How to guard against false teachings

Jesus warns that false teachings are on the rise

Jesus said to them, "watch out that no one deceives you". Matthew 24:11

"For many will come in My name claiming, I am the Christ, and will deceive many". Matthew 24:11

"and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people". Matthew 24:11

"for false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect, if that were possible. See I have told you ahead of time." Matthew 24:25

In these last days, we will surely see more and more false teachings. It is even more crucial for us living in present times, than those living in the early church times, to guard against false teachings.

Be careful not to mix with false teachers

(2 John 10-11 NIV)  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. {11} Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.

When we keep company with false teachers, their false teachings will slowly influence us.

This verse does not mean that we do not have any contact with anyone who does not know the truth for fear that they will influence us. If this is true, it will preclude all efforts in evangelism. When we evangelize someone who does not know Christ (it can be a non-Christian or even a believer of cult group) we will be exposed to what they believe i.e. false teachings.

This verse, I believe, is telling us not to admit into our inner circle people who believe in false teachings and not telling us to avoid them altogether.

Guarding from falsehood those who are under our care

(Acts 20:28-30 NIV)  Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. {29} I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. {30} Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.

We are not only to keep watch ourselves but also watch over those who have been placed in our care.

Literal shepherds guarded their flocks with rods and staffs and sometimes, like David, with slings. If bears or lions came, they would protect the flock.

Spiritual shepherds (i.e., the leaders of churches) guard their flocks with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. When wolves come in to steal the sheep, the Word of God is the weapon needed.

In order for church leaders to guard a flock, they must be aware of what is being taught today. When they discover dangerous teachings, they should make sure that the flock is warned about the errors and inoculated against them.

(Titus 1:9-11 NIV)  He (i.e. an elder) must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. {10} For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. {11} They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

Know your Bible very well

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!" (Acts 20:28-31).

As Shakespeare has well said, "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." (The Merchant of Venice, act 1, sc., 3, 1.99), even as he did when tempting Jesus (Matt 4:4-11).

The devil is an expert liar, the father of lies. He knows that a plain lie does less damage than a lie mixed with truth. That is why he prefers to use the Scriptures. There is a saying that goes like this: When you mix a lie with some truth, you turn it into a more destructive lie.

Putting false teachings to the test

(1 John 4:1 NIV)  Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

(Acts 17:11 NIV)  Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Even the teachings of the apostle Paul was not taken for granted. The Bereans examined for themselves whether what Paul taught was in line with the Scriptures.

What are some things to look for? In Matthew 7 Jesus said,

"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree product good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then you will know them by their fruits." Matthew 7:16-20

Beware of new extra-biblical teachings

(2 Tim 3:16 NIV)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

(2 John 9 NIV)  Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

The Bible is adequate for what we need for salvation and walking the Christian life. When someone comes and presents to us a new doctrine that cannot be substantiated from the Bible, we should be very careful.

"You shall not add to the word which I am commanding, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandment of the Lord... You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him, and you shall keep his commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him." Deuteronomy 4:2; 13:4

Exposing false teachings

Many who are involved in discernment/apologetics ministries are being scolded with phrases such as, "You keep focusing on what divides us, why can't we focus on what unites us?" or "We need to break down the walls that divide us."

Paul has instructed Christians to "have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).

Unity is indeed important, but never at the expense of truth.

Generally, heretical teachers and enemies of the Truth were exposed and named in the Holy Scriptures. However the names of great sinners, such as the Thief on the Cross, the harlots and the incestuous person in Corinth, were silenced. This is a clear indication that a man "possessed by false teaching" is far more dangerous than a man of immorality and bodily passions.

There is a need to expose false teachings, especially the ones that will cause us to lose our salvation.

"Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God." 2 John 1:9

(1 Tim 6:20-21 NIV)  Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, {21} which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.

Guard against wrong motives

(2 Tim 4:3 NIV)  For the time will come when men 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.

"An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so!" Jeremiah 5:30-31

We lose the ability to discern false doctrines when we have vested interest and prefer to believe what we want.

We are drawn to these false teachings! This is because they appeal to the desires of flesh and play upon our senses and our emotions. In fact, 2 Peter 2 tells us that false teachers "...entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality." This can include, power, success, notoriety, money, experiences of a metaphysical nature or those that arouse and manipulate our emotions, and even our needs.