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What Does the Bible Say About False Teachers?



Ephesians 4:11-14 “that we may no longer be childrentossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

Colossians 2:8 “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (ESV)

What is a prophet? How can I recognize a true prophet from a false prophet?  A prophet is a messenger of God who carries a message directly and personally related and is held to 100% consistency with Scripture and 100% fulfillment of any predictive statements. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18: 15-22)

What is the difference between a prophet and a teacher?  Both roles include the element of teaching, but a prophet claims a direct encounter with God (dream, vision, meeting, voice, event, etc.) where God revealed or spoke a particular message to him.

How can I recognize a true teacher from a bad teacher? A bad teacher from a false teacher?  A bad teacher may misunderstand issues in Scripture or just do a poor job at instructing and exhorting people.  A false teacher teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:3) and goes against sound doctrines” (Titus 1:9) specifically with an understanding towards who God is, what salvation is, and what the Scriptures say. 

Isnt it wrong to publicly call out preachers, teachers, Christians, etc.?  The issue of opinions” between Christian brothers is different from the issue of false teachings.”  Paul warns not to quarrel over opinions” (v.1) in Romans 14, pointing out the dangers of passing judgment” on a brother in Christ and how it can destroy the work of God” (v.20).  However, God commands us to judge” those inside the church when their lifestyles (1 Corinthians 5:9-13) do not line up with Gods Word.  God also commands us to watch out for and confront false teachers who teach a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 6:3).  Pastors are specifically tasked to 1) "give instruction in sound doctrine" and 2) "rebuke those who contradict it" (Titus 1:9).

Should a false teacher be called out by name? If so, when?  When a specific false teaching or teacher is affecting a body of believers (i.e. family, small group, church, denomination, region, nation), that false teaching and teacher must be named and confronted.  Paul does this with both false teachings (1 Timothy 1:3-20 ; 6:2-10, Jude 1, 2 Peter 2, & many more) and with particular names (Alexander, Hymenaeus, & Philetus in 1 Timothy 1:20 and 2 Timothy 2:17)

What are some examples of false teachings? What are some characteristics of false teachers?

There are many examples of false teachers with common descriptions (Galatians, 2 Peter, 1 & 2 Timothy, 1 & 2 John, Jude) that they may look and sound like Christians but that their teachings and lifestyle are not consistent with Scripture.

How can you call them false teachers when some of these people have doctrinal statements on their website and do many good things in getting the Bible and gospel into the hands of so many?  Christianity is not a salvation of works and although some good fruits” may seem exist in these ministries, they only mask the lies.  The ends of a ministry (salvations, missions, good works) do not justify the means (a false gospel).

When false teachers lead people to Christ, are these converts false believers?  Not necessarily.  If these believers have understood the gospel falsely, then their trust and faith in Jesus may be out of a greater love of Jesus’ gifts rather than Jesus.  Even if they have become true followers of Jesus, they need to study the Word of God, test their teachers, and be extremely cautious before recommending a teacher to someone else. 

Is it possible for false teachers to turn to truth and become true teachers?  Yes, until we die, it is possible for anyone who is separated from God to turn to Him in salvation.  Pray for their repentence and turning to the true Gospel of Christ.

If I have been following a false teacher, should I be embarrassed or ashamed?  What does God want me to do in response to realizing that I was following a false teacher?  If you find that you have been following a bad or false teacher, repent of believing the lies that you heard/read and put on God's truths.  If you have led or encouraged others towards those teachings/teachers, guide them into the truth.

I still dont believe ______________ is a false prophet/teacher, so how does this message matter for me?  What should I do next?  If you haven't been convinced from this outline, you need to be very concerned about your understanding of God, the Gospel, and His truths.  Invest some time in reading the Scriptures to make sure you understand the teachings of God and not be misled by the traditions of men. Even if you havent become convinced that he teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is false, you need to begin to listen very closely to what you hear and read in the future.  You need to make sure that who you listen to is trustworthy and is teaching the whole counsel of God accurately. 

Matthew 15:1–9 “Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, [2] “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” [3] He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? [4] For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ [5] But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” [6] he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. [7] You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: [8] “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; [9] in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (ESV)

Mark 7:1–13 “[7] in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ [8] You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” [9] And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! … [13] thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (ESV)

Galatians 1:13–16 “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. [14] And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.” (ESV)

False Teachers: Watch Out!

(2 Peter 2, ESV)

Believers Mature At Different Paces

3rd Level Issues: Allowable Individual Differences “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. …So then each of us will give an account to God.” (Romans 14:1-12)

Less Faithful Teachers: Believing Christians, in Error

2nd Level Issues: Denominational Differences “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1)

False Teachers Misrepresent God & the Gospel

1st Level Issues: Christian vs. Non-Christian: Essential Teachings  “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20)

  • Who is God? What is the Gospel? What are the Scriptures?

  1. PREPARETheir Presence is Guaranteed but is not Obvious to All – v.1

  1. WATCH!  False Teachers Are Characterized by:

False Words – v.3 ; Speaking Ignorantly – v.12 ; Endorse Sin – v.2, 13-15, 18 ; Greedy  v.3, 14 ; Proud w/no accountability – v.10, 18 (Jude 8) ; Make Empty Promises – v.19 ; Rely on Experience/Dreams (Jude 8) ; Speak Flippantly To Satan/Demons (2 Pet 2:10-13; Jude 8-10) Have Some Scriptural Knowledge, But Wander from It – v.20-22

  1. CORRECT & WARN  Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3) 
  • Their Teachings Are Dangerous – v.1-3 – “destructive heresies”
  • False Teachings  Are Characterized by: (Example, Pergamum, Revelation 2:12-17)

Positive Thinking (self-focused prayers, name it/claim it, declarations)

Partial Truths (highlight the “positive”/easy, ignore the “negative”/difficult)

Promises (worship the gifts, not the giver)

Health, Wealth, & Prosperity (worldly-focused: good things into god things)

Legalism (works based salvation, self-righteousness)

License (freedom to sin) “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality” (Jude 1:4)

False Religions “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4)

  • Their Punishment Is Guaranteed – v.1-10 (Jude)

The Lord Knows How to Rescue the Righteous

(v.7-9) The Righteous Are... “distressed  by the sensual conduct of the wicked”...”as that righteous man [Lot] lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard”

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