False Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order, if possible, to lead the elect astray.
Jesus wanted to make sure that his disciples knew that false prophets would come. The disciples must be careful because the false prophets would sound convincing. They would say that the king of God is here or there, and that the end would be this way or that. But he wanted to make sure that his disciples knew that only those who agreed with Jesus’ teaching and prophecy would be correct. If anyone said anything else, then they were false teachers and they should not be listened to.
They tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
Jesus warned his disciples against the teaching of the Pharisees. On the surface, they look like people completely devoted to God and to his ways, but they do not teach the command of God, but their own ideals and standards. They look like they are willing to do great things for God, but they are only interested in exalting themselves. Jesus also warns his disciples not to be like these false teachers, but to be like Jesus.
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit; nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.
Jesus said that the way we can tell the difference between true and false teachers isn’t always by what they teach, but the attitude they teach in. If the teachers are interested in condemning or finding what is wrong with everyone, then they are not true teachers. But if they teach God’s truth with the idea in mind that they are looking for people who can receive God’s mercy, then they are true teachers like Jesus.
I Timothy 6:3-5
If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.
Paul warned Timothy to look against false teachers. He said that they would not reflect the teaching of Jesus, but they would be interested in seeking their own personal gain.
II Peter 2:1-3
And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
Peter wrote his letter to warn the churches about false teachers. These false teachers are those who deny Jesus or his lordship over people’s lives. They will be interested in following their desires and want to gain things from their teaching.
Certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude also wrote to the churches to warn against false teachers. Jude claims that these teachers are demonic and will be punished by the Lord in the final day. Therefore we are not to associate with them.
Antony of Egypt lived in a time of a corrupt church, marked by greed and compromise with the world. He spoke out against it, but when no one listened, he determined to live in a graveyard rather than in the corruption of the city. Later, he moved to the desert and founded the first monastic community, the Desert Fathers.
Living It Out
Know the teaching of Jesus so well that you recognize false prophets.
While it might be good to understand the teaching of false teachers and cults, it is far better to know what the teaching of Jesus is and to recognize false prophets by those who teach differently than Jesus. Know Jesus and his word best and you will recognize false teaching every time by how they deny Jesus.
Know the difference between a false teacher and a person who has a different interpretation
A false teacher is one who both teaches and lives in opposition to Jesus' life and teaching. However, there are some who are sincerely following Jesus but just have a different interpretation than you. The teaching of Jesus can have different interpretations and applications. Only if someone denies Jesus' teaching and life are they false.
Know the signs of false prophets:
Teaching something other than the teaching of Jesus
A false prophet is one who teaches something opposed to the teaching of Jesus. A true teacher is concerned with keeping his teaching in accord with Jesus.
Looking for personal gain.
A false prophet is one who teaches only for their salary or financial gain. A true teacher gives his teaching freely, accepting only what others offer him freely. (Matthew 10:8-13)
Seeks fleshly desires.
A false prophet pursues the best salary, the best benefits package, the best meals, the biggest gain for themselves or their family. A true teacher is content to give the word, no matter what they receive, no matter what the cost to themselves.
Sees that salvation is found in denial of pleasure.
A false prophet tells everyone to fast all things, to deny themselves every pleasure, even though Jesus taught no such practice (Colossians 2:20-23). A true teacher encourages people to fast in accord with the Spirit, but makes no commandment beyond what Jesus said.
Distinguish between false prophets and those who are misled by them.
Just because someone expresses a false teaching, that does not mean that they are a false teacher. If they express their wrong opinion privately, they are just misled. If they change their mind when corrected, they were just misled. (Acts 18:24-28) A false prophet is one who publicly teaches something opposed to Jesus’ teaching and then refuses correction. There are many who are involved in groups that have false teaching, but they are themselves simply misled and are open to be corrected by God’s word.
Check with teachers of Jesus’ word whether a teacher is false or not.
Don’t make a guess about whether a teacher is false or not. Listen to others who know the teaching of Jesus and have them help you make a determination.
Have nothing to do with the teaching of false prophets.
Once you determine that someone is a false prophet or teacher, do not support them, do not heed them, do not follow their practices. Go to Jesus, and listen to his words.
Warn others against them.
Once it is determined that someone is a false teacher, then if you see others following their teaching, who might be sincere believers, then gently warn them against the teaching, using the word of God as support. (II Timothy 3:16)