A false teacher can be anyone in a position of spiritual authority or claimin
g to be. Wolves don’t often attack wolves, but they do go after sheep. They bring destructive teachings and lies into the church, often by telling people what they want to hear (Jer. 23). They provide layers of truth mixed with error, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-16).
“Beware” means to be on alert, to discern what is being said. False teachers take advantage of the fact that many people are not well-educated in fundamental biblical truths. To detect a counterfeit, one must first know what the original looks like. It’s impossible to gain a clear picture of absolute truth without going directly to God’s Word. Unless one is firmly grounded in God’s Word and led by His Spirit, one can easily be led astray.
Wolves don’t advertise, instead, they “look” like sheep. False teachers aren’t dressed in red holding a pitchfork. They often look the same as everyone else. They subtly challenge the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, and they add to salvation so that it’s not through Christ alone. Legitimate teachers recognize the deity of Christ. False teachers promote salvation through works and not through faith alone. One must belong to their society, institution, or church in order to be saved. This is a false gospel.
Jesus encourages His followers to be fruit inspectors. I came across a great article from the Gospel Coalition written by Colin Smith titled “7 Traits of False Teachers.” This precise article identifies the fruit of false teachers. The link is at the bottom for those who want to read Smith’s complete piece. I’m going to spend the next few minutes quoting directly from it. He compares the authentic with the counterfeit from 1 and 2 Peter. Smith writes:
1. Different Source—Where does their message come from? Peter says, “For we have not followed cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16). And then he says the false teachers exploit you “with deceptive words” (2 Pet. 2:3). So the true teacher sources what he says from the Bible. The false teacher relies on his own creativity.