7 Clues You Are Actually Sitting under a False Teacher
- Emma Danzey Contributing Writer
- 2021 30 Sep
At some point or another, we all have been exposed to someone teaching falsely. However, there is a big difference between a genuine person who might need to grow in his understanding of something versus a leader in a church or organization who is teaching falsehoods about Jesus and the faith of Christianity. Today I want to discuss some ways to know if you are sitting under a false teacher.
Discernment can be a tricky thing when it comes to the Christian community. We are called to believe the best about others, but at the same time we are called to uphold the truth of God’s Word. We can give grace to one another for misunderstanding a Bible verse or a theological concept here or there. We can have loving hearts knowing that pastors are people too and might say something incorrectly from a pulpit. However, there are patterns and red flags that can come up which should cause concern and make us consider stepping back from a church or community where there might be a false teacher.
1. The Person Does Not Use the Bible
If a pastor is giving a Sunday message and never once refers to Scripture, this is a major concern. We are not called to listen to the thoughts of man, but the clear instruction from the Word of God. Only His Word has power and authority to teach us and equip us in righteousness. If there is a talk without Scripture, that is not a sermon, that is a motivational speech.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “We are responsible for choosing who we allow to speak into our lives. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
2. A Person Is All About Self-Promotion
If you are attending a church service where the pastor is only teaching from his personal book or materials that he has created, there is room for concern. When a person becomes the focus of a church or organization, we must ask why? Has this individual become an idol, and is he or she promoting himself or herself more than Christ?
It is ok to have a talented preacher or sit under teaching from a well-known leader. However, if that person uses the platform of God for self-promotion on a regular basis, we need to be watchful. 1 Corinthians 10:14 says, “Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.” I love how the word “flee” is used. If you are encountering this kind of atmosphere, get out as fast as you are able.
3. When Rules Are More Valuable Than Jesus
My mom grew up in a church that very much valued rules and rarely shared of the grace of Jesus. Although they did share the gospel, this was not a healthy church, and the pastor was a false teacher because he created a culture of legalism. He added rules that were not in Scripture.
Yes, we desire to live a life that represents Christ well, but when the church is more about the rules and regulations than loving people and helping them to grow in compassion, we miss the point. When a person tries to emphasize Jesus plus anything else, he misinterprets Scripture. We are saved by grace alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
4. When a Person Only Teaches Grace and No Christian Character
On the other hand, we live in a day and age where feelings are highly elevated. If a pastor is teaching on the grace of God and never mentions the call to pick up a cross and live like Jesus, he misses the point as well. There is a great danger when someone takes truth out and only wants people to feel good even in their sinful choices.
Conviction from the Holy Spirit through reading God’s word and applying it is a great thing. We are all being refined. If a person is only ever teaching of the love of Christ, but never shares the harder truths, they are taking away from Scripture. Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
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5. When They Do Not Look for the Author’s Intent of the Scripture
If a pastor or teacher only ever has a topic and takes a verse that applies to that topic, but never teaches the full picture of the author’s intent in writing that Scripture, be aware. I am not saying that someone has to go into a deep history of why the author wrote the passage, but they do need to study and present in such a way that honors it.
Taking Scripture out of context is very easy and tempting to do. We need to watch out for this by those we are sitting under.
6. If a Person Add to or Subtracts from the Bible
Anyone who adds to or subtracts from the Bible is disobeying God’s command in Deuteronomy 4:2: “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.” This can include any of the following: only teaching from the New Testament and subtracting the Old Testament, a pastor who uses a Bible supplement as his Bible, or someone adding teaching that was not in the original 66 books of the Bible.
This might look like a person who is trying to match the culture and tries to deny verses on topics that society does not like, only to please them, but not to be true to the Word of God.
7. If a Person Gets the Gospel Wrong
Lastly, if a pastor or a Bible teacher gets the gospel wrong, do not sit under them. The gospel is clear that all people are sinners, that God came down in the form of man through Jesus and lived the perfect life. He then died on behalf of our sins and rose Himself from the dead. All who believe in Jesus will receive His Holy Spirit, be sealed from eternal death and given eternal life with God.
If someone is teaching that we can earn our way, that they are many ways, or that Jesus is not the way, then they are wrong. This is clear in the Bible and that is not the truth from God. John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
We need to be careful who we allow to speak into our lives. The Holy Spirit will guide us, and the Word of God will confirm. We are to test what others says and seek the Lord. There is a joy in being the church body, but the enemy is seeking to destroy and damage the kingdom of God. He knows that he already lost, but we are to be on our guard and stand firm on the truth of Jesus and the Bible.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Juan Pablo Rodriguez
Emma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, inspiring young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew for over two years and mom to baby Graham. Drew and Emma serve with Upstate CRU college ministry in South Carolina. Emma is an avid writer for Salem Web Network and provides articles on the Bible, life questions, and on the Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 viewed article on Crosswalk for the year 2021. All the glory to the Lord! She had the joy of hosting Her Many Hats podcast where she explored the many roles that women play while serving One God. Most recently, Emma has released her first Bible Study Book, Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness.
Emma enjoys singing/songwriting, fitness classes, trying new recipes, home makeover shows, and drinking tea! During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Emma also had the privilege of having been a national spokesperson for Mukti Mission based out of India. Mukti has been working to restore shattered lives in India for over 120 years. You can view her articles through her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com