Through the ages, there have been false teachers who tried to keep those who would follow God from doing so.
Satan was the original false teacher. In leading Eve to sin, he persuaded her to forget what God had said and to think only of her wants and desires. This is how Satan works on everyone. The thing that is forgotten is that obeying God is far better than our desires being satisfied for a moment.
Another example of a false teacher is recorded in I Kings 13. A man of God from Judah was sent to King Jeroboam at Bethel to cry out against the idolatry of the nation. God had told the prophet, “‘Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.’ So he went another way and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel” (1 Kings 13:9-10). Upon leaving the king as he traveled, he was approached by an older prophet who lied to the young prophet and convinced him to go home with him and eat and drink. Because of this deception and disobedience, the young prophet lost his life (1 Kings 13:23-26).
When the children of Israel were being warned by Jeremiah of their impending doom and captivity, a false prophet, Hananiah, stood up and contradicted Jeremiah. He made the people to believe his lies, stating that the captivity would only last two years, for God had broken the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (Jeremiah 28:11-12). He was punished for his false teaching: “Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, ‘Hear now, Hananiah; The Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the Earth; this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the Lord.’ So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month” (Jeremiah 28:15-17). False teachers cannot give life, for their false ways lead to destruction.
In the New Testament, false teachers still were a problem. Gamaliel, a doctor of the law under whom Paul studied (Acts 22:3), reminded those of the Sanhedrin about false teachers who had come pretending to be the messiah (Acts 5:34-39). Those men sought only their good, not that of their followers. They were not the good shepherds as they claimed. Their actions stole the opportunity God had offered from their followers, causing doubt and confusion.
Paul, in his letter to the church at Galatia, had to combat the work of false teachers. He had taught these people about the “abundant life” offered by Jesus, and they had received his teachings gladly and obeyed the gospel. After his leaving, Judaizing teachers had come in “not sparing the flock.” They worked to steal the “abundant life” from these people. They wanted to and were successful with some in binding them back to the Old Law. Their teaching was that only by meeting the requirements of the Jewish religion could a person get into Christ. Understanding what the Galatian brethren were giving up makes it clear why Paul would say, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 6:1). He knew that they — as well as man today — needed to heed God’s word and refuse the false teachers.