As an introduction to this study, please read the 1-minute Bible Love Note called 10 Facts about False Teachers.
False teachers have always been around, and they always will be. Scripture gives us information so we can spot them.
Matthew 7:15: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."
False teachers are skilled at presenting themselves in a positive light.
2. They have a “form of godliness”:
2 Timothy 3:1-5: But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
Without exception, false teachers who appeal to Christians always include some Scriptural truths. They take their cues from Satan who also misuses Scripture to deceive. See Satan's Twists and Turns, 5 Ways Satan Speaks, and 3 of Satan's Half-Truth Tactics.
3. They may have Satan’s power:
Matthew 24:24: For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (also Mark 13:22)
Satan is the most evil being who ever existed, but his evil does not match God's goodness. We can avoid Satan's deception by carefully checking all teaching against Scripture. See The Difference Between God and Satan and Understanding Why Satan Has Power.
4. They cause divisions:
Romans 16:17: I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
See also: Galatians 1:6-10
Christians who know and understand Scripture will always be at odds with false teachers. Studying Scripture is the best protection against false teachings. See Don't Believe Anything that Contradicts Scripture.
5. They have followers:
1 Timothy 4:11: The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
See also: 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
Some people assume that a teacher's popularity is a sign of his anointing from God. But Jesus explained that the most popular path is the broad highway to destruction (Matthew 7:13-15).
6. They “secretly introduce” some of their false beliefs:
2 Peter 2:1: But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves.
These false teachers not only wrap their messages in Scripture, cleverly pulling passages out of context, they also devise convincing arguments for their errors.
They typically discredit those who don't have enough "faith" to believe what they teach.
They say things that appeal to our selfish, fallen human nature. They often take God's promises for spiritual blessings and claim they are promises for material blessings. See Future Promises, Not Earthy Promises and Misunderstandings about the Stripes of Jesus.
Their followers have trouble "unlearning" these false doctrines even when presented with Scriptures that refute their beliefs.
7. Some will even claim to be the Messiah:
Matthew 24:5: For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Messiah,' and will deceive many.
The Church of Almighty God is a modern example of a cult that uses the Bible but claims a Chinese woman is God incarnate. They have millions of members. I assume this type of heresy will increase as we get closer to Christ's return.
8. False prophets come in the spirit of the final enemy of God’s people, the Antichrist:
1 John 2:18: Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
The Spirit of the Antichrist is present in all teachings that pervert the gospel and lead people astray.
9. They don't present Christ accurately:
2 John 1:6-11: And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.
This passage does not merely apply to those who "do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh." It applies to all teachings that do not "continue in the teaching of Christ" as presented in Scripture. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons (LDS), and Christian Science all present a different Jesus than the one presented in Scripture.
See also 2 Corinthians 11:4.
10. They usually preach Christ for financial gain:
2 Peter 2:3: In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
1 Timothy 6:5 speaks of false teachers "who think that godliness is a means to financial gain." Titus 1:11 talks of those who teach "for the sake of dishonest gain."
It is not a sin to be wealthy, but it is certainly sinful to become selfishly rich from teaching God's truths. If God gives a biblical teacher great wealth, he has a responsibility to use his wealth wisely, being extravagant with God, not himself. This is true for all Christians, and we should expect preachers and teachers to be excellent examples. See Extravagant Love and The Lifestyle of a False Teacher.
Archive of 1-minute devotions about false teachers and false teachings:
Right is Right
3 Requirements for Discernment
3 Characteristics of False Teachers
How False Teachers Help Us
Are You Defending False Teaching?
The Right Way to Check out Christian Teachers
7 Claims of False Teachers
Jesus Calling: Are Sarah Young's Claims Biblical
The Power and Limit of Words
Checking the Source
Examining "The Shack"
The Popular Teachings of Joel Osteen: Beware
Bad Guys are Good Warnings
3 Reasons False Teachers are so Popular
copyright 2019, Gail Burton Purath, BiteSizeBibleStudy.com
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