Scripture gives us many warnings about false teachers. False teachers of any era (and they have existed since the beginning) all have the same markers. They can be identified. And, they should be identified.
They bring hate for Christ, destruction of the sheep, pollution of the church, and grieving of the Spirit. They need to be marked and avoided, and warned about. (Romans 16:17).
I intend to quote various markers from one or the other of the lists, and then quote a false teacher exhibiting that exact marker. I intend to name the false teacher.
The Gospel Coalition’s piece begins this way:
How would you recognize counterfeit Christianity? In 2 Peter 1 we read about genuine believers. And in 2 Peter 2 we read about counterfeit believers. If you put these chapters side by side you will see the difference between authentic and counterfeit believers.
Different Source—Where does the message come from? Peter says, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:16). And then he says the false teachers exploit you “with stories they have made up” (2:3). So the true teacher sources what he says from the Bible. The false teacher relies on his own creativity. He makes up his own message.
“False teachers teach their own wisdom and vision.”
We have a prime example of this trait, or mark. Beth Moore often departs from the bible, she sometimes unfortunately doesn’t even get there at all. In this quote from a video that is now taken down, Moore teaches the entire segment from a vision she claimed “Jesus” gave her. As The Gospel Coalition said, ‘the false teacher relies on her own creativity.’
I see God doing something huge in the body of Christ. I do not know why I have had the privilege to get to travel around and see one church after another, one group of believers after another, interdenominationally all over this country but I have gotten to see something that I think is huge. And I’ll also suggest to you that I am not the only one. And tonight I am gonna do my absolute best to illustrate to you something that God showed me sitting out on the back porch. He put a picture I’ve explained to you before I’m a very visual person. So he speaks to me very often in putting a picture in my head and it was as if I was raised up, looking down on a community as I saw the church in that particular dimension. Certainly not all dimensions, not even many, but in what we will discuss tonight the church as Jesus sees it in a particular dimension.” Beth Moore
False teacher Beth Moore had swapped scripture for a picture from her own mind. Moore then taught from that picture. In the video from which the quote was taken, now taken down, Moore went on to teach that ‘Jesus’ taught her that Catholics are part of the Christian church. She taught that the Catholics were part of Christianity by being just another denomination on a par with Methodist or Baptist. Since the Catholic Church is not a Christian religion nor a denomination, we know for a fact that whoever ‘showed Moore that picture sitting out on the back porch,’ it was NOT God. Worse, by teaching that Catholics are part of Christianity, they therefore need no evangelizing.
In this second trait of false teachers, The Gospel Coalition (TGC) writes,
Different Message—What is the substance of the message?
For the true teacher, Jesus Christ is central. “We have everything we need for life and godliness in Him” (1:3). For the false teacher, Jesus is at the margins: “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them” (2:1).
Notice the word secretly. It’s rare for someone in church to openly deny Jesus. Movement away from the centrality of Christ is subtle. The false teacher will speak about how other people can help change your life, but if you listen carefully to what he is saying, you will see that Jesus Christ is not essential to his message.
It’s very difficult to notice the absence of something, even the absence of Jesus. False teachers speak flatteringly, smoothly, sincerely, even passionately. But over time, you’ll notice a false teacher’s lessons are absent that very present teaching about Jesus. Joel Osteen rarely speaks of Jesus at all. He exemplifies the trait.
In the quote below, false teacher Billy Graham exemplifies the trait also, by his teaching the following from an interview with Richard Schuller in 1997. Graham has always believed this, having written about it in 1960 in his Decision Magazine. Here, he responds to a question about the future of Christianity and how people come to be saved.
Well, Christianity and being a true believer–you know, I think there’s the Body of Christ. This comes from all the Christian groups around the world, outside the Christian groups. I think everybody that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the Body of Christ. And I don’t think that we’re going to see a great sweeping revival, that will turn the whole world to Christ at any time. I think James answered that, the Apostle James in the first council in Jerusalem, when he said that God’s purpose for this age is to call out a people for His name. And that’s what God is doing today, He’s calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.
Schuller: What, what I hear you saying that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?
Graham: Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations, that they have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there was a God, and they’ve tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.
Challies gives us another mark:
False teachers save their harshest criticism for God’s most faithful servants. False teachers criticize those who teach the truth, and save their sharpest criticism for those who hold most steadfastly to what is true.
Beth Moore says that the brethren who challenge her false vision of a phony unity are bullies, mean spirited, scoffers, a threat, and demoralizing. How charming to call the people standing on the same blood-soaked ground as she claims to stand on, are mean and bullies because they differ from her view. This quote from Moore perfectly exemplifies the trait of a false teacher.
Challies’ seventh trait of false teachers is False teachers exploit their followers.
Peter would warn of this danger, saying: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. … And in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (1 Peter 2:1-3). The false teachers exploit those who follow them because they are greedy and desire the riches of this world.
There are so many examples of this, both subtle and unsubtle. Here is one that is unsubtle but occurred a few days ago.
Televangelist Creflo Dollar asked his congregation to donate $300 each to raise money for a $65M luxury jet. The website was taken down after online criticism but the World Changers Church International is still accepting donations
In the way that things on the internet may go away but never die, an enterprising person has grabbed the video and uploaded it independently of Dollar’s church website. You can see the video where Dollar is pleading for cash to buy his jet at the link above or below. The enterprising person’s youtube channel is Andy Moore and he says, “## NOTE: I have posted this video to show just how deplorable and exploitative Creflo Dollar and his organization are. This is NOT an endorsement. ##”
I hope you can find the time to go to both the Gospel Coalition’s piece and Challies’ article on false teachers. Also, here is Jeff Grapnell’s piece at Entreating Favor’s site to read Five Marks of a False Convert
When Wolves lead the Flock, part 1 of a series
BibleGateway: Exposing False Teachers