The Bible warns us that spiritual deception will increase in the last days in preparation for the eventual arrival of the antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:1-11).
Jesus Himself warned people of the inevitability that many false teachers will arise who will propagate false doctrines and perform false signs and miracles (Matthew 24:24-25), (Matthew 7:15).
False doctrines have a dangerous and life altering effect on people. When you accept false doctrine it can be likened to accepting a disease in your life. The disease infects you and it begins to methodically and slowly weaken and destroy your body if the disease is not removed.
In the same way, false doctrines subtly infect the spiritual life of a person and are methodically capable of leading to a person’s spiritual destruction. Such examples of false teachings that are popular in this age are the prosperity gospel, spiritual covering / shepherding doctrines, seed-faith teachings, antinomianism / hyper-grace, the word of faith teachings and many more.
False doctrines not only affect an individual, but false doctrines can affect entire generations and masses of people at the same time.
THE DANGERS OF FALSE DOCTRINES / TEACHINGS
The consequences or dangers of false doctrines are as follows:
1. False Doctrines Cause Followers to Submit to Spiritually Blind Leaders
False teachers are themselves both deceived and blind. They are deceived and in the process they are deceiving others.
Jesus spoke of the blind leading the blind in Matthew 15:14 by saying “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit”.
Therefore both the false teacher and his followers will fall into the same pit. Jesus is thereby warning that false doctrines are capable of leading both the false teacher and his followers to destruction in hell.
2. False Doctrines Cause Followers to Obey the Teachings of Men Instead of the Doctrines of God
False doctrines will always oppose the word of God and cause people to disobey God’s values and principles.
Matthew 15:1-3 says Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?
Therefore you will discover that various religious groups, cults or false teachers might put their own group traditions & beliefs above the authority of the scriptures.
3. False Doctrines Create Hypocrisy and a Counterfeit Christianity
When followers who profess to be Christians have a culture of disobedience against the word of God because of their false doctrines, this type of culture ultimately leads to hypocrisy.
Jesus says the following to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:7-9 : “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'”
The Pharisees were hypocritical teachers who only honored God with their words. However by their actions, the false teachers considered their own doctrines & traditions as being better than God’s commandments through their lifestyle and conduct. They reflected their hypocrisy by twisting scriptures and coercing their followers into obeying the traditions of men rather than God (Matthew 15:3-7).
4. False Doctrines Lead to People Becoming Followers of Men Instead of Followers of God
People who obey false doctrines are ultimately followers of men and not followers of Christ. Victims of false doctrines and teachings tend to have more of an adoration of men or their leaders rather than Jesus Christ.
Acts 5:29 says: But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
Acts 20:29-30 says: I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
By using deceptive teachings or deceptive words, false teachers ultimately encourage their followers to be loyal to them above their loyalty towards God or towards His word.
We learn in Matthew 15:1-9 that Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and some of their false teachings. Jesus also exposes the fact that the Pharisees were not teaching their followers to obey the scriptures but they were teaching their followers to obey their own personal man-made traditions and twisted interpretations of the scriptures.
Hence blind men were leading blind men instead of blind men following God.
Colossians 2:8 says that we should be cautious about receiving philosophies of men and evil spirits – or any principles which oppose the teachings of Christ.
5. False Doctrines Lead to Spiritual Bondage and Legalism
Galatians 2:4-5 says Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.
The Christian life is not meant to bring people into a life of spiritual bondage but instead when you are in Christ you are set free from bondage and you have liberty in Christ.
Galatians was written by the apostle Paul because the churches of that region were facing a theological crisis pertaining to the gospel. The essential truth of justification by faith rather than by human works was being denied by the Judaizers. The Judaizers were legalistic Jews who falsely taught that salvation was by human works or obeying the Mosaic law rather than by faith alone in Christ.
Paul therefore wrote Galatians in order to set the record straight that salvation is a free gift received by grace through faith in Christ alone and not by our own works or human effort (Galatians 2:21).
We therefore consistently see through many of the epistles which Paul wrote that false gospels and doctrines were being spread during Paul’s lifetime & ministry. Therefore in many of his epistles, Paul himself had to consistently correct and warn his readers pertaining to the existence and rise of false teachings.
6. False Doctrines Lead to Devotion to the Teachings of Demons
1 Timothy 4:1-2 says Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
The Bible is clear that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against evil forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Therefore it’s important to understand that false doctrines are teachings which have been inspired by demonic spirits who ultimately report to Satan.
In other words, every false doctrine or false gospel that opposes the scriptures – especially the essential Christian doctrines is most certainly demonically inspired.
1 John 4:1 says: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Why does 1 John 4:1 link the testing of spirits to the existence of false prophets? It’s because false prophets and false teachers are mostly inspired by demonic spirits whether these teachers are aware of it or not. Therefore their false teachings are also inspired by evil spirits.
The Bible itself and all its scriptures was inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and God used men. Therefore the devil himself will inspire false teachings to oppose God’s word and he will use men whose consciences are seared to spread false doctrines.
7. False Doctrines Create A Counterfeit Christ or a False Concept of the Biblical God
2 Corinthians 11:4 says: For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
False doctrines are able to create a different Jesus than the actual Jesus that is mentioned in the Bible. For example there are false doctrines that deny the deity of Jesus Christ. These doctrines claim that Jesus is not God and that Jesus was only a man. There are also some false doctrines where Jesus is not seen as the ultimate Mediator between God and man. These doctrines have false teachers and cult leaders who claim that it is they who either mediate or co-mediate on behalf of their followers before God. Yet the Bible is clear in many verses of scripture that Jesus is God and that Jesus is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
There are also false doctrines that falsely teach that God exists to give you any material possession that you can desire because Christ died for such a purpose. Other false doctrines teach that you can buy or earn the favour, the gifts and the blessings of God with money or by the amount of money that you donate or “seed”.
These kind of doctrines and many others do not speak of the Biblical Jesus or the God of the Bible. These false doctrines speak of another Jesus. Therefore while false teachers may read from the Bible and mention the name “Jesus” in their teachings, their false teachings do not represent the true Biblical character and nature of Jesus Christ. Hence false teachers will present a different Jesus by misinterpreting and twisting the actual meaning and context of various Scriptures.
Popular false doctrines and teachings that are taught today such as the prosperity gospel, spiritual covering / shepherding doctrines, seed-faith teachings, antinomianism / hyper-grace, the word of faith teachings and many more, all create a false concept of Jesus Christ and the true character of God. They propagate a false gospel and another Jesus instead of the Biblical Christ.
These false doctrines and others tend to diminish and distort the authentic nature and character of Christ.
Therefore following a counterfeit Jesus results in counterfeit Christians which then results in a counterfeit Christianity.
Jesus said “not everyone who says “Lord! Lord!” will enter the kingdom of Heaven.” When we read Matthew 7:21-23 we learn the tragedy that there are those who presume they will enter heaven but they will end up in hell simply because they lived hypocritical lives. They lived a counterfeit Christianity.
8. False Doctrines Encourage Sin, Pride and Rebellion
False doctrines do not lead people to Christ nor do they lead to authentic Christian living. Instead false teachings will energize the flesh and encourage the desire to sin or rebel. False doctrines will also encourage a spirit of pride and arrogance rather than Christ-like humility.
2 Timothy 2:16-18 says that false teachings not only lead to “empty chatter” but it also leads to ungodliness and is capable of spreading like a disease.
When you read Titus 1:10-11 it says that false teaching leads to
a) Rebellion or insubordination against God
b) Empty talk or mischievous conversations
c) Deceptive or manipulative behavior
d) Upsetting or division of families
In verse 11 it says that the motive of some of these false teachers is that “they teach for shameful gain what they ought not to teach”.
This means that false teachers teach false doctrines for their own personal gain even if they know that they are sinning and rebelling against God.
The result of continuous rebellion is that false doctrines eventually leads to both false teachers and their followers having a seared conscience.
1 Timothy 4:1-2 connects false doctrines to having a seared conscience because of people devoting themselves to teachings of demons.
9. False Doctrines Give False Teachers Abusive Control Over Their Followers
This happens especially within religious cults or groups that exhibit high control behaviour. False teachers and cult leaders tend to twist scriptures to enable themselves to intimately control, manipulate and spiritually abuse their deceived followers.
1 Peter 5:3 says that the church leader should not lord over or be domineering towards his followers but he should be an example to the flock.
In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus gives His disciples the template for Christian leadership. He basically mentions that Christian leadership is when:
1. the leader becomes the servant
2. the leader serves the flock and not himself
3. the leader imitates Christ’s leadership style
Another name for Christ’s leadership style is Servant Leadership.
However false teachers will teach false doctrines that cause their followers to fear them, idolize them and follow them without exercising any critical spiritual thinking.
Many false teachers have caused divorces, separated families, sexually abused members and destroyed lives because of the application of false doctrines upon blind followers.
The Bible consistently warns believers to beware of false prophets and false doctrines. They key to avoid being deceived is to seek a sincere relationship with God and to imitate the example of the Bereans who studied and verified the scriptures for themselves irrespective of who preached it (Acts 17:11). For example, even though Paul was an apostle of Christ, the Bereans would fact-check Paul’s message by going back to the Scriptures to see if what Paul had preached was really true.
In this age of deception, this is the kind of Christian that is needed: a Christian who tests the spirits and diligently studies and rightly interprets the word of God. It is necessary that as we grow in our walk with God that we avoid a culture of being spiritually spoon-fed, but instead we grow into a culture of personally studying and obeying God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15-19).
False teachings and doctrines lead people to hell rather than to eternal life with Christ. They encourage idolatry by creating a false concept of the true nature of God so that people are deceived into worshiping a false god and a false christ. It is therefore necessary that the truth be preached and the deception exposed because the spiritual lives of people are at stake.