How to Detect a False Teacher

By Chris Baxter

I'll be the first to let you know that the subject of "false teaching" scares me to the point of silence.

However, in my on-line Bible study, we just "happen to be" going through 2 Peter, and I just "happen to" get assigned a passage to unpack and write for my Soul Sisters. Guess what ALL of chapter 2 is about? Yep, false teachers. Yikes.

So, I'm jumping the fear hurdle yet one more time, and sharing God's word concerning this topic. False teaching is in our midst, so let's gain wisdom together: 

This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!

2 Peter 2:10-14

I bet you would all agree with me that these above verses will never show up on the inside of an encouraging Hallmark card. Wow, Peter holds nothing back, right? But let's remember, this is God's word through Peter; we are hearing from the Lord's heart concerning his true feelings about false teachers. 

Why is judgment on these deceivers so severe? Because God loves his children. Think about it on a human level. If someone with questionable intentions were trying to lure your toddler away from you, wouldn't you stop at nothing to prevent this from happening? Likewise with our Father. His righteous anger is fueled by his protective love.

 These verses give us some discerning "tips" on detecting a false prophet:

  1. They despise authority
  2. They are bold and arrogant
  3. They lack understanding of the things they talk about
  4. They are creatures of instinct (follow their flesh)
  5. They carouse in broad daylight (unashamedly lure)
  6. They enter in the church and feast with its members
  7. They don't stop sinning (for selfish gain)
  8. They seduce the unstable

These descriptions seem so obvious that one would think that false teachers would be easily spotted, but yet these men in Peter's day were gaining followers from within the church! Sadly, this happens all too often today too. In his book Be Alert, Warren Wiersbe says it well: "Outwardly they appeared to serve God and minister to the people, while inwardly they fed their own egos and feathered their own nests."

So, how can we prevent being lured away from our faith in Christ?

 Know theTruth. 

The only description in the verses above that is given to potentially-lured-people is that they are "unstable." The more you know the truth of God's word, the less unstable you become, and the easier it will be to pick up on some of these false teachers' sometimes subtle character flaws.

As I looked at the list above one more time, I was struck at how opposite these things are from the attributes of Jesus. Christian leaders (and all of us) are called to be like Christ! These false teachers, who claimed Christ but twisted his truth, were nothing like him at all. 

 As Jesus walked the earth:

he submitted to the authority of his Father,

he was humble and gentle, 

he was full of wisdom,

he listened to and followed the Spirit,

he was sinless even when tempted,

he brought truth into the church,

he emptied himself, serving others,

and he lured the lost with his truth and love.

This is the Leader I want to follow, don't you?


Dear Lord,

Thank you for your protective love. Give us a desire to know the truth so that we will not be deceived by anyone who does not stand fully for you. We ask for your Spirit of wisdom and discernment as we open your word. Then help us to walk forward, unswayed by anything false. Amen.

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Trying times

Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him (Stephen). But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.  Acts 8:2-3

Dear Lord,

We lift to you the people in this world who are being fiercely persecuted for their faith. Surround them as a shield; protect them from evil. Give them peace in the midst of uncertainties and assurance of your presence. Strengthen their faith in these trying times. Amen.