Whatever is only almost true is quite false, and among the most dangerous of errors, because being so near truth, it is the more likely to lead astray.
As Christ is the end of the Law and the Gospel and has within Himself all the treasures of wisdom and understanding, so also is he the mark at which all heretics aim and direct their arrows.
Denies or distorts the biblical truths about:
1. God, being personal, infinite, eternal, singular, immutable, supernatural, sovereign, Spirit, transcendent, immanent, good, triune.
2. Jesus Christ, being deity, pre-existent, human, historical, conceived of Holy Spirit, savior of all mankind, resurrected, presently manifested.
3. Holy Spirit, being deity, personal, presently operative.
4. Man, being a creature, dependent, mortal, sinful, constituted of spirit and soul and body.
5. Sin, as transgressing God’s character, leading to death and judgment, and continuing to be manifested in Christian’s lives.
6. Salvation, as necessitated by sin, initiated by the grace of God, made available to all by the death and resurrection of Jesus, and received by faith alone.
7. Bible, as complete, final, authoritative, inspired, providentially preserved, and properly interpreted.
False teachers invite people to come to the Master’s table because of what’s on it, not because they love the Master.
The early Christians condemned false doctrine in a way that sounds almost unchristian today.
False teaching can appear in many different forms; but we can divide them into two main sections. Sometimes it takes the form of a blatant denial of the Truth and of the cardinal principles and tenets of the Christian faith… But false teaching does not always take that form. There is another form… Here it is not so much a denial of the faith, not so much a contradiction of the cardinal elements, as a teaching which suggests that something else is required in addition to what we have already believed.
Spiritual Depression – Its Causes and its Cures, 1965, p. 179, Used by Permission from Elizabeth Catherwood (daughter). Get this book!
We have somehow got hold of the idea that error is only that which is outrageously wrong; and we do not seem to understand that the most dangerous person of all is the one who does not emphasize the right things.
#6- The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God. #27- They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory. #32- Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers. #53- They are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid altogether the preaching of the Word of God in some churches in order that indulgences may be preached in others. #62- The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God. #68- [Indulgences] are nevertheless in truth the most insignificant graces when compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross. #76- We say on the contrary that papal indulgences cannot remove the very least of venial sins as far as guilt is concerned.
The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has ever plagued the mind of man was the idea that somehow he could make himself good enough to deserve to live with an all-holy God.
Error always goes to church because Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, infiltrates the systems of religion, particularly Christianity even true Christianity and plants his seeds of error there and a gullible, witless, uneducated, undiscerning church becomes a victim.
Christ Creates Conflict in the Synagogue. The sermon originally appeared (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/42-182/christ-creates-conflict-in-the-synagogue) at www.gty.org. © 1969-2008. Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.
Unless those who claim to be God’s spokesmen give evidence that their deepest motives and life patterns are to honor, glory, and magnify God, and to grow in humility, holiness, and obedience, we can be sure that God has not called or sent them. If they are orientated to money, prestige, recognition, popularity, power, sexual looseness, and selfishness, they do not belong to Jesus Christ. If they are proud arrogant, resentful, egotistical, and self-indulgent, they clearly are false prophets. The true test a beatitude attitude of humility.
No person, no matter how clever and deceitful, can indefinitely hide a character that is rotten and out of tune with God. John Calvin said, "Nothing is more difficult to counterfeit than virtue." It demands too much. It demands more than any person has in himself, and when God’s divine provision and power are absent the charade cannot last long.
The teaching of a false prophet cannot withstand scrutiny under the divine light of Scripture.
All false religions have their own diversities, but all false religions agree in taking a position opposite the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rejecting the King’s Authority. The sermon originally appeared (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/42-244/rejecting-the-kings-authority) at www.gty.org. © 1969-2008. Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.
Tolerance toward people is a good and biblical virtue, but tolerance toward false teaching is sin.
A cult…is a religious movement that claims to be a Christian group but that deviates significantly from or outright denies the teachings of Scripture and the historic creeds on crucial points… These groups develop their doctrine through a combination of Scripture-twisting and extrabiblical revelation.
False teachers [are] not made outside Christianity. They are always bred in the church, half in and half out; but eventually they reject the truth and try to seduce others in their attempt to fulfill their self-gratification.
MacArthur Study Bible (Note for 2 Peter 2:21), Copyright John MacArthur 1997, p. 1957.
False teaching is often revealed in false living… Following bad doctrine leads to bad practices.
This is the way it always is with false teaching. False teachers cannot force their opinions on anybody. They can only persuade people to adopt their ways of looking at things. And false teaching, of course, often has an attractive veneer. People like new ideas; and false teaching, by definition, trades in new ideas. People also like teaching that might make them feel less guilty about their own sins and failings. And certainly the false teachers of [biblical times and our day hold] out this advantage.
Teaching about the various cults in our churches is undoubtedly a useful enterprise and helps Christians understand the errors that are so prevalent in our own day. But it is ultimately positive teaching about the Christian faith that will serve as the best protection against heresy, for we can never cover all the possible errors that false teachers might come up with.
The mark of the false prophet or teacher is self-serving unfaithfulness to God and His truth. It may be that he says what he shouldn’t; but it is far more likely that he will err by failing to say what he should. He will gloss over all the tough questions and issues as did the false prophets in the Old Testament who went around saying, "Peace, peace," when there was no peace (Jer. 6:14). They wouldn’t speak the tough word calling for repentance nor suggest that Israel was out of sorts spiritually. Instead they brought groundless comfort, lulling people into a false sense of security so that their hearers were totally unprepared for the judgment which eventually came on them. There are teachers in the church today who never speak of repentance, self-denial, the call to be relatively poor for the Lord’s sake, or any other demanding aspect of discipleship. Naturally they are popular and approved, but for all that, they are false prophets. We will know such people by their fruits. Look at the people to whom they have ministered. Do these folks really know and love the Lord? Are they prepared to take risks, even hazard their lives, for Jesus? Or are they comfortable, inactive, and complacent? If so, they are self-deceived, and those who have irresponsibly encouraged their self-deception will have to answer for it. Anyone who is in a position of spiritual leadership who fails to teach the more demanding, less comfortable, “narrow gate” and “rough road” side of discipleship becomes a false prophet.
False prophets are to be found in the circles of the most orthodox, and they pretend to have a fervent love for souls, yet they fatally delude multitudes concerning the way of salvation. The pulpit, platform, and pamphlet hucksters have wantonly lowered the standard of divine holiness and so adulterated the Gospel in order to make it palatable to the carnal mind.
Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:15-20.
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Any preacher who rejects God’s law, who denies repentance to be a condition of salvation, who assures the giddy and godless that they are loved by God, who declares that saving faith is nothing more than an act of the will which every person has the power to perform is a false prophet and should be shunned as a deadly plague
Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:15-20.
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The apostles of Satan are not saloon-keepers and white-slave traffickers, but are for the most part ordained ministers. Thousands of those who occupy our modern pulpits are no longer engaged in presenting the fundamentals of the Christian Faith, but have turned aside from the Truth and have given heed unto fables. Instead of magnifying the enormity of sin and setting forth its eternal consequences, they minimize it by declaring that sin is merely ignorance or the absence of good. Instead of warning their hearers to “flee from the wrath to come” they make God a liar by declaring that He is too loving and merciful to send any of His own creatures to eternal torment. Instead of declaring that “without shedding of blood is no remission,” they merely hold up Christ as the great Exemplar and exhort their hearers to “follow in His steps.”
The success of an illegitimate coiner depends largely upon how closely the counterfeit resembles the genuine article. Heresy is not so much the total denial of the truth as a perversion of it. That is why half a lie is always more dangerous than a complete repudiation. Hence when the Father of Lies enters the pulpit it is not his custom to flatly deny the fundamental truths of Christianity, rather does he tacitly acknowledge them, and then proceed to give an erroneous interpretation and a false application.
There are very few errors and false doctrines of which the beginning may not be traced up to unsound views about the corruption of human nature. Wrong views of the disease will always bring with them wrong views of the remedy. Wrong views of the corruption of human nature will always carry with them wrong views of the grand antidote and cure of that corruption.
Quoted in: TULIP, The Five Points of Calvinism in the Light of Scripture by Duane Edward Spencer, Baker, 1979, p. 23.
Sound doctrine and holy living are the marks of true prophets. Let us remember this. [A] minister’s mistakes will not excuse our own.
What is the best safe-guard against false teaching? Beyond all doubt the regular study of the word of God, with prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The Bible was given to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm. 119:105). The man who reads it aright will never be allowed greatly to err. It is neglect of the Bible which makes so many a prey to the first false teacher whom they hear. They would have us believe that "they are not learned, and do not pretend to have decided opinions." The plain truth is that they are lazy and idle about reading the Bible, and do not like the trouble of thinking for themselves. Nothing supplies false prophets with followers so much as spiritual sloth under a cloak of humility.
It would have been well for the church of Christ, if the warnings of the Gospel had been as much studied as its promises.
How can we spot a false teacher? Peter in the first two chapters of his second epistle provides a good comparison between true believers (chapter 1) and false teachers (chapter 2). We live in the light of God’s Word (1:19). They “secretly introduce destructive heresies” (2:1). We grow in the knowledge of our “Lord Jesus Christ” (1:16). They “deny the Master who bought them” (2:1). We are “partakers of the divine nature” (1:4), manifesting mortal excellence, self-control, perseverance and love (1:5-7). They manifest the deeds of sensuality and greed (2:2-3). We follow the prophetic Word (1:19-21). They follow “false words” (2:3). We are promised eternal life abundantly supplied to us (1:11). They are promised judgment and swift destruction (2:2-3).
Jesus said false teachers will be known by their “fruits” (Mt. 7). According to Scripture, the two most noticeable fruits will be character and doctrine (see 2 Peter 2:1-2).
Though judgment applies in all these cases, it’s one thing for people with very little knowledge of Jesus to reject the Savior. it’s quite another for people that grow up in Christian family and are heavily exposed to the truth. It’s even quite another for someone to profess faith in Christ, appear to walk with Jesus and then give the Lord a vote of no confidence. And it’s even quite another to do all the above and then intentionally lead other Christians astray by false teaching (see Heb. 6:4-6, 10:26-27; 2 Pet. 2: 20-22).
It is a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian Church have had a decided tendency to dishonor God and to flatter man.
People don’t often go heretical all at once. It is gradual. And they do not do so intentionally most of the time. They slip into it through shoddiness and laziness in handling the word of truth… All it takes to start the road to heresy is a craving for something new and different, a flashy new idea, along with a little laziness or carelessness or lack of precision in handling the truth of God. All around us today are startling reminders of doctrinal slippage and outright failure. In case after case someone who should have known the truth of God better failed in upholding that truth.
Unity is not found in uniformity of thought, but in the fellowship of the Spirit, based on sound doctrine which, in turn, is predicated on the clear teaching of Scripture. This is why Paul exhorts us to “mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom 16:17). The false prophets call for unity based not on Scriptural doctrine, but on their [the false prophets] claim for authority. Those who insist on fellowship based on sound doctrine are labeled legalists, while the false prophets are the ones imposing unscriptural demands upon those who follow them.
Media Spotlight Special Report, Latter-Day Prophets: The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets and the Kansas City-Vineyard Connection, September, 1990, p. 14.
To seek unity with false prophets without challenging their errors leaves one’s own beliefs open to questions. Those who defend heretics, even if they do not believe in their teachings, are guilty of lending credibility to their heresies, and will be held accountable to God for the souls that are destroyed as a result. It’s up to those that know the truth to defend the Church against false teachers whatever the cost to unity or to personal benefit.
Media Spotlight Special Report, Latter-Day Prophets: The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets and the Kansas City-Vineyard Connection, September, 1990, p. 11.
The Scriptures always portray false teachers as deceptive and cunning, “disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13-14). Jesus warned that they come to us in “sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15) rather than being easy to spot. Their lies are “secretly” introduced (2 Peter 2:1) as teachings compatible with orthodoxy with only the slightest of nuances. When it came to the church at Ephesus, Paul didn’t hesitate to label these false leaders “savage wolves” (Acts 20:29, NASB), pack-hunters who stalk their prey by sending out a single wolf to increase the element of stealth and surprise. While unsuspecting sheep are drawn to the one, the entire pack lies in wait, ferociously exploiting the opportunity to destroy a life and scatter the others.