People who learn how to detect counterfeit dollars use a specific technique. Since there are many different ways to make a fake dollar, extensive study of the real dollar is the only way to accurately recognize fakes. This same principle applies to Scripture. There are myriad ways to contradict, dilute, extrapolate falsely from, and augment the Bible. But there is only one truth, and if you read the Bible enough, you begin to recognize that true voice, and any contradictory voice you hear automatically rings untrue (John 10:27).
Sometimes it can still be very difficult to discern a false teacher, especially if you don't know them well, or if they have been recommended by a source you have come to trust. Here are a few ways to recognize the false fruit of a false teacher (Matthew 12:33).
First, false teachers and false religions have one thing in common: they deny the deity of Christ. This was prophesied by the Bible. "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son" (1 John 2:22). No matter how trustworthy the person seems, or how beautiful aspects of their religion may appear, if they deny that Jesus is God, they are in error.
Second, false teachers preach a false gospel—usually a gospel of works, which is no gospel at all. Is it good news to hear that we have to follow a list of rules in order to appease God? Of course not. God's law is meant to lead us to the knowledge that we need Him to save us (Galatians 3:24). The good news is that He is willing to save any and all who believe (John 3:16–18). The only person who is condemned is the one who refuses to acknowledge his or her need for God and take the free gift of salvation (Romans 8:1). And, as Paul said, "If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:9).
Third, false teachers often live the opposite of what they preach. If you watch carefully, you can see that something doesn't add up. This isn't to say that the only true Christian is a Christian who never sins. But a teacher who claims Christ and then practices sin is "walking in darkness" (1 John 1:5–6). John speaks of the practice of sin and the practice of righteousness. If we practice something, it means we follow after it, we try to get better at it, and we seek to become accomplished at it. "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:9–10).
To learn more, read Galatians, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, and Jude. These epistles contain a lot of information about false teachers. If you have been taken in by a false teacher, it can be very difficult to trust anyone again, but remember that you can always trust God and His Word (Proverbs 3:5–6).
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