I once read that because the American dollar is still the leading currency in the global marketplace, it’s the most susceptible to counterfeiters. I'm sure the dollar in your pocket is real (you might want to check!) but what about the faith in your heart? Is it the “real thing”?
It’s good to know how to spot a counterfeit dollar, but far more important to spot a counterfeit prophet or teacher! Counterfeit money is not nearly as bad as a counterfeit faith.
But there were false prophets among the people [Israel], even as there shall be false teachers among you [the church], who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; 2 Peter 2:1-2a
Counterfeit Christians, preachers and prophets — it’s a serious matter! In these last days, our faith must be authentic and biblical.
In the Bible there is no greater crime than being a false prophet. In fact, an Old Testament false prophet would be put to death (Deuteronomy 18:20). It’s bad to tell a lie but far worse to teach a lie. And the worst sort of lie would be a lie about God, because you could cause a soul to be eternally lost. The Bible calls such teachings “damnable heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).
Learn how to spot a counterfeit. Keep these things in mind.
Be aware of their presence.
False prophets are not new — they are as old as Eden and still exist today (v. 1). The Bible asserts this more than once. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Be able to identify them.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light… 2 Corinthians 11:13-14
They may be “Reverend,” or “Doctor.” But they do not know the Lord, and they stand in pulpits as false apostles and angels of light. When you look for the devil, never fail to look in the pulpit. The Word of God clearly says they will be among you.
Identify them by testing their message.
These five tests will reveal whether they are real or a counterfeit.
The Source Test:
Is his source the Word of God? What is the basis of his teaching? Does he have revelation other than the Bible? Some might come to your door and say, “Oh, we accept the Bible as the Word of God, but we also accept Joseph Smith as a prophet.” They want to lay some other source down alongside the Word of God. But the Bible says we’re not to add to, take from, amend, or adjust it.
The Savior Test:
Do they see Jesus Christ as the virgin-born Son of God, and God the Son, the Messiah, God in human flesh, co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father? The Bible is full of the worship of Jesus Christ. Repeatedly the Bible and the gospels tell how they worshiped Him. If He were not God, of course He should not be worshiped. If He is God, He should be worshiped.
The Subject Test:
What is their subject? The gospel of Jesus Christ? Or do they want to talk to you about what they call “kingdom truth”? Paul said, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Everything else comes out of that. The Bible has one theme, salvation. One hero, Jesus. One villain, the devil. The Old Testament says Someone is coming; the New Testament says Someone has come; the book of Revelation says Someone is coming again. That person is the Lord Jesus. He is the hero of the Bible. Paul said, “…if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9), because we’re talking about the eternal destiny of people.
The Salvation Test:
Do they teach salvation by grace alone through faith alone? Or do they try to mix in works, baptism, or anything else? Friend, anytime you say something else must be done other than trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, you take the “whosoever” out of the Bible. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). What does that say in the Greek? Whosoever! Anybody, anytime, any place, who calls upon Jesus in repentance and faith will be saved.
The Sanctification Test:
Do they teach and are they endeavoring to live a holy life? If they lack personal holiness and separation from sin, there’s something rotten in their teaching.