How to Avoid Being Deceived by False Teachers
As we draw closer to the return of Jesus Christ, it will become more difficult to discern who and what to believe concerning Christianity. Sound doctrine will be mocked as false teachers distort the truth with cleverly devised fables. It is vitally important to know what the Bible actually says, so when a time of testing comes, you will not be deceived.
1 John 2:18 says, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.”
The Bible warns us that many false teachers will come in order to deceive believers until the Antichrist stands in the temple proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). Spiritual deception comes in many forms, but for the sake of brevity we will discuss the main methods typically used to propagate false doctrine.
Deception is often cloaked in truth.
Any person or group desiring to deceive will not reveal their true intentions. If someone says, “Let’s go worship Satan,” you would figure that one out pretty quickly. On the other hand, if someone says, “We believe Jesus was a wise teacher with a kind heart, but he was only a man,” you better know what you believe as a Christian because you have just been hit with false doctrine.
2 Corinthians 11:3 says, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
1 Timothy 4:1-3 also warns us of the dangers of deceptive teaching which is often cloaked in good intentions and man-made religiosity:
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.”
False teachers distort the truth about who Jesus is.
If any person, group, or church tells you that Jesus was not God, that He was only a man, they are false teachers concerning Christianity. Many groups claim to be Christian, but if they deny the divinity of Jesus they are false teachers. The Bible makes it abundantly clear Jesus was and is God. Also, if any group or person says that we too can become a god someday, they are false teachers as well. For example, some “progressive” Christian groups have fallen into this trap, and their teaching can be very misleading. Here are a few important verses concerning the divinity of Jesus:
1. John 8:58 – “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (compare this verse to Exodus 3:14 which says, “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.”)
2. Matthew 1:23 – The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.”
3. Hebrews 1:7-8 – In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire.” But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.”
See also John 10:30-33, John 1:1, Micah 5:2, 1 Timothy 3:16, and John 5:18.
False teachers claim salvation is based upon works and not grace.
Salvation is either by grace or by works, it can’t be both. Christians are saved by the grace of God and not by what we do. We have never, nor will we ever be able to do anything to earn salvation. That doesn’t mean we have a license to sin, or should not do good works, but we must understand it is only by accepting the finished work of Jesus on the cross that we are saved.
Anyone who says we must keep certain man-made laws to be saved is a false teacher, and unfortunately, there are many religious groups that impose legalism upon people in the name of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”
False teaching is a serious offense against God.
In Galatians 1:6-9 we are instructed by Paul not to be duped by false teachers. He goes on to say if anyone is teaching a “different” gospel than the one he preached they should be eternally condemned. What Paul was saying is “let them go to hell!” Those are pretty strong words. Here is Paul’s instruction to the Galatians regarding false teachers:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”
Paul doesn’t stop there. In Galatians 3:1-3 he says if we accept false teaching we have been bewitched. In other words, false teaching has the same effect on its victims as witchcraft. Here is Paul’s strong warning to the Galatians:
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (See also Galatians 5:4 and Romans 4:4-5).
Know how to defend your faith.
I urge you to know what you believe and why. We are living in a time when many strong Christians are falling prey to deception and false teaching. Men and women of God who should know better are espousing teachings that are clearly departing from the gospel of Jesus Christ as proclaimed in the Bible.
I believe Christians are going to experience a time of testing like never before, and some are already bringing false teaching into the church and their homes. As followers of Jesus Christ, it’s imperative we be grounded in the foundational principles God has given us.
Remember, you are responsible for your own faith. You can’t blame anyone else for your decisions. It’s not up to your friends, your spouse, your parents, or your pastor to tell you what to believe – only you can discover God’s truths for your life.