Who determines what is false doctrine?

From BelieveTheSign

Who determines what qualifies as false doctrine? Is it William Branham? Is it the Roman Catholic church? Is is some denomination? The better question is this - How do I, as a Christian, determine what constitutes false doctrine?

The question that was directed to us

A message follower directed the following question to us on our Facebook discussion page:

Who determines false doctrine? Honestly... this is an important point for all Christians to ponder.
For Roman Catholics, this is the Pope or the teaching magisterium that determines the true meaning of scripture on matters of morals and faith. I don't necessarily agree, but that is one model. In denominations, there is usually a statement of faith. Who developed these? Holy Ghost filled, born again believers? Who really knows in each case. Many denominations have vastly different beliefs. So someone is wrong.
Is it tradition that determines true and "false" doctrine? My point is that people make the claim that X is a false doctrine, or so and so is "off the Word". But based on what authority do they say that? Theie own? Because that is the standard tradition in Christianity over the past 2000 years?
I like this post topic and exchange because it has really caused me to ponder this question once again. So often this kind of discussion ends in something like "my scholar is smarter than your scholar" .....or so and so has studied the Greek for 30 years....
I personally think this is a faulty premise. Scholarship is not a biblical proof of authority. If it were, then Jesus would have probably commended the Pharisees on their studies. (Please, please do not assume I hold this position simply to support William Branham's 7th grade education. Not everything I say comes from, or is meant to simply support the message)
I look for patterns in the bible. I look at how God operated in the past for clues how he may operate in the future. One such pattern is that God chooses to confound the wise. So we need to be careful if we find ourself leaning on the wise exclusively.
In my opinion... too much knowledge can create a blind spot on someone. They won't be able to see past their set of truths if something comes along that is outside their list of truth. I think this is why Jesus chose the disciples that he chose.
We need to be careful if we build a model or a methodology whereby we can "study ourselves into the kingdom".

We think that this is a valid question that should be addressed. Specifically, we will try to address the question - How should Christians generally determine what is false doctrine and what is not?

What the Bible says

False teachers look like the real thing

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.[1]

 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.[2]

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.[3]

3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith...[4]

Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.[5]

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.[6]

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.[7]

False teachers must be rebuked

Paul said that an overseer in the church must be able not only “to give instruction in sound doctrine” but also “to confute those who contradict it”:

Titus 1:9: He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.[8]
2 Timothy 2:24-25: ...able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth...[9]
Titus 2:7-8: Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.[10]


  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Co 11:12–15.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ga 2:4–5.
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Th 2:9–12.
  4. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Ti 1:3–4.
  5. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Ti 6:2–5.
  6. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Pe 1:19–2:3.
  7. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 4:1–6.
  8. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Tt 1:9.
  9. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Ti 2:24–25.
  10. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Tt 2:7–8.