Recognizing False Teaching in Church
By Betsy St. Amant Haddox
"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths," 2 Timothy 4: 3-4.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of teachers and preachers eager to give the people what they want to hear—and usually, they end up making a large sum of money off it. From feel-good prosperity preachers, to teachers who deny the literal existence of eternity, to religious leaders of the popular earn-your-way-to-heaven efforts; false prophets are everywhere. False teaching has been around since the serpent led Eve to believe a lie in the Garden of Eden.
The Bible warns us not to be bitter about this, but to be wise and discerning. 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, "Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good."
Being able to detect a false teaching is important for believers, but sometimes it’s difficult to know in the moment when we’re confronted by it.
False teachers will lead their congregation to believe that God wants them to be happy and wealthy. Some teachers even take it further, and declare that if a Christian isn’t financially rich, or isn’t emotionally and relationally prosperous, they just “aren’t praying hard enough” or “need to increase their faith”. This type of teaching is dangerous and inaccurate. The Bible clearly states otherwise about the expectations of what this world has to offer.
Matthew 6:19-21, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Another red flag to look out for is how a teaching looks at sin. False teachers don’t like to offend anyone, so they gloss over sin in order to keep their fans happy. They often do this by stating a particular controversial sin such as homosexuality, fornication, adultery, gluttony or greed isn’t a sin after all, so there’s no need to worry or change.
The Bible teaches that sin is a real issue—and a big one. It’s what separates us from God. It’s what condemns us to hell. Without the intercession of Christ, we would have never been able to get to Heaven or to a right relationship with God. This is the message of the Gospel.
These are a few things to keep in mind as we encounter teaching.