3 Ways to Identify a False Doctrine

How do we identify a false doctrine or a false teaching? Even as a new Christian or with little Biblical literacy, how do we know if we are listening to heresy?

The Bible warns that particularly in the last days, people will not endure sound Biblical doctrine. Instead many people will follow after various false doctrines which validate the inner sinful desires of the heart. So people will seek after false teachers who preach to what their sinful passions want to hear, and they will disagree with the very truth that is proclaimed by the word of God.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 says: For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Biblical or sound doctrine is defined as teachings that align with the revealed Word of God, the Bible.

In Christianity a false doctrine is any set of teachings that do not properly align with the revealed Word of God, the Bible. A false doctrine is any idea or teaching that adds to Scripture, subtracts from Scripture, contradicts Scripture, or nullifies the doctrine given in God’s Word.

It is therefore important to learn to discern and identify false doctrines in order to protect yourself and others from spiritual deception.


Below are 3 ways to identify a false doctrine

1. False doctrines will always distort the Character of God or Jesus Christ
All false doctrines and heretical teachings will distort the true nature and character of Jesus Christ. So instead of proclaiming the Jesus of the Bible, a false doctrine will skew or change Christ’s true nature as depicted in the Bible.

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.

For example, the “Jesus” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrine is a “Jesus” who was a created being and who also used to be an angel.

The “Jesus” of the Mormons is one of many gods because according to Mormonism any human can also become a god.

The “Jesus” and “god” of the false prosperity gospel is a “Jesus” who loves and promotes the pursuit of money.  He is a “god” who does not favor the poor but He favors the rich. He is a “Jesus” who will only bless, heal or answer your prayers if you sow or seed the right amount of money into a prosperity preacher’s church or ministry.

Therefore a false teaching will distort the true nature and Person of Jesus Christ by creating “another Jesus” than the true Christ proclaimed in the Bible.


2. False doctrines will distort or attack the Gospel of Salvation
A false doctrine will create a “different gospel” than the true gospel. A false doctrine will always oppose the true gospel in relation to salvation being through faith alone; through Christ alone and by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Therefore true salvation is not by works and Jesus Christ is the exclusive means by which humanity can be saved and obtain eternal life (John 3:16; John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

Galatians 1:6-9 says: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

A false doctrine will bluntly or subtly offer a different method of salvation. For example a false doctrine such as universalism will claim that everyone will be saved and deny the existence of hell or eternal punishment.

Other false doctrines will offer salvation as being through any other person or religious group apart from Jesus Christ.

Other false doctrines will claim that salvation is through performing various works such as obeying all the commandments, giving money or performing denominational traditions and rituals.

1 Corinthians 1:18 reads: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Prosperity gospel preachers falsely tend to emphasize and coerce the giving of money, offerings and tithing as a method to be saved, delivered, blessed and favored by God. Those who fail to give to their ministries are supposedly in danger of hell and will be cursed by God.

Philippians 3:18-19 NLT says: For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

The Bible is clear that we cannot earn our salvation. Instead Jesus Christ lived the life we should have lived by fulfilling God’s entire law on our behalf. Christ also paid for our sins at the cross by paying the debt we should have paid and taking our punishment on the cross.
After shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus resurrected on the third day to prove His victory over death and to assure all true believers that He will give us eternal life. Our response is to repent and believe in Him as our personal Lord and Saviour.

John 1:12 reads: But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God

Ephesians 2:8-9 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.


3. False doctrines will distort or attack the Bible
False doctrines will either add to Scripture, subtract from Scripture, contradict Scripture, or devalue the written word of God.

For example the Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own Bible called the New World Translation (NWT). The NWT deliberately mistranslates the Bible in areas of Scripture where the divinity of Jesus is mentioned.
John 1:1 and Colossians 1:15-17 are some of the verses in the New World Translation which have been distorted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses when compared with other Bible translations.

Proverbs 30:5-6 reads: Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. 6  Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar.

False teachers of false doctrines also tend to twist scripture and fail to give proper context.

Another example of Bible distortion is the method of scripture twisting where prosperity preachers tend to interpret the subject of money or riches in almost any Scripture or Bible passage which in its proper context has nothing to do with money.

In various groups the unorthodox doctrines of the religious group or group leader supersede the actual teachings of Scripture. The religious traditions of the group are obeyed and revered above the Bible.
Jesus observed the same problem when He said the following to the Pharisees: “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3).

Therefore false teachings cause people to disobey the Bible. Many false doctrines appeal to the flesh of man or the wishful and sinful desires of the heart, rather than seeking the truth of God’s word.

2 Timothy 2:15 says: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 reads: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

So the word of God should be respected and it is meant to be correctly interpreted as intended by God. However false teachers and false doctrines will devalue the Scriptures.



Every false doctrine will create a “another Jesus” or a “different spirit” or a “different gospel” according to 2 Corinthians 11:4.

There are many dangers that arise because of the preaching of false doctrines. In a world where false teachers are on the rise, it is essential to learn how to discern false teachers and false doctrines.

Discerning false doctrines and exposing them will help those who are unfortunately lost and confused because of the negative impact of false teachers.
Christians have the responsibility to proclaim the truth and expose evil and deception in all its forms.

Stay Equipped & Inspired

Subscribe to receive weekly updates about fresh articles, videos, and resources.