Bible Question:

Would God allow believers to be tested with false prophets?

Bible Answer:

False teachers are everywhere. Some distort the character of  God, creating their own false god. They often call evil good and good evil by distorting what God has written. Sadly, many Christians are not discerning enough to identify these false teachers. Why does God allow false teachers? The purpose of this article is to explain why this occurs. Why does God allow believers to be tested by false prophets?

Purpose of False Teachers

Signs, Wonders, Miracles and Teaching

The New Testament teaches believers that the signs of an apostle were signs, wonders and miracles. The apostle Paul stated that one could identify a true apostle if he did such things.

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. 2 Corinthians 12:12 (NASB)

The author of Hebrews writes this in the second chapter,

 After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. Hebrews 2:3b-4 (NASB)

Consequently, when someone teaches from the Bible and does signs and wonders or miracles, many Christians are convinced that he or she is a teacher anointed by the Holy Spirit. They believe the signs and wonders or miracles prove the preacher is speaking divine truth.

But they have missed Deuteronomy 13:1-3. We will examine the first two verses and then the third one. Notice that the message of verses 1-2 affirms that someone can perform a sign or a wonder. The individual may share a dream and it may come true.

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them’ . . .”  Deuteronomy 13:1-2 (NASB)

Notice that the individual is a false teacher since they encourage the hearers to follow after other gods. It is obvious that God gave this warning to Israel because they were not discerning enough. They assume that anyone who performed a sign or a wonder was from God.

Sadly, some Christians think the same thing and follow after false teachers today. We must remember that Egyptian wise men, sorcerers and magicians in Exodus 7:20-8:9 performed the same wonders and signs that Aaron and Moses did. But eventually Egyptian wonderworkers could not create gnats (Exodus 8:16-19). Their demonic powers eventually failed. This should cause us to pause and realize that false teachers can perform wonders and signs too! That is the message of Exodus and, especially, Deuteronomy 13:1-2.

The ultimate test of a false teacher is what do they teach, and not what wonders and signs they perform.

Do Not Listen To False Teachers

Then in the next verse God tells us to have nothing to do with false prophets , which includes false teachers. But notice God includes those who have dreams.

“. . .  you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams . . .” Deuteronomy 13:3 (NASB)

The various types of false teachings believers may be exposed to can range from denying that Christ is God (1 John 4:1-3), to encouraging sensuality (2 Peter 2:2), greed (2 Peter 2:3), prideful boldness (2 Peter 2:10), enjoying pleasure (2 Peter 2:13) and adultery (2 Peter 2:14). But the worst of all errors is the denial of our God (Deuteronomy 13:1-2; 2 Peter 2:1).

Deuteronomy 13:1-3 teaches us to not listen to false teachers. 2 John 7-11 tells believers to avoid false teachers. Notice that the apostle John tells us to not even greet them.

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 2 John 9-11 (NASB)

Believers are to avoid false teachers. This means believers are to leave a church where false teaching is taking place. Believers must not watch false teachers on television and read their books. Why? Read the next section.

Purpose of False Teachers

The last part of verse 3 tells us why God allows false teachers. He is testing those who claim to be Christians.

“. . . for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 13:3 (NASB)

Since God knows our every thought and intention (Genesis 6:5; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 94:11), the test is not about God discovering if you truly love Him with all your heart and soul. The test reveals if you love Him.

Other passages in the Old Testament reveal that God uses various situations and events to test our faithfulness and love for Him (Judges 3:1; Psalm 105:19; Isaiah 48:10; Jeremiah 17:10). Yes, God permits false teachers to exist for the purpose of revealing who is a faithful believer and who is not a faithful believer. In some cases it reveals who is not a believer, because the unbeliever cannot determine which teaching is false teaching and which is true.

Conclusion:

The greatest difficulty some believers have in identifying a false teacher is that they do not know what the Bible actually teaches. Therefore, false doctrines can seem to be acceptable. They have listened to pastors and teachers and what they know is what their pastor has told them. They may not even know the books of the Bible in order. They do not know what each book of the Bible is about. They have never read a Systematic Theology or read a book about how to study the Bible. They cannot explain how to become a Christian. They do not understand the difference of our position in Christ versus our practice. They thought the Prayer of Jabez was wonderful. They do not know that “Annihilationism,” “Hyper Grace” or the “Prosperity Gospel” is false doctrine. They think because their pastor is so popular all of his teachings must be true. They are not familiar with Deuteronomy 13:3.

“. . . for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 13:3 (NASB)

They need to study the Bible so that they can identify false teaching and honor God.

Suggested Links:

Will God punish us if we have wrong attitudes in trials?
Worst Pitfall of Trials
What is the meaning of sanctification? – Positional, Progressive & Perfected