In these last days, Scripture warns that false prophets will arise and deceive many. Believers who are not well-grounded make easy targets for doctrines that may sound good but are filled with error.

Some doctrines are deadly: those that alter the Deity of Christ, redefine the Trinity — or even deny the Trinity. Sometimes a charmer will lead the susceptible off into error that results in physical death — Jonestown and Waco come to mind.

We must sharpen our awareness and be alert — not just for ourselves but for our loved ones who might otherwise be drawn to a false prophet.

Last time, we looked at five tests you can apply to any teacher’s message: the Source, Savior, Subject, Salvation, and Sanctification tests. But even if the teacher’s message passes these tests, we still should examine his method, manner, and motive.

Know them by their method.

They “…privily shall bring in damnable heresies…And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Peter is describing the way they operate.

  • privily means “secretly, clandestinely, in a way that’s hard to spot.” Give the devil credit for being clever. His helpers lay false teaching alongside good teaching in order to confuse.
  • feigned words. The word feigned in the Greek is plastos, from which we get our word “plastic.” Plastic is pliable, molding itself just simply to fit and to imitate…plastic preachers with plastic words.

Know them by their manner.

And many shall follow their pernicious ways… (v. 2)

Pernicious is a word we don’t use much today. It literally means “unbridled lust.” The center, sum and substance of their message is themselves.

Have you noticed that apostasy and immorality go hand in hand? Often you’ll hear about false teachers being caught in adultery. Or, within their belief system, they advocate immorality, multiple wives, or some sort of “free sex.” We see it over and over again. We hear news reports of a cult under the spell of a leader who, it is revealed, has been engaging in shocking immorality with members of his flock. High-profile evangelists preaching easy-believe-ism or a health-and-wealth gospel have sometimes been exposed as leading double lives.

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude, verse 4

They call themselves prophets, but they’re living in sin. Note their methods, manner, and way of life. Are they above reproach?

I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none of them doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants therefore as Gomorrah. Jeremiah 23:14

Success in ministry does not necessarily mean they’re doing God’s work. Statistics are no proof that something is of God, because “many will follow” (2 Peter 2:2). Some people love the sensual rather than the spiritual. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father, which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Many people lead double lives. They are counterfeits.

Know them by their motive.

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…. 2 Peter 2:3

What is the false teacher’s motive? They want to use and manipulate you. Why? Because they themselves are covetous.

For their own motivation and wicked heart, Peter says, they make merchandise of the Gospel. You’ve perhaps seen some of these hucksters on TV who merchandise the Gospel of Christ. In my estimation, the hottest part of hell is reserved for these plastic preachers who, for whatever reason, merchandise God’s people. With great swelling words they exploit the ignorant. They are prophets, spelled “P-R-O-F-I-T-S.”

Lastly, in verses 4-5 Peter gets very serious. He says God will surely judge and not spare them. God is saying: Here is My solemn warning to every counterfeiter. When the angels fell, I judged them. When civilization in Noah’s day became polluted, I judged them. When Sodom and Gomorrah became perverted, I judged them. And I’m going to judge these false prophets.

Don’t get caught up in counterfeit Christianity. God will not spare sin or the sinner, for He did not spare His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, so that you and I might have eternal life.

The world is full of counterfeits. Every counterfeit dollar is a tribute to the worth of the real — or men wouldn’t be printing counterfeits! And every counterfeit Christian is a tribute to the value of salvation. Jesus is real. Salvation is real. And you can make sure you have the real thing if you repent of your sin and trust Him.