Do a quick internet search for “how to identify counterfeits” and one fact becomes abundantly clear: there a lot of counterfeits out there.
Counterfeits are usually a much lower quality and don’t last as long as the authentic item, and they simply do not live up to the value of the original item over the long term.
When you want to purchase an authentic item, awareness of counterfeits is important along with a good knowledge of the original. You could also learn different anti-counterfeit measures unique to each item. All approaches for identifying counterfeits stem from the original product. In other words, the ability to identify a counterfeit is based on knowledge of the authentic.
This holds true in the Christian faith, too. Counterfeits continually work to distract and pull us away from the authentic doctrine found in the Bible. I don’t know if I could tell a difference between a genuine designer bag and a knockoff, and I’m not sure I care all that much. I do know, however, that I want the truth on which I base my eternity to be authentic.
Discerning False Doctrine
Early church leaders wanted to be sure of the same thing. They wanted people to be aware of the existence of fake Gospels — of false doctrine — so they could base their lives and their eternities on the truth of the Gospel of Christ alone. As a result, the church leaders taught about the difference between counterfeits and the authentic gospel frequently.
What Paul and the other apostles taught those in the early church about false doctrine holds true for us still today. Let’s look at a few of those points to help discern the real Gospel from any of the many fakes rampant still today. Notice that the approach stems from knowledge of the authentic Gospel of Christ as taught in the Bible.
Any teaching and any person sincerely professing true doctrine — that found in the Bible — will consistently do the following:
- Acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior. (1 John 4:2)
- Bear good fruit. (Matthew 7:16)
- Have words and actions that complement each other and scripture. (Titus 1:16)
- Are consistent in what they preach and practice. (1 Timothy 1:18-20)
- Only preach Christ crucified. (Galatians 1:8-9)
Together — along with the activity of the Holy Spirit — these points help believers know false doctrine when they see and hear it. Yet, knowing doesn’t always keep deception at bay. Without a systematic and consistent approach to studying doctrine, even the most dedicated Christian can (and has) fallen prey to false doctrine that goes against what the Bible teaches.
Study to Stay Steady
Talk to people who were once dedicated to living the Bible and the Gospel it teaches and who have since fallen away from that lifestyle and their beliefs, and you’ll find at least one consistent thread within every case: a neglect of Bible study.
Any Christian, no matter how long they’ve been a believer, must study to stay steady. They must maintain a consistent habit of Bible study throughout their lifetime in order to avoid wandering away from the truth.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the statue of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” (Ephesians 4:14)
Diligence in studying the Bible is key to the maturity of faith. It’s crucial for steadiness and for staying focused on the authentic Gospel. If you think you can avoid false doctrine by willpower alone, you’re deceiving yourself. Only by knowing the authentic Gospel as taught in God’s word can a person remain steady in Godly character and growing in faith.