Tag Archives: devil

How to Spot a False Prophet and Teacher

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Jesus warned us that “false Christs and false prophets” will come and will attempt to deceive even God’s elect (Matthew 24:23-27; see also 2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 17-18).

The best way to guard yourself against falsehood and false teachers is to know the truth. To spot a counterfeit, study the real thing. Any believer who “correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and who makes a careful study of the Bible can identify false doctrine.

Charles Ryrie

For example, a believer who has read the activities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Matthew 3:16-17 will immediately question any doctrine that denies the doctrine of the Triune God. Therefore, step one is to study the Bible and judge all teaching by what the Scripture says.

Jesus said “a tree is recognized by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). When looking for “fruit,” here are three specific tests to apply to any teacher to determine the accuracy of his or her teaching:

1) What does this teacher say about Jesus? In Matthew 16:15-16, Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and for this answer Peter is called “blessed.” In 2 John 9, we read, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” In other words, Jesus Christ and His work of redemption is of utmost importance; beware of anyone who denies that Jesus is equal with God, who downplays Jesus’ sacrificial death, or who rejects Jesus’ humanity. First John 2:22 says, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.”

2) Does this teacher preach the gospel? The gospel is defined as the good news concerning Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). As nice as they sound, the statements “God loves you,” “God wants us to feed the hungry,” and “God wants you to be wealthy” are not the complete message of the gospel. As Paul warns in Galatians 1:7, “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” No one, not even a great preacher, has the right to change the message that God gave us. “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:9).

3) Does this teacher exhibit character qualities that glorify the Lord? Speaking of false teachers, Jude 11 says, “They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” In other words, a false teacher can be known by his pride (Cain’s rejection of God’s plan), greed (Balaam’s prophesying for money), and rebellion (Korah’s promotion of himself over Moses). Jesus said to beware of such people and that we would know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20).

For further study, review those books of the Bible that were written specifically to combat false teaching within the church: Galatians, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, and Jude. It is often difficult to spot a false teacher/false prophet.

Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and his ministers masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:15). Only by being thoroughly familiar with the truth will we be able to recognize a counterfeit.

Our Adversary, the Devil

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“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

This grave warning concerning the devil was given not only to young Christians, easily subject to temptations, but also to “the elders which are among you” (v. 1). It often seems, in fact, that Satan’s greatest victories are won when he can cause the fall of a Christian leader, thereby not only destroying that leader’s influence for Christ, but also giving “great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Samuel 12:14). The devil is a roaring lion, but he doesn’t come as such. If he did, the intended victim would flee.

He is, above all, the one “which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation 12:9), “transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). As he did with Mother Eve, the “subtle” one will insidiously appeal to our pride, or our aesthetic sense, or our appetite, or our desire for material things.

Peter could speak from bitter experience. Satan had desired to “sift you as wheat,” Jesus had told him, but he foolishly boasted that he would stand true (Luke 22:31-34).

No wonder Peter could warn with such urgency: “Be sober, be vigilant.” Note particularly that, in the context, he is especially warning against greed (1 Peter 5:2) and pride (vv. 5-6). We must not allow Satan to “get an advantage of us,” Paul says, “for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Though Satan is deceptive and powerful, we need never fall to his tempting if we simply—along with staying sober and vigilant—“submit [ourselves] therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). HMM

God’s Standard

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“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

It is remarkable how different are our human standards of value from those of God. But what should be the criteria by which men recognize hearts of loving kindness, attitudes of justice, and characters of righteousness? These are the attributes of our Creator and Savior, and it is our achievements in these areas that determine our real standing, in the scales of eternity, before Him.

Human wisdom, might, and riches easily generate pride, and pride is “the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).

Thus the Scripture has to remind us “that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: . . . That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26, 29). We should, indeed, desire wisdom, might, and riches, but not as measured by the world. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). “As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10). “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Let lovingkindness become the standard of true wisdom; justice, the measure of real power; and righteousness, our criterion of riches. All are found fully only in Jesus Christ.

If we must “glory” in something, let it be the cross. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Galatians 6:14). HMM

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