Discerning False Teachers & Taking A Stand
‘Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.’ ~ Matthew 7:15-16
The Bible warns us that Satan has employed many deceivers and sent them out to distort truth and keep men bound in lies that will bring destruction upon them.
That being so, we are also told that we can clearly discern whether or not a teacher is of the Truth or whether they are wolf by their fruits.
What are we told to expect in regards to false teachers in our day? What should we look for in a false teacher? What should we look for in a true teacher? What attitude should we take towards false teachers?
1.1 God Fervently Warns Us That There Will Be False Teachers
2 Peter 2:1 ~ There were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily [pareisago: introduce or bring in secretly] shall bring in damnable heresies.
- Jesus said that it was the Truth that would set men free from sin and grant them eternal life therefore it is crucial that we are not led astray from the truth by false teachers.
- We are warned that there surely will be many false teachers who will come among us and secretly introduce teachings that will cause the damnation of our souls. We are to be on the lookout!
Acts 20:29-31 ~ For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
- Paul was a great shepherd to many churches and he spent a significant amount of time warning his people with tears to be on the watch for these savage wolves.
- Oh, be on your utmost guard against these teachers. They are people who are in the church and look righteous but they pervert and twist the holy Truth that has been delivered to you so that they can draw you away to themselves and their organizations and profit from you!
2 Corinthians 11:3-4 ~ But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty [panourgia: craftiness, cunning], so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
- Being led astray is just as much a possibility after salvation as before or Paul would not have been afraid that his sheep would be deceived just like innocent Eve was deceived in the garden.
- The warning that Paul gives, is that Satan is extremely crafty and has produced an entire religious system out there. This system is cunning and has another Jesus, another Spirit, and another Gospel. Paul warns us beforehand, to ensure we know that this counterfeit of the truth exists and that we will not be deceived by it.
- Always remember that just because people are gathered together praising a person named Jesus, preaching something they call the gospel, and claiming to be filled with a Holy Spirit does not mean that any of this is real. Test all things and do not be deceived!
1.2 True & False Teachers Are Known By Their Life & Doctrine
Matthew 7:15-16 ~ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
- Jesus warned us that these false teachers would come to us and that they would not be dressed like wolves but like innocent sheep.
- Even with all these facades Jesus said that we his true sheep would be able to know who the wolves were by simply observing the fruits of their lives and ministries and comparing them to what the Bible teaches we should expect to see from true prophets and teachers.
1 Timothy 4:16 ~ Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
- There are two components to our lives that have eternal effects on ourselves and others. These are, how we live our lives and what we teach.
- A teacher can live a righteous holy life and teach the pure truth of God and thereby save himself and others or he can live a self-seeking life and teach false doctrines and by doing so damn himself and damn others.
- Therefore, when as Jesus told us, we are looking for fruits that will help us discern between true and false teachers, we must look at both how they live and what they teach.
1.3 False Prophets Look Righteous But Behave Worldly
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 ~ For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.
- Satan’s false teachers do not usually come with pentagrams tattooed on their foreheads. Rather they come dressed respectfully, smiling, and declaring that they too are workers for Jesus and his Kingdom.
- Beware, for Satan is the greatest con artist ever. His ministers pretend to be ministers of righteousness. This means that you will hear many good things from them. They will talk a lot about being righteous but their works and teaching will contradict.
2 Peter 2:18-19 ~ For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
- False teachers speak many great words that sound full of knowledge and impress many but they do not line up with the truth of God’s Word and do not have the power to save men from sin.
- These teachers are actually slaves of corruption in some way. This means that when you view the fruit of their lives you will see that they are given to covetousness or other addictions and desires.
Philippians 3:18-19 ~ For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
- Paul sums up the spiritual character of these men in saying that their god is their belly. This means that they do what they do because their motives are self-serving. They have desires of their flesh that they need to fulfill and the sheep are simply means to that end.
- These teachers set their mind on and partake in worldly things. True Disciples do not love the world and its amusements and pleasures but these teachers not only love the world’s pleasures but they also recommend their flocks partake without fear.
2 Peter 2:1&14 ~ There shall be false teachers among you. Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin.
- False teachers can be identified as those who are still full of evil desires and who cannot stop sinning.
- Many times these teachers will come right out and tell you that they cannot stop sinning and never will.
- Remember, a student will become like his master. Run from these teachers!
1.4 False Prophets Convince Men They Are Saved While Sinning
The number one fruit of a false teacher, the one that draws the line clear in the sand, is that they will somehow in some way cause people to believe they are saved while they continue in known sin.
Genesis 3:2-4 ~ And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.
- The very first lie that was ever told by Satan was to eve in the garden. He told Eve that the warning God gave about the wages of sin being death was false and that even if Eve sinned she would still live.
- There is nothing new under the sun and Satan has never changed his lie. He simply repackages it in different forms but the end result is always the same. People who believe this lie somehow think that although there is known sin in their lives they will go to heaven and not be destroyed.
- Remember that Eve was saved! She was not a sinful child of the devil but God was her father and she was his special child. The wages of sin is death regardless of your spiritual state. And this is the truth that Satan destroyed in Eves heart by his lies and it is the lie he continues to promote through his false teachers.
Lamentations 2:14 ~ Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment [madduach: seduction, enticement, a thing to draw aside]
- Because false teachers work for Satan they teach his lies. They do not uncover peoples sins and tell them that they must stop the sin or be destroyed.
- Instead, they teach people delusions and prophecy to them a future of being whisked off in a rapture to the heavens even though they never stop sinning against God.
- By these teachings, they draw these sheep aside from the truth and entice them to continue in sin against God.
Jeremiah 23:17 ~ They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
- False teachers tell people, who by their refusal to stop sinning show that they despise God, that God is going to save them and give them eternal life anyway.
- They tell people, who have not surrendered whole-heartedly to God and taken up their cross in self-denial but rather walk according to their own worldly desires, that they will never perish in hell!
Jeremiah 23:14&16 ~ I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD.
- The teachings of these false teachers work to keep people in sin and ensure that they never turn from their wickedness.
- When they teach people that they are born sinful, can never stop sinning, can never be holy and blameless, and that God just loves them and will save them in their sin just as they are, what incentive is there for people to repent? This only serves to strengthen their resolve to continue in sin.
- These foolish teachings that false prophets teach come from their own wicked hearts of rebellion and not the Word of God. Oh, do not listen to these teachers! They will surely make you worthless and you will be destroyed in the end.
Ezekiel 13:22 ~ Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life:
- The message of false prophets ensures that people in sin will not stop their sins and by doing so save their lives. Instead, they tell them that they can’t ever hope to do such a thing and promise that even though people continue in willful sin, they will still have eternal life.
- They also go even further by hurting those who are actually righteous. When true righteous Disciples take a righteous stand for Truth God is very pleased and does not want them sad but these worldly teachers do everything they can to silence these righteous ones, speak evil of them, and cause sadness in their hearts.
- These teachers can be found calling true Disciples self-righteous, those who twist scripture, etc. They give them the cold shoulder and speak evil of them around others. Their hope is to get those true Disciples out of their flocks so they can continue to fleece the sheep!
1.5 True Prophets Will Hate Sin & Have A Heart For God
One of the clearest differences between true and false teachers is that teachers of truth have an unbiased heart of love for God! Their god is not their belly or their flesh but the Father and they serve Jesus whole-heartedly.
Ezekiel 9:4-6 ~ And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.
- Many know of the mark of the beast but few know of the mark of the saints. Ezekiel here had a revelation of this mark that was to distinguish the righteous from the wicked in the day of judgement. If it was good enough a mark for God to distinguish between true and false, it should be good enough for us. What was this mark?
- The distinguishing mark of those who truly had a heart for God was that as God himself, they were deeply affected about the sin going on in their midst. These men took a strong stance against sin and were appalled at the sins their brethren were involved in.
- So also true prophets will never wink at sin but as their Father in heaven, they will be shocked and horrified by it and will rebuke it and warn others of it at all possible occasions. It is these and these alone who are the teachers of truth!
Malachi 3:16-18 ~ Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.
- Malachi also received a revelation from God concerning who it was that God loved and would spare on the day of judgement. He shares here with us that special quality which God is looking for and that we also should be looking for.
- The quality these people exhibited was that they were those who were constantly talking about God and his glory to each other. They feared God and constantly thought about him and bringing glory to his name.
- They will have a holy terror of the Lord lest they sin and when you talk to them, you will find that their passion is not sports, hobbies, mundane events, etc. but rather they will always be talking and thinking about God, The Kingdom, and Christ! Their great concern is whether or not they are bringing honor to God in all they do!
1.6 True Prophets Will Get People To Repent & Stop Their Sin
Teachers of truth will teach the opposite of the false teachers. These teachers will use their influence to get people to stop sinning and live holy lives in a righteous fear of God.
Jeremiah 23:21-22 ~ I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
- This is a very key verse. God says ‘If they had stood in my counsel, and caused my people to hear my words’ and then tells you what the result would be. This is the equivalent of God saying ‘do you want to know whether a teacher is from me or not? Here is how!’
- The answer is that if a teacher was from God then by their teachings they would be turning people from sin and all their evil ways. You should be able to look at the people who are under the teacher you are evaluating and know if he is from God.
- If the people under the teacher are holy and righteous and have a deep fear of sin and a love for righteousness [at lease the majority for there will always be tares among the wheat] then we can know that the teacher has probably stood in the counsel of God and not man and we may trust them.
Act 26:17-18 ~ Now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
- The prime focus of true ministers of God is to turn people from sin to righteousness and they will not rest until this is accomplished, as they know this is necessary in order for people to be forgiven and inherit the Kingdom.
- This means that there may be side ministries or some attention given to other things but when you sit under these teachers, you will surely understand that this is central in their ministry.
Luke 3:8-9 ~ Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
- When you sit under true teachers you will feel like you cannot rest in any experience you may have had for salvation but you will feel that you must bear fruits worthy of repentance in order to be saved.
- These teachers do not itch peoples ears and tell them what they want to hear. They fully require of people what God himself requires and unless those requirements are met they will not assure people that they are saved from the fire to come.
John 8:34-36 ~ Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
- Jesus was the greatest of all true teachers and when he preached he told people that they needed to repent because if they were committing sin they would not live for ever!
Mark 9:47 ~ And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
- Look at this strong teaching of the very Son of God. Does the pastor or leader teach like this? Do they tell you that if you have any sin in your life you will not inherit the Kingdom? Do they make sin a matter of life or death in which you must take extreme matters to rid yourself of?
- All true teachers will take the same view of sin as Jesus Christ did. They will make it imperative that all sin in your life absolutely must stop or you will be cast into hellfire. They will preach and teach that anything in your life causing you to sin will also cause you to perish eternally.
Acts 3:26 ~ Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
- True preachers will definitely bless their congregations but they will bless them in the same way Jesus blessed us.
- If they are following the way of Christ then they will bless their people by acting as a faithful servant of God and turn the people from their sins that they may be saved!
1.7 Rebuke And Avoid False Teachers – Be Teachers Of Truth
It is a dark time and we are at war! We are not to simply sit by and watch as these deceitful workers enslave our families and neighbors with teachings that will damn them to hell.
Galatians 1:8-9 ~ But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
- God does not take lightly to false teachers. Those who preach the other Gospel, the other Jesus, and dispense the other spirit are wicked men that must not receive our handshakes and friendly blessings.
- Remember, these are not the poor misled sheep we are speaking of. These are the deceivers that mislead those poor sheep.
- God has much mercy and sympathy for sheep but what is his attitude towards the deceivers? His attitude is ‘let them be cursed!’
Titus 1:10-13 ~ For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers… Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
- These false teachers destroy entire families and even nations. We absolutely must stop the mouths of these vain unruly deceivers!
- Remember that God has not given us a timid spirit but a spirit of power [2 Timothy 1:7] and the Righteous are to be bold as lions [Proverbs 28:1]. We are to rebuke these false teachers sharply with the intended result being that they would turn from their error and become sound in the true faith.
Romans 16:17 ~ Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
- Not only are we to rebuke false teachers but we are to point them out to others so that they will not be deceived by them.
- This is not speaking evil of others. It is simply warning people in love about the lions waiting out there seeking to devour them.
- We are also to avoid these teachers. Do not sit with them, eat with them, make conversation with them, etc. Simply rebuke them, warn others of them, and move on.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 ~ If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
- If any person does not teach the true teachings of God that correspond with a life of godliness and holiness they know nothing. They are perverse and destitute of the truth.
- Have nothing to do with these people. Completely withdraw yourself. Do not go to their churches and sit under their teachings. Do not fellowship with them as simple mislead sheep. They are not simply mislead but are perversely using their twisted gospel as a means of gain for themselves.
Ephesians 4:11&14 ~ He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers… That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
- There are true teachers put in place by God as gifts to the Disciples so that we will not be tossed to and fro by false teachings and deceived by the craftiness of evil men.
- The greatest teachers we have are those we find in the pages of the Holy Scriptures. Let these teachers be your primary guide and only allow others to influence you if their lives and teachings line up with the teachers and lifestyles of the Bible and its righteous teachers.
Titus 2:11-15 ~ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
- The greatest teacher of all is God’s grace. When we encounter this teaching we will be taught to deny our flesh with its passions and will be taught how to live righteous holy lives on this earth as we wait for Jesus!
- When we find the true men of God they will teach the same thing that God’s grace teaches and they will teach them firmly without apology.
- Now that you know the truth, will you join the ranks of the few teachers of truth and speak the truth, exhort true Disciples, and rebuke the false teachers? Do not let men despise or look down on you! You are an ambassador of the great God of the Universe. He loves when his children carry his truth into all the world unashamed.