How to Identify False Prophets and Pastors

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

How can Christians learn to spot the differences between false prophets and pastors and those who are biblically centered?

Satan’s Ministers

How can Christians learn to spot the differences between false prophets and pastors and those who are biblically centered? We do know that Satan has his own ministers and they appear like angels of light (2 Cor 11:4), meaning they sound good and look good, but inwardly, they are ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing. Joel Osteen is a perfect example. He sure looks sharp there in front of the TV camera, but does he ever preach verse by verse from Scripture? No! Does he ever mention the need for repentance, the sinfulness of man, that we need daily repentance as we all sin, and does he preach for the need to live holy lives? Again, no! He only teaches about your “best life now,” but if this is our best life now, then we are going to the wrong place! The best is yet to come (Rev 21:1-5). Satan has his own ministers, meaning he has his own churches and now, his own denominations, and we need to learn the difference so we don’t attend a church where Jesus is not the Head, but Satan is.


I love what the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, said. He said that discernment is not just knowing the difference between right and wrong (that’s often obvious)…it is knowing the difference between right and almost right. Would you want someone packing your parachute and saying, “Its close” or “It’s almost right…I think.” How about a surgeon who says, “I think I did it right” or “I think cutting out this organ is right.” We want them to be 100% sure, don’t we? If we don’t know the difference between sound doctrine and the doctrine of demons (1 Tim 4:1), then we’ll start to believe a lie, however, the Word of God and the Spirit of God will help us to discern truth from error (or a lie). Hosea the Prophet says, “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them” (Hosea 14:9a). The Apostle Paul says we must “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). The world in us can strip our ability to correctly discern truth from error, but the renewed mind, renewed by the Spirit of God, can “discern what is the will of God,” and that can help us spot phonies a mile away.

Just Believe in Your Heart

The phrase so often heard is “Just let Jesus into your heart” or “Just believe in Jesus” sounds good, but where is the mention and need for repentance? Don’t the demons believe and tremble, and yet, they are not saved (James 2:19). To believe with no lifestyle changes produces false converts or tares among the wheat. The think they are saved, but in actuality, they are being deceived and headed to sure judgment (Matt 7:21-23). Sin has a way of doing that (Rom 7:10-11). The old English word “believe” literally means “to be living” so if you say you are a believer, you are (should be) living what you are believing. Just letting Jesus into our hearts means nothing. Jesus said to “Repent and believe” (Mark 1:15). By the way, our hearts are deceitfully wicked above all things and who can even know their own heart (Jer 17:9)? We can believe, but if I say I believe in cars but walk everywhere I go, then do I really believe in them? To believe means faith with feet on it. We show fruits by God’s Spirit. To believe is required, but so is repentance. Most don’t like preaching about the daily need to repent of sin and that we are all sinners, even after conversion (Rom 7). Most false preachers try to build up your self-esteem, but God wants to tear it down so that we rely solely on Him. That way, He receives all the glory, and that’s as it should be (Psalm 115:1).

The Spirit of God


The Spirit of God is the best way to discern truth from error. If anyone is not saved, they cannot even know truth from error. The Apostle Paul says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:11). Paul’s prayer was “that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Phil 1:9). By growing in the knowledge of the Word of God, daily partaking of His Word, the Bible, is “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:14). The more you’re in the “meat” of the Word of God, the more discernment you’ll have. By examining the authentic (the Bible), you can spot a counterfeit more easily.

Test the Spirits

God tells us to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 1:4). Sadly, we need to test everything through Scripture because “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” (1 John 1:4). We were warned long ago that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4). I believe that time has now come. Be prepared. Have discernment. Avoid error. How? It will be by the Spirit of God and the Word of God that you can spot a fraud of God.


Here is my prayer for you; it is that you have put your trust in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If not, you are presently in real danger of hell fire. That’s because you’re only one breath, one heartbeat…one accident away from eternity when you can no longer repent. Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2) because tomorrow may not come for you. If Jesus Christ came today, here is what will happen to you (Matt 7:21-23). This is the very reason why I plead with you right now…as you read this, repent and put your trust in Jesus Christ. If not, prepare to face God’s judgment after death guaranteed (Heb 9:27) or at Jesus Christ’s appearance (Rev 20:12-15), either of which could happen at the blink of an eye.

Here is some related reading for you: Why False Prophets Are on the Increase Today

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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