Identifying False Teachings


The world we live in teaches many things. Lessons of our culture are vastly different from biblical teachings and it can be extremely challenging for Christians to discern between true and false teachings. Scripture addresses this challenge head-on in many places and gives us sound guidance on how to identify and combat false teachings. This discernment is an essential part of growing in our relationship with God, our resemblance to Christ, and our faith in God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit.


Studying scripture should be a priority in the daily life of all followers of Jesus. We need to be in God’s Word regularly in order to learn more about Him, His salvation, as well as to better understand and apply what we are called to in this life. The Bible tells us to “correctly handle the word of truth” and to “meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” How can we obey it or correctly handle it correctly if we are not earnestly studying it with a heart of edification and growth?


Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8 ESV

One reason earnest and constant study is so essential is so that we can discern the difference between worldly teachings and Godly teachings. This is a vital yet challenging feat in today’s world and is not only for our own edification but also to help us grow the Body of Christ in how God calls. God places each person in their roles in this life for the whole Body of Christ to function properly and grow in Christ. We should be growing in wisdom, not remaining as children in God’s Word; we must continue to grow in the depths in which we dive into God’s Word to continue to learn and grow in it and discern what it is saying without going too far beyond what is written in the text. Learning the difference between scriptural fact and speculations, and understanding how to apply His wisdom and revelations to ourselves as well as to share and teach it to others in His way and will is a key part of studying God’s Word that often gets missed.


And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV

When studying God’s Word, diving in deeper, and striving to learn and apply all that God reveals to us, we should be filtering everything through His Word and be learning more about the world, this life, and how He calls us to live based on what He teaches us. One key purpose for this learning is to identify false teachings, which can be found in every day relationships and encounters, churches and church leaders, theological scholars, Bible teachers, and outside doctrines. They are often hard to identify and while we should not be quick to write someone or something off as either a true or false teaching we should diligently filter everything through the Word of God to let the Holy Spirit advise.


How can we identify false teachings?

Some ways to help us filter and identify different teachings and teachers through the Word of God is to ask a few different questions and look at the teachings through a Biblical lens. Again, we must be careful not to jump too quickly to either approve or disapprove of a teacher or teaching as true or false. We must be diligent in letting the Holy Spirit guide us through the filtering process.


Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:1-6 ESV
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. 2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV

Does the teaching contradict the Word of God?

Any teachings that deviate from salvation coming from faith in Christ alone is absolutely false and dangerous teaching. The foundation of the Christian faith is built on Christ and the salvation He died and was resurrected to provide all people with if they choose to accept Him and His works. (Read more) Beyond this, we must ensure all teachings are in alignment with the Word of God and not left up to personal speculations or reading too far past what is written in scripture. We should dive into the text by exploring the original languages, the culture of the times, and the context of what is written, but with the understanding that there is still much that we are not meant to fully understand without the discernment of the Holy Spirit or even until we can ask God face to face. (Read more) If something is being taught or presented as being from scripture but it is not written in the text of scripture we should be careful to filter it as speculation or even personal revelation.


Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8 ESV
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ' Romans 10:13 ESV
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5 ESV

Is scripture being used in the teachings?

If scripture is cherry-picked and taken out of context, or even completely void in the conversation with an emphasis placed on personal revelation, this is a clear indication that the teaching is unbiblical. There must be scripture being taught, and being taught correctly, for it to be biblical. (Read more)


Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Hebrews 13:7 ESV-
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16 ESV
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16 ESV
Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Matthew 24:23-24 ESV

Does the teaching downplay sin and judgement?

Sin is disobedience to God and His Word. Scripture identifies many areas we are called to refrain from, as well as many we are called to abide in. Any teaching that fails to acknowledge what sin is, and that sin is sin, is unbiblical. Scripture tells us that we all sin, but that Christ died and rose again to save us from the eternal consequences of our sin if we accept Him in faith. Again, though, if the eternal consequences for sin are not being taught, it is unbiblical. There are very real consequences for sin as we see throughout scripture, and if we fail to repent, seek God’s forgiveness and accept Christ’s salvation then we are told in God’s Word that the consequences are eternal separation from our Heavenly Father. God is the source of all goodness, love, mercy, and grace so if we are eternally separated from Him we are eternally separated from all goodness, love, mercy, and grace as well. We should be striving to understand the reality of sin and the consequences of intentionally remaining in our sin. (Read more)


Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— Romans 5:12 ESV
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 ESV
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17 ESV
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 ESV
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:8-10 ESV
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 ESV

Does the teaching seek to deny human desires?

One of the tenants of the Christian faith is that as we follow Christ we are to become more like Christ. He humbled Himself from deity to servant, fully committed to God’s will even at the cost of His life, having died on the cross for our sakes. Any failure to teach that we likewise are called to the same humble, servant attitude is unbiblical and will likely cause us to fall into the temptations of our human desires rather than to become more like Christ (Read more). The only way for us to understand the depths of servitude and how to deny human desires is to be in the Word of God and applying the wisdom that He reveals to us daily. (Read more)


And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 ESV
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 ESV
He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30 ESV
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 16:25 ESV
This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority. 2 Peter 2:10a NIV

Does the teaching emphasize wealth, status, or position?

This may be one of the most challenging questions to answer in the American culture as our nation teaches very different lessons than what is taught in God’s Word. The hard-line is when we see it taught that prosperity comes from wealth, power, good health, and status. Our culture tells us that to be prosperous is to have a full bank account, lots of cool material things, popularity, and influence. God’s Word, on the other hand, paints a very different picture. Scripture tells us that prosperity comes from obedience to God, and endurance that leads to perseverance and the building of your character in becoming more like Christ. Through spending time with God in His Word and in prayer we learn that the true definition of success and prosperity comes from Him rather than from the world or anything from the world. (Read more)


Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 ESV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 ESV
So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:33 ESV
No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16:13 ESV
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 ESV

Is health or poverty being taught as signs of faith or sin?

Any teaching that says that you deserve illness or poverty because of sin or lack of faith is completely unbiblical. Counter, any teaching that says that good health, wealth, or status is because you are sinless and earned it is likewise unbiblical. We know through the Word of God that as Christians we will suffer, struggle, and face great difficulties in many ways throughout life. Where financial security and perfect health may be an incredible blessing from God, they are not a sign of perfect faith or salvation. Throughout scripture, we are told that when we suffer, struggle, and face trials and trouble in this life that Christ will help us, strengthen us, walk with us, and even carry us through it all. The suffering, trials, and tribulations that we endure are to strengthen and test our faith, producing perseverance, character, and hope. So, believing that a trouble-free, perfect health, wealth-filled life is a sign of true faith is unbiblical. (Read more)


Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 ESV
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5 ESV
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV

Is it taught that you will receive anything you pray for?

Any teaching that claims faith entitles us to material wealth, a clean bill of health, or anything else in this life and that we will receive whatever we want by asking for it in prayer is unbiblical. (Read more) Scripture clearly states that when our heart’s desire is for God and His will that He will give us whatever we ask for in prayer because we are aligned with Him and His desires. Our prayers are not to be demands for our own desires, but to help us align our hearts better with God and His will. Prayer should be in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and is intended to be our means of direct communication with our Heavenly Father, through the power of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. Prayer should be lifted to God out of faith and love for who He is and what He has done and will continue to do for us, in His will, that is always superior to our desires for ourselves. (Read more)


If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7 ESV
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:3 ESV
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26 ESV
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Matthew 6:7 ESV
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 ESV
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 ESV

Does it teach that you can earn salvation?

One of the most dangerous teachings is that salvation is found in anything of the world, that we can earn our way into Heaven in any way we want or think is right for us, and that whatever you believe for you is good for you, and whatever I believe for me is good for me. Any teaching that says salvation can be bought, or even earned by our deeds, is dangerously unbiblical. Salvation comes from one source, and that is through the acceptance of and faith in Christ, His death and resurrection on the cross, and coming to Him with a repentant heart to seek the Father’s forgiveness, and henceforth receive the Holy Spirit to dwell in and guide us throughout our daily life. Any teaching that detracts from this is flat out false. (Read more)


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5 ESV
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 ESV
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 ESV

Does the teaching apply universally to all people?

The Gospel of Jesus is relevant to all people throughout the world, throughout time. It is timeless, limitless, and excludes no one from its power and truth. God is the Creator of all people, is God of all people, and sent His Son to save all people, even those who do not yet know Him or do not accept Him. All of scripture is breathed out by God, profitable for our edification, and holds truth and relevance that should be applied to all people. If anything being taught contradicts God’s universal truth, it is unbiblical. If anything takes away from the glory and supremacy of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, it is unbiblical. (Read more)


Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 ESV
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26 ESV
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:22 ESV
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 ESV
They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Psalm 53:3 ESV
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 ESV

Conclusion:

Identifying false teachers is an incredible challenge and is a task that should never be done lightly, but diligently, with the help of God’s divine guidance through His Spirit. We can rest in the power of Christ to help us through any difficulty we face in life, including the discernment needed when striving to learn and understand biblical truth. God encourages us to ask questions, seek to understand His Word and seek His truth above all, no matter what. If we seek His truth diligently, fully intent, and open to accepting whatever revelations He provides, He will reveal to us whatever He knows is right and good for us. We, in faith, must trust in His guidance and truth and apply it to ourselves, and be unashamed to share His truth in love (read more) to grow and edify the Body of Christ for the glory of God.


“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7 ESV
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16 ESV
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 ESV
Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” Jeremiah 23:16-17 ESV

Sources:

What You Should Know About the Prosperity Gospel (thegospelcoalition.org)

How to identify false teachers – Denny Burk

5 Errors of the Prosperity Gospel (thegospelcoalition.org)

Lesson 8: Beware of False Teachers! (2 Peter 2:1-3) | Bible.org

The Danger of False Teaching (gty.org)

Dealing With False Teachers - Part 1 (intouch.org)


Subscribe

Get notified about new posts, updates & Verse of the Day!

© 2021 by Morning Brew