False Prophets for Hire
The following thought is presented with fear and trembling, and should be examined with the same spirit. We who are in places of leadership in the Kingdom of God where we are able to influence others with words, are in a unique and extremely dangerous position. I would hope that each one of us are in such a place by the grace and mercy of God, because, with this great privilege is great responsibility and accountability; more than we can imagine this side of the judgment seat of Christ. But when we see Him, it will be too late to correct anything.
As an introduction, let me point out Mark 15:11, where we see the corrupt religious leaders moving the crowd for their own purpose. We, in our minds, hold Pilate, a politician of the first degree who gave the people what they desired, accountable for this evil deed. But as we follow history, we know that the Lord held the religious leaders accountable to a far greater extent than He did the corrupt political system which joined in the murder.
Compare what the Lord told the high priest in Mark 14:62, with what He told Pilate, John 19:11. The Lord visited these religious leaders who had their way with the crowd in a terrible judgment in 70 A.D. He did not visit the corrupt politicians in like manner, even though they were swayed by public opinion to allow the Lord's death. Therefore, harsh judgment was against these corrupt religious leaders who moved the people for their own purpose, not against the corrupt political order which responded to the wishes of the people.
The cause of the death of Christ was primarily religious, as is every activity of man. The political leadership responded to the religious attitude of the people, as formed by the religious leaders.
Obviously, the cause of the antichrist attitude of our day in the civil government, is a direct result of the antinomian attitude of the so-called Christian community. (Cf. Isa. 9:13-17; 13:17; 17:9-11; 24:1-6; ch. 30, etc.)
Therefore, the increasing attack against Christ in our day is primarily a religious attack, led by the religious crowd who desire to be separated from the law of God. The only hope for society is to deal with the problems which are confronting us as religious problems.
(Walter Williams, A diet of political pork, Indpls. Star, 9/14/91. "Congressmen are doing precisely what Americans vote them into office to do: use their power to confiscate that which belongs to one American and give it to another." Thus, corrupt civil government is a religious problem, not a political problem.)
As we look at Pilate's situation, we say, "How wicked! I would never do that." To which I would say, "Read on, because this very kind of activity is extremely prevalent, even in our Bible believing circles." Furthermore, if we will be honest, what we are going to cover is an extremely tempting method to use to "increase" what we believe God would have us to do.
Jude 16-19, These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. Peter presents the same warning in 2 Peter 2:18. It is obvious from Paul's statements in 1 Corinthians, along with Peter and Jude, that false teachers abounded, even in the first church. The church at Corinth, which Paul had founded and grounded in the faith, had been split into divisions. Each division used the word of God to strengthen their influence, resulting in the sure confidence that their influence was strong enough to prevent Paul from coming back to this church. (2 Cor. 11, 13.)
It appears that as soon as Christ ascended, false teachers descended on the church like a flock of vultures. We will find that throughout the NT, the warning is against false teachers in the church who would seek to misuse the word of God for their own benefit. There is very little, if any, warning against corrupt civil government. Many times it seems to be reversed today, with very little warning against false teachers.
At Corinth, the false teachers were presenting Christian humanism (Christianized Greco-Roman culture). They were teaching the word of God in such a manner as to mold the people into the image that the teacher wanted them to be (or what the people wanted to be), rather than into the image of Christ, the total Word of God. These were teachers following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, 2 Peter 2:15. The purpose of Balaam's teaching was for his personal advantage.
Peter warns us about the proliferation in these last days, of teachers who will appeal to the lust of the flesh, either the teacher's own lust, or the lust of others. They will give the people only what they want them to hear or what the people want to hear, vs. 18, 19. The reason for their doing this is for their own advantage. They love the wages of unrighteousness. They use proud and flattering words to sway others to follow in their way. This is contrasted by Jude with Christian humility and submission before God.
The dumb ass, speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet, preventing Balaam from saying what he wanted to say that he might gain the reward. But, as we know, the prospect of the great reward which was offered caused him to find a way around the warning of the Lord through the ass. He obeyed the letter of the law and spoke only blessing upon Israel, but he secretly violated its spirit. He could not openly curse the children of Israel, but taught Balac how to use the law to bring God's curse upon His own people, Revelation 2:14.
What do we mean? Peter tells us that these teachers were willing to use the law-word of God however it was needed, for the advantage that was in it for them.
Advantage.. wages of unrighteousness.. False teachers do not necessarily present blatant false doctrines such as denying the virgin birth, the blood atonement, or other obvious principles of God's word. In fact, they might teach very dogmatically certain principles of God's word, including a willingness to suffer persecution for said principles, if it will enhance the advantage they are seeking.
Balaam instructed Balac in the truth. "If you can get Israel to commit sin by eating things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication, then you will have God on your side. God will curse them for you. You can use the principles of God's word to accomplish what you desire." But, Balaam did not take into consideration the grace and mercy of God, and finally, God's wrath against him. The point is that Balaam taught Balac how to use the law-word of God for his personal advantage, to gain what he wanted. We all know the results.
We are told many times that one of the major marks of false teachers in the last days in which we live, is that their messages are designed to accomplish their own desires, to promote their own thing. To these teachers, holiness and godliness are a mockery, because these qualities are not their goal, 2 Peter 3:3. Their goal is to sway their hearer to their own way of thinking, to mold their hearers into the image they desire.
Two marks of a false teacher would be: 1. Gives the people only what he wants them to hear. 2. Gives the people only what they want to hear. In both situations, the teacher avoids giving the people the whole counsel of God (or the whole truth about a matter), because of the advantage that is in it for him. (And all of us who are teachers must face this very difficult decision; give the people the whole truth and lose them or give them what they want to hear and keep them.)
Advantage.. wages of unrighteousness.. We must not fall into the trap of restricting our definition of these words to the world's definition of material prosperity, such as an increase in material goods. Such an increase would certainly be included, but this would only be one aspect. This would include an increase in the number of followers, esteem in the eyes of others and power or influence. A more general identification of false teaching would be any message or action that is not motivated for the glory of God, the increase of His kingdom, and the conformation of the hearer to Christ.
There are certainly advantages and wages to be gained by appealing to the lust of the flesh. These wages can easily be mistaken for the wages of righteousness, because on the surface they may appear the same; increase and gain.
Christianity is controlled by this spirit of Balaam today. The most dangerous false teachers do not depart from the basic principles of the word of God, but they preach it in such a way as to gain whatever advantage they desire.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 4, Paul deals with the man-centered (humanistic) gospel of prosperity and self-esteem. By prosperity we must include using the word of God to accomplish personal goals. By self-esteem, we must include puffing (pumping) up the hearers to influence them to 'religious' activity. This is contrary to teaching them to live by faith. (The leaders of Mk. 15 pumped up the crowd to religious activity!)
Now, obviously, every teacher is open to this temptation and is capable of being taken captive by it to some extent, as the word of God is presented. This is why it is extremely important for us to follow Paul's instruction to Timothy and Titus. The basis for study and instruction must always be the entire word of God, and the complete holiness of God's people according to the total of God's law. Paul warns Timothy of this very problem of teachers who have a form of godliness, but the motive behind their teaching is to satisfy lust, 2 Timothy 3:1-9. Paul also told Timothy to withdraw from them. They were contrary to the spirit and doctrine of Christ, thus antichristian.
How many sermons are preached, how many books are written, how much 'spiritual activity' is performed with the motive of gain in some way or another. Sometimes the ungodly motives are noticeable, but most of the time, only the teacher knows if he is using a personal lust or a personal lust of his hearer to accomplish his goal. And some times even he might not know. Regardless, the problem is identified by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:5.
It is an extremely difficult task to look past the speech of individuals to the power of God. The emotions of the hearer may be swayed as the waves of the sea, but is it the power of God doing the swaying? A good speaker soon learns how to 'work the crowd' that he might get the response that he desires.
Nothing is to be taken for granted because the spirit of antichrist is gone out. We are to try the spirits, 1 John 4:1. This is why it is so important for Philippians 3:15 to become a part of every teacher's (and hearer's) heart. "Lord, if in anything I am contrary to Your will and word, I am willing to see it. I am willing to have my desires and motives changed. I am willing, by Your grace, to deal with whatever it might be."
Exodus 23:1-13, requires honesty toward even those we have a problem with. Not only is this required in the court room, but is also required in our every day activity. This is the law behind our Lord's words in Matthew 5:43-48, (v. 44, But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; Also, Pro. 25:21.). Honesty is required at all times, toward all people, but always in terms of God's law not man's thought. (Therefore, when one intentionally seeks to destroy us or the Kingdom, they are not owed the truth. This is another study.)
V. 1, prohibits joining with others in a falsehood. The margin says, receive, to believe a false report. The context would also indicate the purpose of the false report is for the gain which might be involved.
V. 2, is spoken by the Wise man in Proverbs 1, as he warns against joining with the wrong crowd. This crowd is determined to do evil, to do what ever is required in order to get what they want. This could easily refer to conspiratory groups, but the context would point to a group of people conspiring against someone whom they perceive to have money, "Deep Pockets."
V. 2, neither shalt thou speak in a cause.. (Marg. is answer.) And the cause is to subvert justice. In other words, be sure our answers are honest. It is easy to use an answer to give a false impression, especially if we perceive something in it for us.
V. 3, Leviticus 19:15, righteousness is our standard, not someone's financial status. We are warned not to follow our natural desire to give the rich man special treatment, James chapter 2. But here we have the basic law prohibiting special treatment for the poor.
We are living in a wicked day which is controlled by a sinful desire to place every one on the same level; socialism. The result is that laws are passed and used to rob from the 'rich' and to give it to the 'poor.' We know that the motive behind this evil is not care for the poor, but rather, it is money. It has been documented that with the money being spent on social programs for the 'poor,' each 'poor' family of 4 could receive a yearly income of $40,000. There is money in socialism for those at the top at the expense of those at the bottom.
Exodus 23:4, 5, the care of an enemy's ox or ass would seem to be out of place with the context speaking of honesty, v. 6-9. So, what do we have here? Evidently the man who owns the ox and ass is a man of means, to one extent or another. He has an ox and ass as well as land to use them on.
He is thine enemy. Why? Who knows. We only know that for some reason, he has offended or done something against 'us.' He may hate us and has taken advantage of us. We see his ox or ass going astray, wandering down the lane. The first thought is, "He has the money. He will never miss the ox or ass, and he should have taken better care for it. Losers weepers, finders keepers. And besides, we don't get along anyway. Now is my chance to get even with him. "
Maybe the animal is being overworked or overloaded. The ass is fallen under his burden, or is in a ditch. The requirement is to help the animal. We are not to allow the personal relationship with the owner to influence our obedience to the Lord, preventing our help for his animal in need.
It would be so easy to look at the prosperity of this neighbor, remember the evil he has done to us, and say that he can afford to lose his animal. It is so tempting to let the personal feelings between us influence our willingness to help him.
V. 6, tells us of a poor person who has a cause against the one we have a problem with. (Cause; dispute, controversy, case at law, Deut. 25:1.)
V. 7, the poor man's cause is unjust and false, or he may be expecting special treatment because he is poor. He is using corrupt justice to reach into our enemy's pockets.
To side with the ones who have an unjust cause against our enemy is to slay him. It is wickedness and God will not justify the wicked, whether the wicked is the poor who is trying to steal from the one we dislike, or us, who side according to personal feelings. The child of God must always side with righteousness, above personal feelings.
V. 8, gives us a reason for siding with the poor in his unjust cause. There is the prospect of a reward involved. Maybe we will see our desire accomplished upon the one we dislike, or maybe we will gain in some way. The prospect of gain causes blindness to, or shades the truth of a matter. It causes one to say too much or not enough.
The principle is that if we are required to help his ox or ass, how much more are we required to help and be honest in his behalf, regardless of how we feel about him. Is he not of more value than many oxen or asses in the sight of our Heavenly Father? Doesn't the Father send rain upon his garden as well as ours?
V. 9, a stranger... This could be someone passing through or some one who lives in the community, but not a member of the covenant people. The temptation would be to take advantage of the stranger, especially if the poor person who has the cause is a close friend of ours. It would be so easy to side with a poor friend against someone we do not even know.
The Lord requires two witnesses for any charge to be valid, Numbers 35:30; Matthew 18:16. (We have just seen the damage that can be done to a person when just one witness is permitted to speak against him. Physical evidence could be the second witness.) The Lord prohibits one law for the friend and one for the stranger, Numbers 15:16.
We are living in an extremely covetous age. A situation which we are all familiar with was the oil spill in Alaska. Every one jumped on the wagon against EXXON, wanting to place the blame where there was a prospect of gain. What took place was totally contrary to this principle. The public united together against one whom they perceived as a rich enemy.
The court sided with the public against EXXON because EXXON was considered as having 'Deep Pockets.' That it was an accident which was completely beyond EXXON's control had nothing to do with it in the public's eyes. The captain of the ship was the one responsible, but they didn't hold him responsible other than removing his license.
The principle in vs. 4, 5, is that if those against EXXON saw the ship going off course, no matter how much they hated EXXON and all EXXON stood for, they were responsible to bring it back on course for EXXON. The courts are responsible to protect EXXON and companies such as EXXON from men like the captain of that ship, and the crowd who seeks to rob EXXON. The court followed the multitude to do evil, as they sought to reach into EXXON's perceived 'Deep Pockets.' The people of Alaska slew EXXON through the courts, and the Lord will not hold such wicked people guiltless, v. 9.
As a side point. The stated purpose of permits and licenses is to protect the public from unsafe practices of the holder. A drivers license is an example. The stated propose is to keep unsafe drivers off the road. Therefore, when others are injured by unsafe drivers, the ones who issued the license should be held accountable if that is the purpose of the license.
Therefore, someone should take the state to court for not doing their self-proclaimed duty through the license when they did not provide a safe, sober captain for EXXON. This would go for every area where permits and licenses are required. If the public is harmed by the unsafe use of the permit, why not hold the issuer of the permit responsible? It is obvious that the actual purpose is control, not protection. How can the public be so blind?
The ox, ass, they are out and about. They are seen, but the person who sees the animal ignores him and lets him go. Now, what if the ox gores someone or damages someone's property? Is the one who saw him out and did not fulfill his responsibility because of the conflict with the owner, responsible? The owner had tried to restrain him, the neighbor saw him free, and may have thought in his heart, "I hope he gets in trouble. It will serve the owner right." This wicked person is required to do what he can to restrain the ox.
Vs. 10-12, introduces an apparently completely different thought, the sabbath year. This gives us two points:
First is the principle is rest, v. 11. The law gives rest to the faithful covenant people. Rest from hating our neighbor, rest from having to get even with him, rest from looking for someone with a cause against him, who will make him pay for the way he treated us. In other words, the law would give the public rest from having to seek vengeance against EXXON over an accident. It would give companies like EXXON rest from wicked men. (Now, of course, if it were the companies' fault through blatant negligence, that would be a different story.)
Second, the law provides for the poor, Deuteronomy 15. (Deut. 15:15 & Ex. 23:9, both remind of former bondage. Therefore, at issue is freedom from bondage, John 8:31-36.) One purpose of God's law, including the sabbath year, is the eradication of poverty, Deuteronomy 15:4 (marg. to the end that there be no poor among you), and chapter 28. But, the poor shall never cease out of the land, as long as the Lord's commandments are ignored, Deuteronomy 15:11.
Exodus 23:11, one reason for the sabbath was for the poor. US News, 10/21/91, asks this question, "What keeps the poor poor?" The article opens with "Every Sunday-school child knows that Jesus said the poor are always with us. But not even the Christian Messiah detailed why the poor endure..." Well, we must say that the Lord did not have to say why. Moses already told us that their presence in the land reveals society's attitude toward God and His word.
When the covenant people forget or ignore their responsibility for the poor, then where does much of the blame lie when the poor brings false charges against those who are perceived to be rich? Certainly, this does not justify the attempted theft of the poor from the rich.
Leviticus 19:9; 23:22; Deuteronomy 26:12, 13, the law concerning gleaning provided for the poor. Do we provide work they can do, or do we cast them onto the Babylonian welfare system? Leviticus chapter 25, is the poor brother treated as a stranger or as a loved one? Now, we are not talking about the poor who hold the law of God in disrespect. Deuteronomy 14:28, 29, is there money in the house of God to provide for the poor? This is money over and above the 10% tithe, called the poor tithe. Without the finances, it is not possible to properly care for the poor in the name of the Lord. Deuteronomy 15:9, 10, do we take advantage of the poor? "Well, he needs the money, he is in a fix and he has this skill. His skill is worth $15.00 an hour in the market place, but because he is against the wall, I can get it for $7.00 an hour." He was just robbed of $8.00 an hour because of his poverty. Of course, if the person is not being forced because of his poverty to take lessor pay for his skill, that is a different story.
The NT has a great amount to say about the duty of the child of God toward the poor. It could be summed up with Ephesians 4:28, Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. (Cf. James 2; 1 John 3:17.) Clearly, one of the reasons for the Christian working hard is to have money to give to the poor.
Exodus chapter 23, the poor man has a cause against the one perceived to have wealth. He brings charges against the rich that he may steal from him. The answer? The ones who desire wealth are not to bring charges against the rich thinking he can get something for nothing, but get to work.
One last point, Exodus 23:13. God's people are not to even consider joining in false charges against the innocent, no matter how much of a personal conflict we might have with him. To join in such wicked activity is to serve the gods of this world. Not only is it a violation of the ninth commandment, but it also violates the first, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. To seek any other way of gain and prosperity than obedience to the law of God, is to have another god before Him.
How much of the blame lies on the covenant people when the poor pursue an unjust cause against the rich? When covetousness prevents obedience to God, not only toward the poor, but in general, can we really blame the poor when their covetousness brings false matters against the ones that have more than they do?
This in no wise lessens the poor of godly responsibility, but to whom much is given, much will be required. God's people have been given His revealed word.
"As President, Madison pursued more of a separationist course than most other Presidents. In his inaugural address on March 4, 1809, he expressed his confidence "in the guardianship and guidance of that almighty Being, whose power regulates the destiny of nations," But on February 21, 1811, he vetoed "An Act incorporating the Protestant Episcopal church in the town of Alexandria, in the district of Columbia." His reason was that incorporation was a form of licensing by which government gave churches permission to operate. Therefore, incorporation was superfluous; government has no jurisdictional authority to tell churches they can or cannot operate." Christianity and the Constitution-The Faith of Our Founding Fathers, by John Eidsmoe, pgs. 110, 111. Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506 1987.
We are starting a Sunday Evening series in the Ten Commandments. If you would be interested in the tapes, let us know. They will be about $2.50 ea., mailed once a month.
Pastor Ovid Need Jr.