How to Recognize False Teachers

I’m an avid reader, so I love to read Christian devotionals and bible studies that are written by women. But recently, my gut twists every time I hear another favorite writer and the words “false teacher” thrown together in the same sentence. Just like I quickly pluck red socks from my white laundry basket, I need to pluck false statements presented as truth just as quickly.

Although I have never met my favorite writers in real-life, it still feels like a personal attack on a close friend.  We watch out for our friends, right? Us girls, need to stick together?

Well, I hope if my line of thinking blurs into dangerous territory that one of my “friends” would present the truth to me in a loving way. The Spirit of Christ resides in me, so the Holy Spirit will convict me of sin and reveal the truth. Then repentance follows with the grace of the gospel.

The Spirit will come and show the people of this world the truth about sin and God’s justice and the judgment. John 16:8 CEV

Well, “false teachers” are not a new concept and we should not be surprised when we hear these words. So, let’s look at what scripture says about false prophets.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 ESV

One of my favorite shows is the Carbonaro Effect. Michael Carbonaro is a comedian, prankster, and magician. He convinces people that soap bubbles turn into glass, a live dog can be flattened, and statues come to life. If people can be tricked so easily, certainly Christ’s followers need to be on guard about their own beliefs.

So, how do you know if the Spirit of God is really in anyone?

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 1 John 4:2

God sent Jesus Christ to earth to live a perfect sinless life. Jesus agreed with God’s plan and willingly obeyed his Heavenly Father’s will. Jesus lived a sinless life, was baptized, and allowed himself to be crucified.  He is the only one who is capable of living a righteous life, so He is the only one who could save us from our sin.  He was pierced for our sin, but on the third day He rose again.

But if someone is telling you a different message that denies Jesus power, authority, or his identity as God the Son; you need to recognize the warning.  It is our responsibility to be discerning about who we respect, trust, and believe.

How Do I Recognize a False Teacher?

and every spirit that does not confess Jesus-  is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 1 John 4:3

As the bible states false teachers have been around for a long time.  And we probably can name at least a handful of people who use the name of Jesus as a curse on a regular basis. So we can see, hear, and easily believe that the spirit of the antichrist is also in this world. But when we are more offended by someone talking negatively about a favorite writer than we are offended by someone cursing the name of Jesus in our presence…We should be alarmed.

How do I detect the spirit of antichrist in others?

A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7 : 18 – 20 ESV

If people are saying they have received a special message from God, then you should be wary.  Are they drawing you to their special revelation instead of pointing towards the word of God? Bible believing teachers point towards scripture as the primary resource.

If anyone points you to other books or people instead of to the bible and Jesus, then we need to be alert. If you would rather read a book then read the bible, then you may have a spiritual problem.  I know because I’ve been there.  I would rather read other people telling me what they learned from the bible rather than dig in to find treasures for myself. But when we are hurt, scared, or sad we should be running to our bibles and clinging to Jesus in prayer. Not running to self help books, Dr. Phil, or Dear Abby.

I don’t want to be a false teacher and I certainly don’t want to be mislead by one. But at the same time we should not be fearful of false teachers. We just need to be able to recognize them.

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:4-6 ESV

Thank goodness that the Holy Spirit is greater than the spirit of the antichrist. Lust, greed, and envy are all things belonging to our world. Movies with these elements are often box office hits, because the world loves these things.

However if the Spirit of Christ lives in you, you will listen to people with sound biblical teaching. People who do not have the Spirit of Christ in them will not listen to sound biblical teaching.

Here are some other warning signs to detect people who do not have the Spirit of Christ living victoriously in them:

  • They attack the Christian church.  Since people are the church, we are not perfect. We all are sinners which is why we all need a Savior- We all need Jesus Christ!
  • They undermine scripture. Or use scripture out of context for their own purposes.
  • They promote salvation by doing good works.  Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ.
  • They talk the talk, but do not walk the walk! People who have the Spirit of Christ in them should be living victoriously.  Sure we all struggle in certain areas, but the power of Christ breaks addictions, strongholds, and sins.  That’s why we are so bold in telling others,  We want them to be free too!

What do we do when we encounter False Teachers?

If indeed they have escaped the corruption of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, only to be entangled and overcome by it again, their final condition is worse than it was at first. 2 Peter 2: 20

Pray for anyone who escaped addictions, strongholds, and sins through the power of Christ for a little while.  But then they wander away from the truth and become secretly entangled in the same lifestyle they had previously fled from!

the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 2 Peter 2:9 ESV

Pray for false teachers who refuse to repent, because the bible clearly states that the angels, people in Noah’s time, and even Sodom were not spared from punishment.

After praying, then we should flee from false teachings and instead turn to the scripture which is sound teaching. 1 Timothy 6:5 talk about how some people will use godliness as a means to gain.  Hmmm.  People wanting to sell books, online courses, and bible studies…the list goes on.

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

But you, O man of God, flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.

1 Timothy 6: 10 -11 ESV

Now don’t get me wrong, writers need to eat and provide for their families just like the rest of us.  However, when people are more concerned about “selling” or making money than presenting sound teaching- there’s a huge problem!

Please pray with me:

Heavenly Father, we praise you for you are wisdom, truth, and freedom.

I thank you for your plan to send your son Jesus to earth to live a perfect life, to willingly die as our representative since we all are sinners. Thank you for raising Jesus back to life and allowing us forgiveness for our sins.

We ask that your power shine through our lives as we struggle with sins. Please reveal false teachings to us.  Give us courage to confront our Christian brothers and sisters by presenting the truth in love. Give us a desire to pursue righteousness which can only be found in your son, Jesus Christ.

In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

VIEW DISCERNING THE WORD BY SUSAN HECK

This post was inspired by Susan Heck when she spoke about Discerning the Word at Cornerstone Church. View Susan’s teaching to find out about our responsibility to discern false teachers, a method to spot them, and how to overcome false teachings.  Listen to her session about Discerning the Word on youtube.

Connect with me:

I’d love to hear your thoughts about warning signs of false teachings, how to overcome them, or any other comments about the video Discerning the Word. Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your thinking.

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2 Comments on “How to Recognize False Teachers

    • Thank you for reading! I also appreciate you taking the time to leave me an encouraging word. Have a great weekend!

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