Identifying False Teachers in the Christian Church

Jesus our Lord and Saviour informed us that we would encounter false prophets. He said they would disguise themselves as sheep but inwardly they are ferocious wolves Mat.7:13.

The book of Jude is written to Christians encouraging them to contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints Jude 3. False teachers were on the loose trying to corrupt the gospel. They were promoting teachings that distort the true nature of God, and denying the deity of Jesus.

The apostle Paul warned the elders from Ephesus to be on guard against savage wolves who would infiltrate the church bringing in destructive heresies. He further warned that some of the wolves would be elders from inside the church seeking to gain a following for themselves Acts 20:28-31. Paul had to confront the Judaizers in Galatia and the false apostles in Corinth. The apostles saw it as their duty to keep Christianity pure. Throughout the history of the church, the faithful has always had to fight to keep the Christian faith from becoming overrun by heresies. Jesus stands with the faithful. His word reassures us that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. The church will endure and be victorious.

But even in those days there were false prophets, just as there will be false teachers among you today. They will be men who will subtly introduce dangerous heresies. They will thereby deny the Lord who redeemed them, and it will not be long before they bring on themselves their own downfall.  IIPet.2:1J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

What is heresy? “Heresy can be defined as any departure from Christian orthodoxy which is a teaching, doctrine or practice that goes beyond the apostles [sic]teachings — the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).Biblical heresy is often a denial of the core beliefs held in the Church that are founded on the Bible. In this sense, it applies to groups which reject basic Christian doctrines and separate themselves from the historic church.

It can be defined as the over-emphasis of a neglected truth or a truth elevated to an extreme were [sic] it can no longer be recognized as biblical. Heresy can also originate from a new revelation or prophesy, [sic] which is often the most dangerous source of all. A divisive teaching or practice from inside the Church can be more destructive to genuine faith than one from the outside. The epistle of Jude warns of this.”

The apostle Peter in his second epistle and the second chapter gives us a clear and comprehensive description of what false teachers look like. He describes their behaviours, their message, and the effects of their teaching, their motives and their sure downfall. Throughout the church age, false teachers have espoused various heresies; however, their character and tactics tend to remain constant. This is important because Jesus said we would know them by their fruits. What are these fruits we should look for?

  • They introduce destructive heresies to the church. IIPet.2:1
  • In an effort to make money they will exploit the church with stories they have made up. II Pet.2:3
  • They are bold and arrogant. II Pet.2:10
  • They are not afraid to slander celestial beings. 11Pet.2:10
  • They are adulterers. II Pet.2:14
  • They pull away the unstable, II Pet.2:14
  • They are experts in getting money out of your pockets under the guise of supporting the kingdom. II Pet.2:1
  • They are cursed since they preach another gospel, II Pet.2:14
  • They are in ministry for profit. II Pet.2:15
  • They have left preaching the true gospel to preach another gospel because the material profits are great. II Pet.2:15
  • Their message is empty. Their preaching is void of spiritual value. II Pet.2:17
  • Their words appeal to the desires of the sinful nature. II Pet.2:18
  • They promise people a better life when they themselves are slaves to depravity. IIPet.2:19

Children of God have not been left defenseless in the face of an increase in the activities of these wolves in sheep clothing. We need to pay urgent attention to the word of God.  Study the scriptures carefully with the help of the Holy Spirit and Bible helps.  Treat any new religious ideas with skepticism until you can prove them one way or another.  The gospel is more than 2000 years old; therefore, any new ideas must not be entertained without checking them alongside scripture.  Let the Holy Spirit and the Word be your guide as you discern between the holy and the unholy, the shepherds and the wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Keep your eyes on Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.  Let no man deceive you. Heb. 12:2; Mark 1:5