False religions and cults are nothing new. Since the beginning of time, Satan has been deceiving people into following counterfeit faiths and beliefs. As Christians, it’s important for us to be aware of what God’s Word says regarding false doctrine so that we can avoid it and help others out of deception. In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into Scripture to uncover what God has declared about false religions.
The Bible contains many warnings about false prophets, teachers, and doctrines. Jesus Himself warned that the end times would be characterized by deception, saying “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5 NKJV). The apostles frequently cautioned against false gospels and commanded believers to contend for the faith.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, expressed astonishment that they were turning so quickly to a different gospel, which was not the true Gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-9). He pronounced a curse on anyone – even an angel – who preached a gospel contrary to the one he preached. Throughout the epistles, we are exhorted to avoid false doctrine and not to believe every spirit but to test them to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1).
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible provides us with instruction on how to identify deception and equip ourselves with truth. In this post, we will cover some key passages that reveal God’s perspective on false religions and highlight practical ways to defend against deception.
- God hates idolatry and false religion
- False teachers infiltrate the church and spread destructive heresies
- We must test all spirits and doctrines against Scripture
- Avoid partnerships between righteousness and lawlessness
- Expose fruitless deeds of darkness by the light
- Equip ourselves with truth to avoid deception
Now, let’s dig into God’s Word to learn how we can avoid the traps of counterfeit faith and abide in truth.
God Detests All False Religion
Scripture makes it abundantly clear that God despises idolatry and false religion. The first of the Ten Commandments states, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). This commandment expressly forbids the worship of idols and doctrines that place anything or anyone in the place of the one true God. Let’s look at some verses that demonstrate God’s hatred of idolatry and false ideologies.
In Jeremiah 7:18, God accuses Israel of making offerings to the Queen of Heaven and worshiping other gods. Through Jeremiah, He says, “The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.” The Lord goes on to say that such worship angers Him and He will pour out His wrath without pity.
Deuteronomy 32:16-21 depicts God’s displeasure with those who worship false gods and provoke Him to jealousy. He says that they “sacrificed to demons, not to God” and engaged in “new gods…gods he had not known.” Therefore, the Lord’s anger burned against them.
The book of Hosea contains a scathing indictment against the whoredom of Israel and Samaria as they embraced idolatry. “My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God” (Hosea 4:12).
First Corinthians 10:14 explicitly instructs believers to “flee from idolatry.” Paul writes that idolaters are “worshipping demons” and provoking the Lord to jealousy (1 Cor. 10:20-22). Participation in idolatry and false religion is utterly incompatible with the worship of the one true God.
It is abundantly evident from these and other passages that God hates spiritual adultery. Manufacturing a god in one’s own image or worshiping according to human tradition provokes the wrath of our holy Creator. He will not be mocked by false worship or share His glory with an imposter. Therefore, we must carefully avoid any teaching or practice that conflicts with God’s supreme authority and gospel of grace.
Beware of False Teachers in the Church
In addition to strict warnings against false ideologies, the Bible contains solemn warnings about false teachers who will infiltrate the church. Rather than attacking it from the outside, these deceivers covertly introduce destructive heresies from within the community of believers.
Jesus cautioned that wolves in sheep’s clothing would come into the flock. In Matthew 7:15, He says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” Appearing righteous on the outside cloaks the sinister desire to devour the sheep and lead them to destruction.
In Acts 20:28-30, Paul warned the elders at Ephesus that savage wolves would enter their midst and deceive people into following them. These men would rise up from among their own ranks and draw people away from the truth with false doctrines. The apostle Peter echo’s Paul’s warning in 2 Peter 2:1, stating: “there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…”
The letters to Timothy and Titus contain instructions for dealing with false teachers in the Ephesian and Cretan churches. Timothy is told that by heeding false doctrines, “some will fall away from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1). He is exhorted to instruct the brethren not to “give heed to fables and endless genealogies” that promote speculation rather than God’s stewardship of faith (1 Timothy 1:3-7). Believers are to withdraw from teachers like Hymenaeus and Philetus, who depart from the truth by saying the resurrection has already occurred (2 Timothy 2:16-19).
Paul points out that deceitful workers disguise themselves as apostles of Christ and servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:12-15). But their end will correspond to their deeds. He says, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
From these texts, it is evident that the church faces constant threats from false teachers who peddle destructive doctrines and draw disciples away from Christ. We must remain vigilant against those who covertly introduce heresies that can fragment unity and destroy faith.
Test All Spirits Against Scripture
In light of the dangers of false teaching, Scripture repeatedly instructs us to exercise sound judgment and test all things by the Word of God. We must carefully compare all doctrines, prophecies, and spirits to Scripture to determine if they are of God.
The apostle John offers this warning in 1 John 4:1 – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” There are many deceiving spirits in the world, so we must exercise discernment rather than blind acceptance.
In Acts 17:10-12, Luke describes the Bereans as nobler than the Thessalonians because they rigorously tested Paul’s teaching against the Scriptures. They didn’t just take the famous apostle at his word. Likewise, we are called to verify that all teaching aligns with God’s revelation in Scripture.
Paul commends the Thessalonians for putting his words to the test instead of blindly accepting them. He says, “You welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit, knowing that you yourselves had accepted it, not as a human word but as what it truly is, God’s word at work within you believers” (1 Thess. 2:13). The gospel message was authenticated by its consistency with God’s Word.
No one, including angels, apostles, or any great leader, should be trusted if their message contradicts the Scriptures. Paul pronounces a curse on anyone who preaches a contrary gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). All prophecy must also align with the sound instruction of Christ (1 Cor. 14:37). Scripture is the plumb line by which all teaching must be measured.
By regularly studying and internalizing God’s Word, we equip ourselves to identify deception and reject false ideologies. We must hide its life-giving truths in our heart so that we do not follow the corrupt ways of the world (Psalm 119:9-11). Immersing ourselves in the Scriptures develops spiritual discernment and protects us from the spell of false spirits.
Avoid Partnerships Between Righteousness and Lawlessness
Scripture frequently instructs believers to avoid yoking themselves together with unbelievers or partaking in unfruitful works of darkness. Truth has no fellowship with doctrinal error. We must guard our minds against mixture and compromise with beliefs that clearly oppose biblical values.
Paul asks the Corinthians, “And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” (2 Cor. 6:14-15). Light cannot join with darkness or Christ be in accord with the demonic. Clear lines are drawn between kingdom of God and the kingdom of the enemy.
The apostle follows up with this command: “Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). Sacred writings and profane writings have no common ground. We cannot engage in such partnerships and enjoy intimate fellowship with God.
James 3:11 asks, “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” A spring cannot produce both fresh, life-giving water and bitter, unpotable water. In the same way, bitter false doctrine should find no place alongside Biblical truth. There can be no blending of the two.
The psalmist declares, “I hate and abhor lying; But I love Your law” (Psalm 119:163). Hatred of falsehood is necessary to truly love and embrace God’s eternal law. Likewise, we must reject heresy in order to walk in purifying truth.
Doctrinal purity requires avoiding all polluting mixtures with beliefs outside of God’s written revelation. We must purposefully separate ourselves and refrain from uniting with those who do not love the truth. This may require us to come out from groups and organizations that condone unbiblical ideologies.
Expose Deeds of Darkness by the Light
Rather than turning a blind eye, Scripture commands us to expose fruitless deeds of darkness so that their shame may be revealed. We have a responsibility to proclaim truth so that falsehoods are brought to light.
Ephesians 5:8-14 describes the process of illumination: “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth and find out what pleases the Lord…Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”
As children of light, we should shine the light of truth on dark lies and expose them for what they are – fruitless and shameful. This tears off the clever mask and permits the deception to be seen for the fraud that it is.
Likewise, Paul tell us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but expose them” (Eph. 5:11). We are instructed rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine (Titus 1:9-13) and destroy speculations raised against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Lies wither under the pure light of truth.
Jesus constantly responded to false teaching by proclaiming truth. When confronted with doctrinal error, He often responded, “Have you not read…”(Matthew 12:3, 19:14). He exposed the fruitlessness of pharisaic tradition by highlighting how it undermined God’s Word (Matt 15:1-9). We are called to imitate Christ in confronting darkness with light.
Shining the light provides an opportunity for repentance and restoration. The gentle illumination of God’s Word brings conviction and correction so that the deceived can turn back to truth. We should therefore speak truth gently and respectfully, not to condemn but to save (John 3:17).
Equip Yourself with Truth
Ultimately, combating falsehood requires equipping oneself with truth. Doctrine, reproof, and instruction in righteousness fortify our minds against deception (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Immersing ourselves in the light of God’s Word dispels falsehood.
The psalmist asks, “How can a young man cleanse his way?” The answer follows: “By taking heed according to Your word…Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9, 11). Hiding Scripture in our hearts sanctifies us by the truth (John 17:17).
Paul instructs Titus to “speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). He explains that Christ gave Himself to “redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” These good works include “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) so we can expose deceptions and rescue the deceived.
Knowing the truth liberates us from falsehood’s enslaving power. Jesus declared, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). True freedom comes from recognizing Christ, abiding in His Word, and becoming His disciples (John 8:31-32). His truth sets us free from the tyranny of deception.
Internalizing scriptural truth protects our minds and allows us to guard the precious deposit of faith (2 Timothy 1:14). We must continually renew our minds in His Word to combat worldly lies and discern the will of God (Romans 12:2). Equipping ourselves with truth is essential preparation for exposing falsehood.
In closing, Scripture makes it clear that false religions and doctrines are detestable to God. He hates spiritual adultery and idolatry. But even more dangerous are the deception that arise from within God’s people – the savage wolves that sneak into the flock disguised as sheep. We must be vigilant to test all spirits and doctrines against the plumb line of Scriptural truth. Lies and fruitless deeds of darkness must be exposed by the light of the Gospel. The best defense against deception is equipping ourselves with truth by continually studying, memorizing, and internalizing God’s Word. As we hide its life-giving truths in our heart, we are strengthened to reject heresies and destructive speculations raised up against the knowledge of Christ. Only by abiding in God’s eternal Word are we truly free and able to effectively combat falsehood with divine truth.