Such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
–Romans 16:18

In Romans 16, Paul closed his letter with a warning to watch out for false teachers. In verse 17, he talked about those who teach things “contrary to the teaching which you learned.” That phrase literally means “alongside the teaching.” Paul was saying, “Be careful of people who teach alongside the true gospel.” You see, outright heresy is very easy to recognize. We can usually spot those who deny the deity of Christ, the inspiration of the Scripture, the blood atonement of Jesus for our sins, or the Second Coming. But Satan is also very subtle. Sometimes the way he deceives people is by changing Christian truth just a little. False teaching often talks about Jesus, the Bible, the crucifixion, and the resurrection, but it varies from the gospel in a slight way, just slight enough to cause people to miss Heaven.

These kinds of teachings say, “Yes, Jesus died on the cross, and we celebrate His death through the sacraments. And yes, to become a Christian you need to trust in Jesus–but you also need to take the sacraments, and you need to be baptized, and you need to keep the holy ordinances of the church.” If you are trusting in anything other than Christ and Christ alone for your salvation, then you are lost, the Bible says. Paul said in Galatians 1:9, “If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” He was talking about the Judaizers, who preached a false gospel. They accepted Jesus, but they said, “To be a Christian, you must trust in Jesus and also keep the Law and do these things.” That is false teaching.

All cults can be defined this way: it is either the Bible plus something, or the Bible minus something. Deuteronomy 13:1-3 teaches us about false teachers. Through Moses, God said, “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,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; 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.” If somebody is able to perform a sign or wonder but is teaching something contrary to God’s Word, then do not listen to him.

You may say about a person, “If he worked a miracle, then he must be from God.” No, Satan also has the power to perform miracles. The Bible says that during the Tribulation, the Antichrist and the False Prophet will work signs and wonders in order to deceive many. And remember, the magicians in Pharaoh’s court had the ability to work miracles and signs. No, the way we judge whether a prophet is truly from God is not by the signs and wonders he performs; it is by his fidelity to the Word of God. That is what Paul was saying here. Beware of false teachers.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Beware And Behold” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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