Five Warning Signs of False Teachers


Five Warning Signs of False Teachers

Several years ago, I received an email with a link to a sermon given by a pastor in my community. The person sending the email was genuinely concerned.

“Is he preaching heresy?”

The sermon included a terrible conclusion about how Jesus emptied Himself in Philippians 2. The pastor taught Jesus lost His divinity during the incarnation and then returned to being God through the ascension. He emphasized how we have the same power as Jesus on earth since He was merely human like us.

I responded with an explanation about the heresy of Kenoticism. Whether or not this pastor intended to preach heresy, I did not know. But it was indeed heresy.

Heresy is a destructive false teaching with the potential to divide the church. We throw this term around all the time, so much that we’ve lost a sense of the gravity of heresy. Heretics are not people who disagree with you. Heretics are people who divide the church through false teaching.

Most believers do not have the opportunity to take seminary classes on the heresies of Gnosticism, Docetism, Kenoticism, Arianism, Modalism, and others. Theological training is helpful but not necessary to identify heresy.

What are some warning signs of false teachers?

1. Contradicting Scripture. Often, these contradictions affect the meaning of the gospel. This is how Satan works. Distort the gospel just enough so it’s not really the gospel. People will notice if the message is way off, but they won’t notice as much if the message contains just enough truth to appear as truth while being false.

2. Adding or removing from Scripture. False teachers add to Scripture to control the behavior of others. The motive is often power. Other false teachers will remove from Scripture to live as they want and participate in otherwise prohibited behavior. The motive is often selfishness.

3. Claiming special knowledge on your behalf. I cringe when I hear, “God told me to tell you this.” Or even worse, “Only I get this information from God.” Is it possible God speaks through others to you? Yes. But someone claiming unsolicited special knowledge on your behalf is always a red flag.

4. Claiming a different source other than Scripture for God’s messages. Your emotions are a terrible source of God’s truth. Other religious texts are not equal to the Bible. Cults attract people with both tactics: emotional appeals and another so-called sacred text.

5. Making money the message more than Jesus. Please, preach and teach generosity, sacrificial giving, and tithing in your church. But do not forget that a love of money disqualifies one from ministry.

False teachers pull people away from Scripture in two main ways. The first is offering an alternative worldview of the Bible. Essentially, they say, “That’s not right; here is something else.”

The second way false teachers lure people is through reinterpreting Scripture. Essentially, “That’s not what the Bible means to me.”

Recognize the warning signs.

Why should you pay attention?

Jesus answers this question in the Sermon on the Mount. He teaches how few take the narrow and difficult road to discern truth. Jesus then warns about why you should care about discerning truth.

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.” (Matthew 7:15-16 NLT)

The term “fruit” occurs over one hundred times in the Bible. Fruit usually refers to results. What qualities are manifested in your life? Where do your hours go? Where is your money spent? What words do you communicate? What does your mind consume?

If you are not dedicating hours, mind energy, and eyeballs to God’s Word, then you are going to struggle to know what is true in this world.

Know God’s truth, and the results will follow.

Posted on September 14, 2022

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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  • Response to article about false teachers

    The term “fruit” in the New Testament, such as bearing much fruit, refers to being filled with the spirit of Jesus. It does NOT refer to anything else this author listed.

    “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5

    “By this my father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be my followers.” John 15

  • Great article, and you really nailed it on #3. I often tell people to be careful about claiming God told them to do something or other. The Bible says God will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain!

  • Also to be considered is the fact that there can be honest disagreement as to the correct interpretation of a given passage of Scripture. We need to discern between “I see how you might interpret it that way but I don’t agree,” and “You heretic!” There are some non-negotiable tenants of the faith, and there are false teachers who twist scriptures to fit their agenda, but not every disagreement on interpretation is necessarily a sign of false teaching.

  • Mafolasire kehinde says on

    Thanks & God bless the source of this knowledge. This is very rampant majorly in southern part of Nigeria, West Africa. May God saves us i n this end time. According to the book of Matthew 24v1-end, Jesus said “many will come out in my name & deceive peop le”. Let every so called heaven’s candidate asks for the distinquining spirit, so as to ascertain the right mind of GOD. Heaven is our ultimate target.