4 Types of False Teachers
Charles Spurgeon once said: “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”
As Spurgeon says – discernment enables us to know the difference between right and almost right because satan has mastered the art of disguise and counterfeiting. Deception always has a mixture of both truth and lies. Evil is not as easily recognizable because the devil is able to disguise himself as an angel of light and therefore even satan’s false teachers will do the same.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 says: For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
So due to the rise of false teachers within Christianity, we live in a world where spiritual discernment has become more important than ever.
It is therefore important that we learn to study God’s word and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to avoid walking into deception.
Below are 4 types of false teachers whom we need to beware of in Christianity today
1. The False Prophet
The False Prophet claims to speak fresh and new revelation from God. The False Prophet claims to have knowledge of a person’s future or knowledge of future events that will occur. However, none of the false prophet’s predictions are sourced from God nor from scripture. The False Prophet’s predictions are either staged, calculated or sourced from a demonic source through methods such as divination.
Jeremiah 14:14-15 says “And the Lord said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart”
If we breakdown Jeremiah 14:14-15 we can learn the following facts and characteristics about false prophets:
1. False prophets prophesy lies using the name of God
2. False prophets are not sent or commanded by God
3. False prophets do not hear from God because God does not speak to them
4. False prophets prophesy a false vision; a false prediction and false dreams
5. False prophets may use divination as a source of power to predict the future or speak about a person’s life.
6. False prophets deceive out of their own heart
Matthew 24:11 says “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”
The keyword in this scripture is the word “many” because the more false teachers that exist, the more the multitude of people who will be deceived.
So Jesus warns us that many false prophets will rise and that many people will be led astray by these false prophets.
Matthew 24:24 says “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect”
Jesus is saying that false prophets will also perform great signs and wonders and use miracles as bait so as to lead people astray.
Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says: And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
The Bible encourages us to discern and test false prophets. The prophecies of a true prophet of God are always 100% accurate and 100% correct. However the prophesies of false prophets are inaccurate and incorrect.
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.
2. The Prosperity Preacher
The Prosperity Preacher serves his own belly. He is in it for the money. He is a charlatan whose true “god” is mammon. He is usually the founder of his church and if he dies he will pass on the reigns of leadership to his wife and children so as to keep all the church money and assets within the family.
His church is his business enterprise and a pyramid scheme. He is the managing director and the main marketer, whilst his followers are the weekly donors to the business enterprise. He has commercialized Christianity.
2 Peter 2:3, KJV says: “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”
The main theology of the prosperity preacher is the false health & wealth / prosperity gospel, the seed-faith doctrine, word of faith theology and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) teachings. It is through these false doctrines that he will amass his wealth from his followers.
The prosperity preacher is good at twisting the scriptures and using psychological and coercive techniques to manipulate his followers to continue to donate money to him and for his lavish lifestyle.
In 1 Timothy 6:3-5 we are warned of false teachers who are “imagining that godliness is a means of gain”.
This means that they see the things of God or the work of God as an opportunity to make money rather than to serve God out of a pure heart.
According to Philippians 3:18-19, people who are like the prosperity preacher are “enemies of the cross” whose “god is their belly… with minds set on earthly things.”
Jesus said in Matthew 6:24: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
However, the prosperity preacher serves money even though he pretends to serve God. He is like Balaam who would sell the souls of others into sin and covetousness and idolatry in order to personally gain a financial reward (Numbers chapter 22-24).
3. The Smooth Talker
This one mostly speaks the wisdom of the world and is a master of flattery. The Smooth Talker is charismatic, very contemporary and he is a good orator and speaker. He is skilled in linguistics and the art of articulation. However his teachings lack sound Biblical doctrine. Instead the Smooth Talker compensates his lack of sound doctrine through speaking catchy but unbiblical phrases, humanistic philosophies, worldly wisdom and deceptive stories in order to project the appearance of knowledge and originality to his listeners. Even though he may sometimes quote from scripture, his primary doctrines are psychology, humanism and new age philosophies.
So for example, the Smooth Talker may use loaded language, including unbiblical and deceptive phrases and concepts like: “God cannot do anything without your permission”; “You can live your best life now”; “You are enough”; “If you believe in yourself anything is possible”; “You are a little god”.
Colossians 2:8 says: See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
The focus of the Smooth Talker’s teachings are related to elevating man’s self-worth and building man’s confidence and trust in himself rather than having total dependence and trust in God.
His message is about outward self-improvement and encourages a self-centered approach to life. He preaches very little on being Christ-centered and rarely teaches followers to deny the self (Matthew 16:24).
He is all about happiness and does not teach the biblical necessity and normalcy of suffering. There is an absence of a doctrine of suffering because he may deem it as an unpopular message. He is a motivational speaker whose doctrine exalts the work of man and not Christ.
The focus of his message is also in building man’s dependence in his own personal abilities and own wisdom rather than in drawing wisdom and direction from God first.
In the false theology of the Smooth Talker, man is exalted above God; man is the hero and God is his sidekick; man is in charge and God is his servant who can be used to achieve man’s personal desires.
2 Timothy 4:3 says: For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear
So the Smooth Talker tickles the ears to an audience who have itching ears. His focus is to flatter his listeners through his smooth talk. He subtly encourages narcissism instead of humility.
The Smooth Talker is usually an antinomian. He hardly preaches on sin nor does his message teach one to be humble or broken before the Lord. Instead the message of the Smooth Talker is to subtly encourage pride in one’s self. He preaches and teaches a false gospel of self instead of the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Romans 16:18 says: For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
4. The Miracle Magician
The Miracle Magician is the one who loves to perform signs and wonders. To the Miracle Magician, the pulpit is the stage, the congregation is the audience and he is the performer. He can only “heal” on the stage or in front of the cameras so that he may be adored by an audience.
He cannot heal behind the closed doors of a hospital where people are verifiably sick and ill. He cannot heal behind the closed doors of somebody’s home where there is no audience to watch him.
His motive is to razzle and dazzle. He wants to amaze his followers with “miracles”, “testimonies” and even “prophecies”. His signs and wonders are what draws more followers to him. This false teacher will also resort to selling all kinds of so-called “anointed” objects from water to oils with the promise that whoever buys them will encounter blessings and protection and healing.
Matthew 24:24 says “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
The problem with The Miracle Magician is that his signs and wonders are not sourced from God.
With the Miracle Magician:
1. God is not involved in the signs and wonders
2. Magic and sorcery is used
3. The miracles are planned and staged with paid participants
4. The signs and wonders are staged illusions and coordinated tricks
We know that Pharaoh’s magicians were able to replicate some of the miracles that God performed when Moses came to demand the release of the Israelite people (Exodus 7:11,22).
However, while Moses was a true prophet of God who represented God, the magicians of Egypt did not worship the God of the Israelites. Pharaoh’s magicians sourced their power from Satan and his demons and this is why they could copy some of the signs that God performed.
In Acts 8:9-24 is the story of Simon the Sorcerer. Simon practiced sorcery and magic to the extent that the people in Samaria thought that he had the power of God whenever he performed.
Acts 8:10-12 says: They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.
When we read Acts 8:9-12 we learn some interesting things about the relationship that Simon the Sorcerer had with his followers. We learn that:
1. People misunderstood Simon’s magic for the power of God.
2. The people of Samaria paid attention to Simon for a long time because Simon amazed them with his magic
3. The Samaritans elevated Simon to the level of a “god” because of his sorcery. They called him “the power of God that is called Great”
4. In verse 9 it says that Simon himself said that “he himself was somebody great”.
The relationship between The Miracle Magician and his followers is very similar to the relationship that Simon the Sorcerer had with his own Samaritan followers.
1. The Miracle Magician has an attitude about himself where he portrays himself as somebody great and special
2. The followers of The Miracle Magician follow and pay attention to him because they are amazed and dazzled by his illusions and sorcery
3. The followers misconstrue The Miracle Magician’s signs and wonders as acts from God when in fact they are not sourced from God
4. Due to the signs and wonders that they witness, the followers of The Miracle Magician tend to elevate The Miracle Magician to deity or godlike status.
What Do These 4 Kinds of False Teachers Have In Common?
What are the combined or common traits and characteristics of all these 4 false teachers that have infiltrated the church today?
- There is always an undercurrent of pride, arrogance and narcissism in their conduct and lifestyle. There is consistent hypocrisy. They secretly or openly desire the praise and adoration of men. They believe they are God’s gift to their followers and therefore they lack genuine humility.
- They are heretics. They do not rightly divide scripture. They consistently misinterpret the word of God or quote it out of context. They twist the scriptures in order to achieve their personal objective and so they have no respect for the word of God.
- They hardly focus on the true gospel of Jesus Christ. While they may mention scriptures in their messages, they ultimately deceive people to follow after them and not after Christ.
- Many false teachers have the traits of cult leaders who use their authority to abuse others especially their followers. Many false teachers around the world are known for exploiting or exerting spiritual, psychological, emotional, sexual and physical abuse on their members. They are controlling.
- Ultimately they seek personal and material gain. They live lavish or expensive lifestyles similar to celebrities. The money which they so easily receive through their blind followers allows them to live an expensive lifestyle.
- They see themselves as “spiritual fathers” or “spiritual coverings” through the use of heavy shepherding doctrines. So they become false mediators and false christs to their followers.
The Christian life is not a playground. It has always been a battleground. It is spiritual warfare between good and evil and we do not fight against flesh and blood.
The devil is always at work to blind people from the true gospel of Jesus Christ. He is blinding people through false teachers who masquerade as true believers. It is therefore important to know and understand the traits of false teachers.
Matthew 7:15 says: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
It is therefore necessary to always be alert and to carefully discern between good and evil.