Q: What Are the Marks of a False Teacher?
Selected from our Questions and Answers program
A: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.… 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. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:3,4,13-15). What are the marks of a false teacher or prophet? First of all, the man today who denies the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is in the camp of liberalism, and Paul has labeled him a false prophet. That’s why I’m rather hardboiled on the liberal preacher. You have a perfect right to deny the deity of Christ, but you have no right to claim to be a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ and then deny the very One that you are preaching. And then “apostle” is a title that doesn’t belong to anybody today, so the minute anyone takes that title you can mark him off your list. The office of the apostles went out a long time ago, after the death of the original apostles and those who saw the living Christ. After that it’s the written record that they gave to us that we are to turn to.
Many Christians today will follow a liberal preacher, a false shepherd. There’s always that danger, and it’s one of the things Paul is warning of. He says the devil makes himself an angel of light. If you could really see him I think you’d see the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen, and you can be deceived. There are abroad today many men who are handsome, dignified, never say an unkind word, just lovey-dovey all the way through. But they’re apostles of Satan, you see. Nothing in the world but ministers of his. Now that is one group of false teachers, and I think they’re easily detected today.Now I come to another group, and that is the religious racketeer. I listened to one of them on the radio. Why, he preached the gospel, friends! He even believes in the inerrancy of Scripture. But Paul says beware of those that are taking you away from the simplicity of Christ. Now I detect one little thing in this man’s teaching: It involves the idea of sending you little gadgets and going through all kinds of little performances and rituals. It takes you pretty far from the Word of God. That is taking you away from the simplicity that’s in Christ. My friend, you and I are lost sinners and we come to Jesus Christ bringing nothing and receiving everything from Him. And if you’re able to give, if you’re able to serve, if you’re able to witness — that all comes from Him. You can’t do anything for Him without being filled by the Holy Spirit. That’s the real test. You see, it’s so easy to get away from the simplicity that is in Christ.