word of God (e.g. Romans 8:1-14; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; 6:7-8; Ephesians 5:5-6; 1 John 1:5-6; 2:3-5; 1 John 3:6-10; Revelation 21:8; 22:15).
To say that a person can live in sin unrepentantly and still be saved (i.e. on their way to heaven) is turning the grace of God into lewdness (a license to sin). 1 John. 2:4 deals with this issue very clearly.
He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
If a teacher teaches that you can practice sin without repentance and live in that state and still know God, they are a liar. They are among those who turn the grace of our God into lewdness. This alone shows them to be a false teacher. Scripture says that the sexually immoral, idolaters, effeminate, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, cowards, liars, murderers, sorcerers, whisperers, backbiters, violent, proud, disobedient to parents, untrustworthy, undiscerning, unloving, unforgiving, hypocrites, rebellious, unholy, kidnappers, perjurers, or any other who are contrary to sound doctrine, all who live unrighteously will go to hell if they die in such a state (Ezekiel 33:12-19; Romans 1:29-31; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; Revelation 21:8; 22:15).
B. Doctrinal lewdness
2 John 9 states,
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
The "doctrine of Christ" is the teaching of Christ. If you understand that Christ is the Word (John 1:1, 14; Revelation 19:13; Hebrews 4:12-13), then you will understand that Genesis to Revelation is the "doctrine of Christ." So, verse nine establishes that those who have God are faithful to the Word of God. They "abide in the doctrine of Christ". Those who don't stay in the bounds of Holy Scripture, don't have God. That's what is established in verse nine. Then in verse ten it says,
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine [i.e. what he just laid out in verse nine], do not receive him into your house nor greet him; (2 John 10)
In other words, if someone comes to you and doesn't teach that if you go outside of the bounds of the Word of God, characteristically ("abide") teaching contrary to the Word of God, you therefore, don't know God; if they don't bring that doctrine, don't have anything to do with them. Don't even greet them.
If you greet him, you share in his evil deeds (verse 11). Why? If he comes to you with that mind-set and that teaching, and you say, "Hey brother!" (or something of that nature) and you greet him and bring him into your house, what are you doing? You are basically saying the same kind of thing he is. You aren't in opposition to him. You are bringing him in saying, "We all have God. I mean, you have your falsehood and I guess I have mine. But we're all brothers in the Lord. We're all learning and growing." If you receive him into your house, you're rejecting 2 John 9 just like he does, at least in practice, if not in precept, by your very actions.
What 2 John 9 teaches is basically the truth that Jesus points out in John 10:4-5 & 10:27-28.
And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. [i.e., they won't follow false teachers] (John 10:4-5)
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:27-28)
In other words, those who have God take heed to the Words of God. Jesus said in John 8:47, "He who is of God hears God's words." If you don't take heed to the Words of God (no matter what the issue is) you don't have God (2 John 9; 1 Timothy 6:3-5).
Therefore, to maintain that "we are all Christians, we just have our doctrinal differences," or to maintain some "essentials/fundamentals of the faith" (in which there are supposedly secondary, non-essential doctrines that are not necessary for salvation) is doctrinal lewdness. It is lewd to teach any form of ecumenism. It basically writes a license for error.
Ecumenism characterizes a false teacher. It turns the grace of God into lewdness. Because, contrary to any ecumenical mindset, God's people are one (John 17:17-21), and those born of God do walk in truth (2 John 9; 1 John 1:7; 2:3-5), both practically in daily living, and doctrinally in what they believe (Romans 8:14, see also our report entitled, The Unity Of The Saints and/or You Think You're Saved, But You're Not!).
John 10:11-13 states,
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.
The hireling (the one who is there to make money, the wage earner) does nothing about the wolves. Wolves are those that propagate falsehood (e.g. Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29). The hireling does nothing about other false teachers.
When you see a man who does not warn (by name), you are looking at a false teacher himself, a hireling. And when we say "warn", we are talking about the kind of warning the Word of God gives in regards to false teachers. Some "Christian" leaders may give the appearance that they expose false teachers, but do they really expose them for what they are? False teachers lead people to hell (Matthew 7:13-14; 15:12-14; 23:15; Luke 6:39; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 2:10; 2 Peter 2:18-22; Revelation 21:8; 22:15), because they deceitfully divert people's trust away from the Word of God. False teachers lead people to hell, and they themselves are on their way to hell (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 4,13). Any Biblical exposure of a false teacher is with this understanding. There is no such thing as a saved (i.e. on his way to heaven) wolf. False teachers destroy souls, and they themselves will be destroyed (2 Peter 2:3). Cowards (Revelation 21:8) would be fearful of making such a distinction and exposure.
God says, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:11) If some pastor/teacher or "Christian" leader refuses to expose works of darkness [By the way, false teachers are workers of darkness, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15] they are;
1.) Refusing to obey the Word of God (Ephesians 5:11).
2.) Not hating evil (Proverbs 8:13), thus showing they don't fear God.
3.) Displaying the actions of a hireling, one who does not care about the sheep. They give the appearance that they care about the flock (Matthew 23:28), but the very fact that they're not warning about the false teachers of our day and exposing them shows they really don't care about the sheep. And this alone identifies them as a false teacher (a hireling, a wage earner, someone who is in it for the money, 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Peter 2:15).
Typically, not only do false teachers not expose, they also give hearty approval to many of the teachers of our day who are well spoken of (Luke 6:26). They not only refuse to expose the unfruitful works of darkness, but they also have fellowship with them by exalting them as godly men. Book endorsements often document this well.
Jack Hayford's book, Pastors of Promise (copyright 1997) epitomizes this with the first six pages of the book entitled "Praise for Pastors of Promise." For six pages one false teacher after the other praises Hayford and/or his book. Thirty "Christian" leaders praise a man (and/or his book) who turns the grace of God into lewdness (Jude 4, see our report on Hayford). Actually, only three out of the thirty quotes are praise only for the book. Twenty seven of the quotes praise Hayford himself. The false Christian leaders quoted are, Joe C. Aldrich (President, Multnomah College and Biblical Seminary, Portland, Oregon), Leith Anderson (Pastor, Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, Minnesota), Neil Anderson (Founder and President, Freedom in Christ Ministries, La Habra, California), Sonny Arguinzoni (Pastor and Founder, Victory Outreach Ministries International, La Puente, California), Bishop Charles E. Blake (Senior Pastor, West Angeles Church of God in Christ, Los Angeles, California), Bill Bright (Founder and President, Campus Crusade for Christ International, Orlando, Florida), Dr. James B. Buskirk (Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma), Paul A. Cedar (President, Evangelical Free Church of America, Minneapolis, Minnesota), Charles W. Colson (Founder, Prison Fellowship Ministries, Washington, D.C.), Dr. Stephen Paul Goold (Senior Pastor, Crystal Evangelical Free Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota), Stephen Green (Senior Pastor, First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena, Pasadena, California), Ted Haggard (Pastor, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado), Dr. John Holland (President, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, Los Angeles, California), Dr. John A. Huffman, Jr. (Senior Minister, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, California), Bill Hybels (Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Illinois), Greg Laurie (Pastor, Harvest Christian Fellowship, Riverside, California), John MacArthur (Pastor-Teacher, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California), John C. Maxwell (Founder, Injoy, San Diego, California), Bob Moorehead (Senior Pastor, Overlake Christian Church, Kirkland, Washington), Doug Murren (Pastor, Eastside Foursquare Church, Kirkland, Washington), Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie (Chaplain, United States Senate, Washington, D.C.), James Ryle (Pastor, Boulder Valley Vineyard, Longmont, Colorado), Dale Schlafer (Vice President/Renewal and Revival, Promise Keepers, Denver, Colorado), Dr. Robert Schuller (The Crystal Cathedral, Garden Grove, California), Dr. Morris Sheats (Senior Pastor, Hillcrest Church, Dallas, Texas), Vinson Synan (Dean, School of Divinity, Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia), B. E. Underwood (Pastor, The Pentecostal Holiness Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), Dr. Paul Walker (Pastor, Mount Paran Church of God, Atlanta, Georgia), John Wimber (International Director, Association of Vineyard Churches, Anaheim, California), and Ed Young (Pastor, Fellowship of Las Colinas, Irving, Texas). The titles and locations of these leaders was taken from Hayford's book. John Wimber has since died (2 Peter 2:17).
Now, compare this praise and the silence mentioned in John 10 with the law of God, God Himself, and men of God in the past. When compared, it should become blazingly obvious that someone who does not expose false teachers, the false teachers of our day who are "among" us (2 Peter 2:1), does not have God (2 John 9)!
A. The law
If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, "Let us go after other gods"- which you have not known - "and let us serve them," you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God . . . (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
The law is not silent about false prophets and how to deal with them. The law is not silent when a false prophet comes along. God's law says that he is to be put to death. We have here serious opposition! How could the law be opposed any stronger than that? In the law of God, exposure, opposition, and destruction are reserved for those who speak falsely in the name of God.
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, "How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?" - when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20-22)
In other words, don't be afraid of him, kill him (Deuteronomy 18:20). The law commanded death to those who, on their own accord, presumed to speak in the Lord's name, and it commanded death to those who might speak in order to turn the people away from the Lord God. This is what false teachers do. They speak in the name of the Lord falsely, and they speak so as to turn people away from God (being deceived themselves, 2 Timothy 3:13). [By the way, we are not instructed today to kill anyone, Romans 10:4; 13:1-2; Galatians 5:18; unless you are a peace officer, or soldier ,doing so in the line of duty, Romans 13:4.]
B. God Himself
An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: [God calls it an astonishing and horrible thing. And what is it?] The prophets prophesy falsely [This is not a small matter.], and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end? (Jeremiah 5:30-31)
False prophesying, which is equivalent to false teaching, is counted by God as an "astonishing and horrible thing."
Then the Lord said to me, "Do not pray for this people, for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence." Then I said, "Ah, Lord God! Behold, the prophets say to them, 'You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.' And the Lord said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in My name, whom I did not send, and who say, 'Sword and famine shall not be in this land' - by sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed!" (Jeremiah 14:11-15)
God is seriously against those who speak lies! Note also verse sixteen.
And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; they will have no one to bury them - them nor their wives, their sons nor their daughters - for I will pour their wickedness on them. (Jeremiah 14:16)
This is why lies spoken in the name of God are so horrible. It brings to destruction, eternal destruction, to those who follow the lies. In fact, in Jeremiah 23:22 the Lord indicates that, at least in this context, if truth would have been spoken by these men, people would have taken heed.
But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings. (Jeremiah 23:22)
People are being led to be disobedient to the true word of God. So the Lord says to these prophets who prophesied falsely,
"Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!" says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: "You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings," says the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:1-2)
How does He attend to them?
And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 23:40)
What is He talking about? Hell (Daniel 12:2). Read through Jeremiah 23:9-40 and Ezekiel 13:1-8 and you should see God is severely against those who speak falsely in His name. God is seriously opposed to false teachers (see also 2 Peter 2:3-9; Jude 5-7,11). Therefore, it is absolutely ludicrous not to expose them (Ephesians 5:11).
Some false teacher might say, "We preach the Word of God to our people. It is up to them to figure out who the false teachers are." That is ludicrous! Are we to preach the Word and turn right around and not obey it? God says, "expose" them (Eph. 5:11). "Beware" of them (Matthew 7:15). "Note" them (Romans 16:17).
C. Men of God
Just as God is against those who speak falsely in His name, so are His sons against those who speak falsely in God's name (Romans 8:14). If you do not see this in a man, if you do not see in a man a holy anger and hatred for those who speak falsehood, you are not looking at a man who has the Spirit of God in him.
Paul had the Spirit of God in him, and he seriously opposed those who would lead someone astray. In Acts 13:6-12 Paul opposes Elymas. In Philippians 3:1-2 this warning is given:
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!
Paul is speaking here of human beings, and he calls them "dogs" and "the mutilation." The mutilation is a very not-so-smooth non-flattering way to talk about the Jews (Philippians 3:3). Paul is not fond of people who would lead believers astray! In Galatians Paul's words for those who propagated circumcision to those believers in Galatia are as follows:
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)
I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! (Galatians 5:12)
In Acts 20:25-31 Paul exemplifies the kind of shepherd he was and the concerns that were continually upon his heart.
For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:29-31)
What about naming names? Did Paul name names? Yes indeed! Paul saw no problem specifically exposing people in his day. In 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul names Alexander the coppersmith. He not only gives his name and gives the trade he was in, but prays that God would judge him for what he did!
Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. (2 Timothy 4:14)
In 1 Timothy 1:18-20 Paul names Hymenaeus and Alexander. In 2 Timothy 1:15 Paul names Phygellus and Hermogenes. In 2 Timothy 2:17-19 Paul names Hymenaeus and Phyletus. In 2 Timothy 3:8 Paul names Jannes and Jambres; although they were dead, he still names them. In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul names Demas, mentions that he had forsaken him, and notes how he "loved this present world" pointing out that the man was hell bound (1 John 2:15). In Galatians 2:11-21 Paul even publicly confronts Peter, who was not a false teacher, and calls him to account for his hypocrisy.
Christians are told to "note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them." (Romans 16:17) Paul practiced what he preached.
God in the flesh (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16) opposed and warned about the false teachers of His day.
Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread." But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? - but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:6-12)
Jesus wasn't talking about an obscure group that didn't exist. He spoke of the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were in the right religion of the day, Judaism (Romans 3:1-2; John 4:22). The disciples knew about these two groups of religious leaders. He notes them and warns the disciples of the "doctrine [teaching] of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
It's interesting that He uses the term "leaven." Leaven is a small amount of yeast (or some other leavening agent) that goes into bread and has a permeating effect, and it affects the entire loaf. This is the same picture 2 Peter 2:1 gives of the teaching of false teachers. They secretly bring in destructive heresies. Secret destructive heresies permeate through an assembly of people in a hidden way and cause destruction, soul destruction.
Besides warning about the teaching, Jesus even mentions other matters than just their teaching.
Then He said to them in His teaching, "Beware of the Scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation." (Mark 12:38-40)
In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known." (Luke 12:1-2)
Here, in Luke 12:1-2, Jesus warns that they will say one thing and do another (hypocrisy). They might say the right thing but not live it. That's typically how hypocrisy is lived.
In Matthew 23:13-33 Jesus graphically opposes the false teachers of His day. He calls them "snakes." Another perfect example of serious opposition and exposure of those who propagate lies in the name of God is found in Luke 11:37-54. Here, over the dinner table, Jesus rebukes them right to their face.
And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them." Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, "Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also." And He said, "Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. In fact, you bear witness that you approve the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore the wisdom of God also said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,' that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered." And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him. (Luke 11:37-54)
Jesus is in serious, to-the-face, hard core opposition to those who lead people astray. Jesus says, "Woe" to them. What is the woe? Here is the woe.
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! (Matthew 18:6-7)
Christ is talking about believers (Matthew 18:3) who are caused to stumble. That's exactly what false teachers do; they cause the little ones to stumble (2 Peter 2:18). That woe is still effective today as Jesus' words are still true.
The false teachers of today typically give the false appearance (Matthew 23:28) that they are opposed to those who speak falsehood. They will speak of false teachers in general. They'll say, "Watch out for the false prophets." They will in general say "Watch out for false teachers" and they typically play it safe. "Watch out for Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, or some false religion like Islam." But they fail to expose those who are "among" "God's people," who have "crept in unnoticed" (Jude 4). What we have just seen through a lot of these Scriptures is not only general warning, but specific exposure and opposition to specific people and specific groups. These are named and identified and even to their face opposed. There is not behind-closed doors kind of stuff going on here. This is out in the open, in the face, serious, hard-core opposition.
So, when you see a man who is silent about the wolves of our day, it is because he's a hireling. He's in it for the money. Thus, he is a false teacher himself and does not care about the sheep (John 10:12-13). This one identifying mark condemns him. That is all you need to know about a man. The Holy Spirit is in opposition to him.
2 Peter 2:3 states, speaking of false teachers, "by covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words." In the second part of verse fourteen of 2 Peter 2 it says, "They have a heart trained in covetous practices . . . ." This is core to false teachers. They are covetous. This is where their heart resides, in covetousness. This is something that is hard to prove to those who are blind (i.e. those who do not walk in truth, 2 Corinthians 4:4). Nonetheless, it is an identifying mark for those who have eyes to see. [You may also want to read the article on Debt.]
1 Peter 5:1-2 says,
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly.
What is contrasted to dishonest gain? Eagerness. When false teachers sell their teachings, tapes, books, etc., for profit, are they being eager about getting it out there? What are they being eager for? They're being eager for money. It is "dishonest gain" to put a price tag on the word of God and profit from it. Some churches have seminars or classes in which they charge for their teaching. Seminaries and Bible Colleges epitomize dishonest gain. Class after class requires dollar after dollar in order to be taught, supposedly, the word of God. For many, "godliness" is for the rich! Paul said,
For we are not, as so many, [It was already a prevalent practice in Paul's day.] peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ. (2 Corinthians 2:17).
Now, the above is not typically acknowledged. But, perhaps some of the letters these false teachers send out might be a little more help in exposing their covetous hearts (2 Peter 2:14).
. . . so as we end another year and look forward to this second millennium, I plead with you to carefully consider the real nature of the spiritual battle being waged in America. My desire is to remain in the spiritual fight at the foundational level and to do that, Answers in Genesis needs your financial help. We want to end 1998 in the black, as we have every year. We need your support in order to make that happen.
Just by the statement, "we need your support" what does he reveal? He has no faith in God. Where's the faith in the statement, "we need your support in order to make that happen." If it's of God, he wouldn't need anybody's support but God's support, and God would provide as He saw fit (be it through people or otherwise) without having to beg for money.
Ken writes further in the next paragraph, "we have a number of projects that need to be funded if they are going to have an impact on lives." In the next paragraph, he says, ". . . through your generous gift (or gifts) to the great opportunities below you can take an active role in the battle with us." And in the last paragraph he writes,
. . . we are going to stand our ground and fight for what is clearly a right zoning decision. This fight will be very expensive and we need your special financial help to cover these legal costs during the next few months. Costs have already exceeded $10,000. It is an extra financial burden that I wish I didn't have to mention, but after much godly council, the AiG board of directors and I believe it is absolutely the right thing to do! Please consider an extra special gift to help us in this fight! (emphasis in original)
In other words, he's saying, "Please give me your money!" Using the kind of argument Ken Ham uses here, anybody could ask for your money. "I need a barn, and I need your money to build my barn so I can use it to God's glory." You can always talk like that, no matter what your agenda is.
Another example of wanting your money (covetousness) is found in a November 23, 1998 letter written by Dr. Sydney DeWall, president of the Jerusalem University College in Israel. He says at the end of the letter,
This Christmas, please consider a gift of $500, $250, $100, $50 or more as your way of furthering the knowledge of our future Christian leaders about the one who is our Savior Jesus Christ.
In other words, "Please give me your money."
Some get unashamedly anxious for people's money. Noah W. Hutchings writes at the end of his Southwest Radio Church, July 1998 letter,
". . . and remember, I need your prayers and financial support NOW!" (emphasis in original).
In other words, "I want your money and I want it NOW!" When men start talking about how they need your money, you can know they want your money and they are covetous (2 Peter 2:3).
Covetousness, this mark alone shows that their trust is not in God, as Ephesians 5:5 and Luke 16:13 declare,
For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Luke 16:13)
VII. WELL SPOKEN OF
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets. (Luke 6:26)
The Majority Text of Greek manuscripts has no "all". The NKJV footnotes this. According to the Majority Text it reads, "Woe to you when men speak well of you . . . ."
Jesus likens anyone who is "well spoken of" to the false prophets of old. This is not to say that this verse does not apply if there is a teacher who has someone speak against them in some form or fashion. In the past, false prophets had people speak against them. Elijah spoke against the false prophets of his day (1 Kings 18:27-40). Micaiah spoke against the false prophets of his day (1Kings 22:23f). Jeremiah spoke against the false prophets of his day (e.g. Jeremiah 23 & 28). In Luke 6:26 Christ wasn't saying that if everybody speaks well of you and no one speaks against you, then woe to you. Christ is saying "Woe" to those who, like the false prophets of old, give people what they want to hear (Isaiah 30:8-10; Romans 16:17-18; Galatians 1:10) and are therefore well spoken of.
If you understand that people are wicked (Psalm 14:1-3), then you should understand Jesus' words in Luke 6:26. The masses are wicked, and they desire evil teachers (2 Timothy 4:3-4). As it was in the days of Isaiah, so it is today.
Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: that this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; who say to the seers, "Do not see," and to the prophets, "Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us." (Isaiah 30:8-11)
Israel, in this example, was very blatant in their rejection of God. Those who pretend submission to God are also those who desire "smooth things" and "deceits" (2 Timothy 3:4; 4:3; Titus 1:16). Therefore, the haters of God, both the pretenders of submission and the not so stealthy, speak well of those teachers who give them what they want to hear.
If they are well spoken of within the "Christian" community (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3-4), as the false prophets of old were well spoken of within the Jewish community (Luke 6:26), they fit the mold of a false teacher. The "Christian" community have "itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:3), and false teachers accommodate this desire by scratching their ears with great sounding sermons.
For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. (2 Peter 2:18)
False teachers scratch ears, speak great swelling words, and they speak smooth words.
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18)
False teachers flatter, as the end of verse eighteen says, and you could note also Jude 16.
...they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.
When a teacher spends most of his time talking about love, God's grace, etc., all the "nice" stuff, these indeed are "smooth words" (Romans 16:18). This is so missed by people, it's amazing. False teachers don't come along and say, "I'm a false teacher." They don't come with horns on their head and a red suit. They don't come and say, "I'm here to deceive you. Watch out!" Note what Jesus said in Matthew 23:27-28.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees [Scribes, by the way, were the "scholars" of the day.], hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
It's amazing how people are taken in by the outward appearance of godliness. If a man puts on a good appearance of looking righteous, people are hoodwinked. They just don't see through the facade. 2 Peter 2:1 says they "secretly bring in destructive heresies" and Jude 4 says they creep in "unnoticed." People don't notice. They creep in. It's not so blazingly obvious. But one thing is obvious. If you have a case where a man is well spoken of, that condemns him. According to Luke 6:26 that condemns him. "Woe to you when men speak well of you." (Luke 6:26, Majority Text)
An example of being "well spoken of" can be found in John MacArthur's book Successful Christian Parenting (copyright 1998). On the inside back dust jacket this boast is written.
John MacArthur is the pastor/teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley California. He is one of the most popular Bible expositors and Bible conference speakers in the country.
One of the ways this "well spoken of" is manifested is by the sheer popularity of the false teacher. The "Christian" masses (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4:3; 2 Peter 2:2) speak well of false teachers, just as the "Jewish" masses spoke well of the false prophets of old (Luke 6:26).
Another graphic example of this is Billy Graham. Graham is "Hailed as the world's preacher" and "one of the world's most beloved and respected leaders" (Just As I Am, copyright 1997, inside back dust jacket). If he were a man of God, he would be hated, not loved. Jesus said,
If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)
Jesus says, "If you were of the world, the world would love its own." When you see a man loved by the world, you can know for certain that he is of the world, thus of the Devil (1 John 5:19; 2 Corinthians 11:15).
A man of God is not going to be well spoken of, especially in our evil days (Ephesians 5:16) where false Christianity abounds (2 Timothy 3:1-5 & 4:3; Luke 18:8). The false teachers are the "well spoken of" ones, and because of them the true man of God is blasphemed.
And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:2)
HOW DO FALSE TEACHERS DENY THE LORD?
2 Peter 2:1 and Jude 4 say that false teachers deny the Lord. How do they do this? It should be obvious that they are not going to come right out and say, "Don't believe in Christ." or "Jesus isn't Lord." or something to that effect. Jude 4 says they have "crept in unnoticed" and 2 Peter 2:1 says they "secretly" bring in destructive heresies. Titus 1:16 has the answer to how they deny the Lord who bought them.
They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
Paul says at the end of his life, "I have fought the good fight . . ." (2 Timothy 4:7). Besides fighting this sinful flesh that we're in, what's the "good fight?" Contending (fighting) for the faith is the good fight (Jude 3). Paul wrote,
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
Casting down falsehood and lies is part of the war. It is good, extremely good, to contend for the faith (Jude 3), to fight the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7), to cast down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), and to expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). It is good to expose false teachers. Those who are caught in lies and in the darkness of this age hate this exposure (John 3:19-20), because they do not love the truth, the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6).