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12. False Teaching

This week’s Bible Reading

Sun. Psalms 106 Memorise

Mon. James 1 1 Timothy 4:1
Tue. James 2
Wed. James 3 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in
Thu. James 4 later times some will depart from the
Fri. James 5 faith by giving heed to deceitful spirits
Sat. Jude
and doctrines of demons.”

Our final lesson in this Volume is trumpet call to vigilance! The Bible is full of warnings
about the existence of false prophets and teachers, deceitful spirits and greedy people who
will use religion to lead people astray – and we need to be warned. Wherever the truth I
proclaimed and taught, there will always be a liars and distorters. Wherever God is at work,
carnal men and satanic activity will also be present.

In this lesson we want not only to emphasize the reality of false teaching. We want also to
learn how to look for it. If we know what to look for it is quiet easy to recognize – and so to
avoid – false teaching and wolves in sheep’s clothing. And finally we need to learn how to
avoid them and to be armed with the Truth.

First, why should we be concerned about false teachers? Surely God will protect His word
and His church? God protects us by warning us to expect false prophets.

In the Old Testament there are many warnings about the dangers if false prophets. For every
true prophet of God, there were many who taught for greed or self-promotion. Read, for
example, Jeremiah 5:30-31.

Read Deuteronomy 13:1-3. What special warning did God give to his people?

How could the people recognize that a prophet is false?

Read Deuteronomy 18:22. By this warning, how can you recognize a false prophet?

For years Charles Taze Russell, leader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, taught that Jesus Christ
would return in 1914. When it didn’t happen, what should his followers have concluded?
1. The New Testament warns us to expect false teachers. What are the signs of false teaching
that we should look out for? See Acts 20:29-30

2 Timothy 3:1-9

2. Jesus warned that humans are naturally drawn to what is false. What do people seem to
prefer to the Truth? Read John 3:19-21

3. Humans seem to be drawn towards new and exciting things. The more sensational, the
more charismatic the preacher, the more people will follow them. Read Matthew 24:24
and Revelation 16:13-14. What are people so attracted to miracles?

4. False teaching appeals to intellectual pride. 2 Corinthians 11:3-6. Why are some people
more attracted to the teacher more than to his teaching? Beware spectacular, clever

1. Different kinds of false teaching

False teaching, heresies and distortions of the truth take many forms. It is impossible to make
a list of them all, but we give some of more obvious types of heresy that are to be found in
the modern world. See if you can recognize any of them? Write down anything you know that
seems to fit each category.

1. Clearly demonic and anti-Christian cults

Some teachings invite people to actively worship Satan or demons. In some cases
such groups actually blaspheme the name of Christ and make mockery of the
Cross. Communism is one such teaching that denies God, blasphemes Jesus Christ and
persecutes Christians. Do you know any such groups? See 1 Corinthians 10:20
and Revelation 9:20-21. (Such cults may not be common now in Pakistan.)

2. Non-Christian religions and heresies

In this category are the great world religions that deny the deity of Jesus Christ
and the work of salvation on the cross. The Bible is clear that these teachings are false.
Read 1 John 4:1-3 and Acts 17:22-23. The pagan religions of Rome and Greece
were a world religion that worshipped idols – clearly a heresy.

3. Pseudo-Christian
Such teachers take the Bible and twist its teachings into a new and dangerous
doctrine, urging their followers to worship Christ. Some (like the Jehovah’s
Witnesses) make their own translation of the Bible (New World translation) that
cleverly distorts the text to teach their own doctrines. They deny that Jesus Christ is
God. Read Titus 1:10-14.

4. Almost Christian
Many of these teachers – and their groups or churches – really love Christ and are true
believers, but they hold to some false doctrines, such as Sabbath legalism, exclusive
church order or apostolic leadership. There are many of these in the New Testament,
including at one point the apostle Peter. See Galatians 2:11-13. What was his
wrong doctrine? ___________________________________________________

2. How to recognize a false cult and wrong teaching

There are some distinctive signs of false teachings that we can look for. No heretical cult will
have all of these marks. Beware of being too judgemental – possibly you too hold some
wrong doctrines that need to be examined. The important thing is always to remain open to
what new light the Holy Spirit might want to shine on the Word of God. The Bible is our
standard of Truth. However, we must all remain vigilant and sensitive – Jesus has told us to
look out for false teachers in the last days.

1. False teachers often do not teach the truth about Jesus Christ

Read 1 John 2:22-23. What is correct biblical belief about Jesus? Who is he?
Look out for teachers that deny his deity and his relationship to the Father and the Holy
Spirit as one triune God. In what modern cults to do see this heresy? _______________

2. False teachers often give undue respect to a leader or personality.

Read Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9. Who was John tempted to worship and why? What
was he told to do? ________________________________________________________
Beware any teaching that exalts any man to a place of worship! Do you know any such
leaders or cults that invite this? ______________________________________________

3. Beware anyone who claims to be a Messiah, Deliverer or even divine leader!

See Mark 13:21-23. Jesus said that this is a specific sign of the last days. What should
you do if this self-claimed Messiah, great leader is a mighty preacher with many
followers – should you follow him? _________________________________________
What if he has the power of miracles and can do great signs and wonders – should you
follow him? ____________ Who is he? ______________________________________

4. False teachers sometimes add to, or change, Scripture

Read Jude 3-4. The Bible is complete and sufficient! Some false religions and cults have
their own books in addition to – or apart from – the Bible. Should you believe them also?

5. Beware those that claim to have some special secret teaching

Sometimes false teachers claim to know when Christ will return. Read Matthew 24:36
and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2. Should we believe those that claim to have secret
knowledge? _________________________________

6. False teachers often have a fascination for magic, mystery and the miraculous.

Many false teachers depend on the spectacular to draw their followers, knowing that
people are naturally drawn to mystery. Do not confuse this with the genuine gift of
healing given by Christ to some, but beware being attracted to unusual things without
checking them carefully. See Acts 16:16-18 and 19:18-20. How did Paul deal with those
who played with spectacular powers?

7. False teaching usually denies the final and complete work of Christ at Calvary.
See Galatians 6:14-15. What was for Paul the most important and essential of all
Christian teachings? _____________________________________________________

8. False religion almost always emphasizes outward ritual.

See Colossians 2:16-23. What outward signs of religion does Paul specially criticize
here? __________________________________________________________________
What other outward marks of religion have you seen in a false religious sect?

3. How to defend ourselves against false teaching

The most important part of this lesson is to learn how we can be prepared for false teaching,
and how to arm ourselves against it. We are in a spiritual battle. Be warned
Read 1 Peter 5:8-9 Who is our adversary – the enemy who will destroy is with false teaching
if he can? _________________________________________________________________
How should we resist him? ___________________________________________________
Read James 4:7. What does James advise? _______________________________________
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:6. What is Paul’s advice? __________________________________
Read Ephesians 6:11-18. How can we be armed against all the attacks of the devil?

1. To be armed against false teaching, make sure we know the Truth! What was Paul’s urgent
advice to his disciple Timothy?
2 Timothy 2:15-16 ______________________________________________________

2. Ask the help of the Holy Spirit to keep you in the Truth and to reveal false teaching to you.
What did John advise his readers in relation to deceivers?
1 John 2:26 ____________________________________________________________
3. Ask for the gift of discernment. This is a gift of the Spirit that will enable us to recognise
what is true and what is false. What do the apostles advise?
1 Corinthians 12:10 ______________________________________________________
1 John 4:1 ______________________________________________________________

4. Be well informed. Watch the signs of the times. Keep your eyes open. Beware strong
charismatic teachers, who may have good words but unsound teaching. What is Jesus’
Matthew 7:15-20 ________________________________________________________

5. Keep in close company with godly people, good Bible teaching, a Bible-based church
fellowship. If in doubt, consult an older Christian believer whom you respect and know. The
writer to the Hebrews gives three good words of advice that will keep us close to God,
running the race and holding onto the Truth.

Hebrews 10:21-25 ________________________________________________________


♦ Apply this lesson to your life

1. Knowing the Truth is more important than knowing the heresies. How well do you know
your Bible? If not, make a resolution to read and study more. Take a study course. Read
more Christian Bible Study books. There are many ways you can get to know the Bible
better. It is important. It could save your life.

2. Are there any teachers – or churches – that you know, that you are not sure about. You are
not certain that the pastor is teaching the Truth. You have heard something that made you
question or doubt your own faith. You are confused. Talk to someone you respect. Find
others’ opinions. Be sure that you are following the Truth.

3. Are you attracted to some of the successful preachers who attract thousands to their
meetings? They may have the gift of healing. They may preach exciting messages. You
may even see miracles in their ministry. But are they teaching the Truth? Make sure
before you follow them.

A Prayer while you study this lesson:

Lord Jesus, you promised to give us the Holy Spirit to lead us into all Truth. Please
keep me in the Truth. Help me to understand your Word, to be able to discern
between the true and the false, and to be faithful to you and to your true people.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

♦ Team group study questions:

1. Discuss some of the false teachings you know about. See what each member of the group
has written in section 1 above, under the categories of the types of heresy that can be
found in the modern world. Discuss each category in turn and try to be specific.

2. Do you recognize some of the marks of False Teachers given in section 2? Discuss where
you see signs of some of these characteristics in churches, cults or religious groups that
you know. Do you see any other marks that indicate that someone is not teaching the

3. Share ways in which you can all be better equipped to know – and to teach – the Truth.
The Truth is important. How can we be sure that we pass it on to the next generation
undistorted and unchanged – as Paul taught in 2 Timothy 2:1-2?