A Series on False Prophets: Part 3 – By Jennifer Miller
I do not know about you, but with the fast pace of today’s world and how quickly things have gone from bad to worse in just a blink of the eye, we have never been more inundated with false claims posing as “biblical truths”. Everyone it seems has thrown his or her hat into the ring and the arena is getting way too small to hold everyone. What are we to do? How are we to sift through all of this and find the correct path to follow? My friend we need to do some digging and investigating of our own before we make any decisions.
Where do we start? We start with the truth and the facts. What do we do? We must go to the source, who is God and hear what He is telling us. Where does He speak clearly to us? In the Bible. The Bible is the true Word of God and it speaks to us all the time, but we must be in it in order to hear what is being said.
False teachers come in many shapes and forms. False teachers will rely on many perspectives to preach their message. False teachers are not grounded in the word but know enough to manipulate it so that it appears to back up their message or claim.
In this installment I would like to look at two things: one is what the very nature of the Bible states versus what false teachers claim. The other is the variety and identifying marks of a false teacher. I will make the following points: The nature of the trinity, the existence and identity of Jesus, the purpose of the gospel, who humanity is, and the importance of salvation and how it is obtained.
First is the nature of the Trinity. The Bible begins with the Trinity. God, who is identified as our Creator in Genesis 1 (God spoke the universe into being), and as our Sovereign Lord over everything and everyone. Jesus who we are told in John 1:1 is the Word who was with God and that the Word was God, and the Holy Spirit who we are told in Genesis 1:2 existed since the beginning. The Bible backs this up many times throughout scripture. In Isaiah 7:14 we have the prophesy of the coming of the Messiah who would be called Immanuel which means God with us and that he would be born into humanity (born of the virgin Mary). In John 8:58 Jesus himself tells us that even before Abraham was born, He existed and is called the “Great I Am” and John 10:30 comes right out and states that Jesus and God the Father are one, and as John 4:24 states, the Holy Spirit, who is eternal, is the third part of the trinity. God created us and is involved with our lives, but the false teachers do not claim the existence of the trinity but insist that God is one of many gods who began as a human and worked His way up from there.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
“And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am.”
“I and my Father are one.”
“God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
Next, we have the identity of Jesus. Jesus is both man and God as John 1:14 points out, who lived a perfect sinless life as stated in 1 Peter 2:22. In John 14:6 Jesus declares that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and through Him alone we can come to the Father. He was sent to us by the Father to take on the sin of the world so that we could be reconciled with God. False teachers merely see Jesus, not as the Son, but more as a prophet; thus, claiming He is not God.
“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we behold His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.”
“Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.”
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
The Gospel which is the sharing of the “good news” is the message that salvation is only attainable through faith in Jesus and not through good works as stated in Ephesians 2:8-9. It is a gift as Romans 10:9 tells us. We learn that Jesus died for our sins and we have an opportunity to accept this gift. False teachers tell us that we must do a litany of things to get into heaven or be approved by God for eternal life. They base it on saying a specific prayer, getting baptized, giving money, telling us that our good works will earn us God’s approval and eternal life and then they leave Jesus out of the message altogether.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and not of yourselves. It is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Who humanity is must be recognized. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve; thus, we are born into it as Romans 5:12 states and we are naturally wicked as we are reminded in Jeremiah 17:9. Romans 3:23 and 6:23 tell us that nothing we do can earn us the right to eternal life. We need a Savior since man is unable to understand, nor could they seek God on their own as we learn in Romans 3:11. False teachers feel that the world teaches us what sin is, and they claim that we are not born into it. They also teach us that our works save us, not Jesus.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
“There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”
Our salvation is obtained when we accept the Word of God, ask Jesus into our life, and become heirs to God’s kingdom as promised in John 6:37-44; 47 of which Jesus details the will of God. We then become transformed (detailed in the listing of the Fruits of the Spirit) in Galatians 5:22-23 and the Holy Spirit indwells as pointed out in Romans 8:9-11. We are changed and as Philippians 2:3 points out, the proof of this change is when we learn to care for others over our own selfish self. We are created for good works by God’s hand and motivated by our love for God; thus, surrendering and obeying Him as John 14:15 tells us. Our eternity is based on our relationship to the gospel and if we accept it or not. When we believe (1 John 5:13) and receive Jesus we will go to heaven, but if we do not believe and reject Jesus (Matthew 25:41), we will spend eternity in hell. Heaven and hell are real places as 1 Corinthians 15:42-53 attests. However, false teachers are focused on selfish needs such as material blessings (financial and otherwise) and teach us that God will forsake us if we do not work hard enough. They also feel that a person can work off his sin, be cleansed from sin and then they can enter heaven. They also believe hell is temporary and that all will go to heaven eventually.
“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law.”
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
“If ye love me, keep my commandment.”
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, the first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
We are warned many times in the Bible that during the end times false teachers will become more and more common and we must be prepared. When we are alert, study the truth (by delving into the Bible), we are less susceptible to buying into the lies of the false teachers.
Now that we are armed with the truth and know where the Bible stands, we, as Christians, can go one step further and identify the face of the false teacher. How are we to recognize false teachers? First and most importantly, we are advised to test the spirits to see if they come from God or not. Not everyone will be a true Christ follower or an Ambassador for Christ. We must be able to identify a false teacher. According to an article by Tim Challies called Seven False Teachers in the Church Today (January 2017), he mentions that all false teachers are motivated by either money, sex or power, and that they can take on one of the seven following identities. Let’s look at each one, shall we?
First, we have The Heretic. An example of this is in 2 Peter 2:1.
“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”
The heretic blatantly contradicts the core teaching of the Christian faith. He takes the premise of the foundation and then adds false information to it, or tampers with it. He does it so convincingly that unless you are familiar with the gospel, you will not easily pick up the subtle nuances. He can be charismatic and engaging, but his subtly is what makes him so dangerous.
Next, we have The Charlatan. 1 Timothy 6:3-5 warns us of this type of false teacher
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness, from such withdraw thyself.”
To the Charlatan gain or personal enrichment is everything. He sees this as an end so that he can benefit financially from his preaching. He loves to stir things up and start a controversy within the church to cause division or friction. They seek prominence to live in extravagance.
Another type of false teacher is The Prophet. He claims to be given the gift from God to speak new revelations that fall outside of scripture through new authoritative words of preaching, teaching, rebuke or encouragement. What he accomplishes is that he misleads others and we are warned in 1 John 4:1 how to response when confronted by such types. We are also told of the consequences for those who purposefully mislead in Revelation 22:18-19.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plaques that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
The Abuser uses his position of leadership to take advantage of people either to feed his sexual lust or need for power. 2 Peter 2:2 outlines this type of person who claims to be anointed by God to do this in the name of his ministry.
“And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”
The Divider uses false doctrine to cause a rift in the church. His goal is to destroy the church and is devoid of the Holy Spirit. He brings strife not love or peace as Jude 1:18-21 states. Jude also tells us how to respond to these people and how to continue to live for God.
“How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own godly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference.”
The People Pleaser is centered on only what man wants and not God. He does not preach on sound teaching, but rather focuses his message on what the people want to hear. As 2 Timothy 4:3-4 states, he will move away from the truth to please the people.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts they shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
The Speculator is centered all around speculation or new insights and tosses aside most of what the Bible says. He is weary of the truths of the Bible and is obsessed about trivial things. He looks for hidden codes in scripture to signal the end times and speaks of God as being unable to see and know the future. In 1 Timothy 6:20-21 Paul warns Timothy about these types of false prophets.
“O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called. Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.”
The key point is to keep in mind through these examples is that Satan and his army are on the prowl and are ready to attack us at any time. Satan will use whatever means necessary to thwart our attention from God and refocus it on him and his minions.
Deception will always be present in this world, but we must be spiritually armed and ready to fight against it. God has equipped all of us who are truly His as stated by Paul in Ephesians 6:11-20 when we are warned to put on the full armor of God. All of us who are Ambassadors for Christ must wear the full armor to fight these spiritual battles attacking us daily. False teachers will come but now that we can recognize how they may appear and what they claim, we can with open eyes, weed out their lies by the truths of the Bible. They are on the prowl, but the prey doesn’t need to be taken by surprise. The prey needs to be aware and sharp and fix their eyes solely on Jesus. Our Lord promises not one of us will be snatched from His hands. Hold on to that, fight the good fight and stay on course with our Lord. In my final installment I will reiterate the signs to watch out for: the warnings, how we are to respond, how to determine the truth and what questions to focus on. Until then, enjoy your week and God bless.