The most necessary prerequisite to avoiding error is being born again by faith in Jesus Christ through God’s glorious grace and belief in the gospel of our salvation. Apart from salvation any person is operating under the deceit and delusion of the devil, the flesh and this fallen world system. As unredeemed sinners we have a heart that is primed for the lies of our sinful flesh and the deception of Satan.
1And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Ephesians 2:1-3
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. John 8:44
Added to this is the necessity of believing that the Bible is the Word of God and judging everything by what God says in His Word. Still, however, even as God’s beloved children we are capable of being led into error through ignorance of the wiles of the enemy and lack of the knowledge of God’s Word.
Sanctify them by the truth, Your word is truth. John 17:17
16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13
Since we can be easily led astray we must make it our aim to know the Word of God intimately and thoroughly. Greater knowledge of God’s Word must result in a deeper love and reliance upon our Savior Jesus Christ, since the purpose of the Scriptures is to reveal Christ to us. As we rely upon Him, He will lead us and guide us into all truth, His Word, by the Spirit of Truth. Here are a number of verses that God has given to us in His Word that we can know to help us stay away from error.
First, what are the characteristics of a false teacher? What type of behavior should we watch out for so that we can avoid the deception of the enemy through his chosen vessels of deceit? Let’s look at the blatant signals that someone is a false teacher and must be avoided.
3If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness,4he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy strife, reviling, evil suspicions, 5useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. 1 Timothy 6:3-5
False teachers contradict God’s Word for monetary gain. They reject godliness and instead insist on centering on beliefs that have nothing to do with the Bible. Instead of having a humble attitude they are arrogant and reactive, operating in the flesh and espousing the doctrines of the flesh. Avoid those who are flashy, prideful, ready to argue, and always asking for money. Avoid those who appeal to the greedy sinful nature in order to steal your money and wreak havoc on your finances. These are evil workers who do not know Jesus Christ or His truth the Bible, but they will use the Scriptures to manipulate people for their own selfish ends. There are numerous false teachers just like this throughout the US. Think of those preachers who promote the Name it and Claim it false doctrine, or the Health and Wealth False Gospel like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen.
1But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but deny it power. And from such people turn away! 6For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7
These false teachers are preaching to the choir, so their behavior doesn’t seem aberrant because it blends in so well with the lives of all around them. God’s power does not reside in their lives nor can it because they are not saved. They have turned from God of the Scriptures to a false god after their own making. They take advantage of those around them who are also bereft of the truth and use them for their own pleasures and purposes. We must turn away from “churches” that are characterized by the flesh and led by men, who bereft of the Holy Spirit, regularly blaspheme God and His Son, and teach all manner of impiety from the dais. Many leaders of religious institutions fit this description especially within the liberal false mainline denominations.
10For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. Titus 1:10-11
1But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:1-3
Many, many “teachers” exist who make things up in order to exploit others. Their lies destructively lead others astray and bring reproach upon the way of truth so that the gospel of Jesus Christ is blasphemed. They can do this by their godless behavior of cynical exploitation or they can do this by rejecting the truth of the Scriptures and teaching lies about Jesus Christ. One such enterprise is the Jesus Seminar which attempts to deconstruct the Bible in order to find the “true, historical Jesus”. Unfortunately, because of their so-called religious and educational credentials, many are willing to listen to them and so are deceived by Satan’s lies. Their destruction is assured and we must turn away from these evil workers. Notice the emphasis upon those who do this in order to line their pockets. What makes these wicked workers think that they will get away with it? Oh, they are deluded and deceived thinking that God does not notice and will not hold them accountable. They are in for a rude awakening! Not all false teachers are in it for the money, however.
14Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation-as our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him has written to you, 16as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. 2 Peter 3:14-16
There are those who mishandle the Word of God. Their number is legion. Attend most any “church” any Sunday and you will find preachers, elders, etc., who are not able to rightly divide the Word of God but are promoting some doctrine that has its origins in the hearts and minds of men who are led awry by the devil. They teach incorrect doctrine about Christ, about salvation, about the Word of God, about God the Father, about the Holy Spirit, about end times, about many different themes from the Word of God. God’s Word commands that we also turn away from those who pervert the Word of truth.
17Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. 19For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. 20And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
Their false teaching is evil and promotes divisions and offenses, think Calvinism and Arminianism. Neither doctrine is faithful to the Word of God; they both have led to untold abuses, divisions and offenses. Notice again that greed is a motivation for the dissemination of false doctrine. Think of how many untold numbers of books have been sold which promote one or the other of these false doctrines. Those who support error lead the simple astray by their fair speeches and smooth tongues.
13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
There are some false teachers who craftily appear so good, so righteous, so well meaning that the only way to uncover their deceit is to compare their behavior and teaching with the Word of God. Ultimately, all false teachers contradict God’s Word about Jesus Christ and His gospel of salvation, but these sly men will say the right thing most of the time, but do it to gain an audience, and then they slip in their error. Think Billy Graham, who loves to “preach the gospel” all the while denying the gospel by joining forces with those who are enemies of the gospel and turning salvation inquirers over to wolves. He seems to teach what is true, but he denies the necessity of the new birth through conscious faith in Jesus Christ and has taught this false doctrine since the 1960’s. Many, many false teachers are just like Billy Graham, having an appearance of acceptability all the while proffering what is deadly and damnable.
Finally there are those who promote irreligious claptrap that spreads abroad blasphemous ideas about our God, His Son and the truth. The book The Shack is just such an empty worthless work that increases ignorance about God and His love for us rather than enlightening hearts and minds to God’s gracious goodness. William Paul Young did not rightly divide the Word of truth, he instead obscured it through his irreverent foolishness.
15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:15-18
Another author who comes to mind is Peter Kreeft, who being influenced by the ecumenical false teachings of C. S. Lewis, left his Protestant denomination for the Catholic Church and wrote the book Ecumenical Jihad. In his book he states that many are in heaven who never believed in Jesus Christ such as Confucius, Buddha and Muhammad. This false teaching lines up perfectly with what Lewis also believed that Buddhists who followed certain teachings of Christianity and belong to Christ even though they don’t know it. This ecumenical false teaching is spreading like cancer and will bring in the end time apostate church. We must turn away from these false teachers for our spiritual health and the spiritual well-being of others!
“There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may have been in this position.” (page 209, Mere Christianity)
False teachers can have an appearance of “righteousness” but they will deny the truth of the Scriptures in their false teaching. They will do this for monetary gain, for personal aggrandizement, for acclaim, for respectability, for many sinful and selfish reasons. False teachers are in it for themselves, and despise Jesus Christ, His gospel and His sheep. Believers are merely there for their own sinful uses and benefit. Let us be as noble and wise as the Bereans and study the Scriptures to make sure that the ones we listen to and what they are saying are in line with the truth of the Word of God. If they don’t measure up, then we must obey God’s command and turn away from these evil workers. God bless you:)
These were ore fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:11