Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Beware of False Prophets Part 2

By A.W. Pink

1Pet. 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;

The general characteristic of ‘false prophets’ is that they make vital godliness to be a less strict and easier thing than it actually is, more agreeable to fallen human nature, and thus they encourage the unregenerate to be satisfied with something which comes short of true grace. So the Pharisees did, notwithstanding all their strictness. {#Mt 23:25} So the papists do, notwithstanding all their boasted austerities. So Arminians do, notwithstanding all their seeming zeal for good works. So the Antinomians do, notwithstanding their pretended superior light and joy, zeal and confidence. This is the common mark of all false teachers: rejecting the Divine way, they manufacture one to suit themselves, and however they may differ among themselves, they all agree to make the practice of piety and the Christian walk an easier thing than the Scriptures do, to offer salvation on cheaper terms, to make the gate wider and the way to heaven broader than did Christ and His apostles. It is this which explains the secret of their popularity: ‘They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them’. {#1Jo 4:5} But of such Christ warns his people to ‘beware,’ for they feed souls with poison and not with the pure milk of the Word.

‘Which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’ In those words Christ emphasized the danger of these false prophets: the character they assumed is well calculated to deceive the unwary. The Lord here alluded to a device employed by false prophets in former times who counterfeited the true servants of God by wearing their distinctive attire. Elijah, in regard to his garments, was called ‘a hairy man’, {#2Ki 1:8} and therefore when John the Baptist came ‘in the spirit and the power of Elias’ {#Lu 1:17} we are told that he ‘had his raiment of camel’s hair’. {#Mt 3:4} When then the agents of Satan posed as the true prophets they counterfeited their attire that they might more easily seduce the people, as is clear from #Zec 13:4, where Jehovah declared that a day would come when the prophet should be ashamed of the vision he had prophesied and should no more wear ‘a garment of hair to deceive.’ Thus by this evident reference Christ intimated the plausible pretences of the heretical teachers, the subterfuges which they would employ to conceal their real character and design, thereby stressing what dangerous persons they are and how urgent is the need for His people to be constantly on their guard against those who seek their destruction.

‘Which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.’ They pose as being the very opposite of what they really are. They are agents of the evil one, yet claim to be the servants of the Holy One. Their place is on the outside, in the forests and mountains, yet. they intrude themselves within the fold. This intimates their great craftiness and seeming piety. People think they are teaching them the way to heaven, when in fact they are conducting them to hell. Often they are difficult to discover, for they ‘creep into houses and lead captive silly women’, {#2Ti 3:6} yea, even in apostolic times some of them successfully ‘crept in unawares’ {#Jude 4} into the assemblies of the saints. It was of such Paul wrote when he said, ‘For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel: for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness’. {#2Co 11:13-15} Though their clothing be ‘sheep’s,’ yet they have the fierceness and cruelty of wolves.

In addition to their subtlety and plausibility, frequently accompanied by a most winsome personality and an apparently saintly walk, there is a real danger of our being deceived by these false prophets and receiving their erroneous teaching by virtue of the fact that there is that within the Christian himself which responds to and approves of their lies. How immeasurably this intensifies our peril! That which flatters is pleasing to the flesh; that which abases is distasteful. Paul complains of this very thing to the Corinthians. Some had evidently resented his plain speaking in the first epistle, wherein he had rebuked their sins, for in his second he wrote, ‘would to God ye could bear with me a little’. {#2Co 11:1} The Galatians first received the Gospel so gladly from him that they would have plucked out their eyes had that advantaged him, {#Ga 4:15} yet soon after they imbibed deadly error from the Judaizers, and when the apostle took them to task for this he had to ask them, ‘Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?’. {#Ga 4:16} Thus it was with the multitudes in connection with our Saviour: acclaiming Him with their hosannas and less than a week later crying, ‘Away with Him, crucify Him,’ so fickle and treacherous is the human heart.

What point does this give to our Lord’s command, ‘take heed what ye hear’. {#Mr 4:24} Corrupt nature is thoroughly in love with error and will more readily and eagerly receive false than true doctrine. Should any dispute our statement, we would refer them to ‘the prophets prophesy falsely and the priests bear rule by their means; and My people love to have it so’. {#Jer 5:31} Said Christ unto the Jews, ‘because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not’: {#Joh 8:45} what a commentary on fallen human nature—had He preached lies they had promptly received Him.

Alas, what is man: he will run greedily after something new and sensational, but is soon bored by the old story of the Gospel. How feeble is the Christian, how weak his faith, how fickle and unstable the moment he is left to himself. Peter, the most courageous and forward of the apostles in his profession, denied his Master when challenged by a maid. Even when given a heart to love the Truth, we still have ‘itching ears’ for novelties and errors, as the Israelites welcomed the manna at first, but soon grew weary of it and lusted after the fleshpots of Egypt. Real and urgent then is our need to heed this command, ‘Beware of false prophets.’

Isa. 35:8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

Amen! Amen! We need more sound, bold and firey preching in our day. Where are the men that will hold high the standard of true holiness! May we fix our eyes upon the joy set before us. Let us not allow the false prophets of our day deter us from "traveling on the highway to holiness".

Bro. Pat

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