Bible Lesson 172

False Prophets/Predators

It would have been well for the church of Christ, if the warnings of the Gospel had been as much studied as its promises. J.C. Ryle

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

“IT IS THE HALF-CHRISTIAN CLERGY, OF EVERY DENOMINATION, THAT ARE THE MAIN CAUSE OF THE SO-CALLED FAILURE OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.” GEORGE MacDONALD

It is my prayer and hope that those who read this message will read it with an open mind, taking to heart the point that has been made by God through vessels like myself and many others over the centuries since God created the world. Before there was what we call, a church, there were those who were misrepresenting God’s Word and will to those who would listen. Think about this . . ., not long after the Creation was finished, and God had made man (Adam and Eve) and placed them in that Paradise that was called The Garden of Eden, there appeared the first false prophet and tempted Eve and caused her to tempt her husband Adam.

That false prophet was the devil himself and he took the word that God had spoken and mixed them with his own words and by doing so influenced her to disobey God and then she influenced Adam to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had said to the couple, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”. . . but Satan said to Eve, “Has God indeed said, you shall not eat of every tree of the garden'”

Satan had taken God’s words and turned them on their head, and this caused this simple woman to begin a conversation with the devil. . . and we all know the devil is cunning and uses words that he twists and takes out of context to lead people away from the truth of God.Notice now, that Satan did not have to twist Eve’s arm, just jumble up the words of God, and make them sound the way he wanted her to think. Could this smartest woman alive be tricked that easily’

You know she was; and I refer to her as the smartest woman alive, because at that time she was the only woman alive. You are probably thinking to yourself about now, what has this all got to do with false preachers and teachers in the church in our day’ The answer is that this is just the beginning of false teaching and preaching, and since Eve bought the devil’s lie, it has only grown worse over these thousands of years. Is it bad in our time here in the 21st century’ It is just about as bad as we think it can get. I think it was that great old preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon who said, ‘Many a thief is a better man than many a clergyman, and miles nearer the gate of the Kingdom’.

It should not be a surprise to us that Satan, the same one that tempted Eve, has been practicing his skills at deception all this time and he now has some colleges and seminaries that carry on his lie. You may not want to hear it, but we are in a mess when it comes to preparing young or even old men for the ministry. So many are mama ‘called’ and daddy ‘sent’; and they go to these places unsaved and unsure and they are reaffirmed in their error and receive degrees. Then they go back to congregations who want nothing but a man with a paper degree as their preacher, and he confuses them even more than they already are. I have no axe to grind with education as long as it instills only the truth in these men, but it is evident that most come away with only doubts and trite little dodges that they use every Sunday as they preach some other preachers outline. These kinds of false prophets and teachers, have no compunction about standing between God and unsaved people and caring about nothing but making a good impression with the congregation, and never making anyone angry by confronting them with God’s truths.

If you think that you can get by the judgment using some false preacher and his worthless oration as your defense, you had better see if you can find someone who can make you some asbestos underwear, because you are headed for hell. False prophets are to be found in the circles of the most orthodox, and they pretend to have a fervent love for souls, yet they fatally delude multitudes concerning the way of salvation. The pulpit, platform, and pamphlet hucksters have wantonly lowered the standard of divine holiness and so adulterated the Gospel in order to make it palatable to the carnal mind. False prophets are to be found in the circles of the most orthodox, and they pretend to have a fervent love for souls, yet they fatally delude multitudes concerning the way of salvation. The pulpit, platform, and pamphlet hucksters have wantonly lowered the standard of divine holiness and so adulterated the Gospel in order to make it palatable to the carnal mind. According to A.W. Pink.

To seek unity with false prophets without challenging their errors leaves one’s own beliefs open to questions. Those who defend heretics, even if they do not believe in their teachings, are guilty of lending credibility to their heresies, and will be held accountable to God for the souls that are destroyed as a result. It’s up to those that know the truth to defend the Church against false teachers whatever the cost to unity or to personal benefit. Unity is not found in uniformity of thought, but in the fellowship of the Spirit, based on sound doctrine which, in turn, is predicated on the clear teaching of Scripture. This is why Paul exhorts us to “mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom 16:17). The false prophets call for unity based, not, on Scriptural doctrine, but on their [the false prophets] claim for authority. Those who insist on fellowship based on sound doctrine are labeled legalists, while the false prophets are the ones imposing unscriptural demands upon those who follow them.

People don’t often go heretical all at once. It is gradual. And they do not do so intentionally most of the time. They slip into it through shoddiness and laziness in handling the word of truth. . . All it takes to start the road to heresy is a craving for something new and different, a flashy new idea, along with a little laziness or carelessness or lack of precision in handling the truth of God. All around us today are startling reminders of doctrinal slippage and outright failure. In case after case someone who should have known the truth of God, failed in upholding that truth. The mark of the false prophet or teacher is self-serving unfaithfulness to God and His truth.

It may be that he says what he shouldn’t; but it is far more likely that he will err by failing to say what he should. He will gloss over all the tough questions and issues as did the false prophets in the Old Testament who went around saying, “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace (Jer. 6:14). They wouldn’t speak the tough words calling for repentance, nor suggest that Israel was out of sorts spiritually. Instead they brought groundless comfort, lulling people into a false sense of security so that their hearers were totally unprepared for the judgment which eventually came on them. There are teachers in the church today who never speak of repentance, self-denial, the call to be relatively poor for the Lord’s sake, or any other demanding aspect of discipleship. Naturally they are popular and approved, but for all that, they are false prophets. We will know such people by their fruits.

Fruits does not mean they are sweet people who never confront sin in the lives of their congregation. Fruits do not mean a great oration that never really tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Fruits do not speak of preachers who visit the sick or perform marriages and burials (those are side items), fruits means does He daily look for imperfect sacrifices, precious sins that will take you to hell, and fruit speaks of preachers preparing the flock to stand in the face of the wolves and speak the truth about God and Christ. Look at the people to whom they have ministered. Do these folks really know and love the Lord’ Are they prepared to take risks, even hazard their lives, for Jesus’ Or are they comfortable, inactive, and complacent’ If so, they are self-deceived, and those who have irresponsibly encouraged their self-deception will have to answer for it, of course, those who are too ignorant to know the deception will answer to it and that answering will be eternal. Anyone who is in a position of spiritual leadership who fails to teach the more demanding, less comfortable, “narrow gate” and “rough road” side of discipleship becomes a false prophet.

Even if you speak out about Biblical statements with others around, you may unknowably be a false prophet. Churches order most of their teachings from their denomination headquarters or some other source, and they teach whatever the book says without attempting to understand it in Biblical context. I want you to know that it is not easy to ‘call out’ others, who may have good intentions, but who teach heresy because they are not careful enough or just too lazy to read the Bible and take their teachings from God’s Word. That is the reason, that what you have read so far is a mixture of my knowledge and others like J.I Packer, Spurgeon and J.C. Philpot, who years before I was born, were warning an unawares church. Jude teaches in His little Epistle ” Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for ‘the faith’ which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” I want you to notice now that the writer is Jude, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, who wrote this possibly a few decades after the Cross.

It seems evident that already this close to the beginning of the Church, there were those who were sent by Satan to attempt to get the new congregations to accept the devils lie. They came preaching a gospel that was not the gospel. I mention that just in case you think that simply men who come to congregations with the Bible open and preach great oratory are not necessarily leading you to heaven; but rather they are fooling you to hell. Brothers and Sisters it is time that we woke up to the fact that Satan is alive and well and that he is surely subverting the gospel so that he can lure as many of the uninformed or careless into hell so that he will have plenty of company there. We have wavered and turned away from saving truth; and substituted it with politically correct, junk science, feel good, pseudo-truth which is worthless to our souls. We need to earnestly heed the warning of Jesus’ half brother Jude and begin to contend for ‘The Faith’, the truth that was once for all delivered to the saints. Notice that Jude warned them and us to contend earnestly (smell the sweat) for “THE FAITH”. . . not a faith or some faith or your faith or their faith but THE FAITH, that was once for all delivered to the writers of the sacred text that is our Bible.

Jesus Christ, God in the flesh was concerned about and warned us to be on guard against false prophets, in the greatest sermon ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said and this applies to those who heard it or read it back there and to us today “Enter ye in at the strait gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” In Matthew 7:13, Jesus Christ speaks to us and says . . . ,Enter you in at the strait or narrow gate, that is not an invitation or a suggestion, it is a command, and we know that is a command because it is in the imperative tense. So Jesus says to every man woman and child who will ever desire forgiveness for their sin, enter in at this narrow gate. . . .and then Jesus goes on in that same verse and says there is a reason for us all to be very careful because the devil has a gate also, and he has made his wide and easy to find with no difficulty to get in at his gate; and for that reason Jesus continues there to say ‘many go in by it’. In these verses here in Matthew chapter 7:13-15, Jesus is warning us all that we had better be careful, because the devil has set a trap and has baited it with the very thing that will attract the most humans. Satan baited his trap with the luxury of ‘ease’.

Verse 14 of Matthew chapter seven tells us that the gate is narrow and the way is difficult, which leads to life and only a few will find it. So the true seekers of salvation are confronted with a decision; and we must choose which gate and which way we select. We can read and believe what God in the flesh spoke to us about salvation and courageously enter at that narrow gate where we can not bring anything through but our bodies. We who are saved have offered our bodies as living sacrifices, acceptable to God. We have divested ourselves of everything especially ourselves and we are ready in the power of God, the Holy Spirit, to walk that narrow way that requires our attention, our attitude and our dedication to please God in all things. If you have read Matthew 7:14 (NKJV), you know that it says that “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which lead leads to live. . . .there will be few who find it.” That explains why so many in our day who regularly attend some church really never carry much away after the service.

I would ask you to remember now that we are dealing with the Word of God as spoken by God in the flesh. Jesus Christ is about to conclude His Sermon on the Mount and has just warned us about the devil’s trap (That wide gate and broad way); and them in the very next verse, verse 15, Jesus gives us an additional warning! Jesus says. . . in effect, that He has just warned us about the thing that will cause most people to end up in hell and is that Satan has set a trap for us. For those who are familiar with the Bible you know already that whatever God does, Satan sets us something to look or sound much like it, but it is just another trap. God has a strait gate, the devil has a wide gate. God has a narrow way, the devil has a broad way. . . .and the great difference is that God’s way leads to heaven and the devil’s leads to hell. Jesus warn us there in verse 15.. . . . “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” if we just read that in passing like most of us do the Bible, it doesn’t alarm us at all.

We may think, well sure enough there are a few false prophets in the world but not many, and thank God our pastor is not one of them. Our pastor looks like an angel, and he is so sweet to us, he never would think about hurting anyone’s feelings. He preaches right from the Bible and I know he is teaching us the right things. But doesn’t Jesus warn us about just that kind of prophet. . . .he comes to us looking just like us, preaching just what we want him to preach and he never has refused fellowship to anyone who comes to join our group. That is just the prophet or preacher most churches in our day require. But Christ tells us to be careful, because we can be fooled very easily and some of these that look so good to us are inwardly like ravening wolves. Think about this . . . Jesus calls His people sheep and he calls these that are close but not true, wolves. What happens when a sheep and a wolf get together’ The wolf eats the sheep. So in the words of the Savior . . . , . . Beware! In the word of the half-brother of Jesus Christ, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude points out our problem or at least one of our problems in churches today. . . we are unaware, off guard, apathetic and we have decided what we want is someone who can get along with us and the rest of the world and that opens the door to people who should know better but they preach nothing but peace, peace, when there is no peace.

Jude goes on in his little epistle to warn us that there is a cost to being that unaware, because God knows what is going on and God will punish us for it just like the Hebrews that came out of Egypt. God had opened the Red sea, sustained them and cared for them as they made their way to the promised land and when they arrived there, they could look across the Jordan and see the Land that God had promised. But they got together and sent 12 spies across to spy out the land and when the spies returned and they heard about the giants and walled cities on the other side, they refused to go across. God gave them all an about face and turned them back into the wilderness until every person alive when they demonstrated their unbelief, by refusing to go across the Jordan died in the wilderness. Caleb and Jacob the only two spies that wanted to believe that God would protect them because He had promised, and those under 20 years of age were allowed to go into the promised land. I tell you that, and you can read it for yourselves if you go to the little book of Jude, to prove to you that it is important, crucial, critical what we believe. We have been led to believe that as long as we believe something and believe it sincerely, that we are saved; but that is a lie off the mud-sills of hell, and was given to us by false prophets.

Now, what makes a false prophet a false prophet’ In the old Testament if a prophet or one who held himself out as a prophet, Prophesied something that did not come to pass, God said that he was a false prophet. (Deuteronomy 18:22). In the Old Testament prophets foretold the future under the inspiration of God. Under the New Testament a preacher is obligated to preach what God has said (The Bible) and whenever He leaves the truth of the Bible and begins to tell fairy tales and attempts to apply his own wisdom to God’s word , He is a false prophet or preacher. In our day false preachers have come up with a new and novel way to keep from telling the truth, they simply ignore it, refuse to preach it or put their spin on it.

You may ask, well, how can we be sure that we have false prophets in our time’ I would answer, we see preachers preaching much that is not in the Bible and their congregations seem to explode. There are several I could name but I won’t attempt to name them all right now because it is impossible for one man to know them all, but I will name a couple that seem to be teaching false doctrine (Not Biblical), and they preach to thousands every time they preach. Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn and others too numerous to mention. I mention these just to make a point about the presence of them in our time. I probably do not have enough paper to write all of their names, if I knew them all. Dr Luke who wrote the book of Luke mentions how easily it will be to identify them in Luke 6:26. That verse tells us that Jesus spoke about them and said “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.”

Remember Jesus said that the truth is difficult to follow (Matthew 7:13-15). So men who preach the truth of the Word of God will at first be wounded by it’s words. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” The only way that men will ever see their need for the gospel is to be told about their being under God’s Wrath and why they are there. A man who does not know he is lost and an enemy of God will never see the need for salvation. So it does bear investigation when you see some mealy mouthed preacher who never sees anything as sin, never comes down on either side of the fence but instead sits on the fence, drawing crowds of people who will not hear the truth so they flock to these who smother the truth of God’s word. There is only one way that you will ever be able to separate the false from the true and that is by devouring the Word of God, the Bible for yourselves. Till next time beware of false prophets and never become one.

Until next time,

may God bless and keep you

This is Bro. Bob