There are only two references to false apostles in the entire bible and given so, it would be a mistake to assume that there are more false apostles than genuine. Given the many references to apostles in scripture, and just the few to false apostles, it seems fair to conclude that it is only occasionally we encounter the false apostle. We must become well acquainted with the genuine so that the fake will be easy to notice.
What signs should we look for in discerning the false from the true. Paul describes false apostles in 2 Corinthians 11 by saying that:
- They commend themselves and boast beyond proper limits.
- They lead believers astray from pure and sincere devotion to Christ.
- They preach another Jesus and a different gospel
- They create the impression that they are “super” apostles.
- They look for opportunity to be considered equal with true apostles.
- They are deceitful
- They are servants of Satan and will be judged.
- They push themselves forward, even to the point of abuse and control.
There are two passages in the New Testament with serious warnings about false leadership in the church. From these passages we can glean information about what to consider and watch for in testing for false apostolic ministry. We consider Jude 3-16 and 2 Peter 2 and the characteristics there are listed below:
Corruption in the heart – false motives such as envy, rivalry, greed, and other selfish motives.
Quick to claim leadership for themselves and equally quick to find fault and exclude others. They are defined by Jude as grumblers and fault-finders, and Peter said they were bold and arrogant.
Motivated by self interest rather than love of Christ and the brethren, and this is the “way of Balaam.” They use boasting and flattery to establish themselves and achieve their ends.
They despise authority, so they will oppose apostles who they seek to undermine. They will themselves be unsubmitted to true spiritual leadership that God has appointed.
They are under serious judgement and will be repaid with “harm” for what they have done. “Their end will be what their actions deserve”, “their destruction has not been sleeping”, and “for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.”
Christ said that “By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matt 7:16) God has given genuine apostles to the Body, and grace flows from their lives to us as a result of their calling and anointing. The false apostle however does not produce this fruit, and the Body of Christ as it becomes familiar with the real, will learn to recognise the false.