How do you discern the presence of false teachers in the church? How do you distinguish false teachers from true teachers? From the very earliest days of the Christian church, there have always been false teachers. Whenever you find the genuine article, beware of Satan’s counterfeits.

In today’s world, to listen to some people, you would get the idea that there is no such thing as a false teacher in the church. It seems today that almost anything can pass for Christian truth.

Heresy is considered by many to be a dirty word. After all, who wants to be known as a heresy hunter? Who wants to be considered narrow and bigoted as to say that his view of the truth is the only view of the truth? In fact, in some circles, if you affirm evangelical Christianity, you are labeled a religious terrorist.

Departure of false teachers from the fellowship of the church confirms their unsaved status (vv. 18-19).

The presence of false teachers is a sign of the end times (18) and their defection is proof of their true nature (19). John says that you have heard that there will be an antichrist (singular) that is coming in the future. That is a reference to a final world ruler who will arise in the end times according to the book of Revelation. No one knows when that will happen. We are not on the planning committee for the return of Christ; we are on the reception committee.

John says there were many antichrists (plural) that appeared in his own day. These are false prophets who pretend to be Christian but actually are not. Their presence leads John to conclude that “it is the last hour.”

If John thought the last hour was in his own day, and here we are more than 1900 years down the road, that is one long hour! I’ve been through what seemed like some interminably long hours in my life: in school, church, at the hospital, and a host of other long hours. Of course, we have to understand that God does not operate on Eastern Standard Time, Central Time, or Mountain Time; rather He operates on his time.

When the Scripture writers talk about “the last hour,” they are not speaking about duration of time, which is the way you and I calculate time. What John means is not time as it is reckoned sequentially, time as it tick-tocks off the clock second by second, but rather an epoch of time. Since the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, in symbolic eschatological terms, we have been in the last days or the last hour.

If you were Satan, how would you go about diluting and destroying the church of the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, you might say: “let me bring foreign pagan armies in and try to kill all the Christians.” But that has never worked.  If I were Satan, I would sow the seeds of false teachers within the church. I would not enter the church and say that Jesus is a liar and Jesus is not divine. I would come in just like an angel of light and with crafty cunningness I would lead the sheep astray little by little through false teaching.

That is what Satan does. He has his counterfeits in the churches and outside the churches. What does a counterfeit imply? The real thing. Why do people not counterfeit $3 bills? There is no such thing as a $3 bill. Satan counterfeits what is true. So he has his counterfeit preachers who are in churches today. There are churches today with a false prophet, a counterfeiter, standing behind the pulpit teaching people. Jesus told us we should not be surprised about that. He said there will always be false prophets. Jesus said that when he goes away (after his resurrection), there will be many false prophets that arise who will lead many astray. They will claim to be the Messiah and they will deceive many.[i]

How are you going to know the difference between a false teacher and a true Christian teacher? A false teacher departs from the fellowship of the church (19).

Have you noticed that virtually every cult that is out there today was founded by someone who came out of the church? They became disgruntled with a church or denomination. They left the church to form what they called the “true church.” There have always been those throughout church history who claim that everybody else before them got it wrong but then suddenly God spoke the truth to them personally.

The departure of false teachers serves an important purpose: to make clear to the true church that false teachers were not part of the true church.

B. H. Carroll used to say:

“When you see a star fall you know it’s not a star.”

Stars don’t fall; stars shine. We call them shooting stars but astronomically that is incorrect. When you see a star fall, what you are seeing is not actually a star. When you see a person who may be a member of a church turn his back on Jesus and orthodox doctrine and depart into false doctrine, in the vast majority of cases, you can be guaranteed that person was not a true Christian in the first place. Profession does not necessarily mean possession.

Speaking of Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:2–30 and 1 John 2:19, James Boice is right on target:

“The implication of Christ’s parable and John’s statement is that some Christians are so much like non-Christians and some non-Christians are so much like Christians that it is impossible to tell the difference between them in this life.”[ii]

[i] Matthew 24:11

[ii] James M. Boice, The Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), p. 87.

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5 thoughts on “LIAR! LIAR! HOW TO SPOT A FALSE TEACHER (1 JOHN 2:18-10)

  1. So… How do you spot false teachers *before* they “depart the church” to start their cult? Do their false teachings not start until after they go to buy the cool-aid?

    Oh! And what about the non-cult false teachers? All the preachers/pastors out there who say things that, at a glance anyway, might pass the smell test, but get it wrong enough to do some real harm and don’t employ any “cult tactics” to maintain their following?

    And how do you know where to draw the line between heresy and mere denominational doctrinal differences?

  2. Which “church” are we not supposed to defect from? Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, Lutheranism? Have you studied the doctrines of YOUR church in the light of ‘all’ Scripture and of church history? Do you know that NO physical church system really teaches the contextual truth of GOD’S Word? Do you know that God does NOT dwell “in a temple made with human hands?” Do you know that Jesus said, “NARROW IS THE WAY AND FEW ARE THOSE WHO FIND IT?”

    The truth is that the Roman Catholic Church departed from the FELLOWSHIP of Jesus’ truly, spiritually and personally born again believers to set up the counterfeit of Jesus’ spiritual body, spiritual Kingdom, spiritual priesthood, etc. Protestantism “reformed” but kept all the most important structures and false doctrines of Rome. And so did all those who “reformed” from the extremely false Calvinism and every other “-isms.”

    We should ALL make sure that the religious “light” in us is not darkness, my friend.


  4. In some cases yes, that individual that turns his or her back on God may have not been saved from the beginning . But also a TRUE genuine Christian that is faithful and has been saved can leave the faith and go back into the world. Like a dog that returns to its vomit according to 2 Peter2:20-22 and along with other scriptures. A believer CAN leave the faith. You are NOT a robot when you get saved, you can still choose.

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