Beware Of False Teachers
Defending against counterfeits can only be effective when we fully know the truth
In recent years, many people who claim to be experts and teachers have gained prominence on social media and been able to influence hundreds and even thousands of people, far more than was possible in the pre-Internet age.
Just as in the past, false teachers abound today but social media makes it very difficult for us to discern between true and false messengers.
Many teachers with large platforms and numbers of followers have distanced themselves from Scripture and lean more on the application of their own good works, comfort theories and YouTube views.
So, in light of many wolves in sheep’s clothing, here are some simple principles that can help us discern false teaching from that which is purified and sanctified by the Spirit of God.
Know the Word
Investigators who work to reveal counterfeit items can only hone their skills by examining genuine articles so that they can detect any subtle changes that can expose the fakes or imitations.
In the same way, the more knowledge and affection you have for the Word, the easier it is for you to identify sound teaching from false teaching.
Counterfeits may change, but Scripture stays the same. When faced with a message that you believe may be unbiblical, the solution is to know what the Scriptures say and compare everything else against it.
In his book, The Letters of John, the late theologian John Stott wrote:
‘’The only safeguard against lies is to have remaining within us both the Word that we heard from the beginning and the anointing that we received from him. It is by these old possessions, not by new teachings or teachers, that we shall remain in the truth”
Seek godly counsel
When you have concerns about sermons or messages it is always good to discuss such issues with friends and family who can help clarify your doubts and give sound counsel.
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14, ESVUK).
These people are important as they have spent many years reading, trusting and teaching The Word. Our greatest consideration comes from the Holy Spirit, as He is committed to our discernment.
“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. (1 John 4:1, ESVUK).
“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, ESVUK).
Examine the fruit
Spiritual fruit grows from those who teach God’s Word, and the greatest fruit a teacher can produce is to lead others to have great love and zeal for God and His Word.
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thorn bushes? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7: 16–18, ESVUK).
In conclusion, ask yourself these questions whenever you need to discern a sermon or message from teachers of the Scriptures:
- Do they boast about their ministry, lifestyle, compassion for others and their likeness to Christ?
2. Do they promote their merchandise and way of living primarily, or is the life of Christ and the apostles promoted?
3. Do they focus on material wealth and the grace of God without reference to the justice of God? Including one, but not the other., can lead to misunderstanding and a one-sided message.
St. Paul reminds believers to be conscious of how we appear before the LORD in our ministry, and all teachers and believers must be aware that their fruit must be for the glory of God.
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10, ESVUK).
Examine your emotions
Many people turn to false teachers because their messages satisfy their emotional needs, and there is little or no need to be concerned about repentance, sin or forgiveness.
Dear brother and sister, if you find yourself feeling tired or bored when you attend church or read God’s Word, your heart may be at risk. The remedy is to delve deeper into the Scriptures and ask God to protect you, and us, from any teachings that could lead us away from the truth.
Take note of what Paul tells his spiritual son Timothy:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4: 1–2, ESVUK).
Amid the “jungle” of teachings and lessons available to us now, there is a danger that even the most learned among us can be misled by cleverly worded messages that pass muster without further investigation.
So let us turn to God’s Word, seek godly counsel, check for spiritual fruit, and guard our emotions, to ensure that we do not fall prey, and unwittingly lead other innocent souls, away from Truth towards Error.