False Prophets Among Us
I recently spoke to a homeschooling mom from a city where many of her neighbours homeschool and there are churches on every corner. Not so where I come from, I told her. Where I come from, Christians are few and fellow homeschoolers even fewer. She responded with compassion, "It must be so hard for you", she said.
It can be challenging, I told her; "but it's harder for you, because you have to deal with false Christians."
Someone once said, "It is easier to teach Christ to a person who has never known Him than it is to teach the real Christ to someone who has been persuaded of another gospel."
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Pt. 2:1).
Are there false teachers among us? Of course there are. It's so easy to assume that our church doctrine is sound, that our friends are true Christians, and that our family members are all going to heaven, but I'm afraid that this too often isn't so.
The reality is that our enemy has never only been the obvious counter-Christian, atheist, or evolutionist propaganda, which is disseminated by Satan. Our fight is also - and has always been - with the higher influence of those posing quite convincingly as angels of light. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Mt. 7:15). They pose as the saved in Christ, use the right words, and act out the important parts to sneak in unawares, but all the while they are spreading falsehoods. Sadly, some sincere people, having been deceived by such agents, go in themselves amongst the flock as shepherds, and unwittingly do the will of the father of lies, misleading the flock just as effectively. Have you noticed?
Maybe they have a "five-year-plan" to convince you of what the gospel really is.
Maybe Jesus didn't really die for everyone.
Maybe you were never really saved.
Maybe some sins aren't entirely detrimental.
Maybe you don't have spiritual free will. Maybe God ordained your sin, even all sin. Maybe everything you do is the result of the determination of a God who works His glory through sin and His pleasure through death (Duguid 2013:104-105).
The very character of God is being impaled upon a stake. Open your eyes, Christian. There is a cult in our midst far more damaging than the doctrine of the JW's, the Mormons, or the Muslims because it lies hidden at the very foundation of the Christian church. It has been called Determinism, Lordship Salvation, New Covenant theology, Sovereign Grace, but is most commonly known as Calvinism or Reformed theology. Call it what you will, but you are in error if you call it Christian.
If you don't know your whole Bible, your understanding of God's character can be corrupted.
If you rely on the doctrines and traditions of man to tell you what the scriptures mean, your mind will learn to discriminate against the simple truth.
If you don't know the Old Testament prophets, your New Testament understanding will be frustrated and inadequate.
If you think that God ordains your sin, you don't know God.
If you think that you're the elect of God when you're not a Jew, you don't know Israel.
God said, "The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, and I commanded them not, and I spoke not to them: for they prophesy to you false visions, and divinations, and auguries, and devices of their own heart" (Jer. 14:14). There are preachers who call themselves prophets among us who claim to be teaching us the truth of God. Whose words are they really teaching?
The devices of their own hearts.
One of these false teachings recently came up in a conversation I had with a friend. She learned in a Bible Study that God ordains and uses her sin for good; therefore it can't all be bad. Right? Well, what does God say about that?
Does God "ordain" sin? Keep in mind that "ordain" is just an indirect way of saying that God determined it, or brought it about, which is a tenet of Calvinism. Did He?
The Bible says that God's heart does not design sin. Of one of Israel's worst sins, God said, "they have built the altar... to burn their sons and their daughters with fire; which I did not command them to do, neither did I design it in my heart" (Jer. 7:31). Clearly He does not design sin. Does He "create evil"?
There is a very important Old Testament distinction between sin and punishment. The same word, "evil" is used for them both (see Jer. 18:1-10 for a contextual example). God brings "evil" upon sinners to punish them and bring them to repentance. In this context, "evil" means "trouble" or "calamity". It is not the same word that is used for "sin". Isaiah 45:7 says that God will "create evil" as opposed to "peace". Is peace the opposite of sin? Of course not. Trouble or calamity is, and that is the word used in Greek for this verse. Has God ever brought trouble upon you as a result of your sin? If so, it is punishment justifiably incurred by your free will descision to sin against Him.
What does the Bible say about sin? Sin comes from the heart of man (Mt. 15:19) and was brought upon all men by Adam's disobedience (Rom. 5:19). God does not tempt anyone to sin, "But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (Jas. 1:14-15).
The Bible teaches that we bring sin upon ourselves and all sin brings death.
Is it God's will that we die? God wants us all to "choose life" (Dt. 30:19) - all of us. He also says, "As I live, I desire not the death of the ungodly, as that the ungodly should turn from his way and live: turn ye heartily from your way; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ez. 33:11).
The Bible teaches that God takes no pleasure in sin and no pleasure in punishment.
All sin is committed against God and separates us from Him (Jer. 3:25, Is. 59:2). If we are at odds with a brother, God will not accept our offering (Mt. 5:23-24). If we perform good works in God's name, but continue in our sin, our goodness is a filthy rag (Is. 69:5-6). If we have sin in our hearts, God will not hear our prayers (Pr. 15:8, 28:9). If we rejoice in doing what God hates, our impure souls will come to ruin (Pr. 6:16-19). When one caught in the act of adultery was freed by Jesus, He told her, "Go, and sin no more" (Jn. 8:11). It would be a complete contradiction of character for a holy God to tell her that and then arrange circumstances in her future to make her sin.
Sin brings about good? Glory? No - death. "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). God brings life.
Does God use our sin for good? Romans 8:28 seems to be the "proof text" of choice most often quoted for support, but the verse is added to, so it says something like this, "God works all things together for good... including sin"! But Romans 8 does not say that, and in fact is not about sin - it's about walking in the Spirit of God. It tells us that God works good for those who are His - for those who love Him. Those who love Him (have an overwhelming desire to) obey Him (Jn. 14:15). If you truly love God, would you really try to convince Him that although you ignored His comands, brought shame to His name, and incurred upon yourself a reproach from Satan, you know that He can work it all for good?
The ultimate good that God has predetermined on our behalf is salvation - so that all those who believe in Him can be the firstborn among many brethren, be conformed to the image of Jesus, and be called, justified, and glorified (vs. 29-30). These things can only occur after our body of flesh dies. Therefore, the context of Romans 8:28 is clearly in reference not to the sin that is worked on earth, but to our ultimate good that God has already worked on our behalf, which is the glory of heaven.
There is a particular sin unto death, the Bible says. It is called blasphemy - attributing evil to that which is holy. Those who say, infer, or even suggest that God has ordained, orchestrated, designed, willed, or authored sin are identifying God as the causative source of all evil. They are committing blasphemy. An intellectually-honest Reformist knows that this is the logical conclusion of his doctrine. And yet, he believes it anyway.
Maybe some of you have committed the sin of blasphemy in ignorance because of what false teachers have told you. This is forgivable (1 Tim. 1:13). Maybe some of you identify yourselves as Reformists but are unaware of its falsehoods. This is repaired by knowledge. With more information, we can make better choices.
And what happens to those who teach lies? God says that false teachers "walked in lies, and strengthened the hands of many, that they should not return each from his evil way..." (Jer. 23:14). Who tells you that God wills your sin? Who, thereby, excuses it for you and effectively encourages you to remain in it? - A false teacher who has "strengthened" your hands for evil. "I sent not the prophets, yet they ran: neither spoke I to them, yet they propesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and if they had hearkened to my words, then would they have turned my people from their evil practices" (Jer. 23:22).
So it is not of God when any spiritual leader tells you that sin or evil is ordained by Him. God says that such prophets defile the land (Jer. 23:15). He says, "Hearken not to the words of the prophets: for they frame a vain vision for themselves; they speak from their own heart, and not from the mouth of the Lord" (Jer. 23:16). Your source of truth must never be with them, but with God.
Know that the people who listen to the false prophets and would rather accept their lies than seek the truth are judged, too. "And the people to whom they prophesy, they also shall be cast out in the streets... and there shall be none to bury them: their wives also, and their sons, and their daughters shall die thus; and I will pour out their wickedness upon them" (Jer. 14:16).
You are accountable for what you choose to believe. Make sure it's the truth.
Thanks for reading.
Peter and Paige
Duguid, Barbara. Extravagant Grace. (2013) P&R Publishing: Phillipsburg, NJ