What Does The Bible Teach About False Teachers?
The Bible teaches that a false christ, prophet, teacher, or cult is any person or religious organization who perverts the gospel of Christ and the Word of God. They change the truth of Scripture by adding to it, taking away from it, or mixing it with error. They attempt to speak in the name of God without having any authority from Him to do so. Today, the only way to know the truth is through the literal interpretation of the Bible and the illumination of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Therefore, we need to be cautious and alert of the dangers that can be caused by them. We should mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the teachings of the Bible and avoid them.
Romans 16:17; 1 John 2:27
Biblical Description: Characteristics Of False Teachers
- False teachers are good but vain communicators. They use good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of the simple. They speak with “vain words,” meaning they may approve of a sinful lifestyle or make empty promises. We should not partake in the sinful lifestyle they teach.
Romans 16:18; Ephesians 5:6–7; 2 Peter 2:18–19
- False teachers produce evil fruit. Jesus told us that we would know them by their fruit, meaning if their teaching is corrupt and not according to the Bible, it will bear evil fruit. Evil fruit is characterized by unrighteous living and wrong doctrine.
- False teachers have corrupt intentions. The aim or plan of false teachers is to attack the church and draw away true disciples. They are not simply people with a difference of opinion. The Bible refers to them as “ravenous wolves” or “savage wolves” who are enemies of the flock of God.
Matthew 7:15; Acts 20:29–30
- False teachers are deceptive. Many false teachers might reside in our midst and look like a Christian in word and deed (sheep’s clothing) for a time, but they will start to twist scripture and speak “perverse things” or “destructive heresies” and then we will know they are false believers.
2 Peter 2:1; Matthew 24:11; Galatians 2:4
Biblical Difference: Signs Of False Teaching
- A Different Motive: False teachers have a different motive for preaching the gospel and the two most common ones are self-elevation and greed. They teach that “gain is godliness.” They teach for “filthy lucre’s sake.” We are to withdrawal from this type of teacher.
2 Peter 2:2-3; Titus 1:10–11; 1 Timothy 6:5; 3 John 9–11
- A Different Doctrine: False teachers change doctrine that is according to godliness. They call bad good and good bad. Also, there are many deceivers who deny the doctrine of Christ. They deny attributes about Christ that are essential for salvation. Believers should not receive anyone who teaches false doctrine into their house, neither bid them God speed.
1 Timothy 6:3–4; 2 John 7–11
- A Different Gospel: False teachers preach a different gospel, usually adding to what Christ has already done. There is only one true gospel—justification through faith in Jesus. Paul says all false preachers of the gospel, no matter who they are, should be accursed.
- A Different Christ: False teachers will teach that Christ has already returned and will try to get believers to follow after this false Christ. Jesus told us that when a person claims that Jesus secretly came back that we should “believe it not” because when He returns, it will be known by everyone.
Matthew 24:23–28; Mark 13:21–23
Biblical Discernment: Testing False Teachers & Teaching
- Believers are told to “believe not every spirit” but to try or test them. There are a lot of false prophets in the world today and we need to test them to see who is really of God. This means that we need to evaluate people and their message according to the Bible to see if their message is truly from the Holy Spirit. We should hold to the good and abstain from the evil.
1 John 4:1; Ephesians 4:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:21–22
- Do they have a Biblical view of Jesus? Every person who speaks truth according to the Holy Spirit will speak of Jesus in the same way that the Bible speaks of Him. If they are a false teacher, their description or view of Jesus will be different than what the Bible says. For example, if a person denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh or that He is the reigning Lord, he is not of God.
1 John 4:2–3; 1 Corinthians 12:3; John 5:39; 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14; Philippians 2:9-13
- Do they approve or disapprove of worldliness? Because of the Holy Spirit’s work in us we have been changed, and our lives should no longer be characterized by a love for the world (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life), but characterized by resisting sinful desires and be progressively growing in holiness.
1 John 4:4–5; 2:15–17; James 4:4; Ephesians 2:1–10; Romans 8:5–14; Galatians 5:19–26; 2 Peter 2:10
- Do they submit to the Bible as their ultimate authority? All true believers recognize that the apostles are from God and submit to their teachings as recorded in the Bible through the work of the Holy Spirit. We have clarity (not confusion) on what is right and wrong. False teachers will often minimize the Bible’s authority or speak of “new revelation” or “new truth” outside the Bible, implying it has greater authority than the Bible.
1 John 4:6; 2 Peter 1:20–21; 3:16; 1 Corinthians 2:12–16; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Revelation 22:17–19; 2 Timothy 3:13–16
- Do they love God and others? All true believers will have a love for God and exemplify it through willingly keeping His commandments and loving others. Through the help of the Holy Spirit, believers desire to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind. False teachers exemplify a false love for God, but really are lovers of self and seek to edify themselves.
1 John 4:7–8, 19-21; 5:2-3; Matthew 22:37; 1 Corinthians 13:4–8; 2 Timothy 3:1–9
- What defines a false christ, prophet, or teacher?
- If we know someone is a false teacher, the Bible says we should do what?
- What are characteristics of a false teacher?
- What are signs of a false teaching?
- What are four questions you can ask to see if someone is a false teacher?