Why bother to judge false teachers?
Today, there are many people claiming to be servants of God, prophets, apostles and teachers — some of them are very popular and have a global audience. It has been my observation that often, the teachings of most popular preachers are not true to the Word of God. They are not faithful in preaching the Gospel correctly or presenting Christ as He is in the Bible. In such a scenario, one is forced to ask serious questions. How can we examine them to know if they’re a genuine servant of God or not? How can we test what they teach or prophesy? But before all that,
Are we even allowed to test those who claim to be servants of God or examine their teachings? — I’m writing this article to answer this question.
I have frequently seen that Christians either avoid controversies altogether or are afraid and hesitant to critically examine and test those who claim to be servants of God, prophets, apostles or teachers.
Why Christians don’t judge…
The primary reason is this — Christians are afraid that the wrath or judgment of God would fall upon them if they test, question, criticize or examine those who claim to be prophets or apostles. We read instances in the Bible where God’s judgment has fallen upon those who have disregarded His servants. And Christians are right in fearing God for that reason. I have seen popular evangelists and self-proclaimed prophets claiming to have had face-to-face conversations with God. Technically, that puts them on par with Moses, whose offenders were severely punished by God (once his sister was rebuked when she judged him and then a whole group was killed when they challenged his authority). These warnings cannot be taken lightly.
But such an one-sided view of Scripture leaves false teachers also on safe ground. They confidently roam the earth without fear, even claiming divine protection upon themselves. Let me show you the other side of Scripture as well. When Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus by saying, “It is written”, Jesus replied by saying, “It is also written”. We must always see both sides of Scripture and not stick to one extreme.
If you’re thinking that it is a mark of spirituality to not judge false prophets and impostors, let me show you the other side of Scripture. I’ll try to show you from Scripture
What happens when we don’t judge and deal with false teachers.
#1 Corruption of the Gospel
When we don’t test teachings or judge false prophets, the first thing that happens is this: Deception enters the Church, leading people away from the true gospel and the true Christ. The true gospel is replaced by a counterfeit.
2 Corinthians 11:3–5 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. Indeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles. [ESV2011]
Galatians 1:6–7 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. [ESV2011]
There are many Christians today who think that they have received the Gospel and are worshiping Jesus but, they have actually believed a false gospel and they’re worshiping a jesus who is different from the One described in the Bible. They profess and follow a cheap gospel and a counterfeit jesus designed and marketed successfully by Satan’s agents masquerading as servants of God.
2 Corinthians 11:13–15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. [ESV2011]
When we don’t judge the teachings of those who claim to be servants of God or prophets or apostles, we are unwittingly allowing impostors to hijack Christianity and distort the message of the Church. And these wolves in sheep’s clothing are masters of deception. They were able to successfully disturb and delude to a certain extent, the Corinthian church planted by Apostle Paul himself! Paul sarcastically calls those impostors super-apostles (2 Corinthians 11:5).
Today also there are many super-apostles, super-prophets, celebrity pastors and faith-healers. They have infiltrated the Church and corrupted the Gospel message. Why? Because people of God have slept! The watchmen have remained silent! I’m afraid we have given such impostors abnormal immunity from the scrutiny of Scriptural standards for a servant of God. We have failed to test their teachings and prophecies. And today, such people are able to preach or prophesy any non-sense and get away with it!
If anyone tunes in to listens to a major Christian network or a megachurch sermon or a popular preacher, most of them are filled with falsehood — they proclaim a false gospel and a false jesus. The truth is scarce. The future of authentic Christian message in the marketplace is under threat — the popular gospel is nothing more than a feel-good jesus-loves-you and god-will-do-whatever-you-want heresy. Let us stay alert, watchful and discerning.
#2 Exploitation of the flock
Another deadly thing that happens is that those who give in to false teachers are exploited and domineered by them.
2 Corinthians 11:19–20 For since you are so wise, you put up with fools gladly. For you put up with it if someone makes slaves of you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone behaves arrogantly toward you, if someone strikes you in the face. [NET2]
The Corinthians were allowing these super-apostles to dominate and exploit them while rejecting Paul — the true Apostle who had planted their Church and had suffered so much for the sake of the Gospel! Once false teachers take control, there will be no escape — the flock will be utterly exploited! First, they bring a false message. Then they use the false message to keep the flock under their thumb. False teachers simply cannot withstand relinquishing control of their flock!
This is an acid test to identify false teachers: they will want to exploit you once they have managed to influence you.
Today’s church is truly helpless. We have already enslaved ourselves to a lot of super-rich preachers and false prophets who exploit the flock of God and peddle with the word of God for money. Such people existed during Paul’s time also:
2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not like so many others, hucksters who peddle the word of God for profit, but we are speaking in Christ before God as persons of sincerity, as persons sent from God. [NET2]
Titus 1:10–11 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. [ESV2011]
#3 Suppression of the Bible’s Authority
False teachers always put themselves first. They are a law unto themselves. They reject all authority and make themselves the ultimate authority. They count themselves accountable to no one.
3 John 1:9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. [ESV2011]
Jude 1:8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. [ESV2011]
The false teachers of the early Church rejected true Apostolic authority and put themselves first. But today’s false teachers want to put themselves above the authority of Holy Scriptures given to us by the Prophets and Apostles.
By claiming to have a special direct revelation from God or a personal heavenly encounter, they shift the locus of authority from the Word of God to themselves. They consider themselves on par with the Prophets and Apostles of the Scripture. So now, everything they say becomes equal to the Bible, even if it contradicts the teaching of the Bible! And people are afraid to question anything they teach because everything is supposedly “from God”.
When they say, "God spoke to me", it becomes more powerful for their hearers than what the Bible says. Do you realize the trouble with this trend? Such false teachers can qualify any unbiblical teaching with a simple "God spoke to me" and anyone who questions is said to be under God’s judgment. This not a hypothetical statement. Such things are so commonplace! It is a shame that we Christians put up with so much non-sense!
False teachers claim to have additional revelation from God and they teach new ideas of prayer which are found nowhere in the Scriptures. They reorient the whole purpose of Christian life so that people seek miracles and supernatural experiences more than desiring to know Christ personally and to conform to His image. They teach people to seek comfort, pleasure, health and wealth in this world than to be content and look to the eternal hope in Christ. Christians who are misled by them expect a suffering-free life instead of being willing to take up the Cross and follow Christ.
These blasphemies must stop — sadly, they won’t. You’ll only see an increase in these kind of abuses in the last days. Christians must wake up and test those who make extraordinary claims as servants of God and examine their teachings in the light of Scripture with an unbiased attitude.
Will God judge me if I judge false teachers?
If you’re still not convinced that we are called to be alert and discerning instead of being passive and negligent, listen to the words of our Lord Himself:
Revelation 2:2 “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.” [ESV2011]
Jesus commends the Church of Ephesus for testing and exposing those who claimed to be apostles. No one who claims to be a servant of God or a Prophet or an Apostle is above the test of Scriptural standards. Declaring “God spoke to me”, “God appeared to me” or “I was taken up to heaven” does not make anyone special or immune to any examination. If you are serious about the truth, you will be watchful and warn fellow Christians as well.
1 Thessalonians 5:19–22 Do not extinguish the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt. But examine all things; hold fast to what is good. Stay away from every form of evil. [NET2]
Ephesians 4:14–15 …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, [ESV2011]
Why am I writing all this?
I write because I myself have been led astray by false teachers and their teachings. I have suffered a great deal as a result of listening to so-called men of God who cared nothing for their hearers except that they think highly of them. I ignorantly assumed that what is popular and attractive is true.
You might be innocent — but there are wolves in sheep’s clothing out there. I recently had a long conversation with one of my schoolmates who shared with me how he had lost so much in life because of the influence of false teachings and lack of proper guidance in the Lord. Speaking of the wrong doctrines he was influenced by, He said, “Nobody told me that all these things were false!”. Even now, I know friends and family who are influenced by false teachers and don’t know it. I now write to you what I wish someone had told me years back when I was growing in the Lord. I’ll leave you with Jude’s words:
Jude 1:3–4 Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men have secretly slipped in among you — men who long ago were marked out for the condemnation I am about to describe — ungodly men who have turned the grace of our God into a license for evil and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. [NET2]
Like Jude, I encourage you to contend for and hold on to the same old faith that was handed down to the saints of the Apostles’ times.
Do not go after new fancy teachings or supernatural revelations. Pursue the same old faith that teaches us continual repentance and sanctification, encouraging us to keep on carrying the Cross. Keep walking in the Spirit’s power by holding on to the unchanging Word of God. Pray earnestly that you would see the truth and cling to it for all that your soul is worth! Most importantly, warn fellow believers and save someone!