Jesus warned His disciples not to be led astray by false prophets and false christs. Most of the books of the New Testament were written to correct false doctrine. If we do not want to be hoodwinked by hucksters masquerading as ministers of the gospel we must know God and His Word. Scripture is the final authority on Christian doctrine.
Jude 1:3-4 ESV
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
We must contend for the faith against those who want to distort Christianity, twisting the plain meaning of the Bible to conform it to their worldview, rather than conforming to the Bible themselves.
How do we recognize these false prophets? They are the sort who can whip up a congregation, but whose preaching lacks any real substance. We must beware teachers who discourage Christians from thinking and studying the Bible for themselves. Their own preaching and teaching is lacking in logic, reason, or deep thought of any kind. Their sermons are shallow and rely on emotion, hype, and sensationalism, rather than appeals to truth.
Jude 1:10 ESV
But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.
The other red flag is how they handle money. There is nothing wrong with pastors and evangelists asking for a love offering, or teaching on tithes and offerings. However, there is a certain class of minister that preaches “gimme-your-money” instead of the gospel. When pastors and televangelists mention “seed faith” more than salvation, we know these are false teachers we should avoid.
Jude 1:11-13 ESV
Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
Instead of following Jesus Christ, they do whatever feels right to them. They quickly rise up in church leadership positions by flattering people and giving large financial offerings.
Jude 1:16 ESV
These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
We must be on the lookout for these false prophets, teachers, and christs. I have so much more to say on this subject, but I’ll save it for another post.