I guess every true teacher of God’s Word and Gospel gets it wrong sometimes. That does not make them a false teacher.
False teachers in seem to have at least two characteristics in the New Testament that I can think of. Number 1 they say that what you have heard before they arrived to teach you was incomplete, it was ok as far as it went, but they have some new insight that will lead you into a better understanding and a fuller experience of Christ than received teaching has brought to you. Thus with faint praise they condescendingly damn the faith once delivered to the saints and have a mission to move folk away from the true Christ under the guise of moving people on. Others nowadays for various reasons have become more daring and moved further along the road to error. They say what we have received, the gospel in which we found God’s love and salvation from our sins and the wrath to come is not just inadequate but wrong. So, for example, I think of a former leader of an organisation that reports to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland who said that his mission as a minister was to destroy belief in the truth that Christ was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities and bore punishment for our sins in our place. The same leader allowed the worship of idols in his church building. The seed of error planted even in New Testament times has flourished and far from being censured by church discipline is even applauded. It all fits with fallen religion in Romans Chapter 1.
However, not all the blame lies with the false teachers themselves. Yes, they will bear punishment for destroying God’s temple, the church, by not building true to the foundation of Jesus Christ Himself, but they are not wholly to blame. The bible also says that listeners have itching ears to hear something that suits them, that somehow does away with elements of Christian truth they find distasteful or elements of Christian discipleship that they would rather not be challenged by. People are innately spiritual, but are drawn to create their own god in their own image, one they can live with more easily than living with the Living God.
Anyway these thoughts were sparked off by rejoicing today that there are so many places where there are true teachers of God’s Word. Thank God it is so. Thank God for the Bible and those who seek to teach it with humility and faithfulness whatever their intellectual or oratorical skill may or may not be. What an immense blessing if you are a member of a congregation where there is a true teacher, a true Shepherd. Many congregations do not have that blessing.
By the way, part of teaching with faithfulness and humility is being able to straightforwardly admit when you have taught something that is wrong. Secure leadership can do that. It enhances credibility. Without knowing it, preachers and teachers like myself can have a loyalty to a theological system which we have found a good framework for understanding the Bible’s teaching. However there is no theological system without its blind spots, bits of the bible here and there which it misinterprets, forcing the bible text into the mould of the system rather than allowing it to speak fully and challenge fully. All of that can lead us to temporary discomfort and disturbance. It is good to acknowledge when we have been teachers that got it wrong (though if we are basically committed to teaching the Bible, that admission should in actual fact turn out to be rare and occasional, otherwise the flock will feel unnerved rather than blessed by the Shepherd they called). The result will be God will be glorified, life will flow, even though some may reject you as a traitor to the theological camp which you may well alwayslthink of as the home in which you have been born and nurtured and to which you basically still feel in a human sense you belong.