Last week we talked a bit about the inevitability of becoming a ‘Stumbling Block’ for our brothers. This week I want to continue that discussion but address the more serious charge of ‘False Prophet’.
I hear conversations where this label gets thrown around completely out of context of Scripture. We have reduced the transgressions necessary too become one, but not the sentence mandated too those found guilty. In other words, many Christians are labeled as ‘False Prophets’ without fulfilling the Scriptural mandated crime of intent.
Matthew 7:15 says, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
2 Peter 2:1 says, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
As described in the New Testament, the word ‘false’ means…pseudo…or fake. The definition in Greek explains the title of ‘pseudo’ this way…there is an intent to mislead, an intent to serve self, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I suppose…if I wanted to wear the hat of the world…I could argue the wolf doesn’t really know he is a wolf. Maybe he is a trans-species wolf, which is, a wolf confused about his identity, carnivore vs herbivore. My point is this…the human authors of the New Testament understood they had an enemy. That enemy was going to launch assault after assault against the church. Some of those assaults would be political, some of those assaults would be personal, and some of those assaults would be through infiltration.
Understand, this is what I am NOT saying, “We do not need to be on the lookout for False Prophets and Teachers within the modern day church.”
What I am saying is this, “Everyone we disagree with theologically is not a false prophet.”
If this were true, then every one of us would be a false prophet. We need to remember that to each one of us a “measure of faith” has been given…by God’s choice. As we grow in our faith…as we receive more and more of our measure…truth will be revealed to us. Our ability to understand and minister to others will increase proportionately with our surrender to Him. We can only preach and teach the truth which has been revealed to us…so far. As we keep digging, more truth gets revealed, which means we have more to share with others. However, our enemy today is the same enemy back then. The assaults (politically, personally, infiltration, etc.) will continue. We need to be armored up against them and able to recognize ‘pseudo’ when we see it.
“OK…how do we do that?”
The key to my answer is in the ‘phraseology’ of the question. Dude…we can’t do that, but God can. Lets read 1 John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
“Oh yeah…I knew that. We need to test the spirits first, I remember that…wait, how do we do that?”
We need to pray. When that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach starts and the cold sweat starts to trickle down your neck…PRAY. When you overhear the conversation about such and such and the words of ‘false prophet’ floats through the air…PRAY. Ask God to clear up the confusion and to provide the insight needed for discernment. If there really is a false prophet in our midst…do you think God would not provide the necessary insight to expose them? Saying all of that, there will be Pastors, Elders, and buddies we are uncomfortable with. They hold a theological point of view that rubs us wrong. This does not make them ‘pseudo’, it just means God has called them to reach those with a similar attraction to God. God draws each of us toward Him based on our distinct personalities. Meaning…what attracts me to God, may not be what attracts you toward God. This doesn’t make one of us right and the other wrong…it makes us both attracted toward God.
Lets read the rest of the passage from 1 John 4: 2-3, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”
So, back to that Pastor, Elder, buddy whose theology rubs you wrong…does he profess Christ as the Son of God and that He came in the flesh to live among us, dying on the cross and rising on the third day, to serve as the propitiation of our sins…? If he does, he may understand Scripture a bit differently than you…but he is a member of the body of Christ. The difficulty comes when differing members of the body; toes, ears, and elbows are trying to work together and blend their differing measures, weld there differing interpretations, and mesh their differing personalities into one cohesive effort. Especially if there is differing opinions on “who” the audience is. This is when LOVE steps in and bathes everything in the comfort and peace of our Fathers embrace because stumbling blocks (potentially) are lying around everywhere.
This situation reminds me of two different passages of Scripture, the first is in Acts 18: 24-26, “Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
2 Peter 3: 14-17, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness”
In Acts, we have a man “lit up” by the Holy Spirit who was teaching boldly all of the truth which was revealed to him…so far. Priscilla and Aquila heard him and realized his knowledge of truth needed stretched a bit. This stretching, could have been a stumbling block to the receiving of the ‘measure’ poured out to Apollos. It wasn’t. I presume because LOVE bathed the stretching. The passage in 2 Peter speaks about our responsibility to obey the truth as we understand it…even when it is hard to understand…and to be on guard against those whose intent is to twist truth. Paul’s ‘hard to understand’ writings could be viewed as stumbling blocks if the LOVE inherent to him was not widely understood.
Likewise, if the inherent love within us is not recognized…we may be…and we may accuse…others of being “Stumbling Blocks” and “False Prophets”. When in reality, we are all “Stumbling Prophets” and “False Blocks” while we receive our ‘measure of faith’ and surrender ourselves to LOVE. It’s a process….one Peter refers to in the passage above, “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation…”