How to Identify True Teachers

Galatians 4:16 (KJV) Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

Just as there are false teachers with certain characteristics which are very noticeable, there are also true teachers which have some characteristics that are very noticeable. It is not only important that we identify and reject the false teachers who attempt to turn us away from Christ but it is just as important for us to recognize the true teachers who try to point us to Christ and to live a true Christian life. All one has to do is turn on the radio or TV and it will be obvious by seeing and listening whether we are in the presence of a true or false teacher. In this chapter I want to give thirteen characteristics of true teachers. In this way we can make a proper decision as to what group we are listening to, the false or the true.

They tell you what you need to hear
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so. (1 Kings 22:8, KJV)

Here is probably a little known prophet of God who lived in the time of King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Ahab hated him because Micaiah would only speak the truth and told Ahab what he needed to hear not what he wanted to hear. It is the same with us. Even as Christians we may adopt a certain lifestyle which may be against Scripture and when we hear someone challenge our lifestyle, we too, may hate the one who is preaching simply because they are telling the truth. They are speaking what we need to hear and not what we want to hear. The true teacher will teach the word of God without apology not concerning themselves with whose toes they are stepping on. The true teacher also teaches the Bible unapologetically to unbelievers because they know that a person is saved through hearing the word of God and not a bunch of commentary or excuses for the Bible being so straightforward.

Their message always aligns with Scripture
For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.  (Acts 18:28, KJV)

Here was a man named Apollos who taught the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. In the above passage we read that he did it not of philosophy or out of some other type of arguments but he used the Scriptures to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. The message of Apollos had aligned completely with Scripture. The true teacher does not teach from commentaries or from opinion but they teach directly from the word of God which only has the power to convict a person or to convert them to Christianity. The true teacher does not teach the so called “gray areas” but sticks completely to black and white, this way they know they are teaching God’s words rather than a mixture of God’s word and man’s ideas.

They Teach the full counsel of God
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27, KJV)

Here we have the Apostle Paul stating that he taught them the full counsel of God. The word “shunned” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “cower or to shrink back.” In other words, there was a boldness in Paul to preach the entire counsel of God which not only included the promises of God but also the wrath and judgment by God on the last day. The whole counsel of God includes judgment as well as all the promises. Today we have a so-called positive message which only focuses on the love of God and what He can do for us. The pulpits today have been very silent in declaring that a judgment day will come to pass and that is because they want only to appease their hearers thus increasing donations. Can it be a positive message when only half the story is told and unbelievers are made to feel good until they stand before the Lord on Judgment Day and be sentenced to Hell. The true teacher focuses on the whole message from the Bible and does not intentionally omit any part of it.

They do not seek to please men
For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10, KJV)

The true teacher does not concern themselves with pleasing people with some glossed over stories. They will teach the hard truths of Scripture as well as the pleasant truths of Scripture such as a guarantee of Heaven for every true believer. The true teacher does not customize their messages to accommodate those in the audience which may be living in sin or partaking of sins. For example, if there is a church which has drinkers or smokers, the true teacher will not tailor the message to excuse their sins. They will teach the parts of Scripture which condemn the drinking of alcohol by believers and the bad habit of smoking which leads to death. Thou shalt not kill.  (Exodus 20:13, KJV)  Smoking kills the body and is a lousy testimony. Can you have a Marlboro in one hand and a Bible in another and convince people you have been changed by your salvation? The true teacher expounds the truths of Scripture no matter who is in the audience.

Their message is based on Scripture and not personal experiences
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:13, KJV)

The true teacher confines their messages to the Scriptures. Today you have many who have visions, dreams, and other signs and wonders who base their message upon these personal experiences. The reality is that God is no longer speaking in visions and dreams because we now have the completed Bible. People have dreams and right away they think it is a message from God when in essence the dream is in response to what they ate before going to bed. The true teacher bases all their messages and beliefs upon what the Scriptures teach and not some personal experience which may come right from the pit of hell. They also do not focus on commentaries or the opinions of theologians as irrefutable truth. Rather they deem the Scriptures as the highest authority and as a result they build a lasting stability into their Christian life.

They focus on the spiritual aspect of your life
For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Romans 14:17, KJV)

If you turn on the TV today, it will not take you long to come across media preachers and when you listen to them, you will hear that their primary message is all about giving money to God’s work and, of course, it is to be given to them. The false teacher claims that if you give them $1000 in seed money, then God will bless you many times over with wealth and health. They focus on the here and now and the physical and never give thought to the spiritual life of the believer. The true teacher wants the Christians to have a godly and closer walk with the Lord. They want to see Christians spiritually progress in their Christian walk becoming a great witness and actively involved in personal ministry. They want to see Christians overcome the satanic obstacles in this world and be victorious in their Christian walk. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.  (Revelation 2:7, KJV)
  Notice that Revelation 2:7 states that those who hear what the Spirit says will be those who overcome. It is the spiritual life that we must focus on. Rev. 2:7 nowhere mentions that you can overcome by having much money or material goods. So if you are under the teaching of one who focuses on the spiritual aspect of the Christian walk, then you are under a true teacher.

The message is made clear
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:6, KJV)

The true teacher makes the message of the Bible as clear as possible. They say in 100 words what others may say in 1000 words. Today the message of the Bible is being clouded with so many different false systems. The latest one to attack the church is the mystical teachings found in the Emergent Church movement which replaces the message of the Bible with all kinds of New Age esoteric mind control methods which do nothing but engender demonic involvement. If you are hearing a teacher who is making their comments by way of Scripture then you have found a true teacher. If you are hearing a teacher who muddies the teaching of Scripture with all kind of vain philosophies and false theologies than you are under a false teacher. Beware of those who have to over-explain the Bible. The true teacher approaches the Scriptures with the realization that most of the Scriptures are almost self-explanatory. They do not need to over-interpret to the point of actually losing the meaning of a passage. They can normally explain a passage with another passage of Scripture because spiritual interprets spiritual. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13, KJV)

They possess humility when teaching
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:10, KJV)

The true teacher is a humble teacher because they know that the message is not theirs. They realize that if they humble themselves, then God can easily work with them and open the truths of the Bible to them so they can pass them on to other Christians. They know that there is no place for arrogance in Bible teaching. This is not to say that a teacher cannot have confidence in the message of the Bible or in delivering truths. The false teacher teaches with an arrogance as if they are delivering a message which cannot be refuted. The true teacher is malleable in the hands of the Lord which means they can be taught.

They will accept correction when needed
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.  (Acts 18:26, KJV)

Apollos was a teacher of the Gospel but he had known only the way of John’s baptism. So Priscilla and Aquila heard him preach and afterward, they took him aside and then expounded the word of God to him. In other words, they had given Apollos the true gospel to preach. Apollos was open for correction and he had accepted that correction by two Christians which have now given him the message of the true gospel. Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.  (Titus 3:13, KJV)
  We can tell that Apollos took the correction because the Apostle Paul had now asked for Apollos. The book of Titus was written about 55 A.D. Sometimes a true teacher will hold a false understanding or a false teaching but as soon as they find out, then they will change to make their teachings align up with the Scriptures.

They accept Scripture for what it teaches
 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16, KJV)

The true teacher is one that accepts the teachings of Scripture as taught in the Bible. They do not filter certain verses through their personal bias but instead willingly accept what the Bible plainly teaches. For example: Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.  (1 Peter 1:2, KJV)
  The first word in this verse is “Elect.” The word “elect” means “chosen or elect.” I have heard many free will preachers explain it away that God looked down the corridors of time and saw who would accept Him and therefore He elected them. My question is why would God have to elect them if they were going to accept Him? So you can see how false teachers butcher the simple meaning of “elect” and this is done with many other words because they are filtered through the bias of a person’s belief system or some theological belief system. The true teacher does not seek to change word definitions to suit themselves but teach them as God has given them in the Bible without apology.

They are portals to the Glory of God
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. (Psalm 29:2, KJV)

A true teacher gives glory to God for the revealing of Bible truths. They know that unless God gives the understanding of the Scriptures, then there would be no true understanding, instead they would wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction. The true teacher recognizes that since God wrote the Bible, then He is the only one qualified to interpret it and give the believer the true understanding of Scripture. The false teachers seek to bring glory to themselves as if they are the only ones that have the truth. I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.  (3 John 9, KJV)
  Here Diotrephes desires to have the preeminence among his congregation. He wished to be glorified as if he was “the” speaker for God in that congregation.

They realize that they are not the only ones who have the truth
Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren:  (Acts 15:22, KJV)

Here we have two sets of men ready to go out and bring the messages of what was spoken at the Jerusalem conference. Notice that they sent out not only Paul and Barnabas but also Judas and Silas. The true teacher knows that they are not the only ones who hold the truth but are part of a vast network of Christians all over this world who also hold to the truth. In opposition to those false teachers who believe only they have the truth, true teachers are willing to share teaching responsibilities with those of like mind and who hold the Scriptures higher than man’s opinions.

They do not claim any promises outside what the Bible promises
And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.  (1 John 2:25, KJV)

The true teacher does not embellish the promises given in Scripture because they know that they do not have to. If the Scripture states eternal life, then eternal life it is for the true believer. If it is the new heavens and the new earth, then it is to be believed as such. We hear about Islam promising 70 virgins for every man that dies in jihad. We hear that Mormons become gods of their own planets. These things are nowhere found in Scripture yet these false cults still convince their people they will get these things if they adhere to their rules. The true teacher does not get involved with fanciful interpretations and fantasy beliefs. They stick totally to the Scriptures for their promises.

I have given 13 principles which to spot a true teacher by. They are sincere and humble and do not cross any unbiblical boundaries. They do not intentionally misquote Scripture but seek to be sincere in their understanding of Scripture so they may pass on these eternal truths to their hearers. You will see that their lifestyle will match their teachings. Their desire is to see Christians progress in their Christian walk. A true teacher is a gem so value them as they are gifts to your congregation and to you personally.

One of the main ingredients of being a good teacher is the realization that if you are going to present a teaching it must be researched well and that will take considerable time. While other Christians are out having a good time, you will have to make the sacrifice of sometimes skipping those outings to study your subject at hand. Those teachers who just grab someone else’s material and then quote it as if they were the one who wrote it definitely do not have the spiritual gift of teaching. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:39, KJV) This is what the Lord speaks about when He says we lose our life in this life. The more time we spend here on earth researching the Gospel means that it is less time we have to enjoy the things of this earth. However, there is an upside to this, those who do this will find life on the other side. Teaching is not something which should be entered into lightly since it is a major commitment of time and energy because you will suffer fatigue plus teaching is an ongoing ministry and not just a one time commitment.