Identifying False Prophets
"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves."1
A Daily Encounter reader asks: "How do you know if you are being taught by a false prophet—a wolf in sheep's clothing; and, if so, what should you do? I have a friend who is in a certain church, should I be concerned for her and what she shares with others?"
One of best ways to know if you are being taught false teaching by a false prophet is to have a sound knowledge and understanding of what God's Word teaches. If you know God's Truths, you won't be deceived by the devil's lies. If any teaching is out of harmony with God's Word, you can know it is not of God. I even heard one radio preacher talking about a new movement claiming that it had to be a new work of God because it wasn't in the Bible. Yeah, right! No, wrong! That was good evidence that it was not of God.
Remember too, that most, if not all, false prophets have an element of truth in their teaching. This makes what they say believable and more deceptive. Even the devil tried to tempt Jesus by quoting the Bible to Him. And when he tempted the first man and woman, he deceived them by using a part-truth.
Furthermore, the more honest and real you are as a person, the easier it is for you to "smell" (sense, discern) the phoniness of false prophets.
Equally important, ask God to give you discernment and reveal to you the truth—first about yourself to make sure you are not overreacting—and then about the person you sense may be a false teacher, and what it is he/she is claiming is truth.
Regarding friends who are caught up in false teaching, as a general rule, most of them are convinced in their mind that they have the truth so there is little, if anything, you can say to them. It's best to ask God to help you to be "as Christ" to these people and as opportunity arises, to give you the right words to say, and of course, to "speak the truth in love."
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me a love for and understanding of Your Word; help me to be honest with myself; and give me a spirit of discernment so that I will have a clear understanding of what is truth and what is error. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. 2 Peter 2:1 (NIV).