Bible Question:

How can I help someone who believes false teaching?

Bible Answer:

Are you looking for biblical principles about how to help a family member, friend or someone else understand that he or she is receiving false teaching? If so, the purpose of this article is to provide some help so that you know what to say and do.

Preach The Gospel So That They Can Turn From Darkness To Light

False Teachers Are Everywhere

In Acts 20:29-30 the apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders (v. 17, 28) that eventually false teachers would come into the church and teach false doctrine. He called false teachings or false doctrines “perverse things.” The Greek word for “perverse things” is diastrepho and it refers to “turn different ways.” That is, false teachers take something in Scripture and twist and turn it to say something different.

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Acts 20:29-30 (NASB)

They wanted others to follow them. That is always the motivating goal of a false teacher. They might believe what they claim the Bible teaches, but they would not continue to teach if no one followed them.

The apostle Peter also warned Christians that false teachers would arise (2 Peter 2:1). They came quickly and early in the life of the church. They were at the starting gate. Paul’s epistles and early church history prove that. If one reads the writings of the early church fathers and the documents of the church councils it becomes obvious that false teachers existed. The Nicene, Chalcedonian and Athanasian Creeds were written by an overwhelming number of church pastors to refute false doctrine and to defend the truth established by the apostles. False doctrine was constantly a problem. Therefore, we should not be surprised that false teaching has continued to exist down through church history and today it is even worse.

Those Who Believe False Teachings

When both the apostle Paul and Peter stated that false teachers would arise from within the church reveals that some who are teachers in a church may look like real believers, but are not. Some people sitting in church are not real believers either, even though they think they are.  Jesus’ parable of the Wheat and Tares in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 teaches us that some unbelievers will look like real believers. Tares look like wheat when they first sprout, but take on a different appearance when mature.

The sad part about tares is that they can be drawn to a church because they enjoy the people, surroundings and are willing to outwardly conform to the standards. They can look good. But since they are tares and not real believers, they are in spiritual darkness (Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 1:13). 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 teaches that they cannot understand the truth since the Holy Spirit is not dwelling within them.

Scripture teaches us that when a person becomes a believer the Holy Spirit places them into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), seals them (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 2 Timothy 2:19) and dwells within them (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; Galatians 5:25). The point is that the Holy Spirit will help true believers understand Scripture, but tares cannot because the Spirit is not dwelling within. This is the root problem with trying to help unbelievers understand that they have been deceived by false teachings. They have no ability to understand.

It is also possible that some believers will believe false doctrines. But there is more hope for them since the Holy Spirit dwells within and can help them come to the truth (John 8:12).

Helping Those Who Believe False Teachings

How can we help unbelievers reject false doctrines or the doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1)? The answer is to avoid addressing doctrinal errors, if possible, and try to help them obtain eternal life. That is, help them to become a true believer. We must remember that even the Pharisees, Sadducees, Pilate, Herod Antipas and the demons believed Jesus was real, performed miracles, signs, wonders and taught. But they were not Christians or true believers.

In Acts 26:27-28 the apostle Paul was standing before King Agrippa and teaching about Christ, but he was not a believer even though he knew about Christ. A parent can also attend church regularly and believe the truth about sin, salvation, demons, the virgin birth, Christ’s sinless life, death, burial, resurrection, the second coming, and the final judgment of the living and the dead and still go to hell. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus warned that there will be many church attenders or tares who will want to get into heaven but will be told they were never real believers in Christ. Sadly, there will be many who think they have walked through the narrow gate, only to discover on judgment day that actually they walked through the wide gate (Matthew 7:13-14). and are going to hell.

Therefore, how can we help those deceived by false teachings? We can help them understand what it means to be a true believer in Christ. First, we should avoid the term “Christian.” There are many people who think they are Christians who do not know what that means. Membership in a Christian church does not make one a Christian or secure eternal life for the church member. Second, we need to share the gospel and encourage them to place faith in Christ for their soul’s salvation. Acts 26:18 helps us understand what Christ told the apostle Paul to do.

. . . to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. Acts 26:18 (NASB)

First – They Must Become A Believer

Salvation occurs when a person repents of their sins, believes that Christ did everything necessary for their sins to be forgiven by seeking His forgiveness and humbly submits to Him. Every religion, cult,  some so-called Christian churches and the Roman Catholic Church teach that Christ did not do everything necessary for our sins to be forgiven. Individuals are falsely taught that they must believe and then do good works or deeds in order to secure or prove their salvation. But that does not save since it is simply faith plus works. That is, these teachers believe that Christ did not do everything necessary for our sins to be forgiven. One clergyman stated that we should never tell people that salvation was only by faith, then they would not do anything. He revealed that he would rather lie about how to be saved in order to motivate people “to work.”

But 1 John 5:13 clearly states that each individual can know that they are a true believer. That is the purpose of the book. We encourage the reader to study the book of 1 John.

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.  1 John 5:13 (NASB)

The point of 1 John 5:13 is that a person can know before they die if they are going to heaven. Most religions, cults, some so-called Christian churches and the Roman Catholic Church cannot promise a person that they are going to heaven since they teach your eternal destiny depends upon your works.

But Romans 3:28; 4:5; Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5 teach us that salvation is not the result of works.

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.  Romans 3:28 (NASB)

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness . . . Romans 4:5 (NASB)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit . . . Titus 3:5 (NASB)

How can we help someone become a believer? First, pray since John 16:7-11 teaches us that the Holy Spirit must convict each individual person of their sins and need to be forgiven and He is the true spiritual teacher (1 Corinthians 2:12-14). Second, share these verses and explain that true faith includes 1) repentance, 2) belief that Christ did everything necessary to be forgiven and 3) humble submission to Him. The third step is to continue praying for them and loving them.

Second – Then They Can Understand The Truth

If they respond with true faith, the individual is transformed from spiritual darkness into spiritual light. Jesus gives us that promise.

I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.  John 12:46 (NASB)

At this point,  they can now understand spiritual truth. At this point the errors of false doctrine can be explained lovingly and carefully. Yet, the Holy Spirit still must be the true teacher Who does the convincing. But now there is hope they will finally understand that they have in the past believed and were believing false teaching. When a person is a believer there is more hope he or she can understand false teaching than when they are unbelievers.


One of the signs that someone is teaching false doctrine occurs when they introduce “new teachings.” The constant theme of the apostle Paul was that we need to hold to the traditions taught by him and the other apostles.

Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 1 Corinthians 11:2 (NASB)

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. Colossians 2:8 (NASB)

So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (NASB)

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (NASB)

In using the term “traditions,” Paul was referring to what we read in the Bible. This means we must reject all other books, every oral traditions and anything else that might occur that adds to or is contrary to the teachings of the Bible.

Suggested Links:

What is the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325 and A.D. 381?
What is the Athanasian Creed of A.D. 570? – Symbolum Quicunque
What is the Chalcedonian Creed of A.D. 451?
Parables of the Kingdom
Teaching The Truth
How To Know A False Prophet
Is it okay to be friends with a false teacher?
Have you heard of N. T. Wright and the New Perspective on Paul?