False Apostles and True–What’s the Difference?



False apostles

False apostles

With the advent of modern day apostles and prophets, many are asking “What is a true apostle?” and “What are the signs of false apostles?” “How can we tell the difference?”

I have worked with apostles for over fifty years. I’ve seen the bona fides, and I’m sorry to say, I’ve also seen some wannabes whose claims of apostleship are questionable or fallacious.

As an aid to identify true apostles, let’s examine four types of false apostles.

False Apostles Pressure Donors

If any minister tries to pressure a person to give him money, stay a hundred yards away. Overt or subtle pressure to give money signals greed and is a sure sign of rottenness at the core. One veteran missionary told me, “Don’t give to any minister unless you personally know him or know someone who does know and approve him. It’s just too easy to exaggerate from the mission field when there is no one there to hold him accountable.”

Of course, it’s legitimate to request funds or take offerings. The pressure is the problem.

How a minister handles money reveals a lot about himself. Jesus noted, He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much (Luke 16:10).

Improper use of money is a flag flying high to reveal to churches and prospective donors the hidden nature of false apostles.

False Apostles Lack Christ-like Character

If any man fails to honor his marriage vows or he sinks into immorality, it’s time to jump ship. Character, not just charisma, is a sign of true apostleship.

But let’s be gracious in this matter of character. Just because a person makes some minor mistakes does not mean he is a fraud. We are speaking of repeated mistakes without repentance. We are speaking of conscious decisions that are contrary to Scripture.

False Apostles Preach False Doctrine

Paul identifies those who preach a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you (Gal 1:8) as worthy of being cursed.

False Apostles Exhibit Self-Serving Leadership

If any man claims to serve as an apostle, yet “lords it over” or dominates those he works with, watch out. All ministers are called to get underneath as servants to build up, not to dominate or tear down. Spiritual dictators dominate; true apostles build others up.

Self-serving leadership is an example of a character deficiency. It’s so egregious, however, that I have given it a separate category in order to highlight the problem. I have seen a man with a genuine apostolic calling ridicule and abase fellow pastors and turn them into virtual slaves. By so doing he has disqualified himself as a genuine apostle.

We’ve seen gifted men betray their apostolic calling by failing in one or more of these areas.

It’s imperative to remember while considering true and false apostles that gifts alone do not make ministers either true or false apostles. A calling from God of itself does not determine which are true or false apostles. Miracles and supernatural works of power do not determine either true or false apostles. Character alone does not determine true or false apostles. Doctrine by itself does not show who are true or false apostles. It is the combination of all the above we are looking for to determine who are true and who are false apostles.

Among false apostles and prophets in Scripture, Balaam stands out. He’s mentioned by name 61 times in the New American Standard Bible, three times in the New Testaments.

Then God came to Balaam and said . . . (Num 22:9)  Surprisingly, God appeared to Balaam. False apostles can hear God speak.

God met Balaam” (Num 23:4) God even meets with false apostles!

When Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD . . . (Num 24:1) Balaam was perceptive; he could see what pleased and displeased God. Some false apostles have great gifts and perception; that does not mean they are true apostles.

And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him. (Num 24:2) Yes, the Holy Spirit can anoint even false apostles and prophets.

The following verses show Balaam was financially corrupt.  Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness. (2 Pet 2:15)

Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam . . . (Jude 1:11)

False apostles often mix true doctrine with false teachings. Balaam counseled Midian to seduce Israelite men into sexual immorality. His seduction worked. False apostles can eventually get carried away into immorality.

But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. (Rev 2:14)

Even though Balaam gave true prophecies and God spoke glorious oracles through him, he was corrupt. He was financially corrupt, demonstrated self-serving character, and taught false doctrine.

Local Churches Global Apostles is my research-based book that answers many questions about true and false apostles. Get it from Amazon.


  1. Thanks Mark! Just posted a link to this on my Facebook page.

  2. Greatly appreciate the post! Rich insights and artfully presented. Keep your peace!

    • Hello Bryon, Thanks for your note. I have now subscribed to you blog.

      It appears we are “cut from the same cloth” –actually Christ Himself. Hope to get to know you more. Mark

  3. Good article. I bookmarked it.

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