top of page

30. How to tell between true and false Christian prophets and teachers

My life (put) alongside God's word. Important issues for Christian to understand section.

Early in January 2014 the BBC interviewed a 14 year old boy chased from his home in Bor by the fierce and foolish December 2013 fighting. He was now living under a tree by the Nile, with his family. When asked what it was like, the first two things he said were: “We have only dirty drinking

water”, and “we have no mosquito nets for sleeping under”. He was worried about protection from debilitating diseases and enemy bugs! As Christians we need to be as wise as

that youngster. We must watch out for so-called “Christian” teachers who feed us “dirty” Christian teaching, and who will try to “bite” us, making us sick with what I will call “Christian malarias”.

Seven of the Bible’s many warnings about false prophets/teachers

That is, a pseudo-speaker/explainer of a divine message:

  1. Matthew 7:15-16, they are not as harmless as they appear to be.

  2. Matthew 7:22-23; Matthew 24:24, their miracles are “lawless/evil” workings. See also 1 John 3:4.

  3. Acts 20:28-31, they are both outsiders and insiders, with “out-of-focus” truths.

  4. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11, they are deceivers who seduce others into errors.

  5. 2 Peter 2:1-3, they will have many followers, but not so many true followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, who are willing to pay the price of genuine discipleship.

  6. 2 John 7-11, they will swerve from the truth, accepting “shiny new things”.

  7. Jude 4; Jude 12-13, they will change Christian meanings, and become uncontrollable.

Prayer will sharpen our watchfulness, Colossians 4:2.

Resistance is called for, 1 Peter 5:8-9.

Pastoral responsibilities

Those with responsibility for being “shepherds of God’s flock” must watch out, guarding ourselves against personally falling into temptation, Acts 20:28, and guarding against allowing any influence by counterfeit Christian workers, Acts 20:29-30. We are like Christian sentries, posted by the gates to our flocks. We must be spiritually alert for all enemy attacks,

1 Corinthians 16:13-14.

A counterfeit must be an almost perfect copy for it to succeed in fooling people. Fake South Sudanese  £25, or Sudanese 50 dinar, notes must look the same and feel the same, be the same size and shape as the genuine notes. If they are not, people won’t accept them.

Close copies are the most dangerous

False teaching which is very, very close to being the genuine teaching, is the most dangerous of all. Teaching that is obviously wrong is little problem to the sincere and

well-taught Christian.

In the year 2000 the German charismatic evangelist Reinhard Bonnke visited Khartoum to preach in Green Square. I had been at a meeting in the city’s Coptic Club where his representative, Kenyan Stephen Mutua (a friend of mine from our days with Ambassadors For Christ), asked for a show of hands from the pastors present: “Who wants to invite Bonnke to Khartoum?” I was the only one who voted “No”, although the Christ for all Nations (CfaN) website later reported a “unanimous invitation” from the city’s ministers and pastors. I don’t think it was either “unanimous” or an “invitation”! I had uncomfortable warning signals troubling my heart over what was to happen and the way this ministry operated. Over 43 years of Christian ministry I have profitably learned to listen to God the Holy Spirit’s inward impressions on my spirit.

Brenda and I declined a kind and generous offer to sit on the Green Square platform. We did not want to publicly show our support for a Christian preacher whose ministry focus seems to be on the things of this world – health and prosperity here and now – rather than on (or perhaps, it is fairer to say) in addition to forgiveness of sins and heaven in eternity. Bonnke would not accept my personal request to come with me around Sudanese hospitals and pray for the sick. I was told by his team this was only done “in the major event”. The advertising posters guaranteed there would be healings at this event. Sadly, much of his follow up literature to “converts” was in a language they could not

understand. I discerned that the Christian gospel was just about preached, but it was in amongst other much less helpful, untrue things. I suspect the biggest beneficiary of

the “healing mission” was CfaN, as people around the Western world gave money to them, supporting their specific ministry in needy Sudan.

Examine who you are dealing with

1 John 4:1-8 urges the “testing of spirits”. Some will be from God, and others will not. There are two main distinguishing marks in this passage. Firstly, the true Christian preacher

worships Jesus Christ as God the Son on our earth in human flesh, verse 2. Secondly, the true Christian preacher is “other-worldly” rather than “this-worldly” in his focus, verse 5. Love must be overwhelming in dealing with false prophets and teachers. They need to be restored from their errors. Yet sometimes a strong love has to be ready to discipline, even a very good man (or woman!) who has gone astray (as Paul did to Peter, Galatians 2:11-21).

Driving by a farm recently I saw sheep running from all corners of a grassy field. At the gate the farmer was pouring food granules into troughs for them. They were so keen for

the food they rushed for it, ignoring the “boring old everyday grass” that was always in the field for them. I thought, “If they only knew the farmer is fattening them up for the kill, so that he can take their meat to market”. If they

understood that, they would be running away from him, not to him!

God’s flock is under our care! 1 Peter 5:2. We must not be careless. Are we full or empty of Christian discernment for, and in, our ministries?

Don’t take my word for it!

As you test what I have written here I pray, “that you may be able to discern what is best”, Philippians 1:10. Not every missionary coming from outside, carrying a Bible, teaching

and bringing support money, is sent from God. Believe me! Worldwide testing becomes very necessary.

“I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. …

They deceive the minds of naive people”. Romans 16:17-18.


bottom of page