A false teacher can be anyone in a position of spiritual authority or claiming to be. Wolves don’t often attack wolves, but they do go after sheep. They bring destructive teachings and lies into the church, often by telling people what they want to hear (Jer. 23). They provide layers of truth mixed with error, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-16).
“Beware” means to be on alert, to discern what is being said. False teachers take advantage of the fact that many people are not well-educated in fundamental biblical truths. To detect a counterfeit, one must first know what the original looks like. It’s impossible to gain a clear picture of absolute truth without going directly to God’s Word. Unless one is firmly grounded in God’s Word and led by His Spirit, one can easily be led astray.
Wolves don’t advertise, instead, they “look” like sheep. False teachers aren’t dressed in red holding a pitchfork. They often look the same as everyone else. They subtly challenge the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, and they add to salvation so that it’s not through Christ alone. Legitimate teachers recognize the deity of Christ. False teachers promote salvation through works and not through faith alone. One must belong to their society, institution, or church in order to be saved. This is a false gospel.
Jesus encourages His followers to be fruit inspectors. I came across a great article from the Gospel Coalition written by Colin Smith titled “7 Traits of False Teachers.” This precise article identifies the fruit of false teachers. The link is at the bottom for those who want to read Smith’s complete piece. I’m going to spend the next few minutes quoting directly from it. He compares the authentic with the counterfeit from 1 and 2 Peter. Smith writes:
1. Different Source—Where does their message come from? Peter says, “For we have not followed cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16). And then he says the false teachers exploit you “with deceptive words” (2 Pet. 2:3). So the true teacher sources what he says from the Bible. The false teacher relies on his own creativity.
2. Different Message—What is the substance of the message? For the true teacher, Jesus Christ is central. “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). For the false teacher, Jesus is at the margins: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). Notice the word secretly. It’s rare for someone in church to openly deny Jesus. Movement away from the centrality of Christ is subtle. The false teacher will speak about how other people can help change your life, but if you listen carefully to what he is saying, you will see that Jesus Christ is not essential to his message.
3. Different Position—In what position will the message leave you? The true Christian will “escape the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4). Listen to how Peter describes the counterfeit Christian: “Although they promise them freedom, they themselves are slaves of corruption, for by that which a man is overcome, to this he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19). The true believer is escaping corruption, while the counterfeit believer is mastered by it.
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SOURCE: Charisma News
Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. He recently released his seventh book, Desperate for More of God at shaneidleman.com. Shane’s sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at wcfav.org. Follow him on Facebook at: facebook.com/confusedchurch.