Last week we looked at Jesus' warning in Matthew 7:15-20 against false prophets. This warning comes on the heels of Jesus teaching on the two roads:
Matthew 7:13-14 (NKJV) "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
I believe that the "narrow and difficult" way is referring to discipleship, it is a call to live out all Jesus has taught in this sermon. He is calling us to live radically different lives, to walk in obedience to Him in everything we do.
There are many godless guides who would lead us to the wide gate and the way which leads to destruction. The context of our text warns us that the narrow way is difficult; it is difficult to live by the teachings of Christ, it is difficult to live by the "Golden Rule". And there are false prophets who would lead and encourage you to walk the broad road, which leads to destruction.
We said last week that a prophet was the mouth piece of God, he was someone who spoke for God. When a prophet spoke of the future, they were to be 100% accurate, or they were to die. Are there people today who are speaking under immediate divine inspiration? No! The prophets were a temporary group. They were around only until the end of the Old Covenant age.
When Jesus spoke these words in Matthew 7, "Beware of false prophets", they were still living in the Old Covenant age; Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed. God was speaking to the infant church through prophets, so they needed to beware that they were not lead astray by false prophets.
Jesus says that you can tell a false prophet by their fruit. I said last time that I believe that fruit refers to their doctrine and to their Christlikeness. Was he correct in his doctrine of Christ and did his life reflect Christ?
How can we apply this today? Since there are no prophets today, it should be real easy to spot a false prophet. Anyone who claims to be a prophet is false. I think that we can benefit from this warning if we apply it to teachers.
First, let me remind you that I believe that all the spiritual gifts were temporary and all of them ended by A.D. 70. Let's look at this a little more before we move on. The Scriptures teach that miraculous confirmation would cease at the coming or revelation of Jesus Christ:
1 Corinthians 1:6-7 (NKJV) even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who was it, according to this verse, that was "...eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ"? It was the "church of God which is at Corinth", according to the second verse of chapter one. When did Paul write this to the church at Corinth? It was somewhere between A.D. 55-57. So, it was the first century saints at Corinth were eagerly waiting for the second coming of Christ.
The word "confirmed" refers to the miraculous. The New Testament writings make it abundantly clear that in addition to the word, disciples also were confirmed by miraculous signs:
Mark 16:20 (NKJV) And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
Hebrews 2:3-4 (NKJV) how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
According to Paul, this miraculous confirmation was to last until the revelation or day of Jesus Christ which is equivalent in time to the end of the Jewish age. From an "interpretive" standpoint, the time of the cessation of the miracles coincides chronologically with the parousia or revelation of the day of Christ.
God, through the prophet Micah, tells us that miraculous gifts would last for a period of about 40 years:
Micah 7:15 (NKJV) "As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show them wonders."
The Israelites wandered in their pilgrimage from Egypt and quest for the promise land for a period of about 40 years (Heb. 3:17). God says according to those days he would show them wonders. It is argued by Barnes Commentary on Micah that the "wonders" here are miraculous gifts and equate with Joel's prophecy concerning the out-pouring of the Spirit in the last days. That period, if reckoned from Pentecost till A.D. 70., is about 40 years. On the other hand, if it incorporates the ministry of Christ and the miracles he performed in the last days (Heb. 1:2), then it yields a more precise calculation of 40 years. In either case, the reference is clear for the end of the Jewish age.
The voice of history confirms the temporary nature of the gifts. If the miraculous gifts of the New Testament age had continued in the church, one would expect an unbroken line of occurrences from apostolic times to the present. The miraculous gifts of the "last days" ceased when the last days ceased.
Chrysostom, a 4th century theologian, testified that the miraculous gifts ceased so long before his time that no one was certain of their characteristics.
The charismatic gifts of the Spirit were to continue throughout the last days, according to Acts 2:16-20.The last days began at Pentecost and ended in A.D. 70. The gifts were to continue until the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord. When the Lord returned in judgement on Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the gifts ended.
There is a lot of confusion today about Spiritual gifts; do you know why that is? It's because they were for the last days, and when the last days ended, so did the gifts. This is why so many believers have no clue as to what their gifts are, they don't have one.
I have good news for you; you can stop wasting your time trying to figure out what you Spiritual Gift is, and just be busy serving Him with all the talents and abilities He has given you.
So, it is my contention that all spiritual gifts ended in A.D. 70 with the coming of Christ and the close of the Jewish age.
Let me remind you that a spiritual gift was a God given capacity through which the Holy Spirit supernaturally ministered to the body. The key here is the word "supernaturally". Using this definition of a spiritual gift, think with me about the gift of teaching. If a person today had this gift, his teaching would be the Holy Spirit supernaturally ministering to the body. If this was the case, would the Holy Spirit teach error? No, of course not! Why do so many men who claim to have this gift teach such different things? Some who claim to have the gift of teaching teach that a man can lose his salvation and be eternally damned. While another man who claims to have the gift of teaching teaches that a believer is eternally secure and can never lose his salvation. They can't both be right.
Let's look at this on a more personal level. From early on in my Christian life I believed that I had the gift of teaching. I taught Arminianism, I taught Lordship, I taught a Charismatic doctrine, I taught Futurism. As I studied, I moved from Arminianism to Calvinism. Then I moved from Lordship to a Free Grace position. Then I moved from Futurism to Preterism. Now, if I have the gift of teaching - which is a supernatural enablement of the Spirit - why did I once teach what I now reject? Was the Holy Spirit supernaturally teaching error? If teaching is a supernatural gift, why didn't I always teach the truth?
Is it God's will that we all be healthy? Not at all, but I used to teach that it was. I would use these verses to back it up:
Mark 1:40-42 (NKJV) Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, "If You are willing, You can make me clean." 41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, "I am willing; be cleansed." 42 As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.
Don't these verses teach that it is God's will that everybody be healthy? No, they don't. What they teach is that it was God's will to heal this man. What is the primary rule of hermeneutics? The Analogy of Faith -- this means that Scripture interprets Scripture. No part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way as to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture. Do the Scriptures teach that God wants all Christians physically healthy? I don't believe so.
1 Timothy 5:23 (NKJV) No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach's sake and your frequent infirmities.
Notice that Paul didn't tell Timothy that he needed to pray for healing, or confess his healing, or go to the faith healer; what he said in effect was, "Take some medicine for your stomach problems".
2 Timothy 4:20 (NKJV) Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick.
Why did Paul, who had the gift of healing, leave this man sick? It must have been God's will that he be sick.
The reason we want God to heal everyone who is sick is because we don't understand the purpose of suffering. We view it as a curse, and it often causes us to question the goodness of God. People will often ask, "If God loves me, than why am I suffering? We desperately need to understand that suffering is as much a part of God's eternal purpose for our lives as is believing in Christ. Look with me at a strange verse:
Philippians 1:29 (NKJV) For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
The words "has been granted" or "it is given" are one word in the Greek, it is the verb charizomai.. Vine says that charizomai primarily denotes: "to show favor or kindness, to give freely, bestow graciously". Suffering is a grace gift. Salvation is a grace gift of God and so is suffering. He doesn't say that suffering is punishment or that it is something that has happened to you by chance. God gives suffering as graciously and lovingly as he gives you the faith to believe in his son.
If it is your belief that God wants all Christians well and you are sick, what does that do to your faith? How does that teaching help you to walk on the narrow road? It doesn't! That teaching is wrong, and it is destructive to the body of Christ.
In the New Covenant age, God has appointed elders to have the oversight in the local churches. Are elders required to have the gift of teaching? No!
1 Timothy 3:1-2 (NKJV) This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach;
The phrase "able to teach" is from the Greek word didaktikos, which means: "skilled in teaching". This word means: "instruction, doctrine, teaching precepts". The root word carries with it the idea of systematic teaching or training. The word was used of a choir director who trains a choir over a long period of rehearsals until they are able to perform. The curriculum of the teacher is the Word of God. This same Greek word is also used in:
2 Timothy 2:24 (NKJV) And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,
The church leaders were to be teachers. They were to teach God's people the truths of the Word of God.
In Luke 24 we see a model for teaching in the Great teacher, Jesus:
Luke 24:25-27 (NKJV) Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?" 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Notice that he gave no new truth. He dealt with the Scriptures already there and gave new insights into them. The word expounded in verse 27 is the Greek word diermeneuo from hermeneuo meaning: "to interpret" and dia which means: "through". It literally means: "to interpret fully". This gives us the teacher's method. This is the word from which we get our English word hermeneutics, which is the science of interpretation. This is the function of the teacher, to interpret fully the Scriptures. Everyone who can read can tell you what the Scriptures say, the teacher is to tell us what they mean by what they say. Let me share with you my favorite example of the lack of hermeneutics used by many today:
Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
I have heard many teachers use this verse to say that we must have a vision, or goals for the future. They use the word vision in the modern English sense of the ability to foresee or perceive something not actually visible. The Hebrew word here translated vision is chazown, and it means: "revelation, or a word from God".
The New Kings James Version translates it correctly:
Proverbs 29:18 (NKJV) Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law.
The teacher is to explain what the Scriptures mean by what they say. Teaching is a priority; without it the church is completely crippled. The church needs those men who will labor in the Word and teach it to God's people:
Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
Knowledge always precedes growth. If the church is to grow, it must have teaching. That is why God has given certain men the desire and ability to teach His Word. What separates a good teacher from a bad one? Education (I don't mean formal education but training in God's Word), diligence, time - both in the sense of time in service (He's been at it for awhile) and time spent in preparation.
Your priority in finding a local church should always be teaching. Apart from teaching, the saints are in grave danger. Sound teaching safeguards from error. As the transition saints needed to beware of false prophets, we need to beware of false teachers. According to 1 Timothy 4, teaching is a bulwark against apostasy:
1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
Paul is talking here about apostasy, about believers departing from the faith. Then he goes on in this chapter to show how sound teaching guards against departing from the faith, or apostasy:
1 Timothy 4:11 (NKJV) These things command and teach.
This is a call for strong teaching, not wimpy suggestions. Richard Baxter said, "Screw the truth into their minds." This is serious stuff, lives are at stake.
1 Timothy 4:12-13 (NKJV) Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Teachers are to be an example, they are to live out what they teach. Notice what Paul tells Timothy to give his attention to: Reading - reading the Scriptures aloud. Exhortation - application, warn people to obey. It's a binding of the conscience, pin them to the wall so that they have to say, "I will or I will not obey that." Doctrine - teaching, expounding the Scriptures, teaching theology. The further we get from the New Testament times, the more work is involved in exposition. We must break down the barriers of language and culture, along with geographic and historical barriers. We must explain what it means by what it says. The church today is drifting away from teaching and into entertainment. The majority of Chrisisdom is Bible ignorant and on the broad road because of their ignorance. We are to read the Word, explain the Word, and entreat people to obedience. The church's mandate is to teach the Word of God.
Those who teach have a tremendous potential to lead people astray with false teaching. This is why all believers must beware of false teachers! You are responsible for what you believe, so make sure that you study out what is said to be sure it lines up with Scripture. You are to be a Berean:
Acts 17:10-11 (NKJV) Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
They listened to what was taught, and then they searched the Scriptures daily to find out if the things they heard were true. Do you do this? You should, because there are a lot of false teachers out there.
How many of you have heard of Rod Parsley? He is definitely emerging as a key player and force to be reckoned with in the world of charismania. Rodney Lee Parsley charges back and forth across the stage of his World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio, sweating profusely, railing against the devil in a demonstration of heart-pounding Christian calisthenics, and his crowds love it. They follow his lead, bouncing, swaying and screaming. It is raw pandemonium. They repeat whatever mantras he gives them to say, waiting to be smacked, pushed or pommeled to the floor by the "Raging Prophet." His followers seem to reason that the wilder the time, the more evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Christian Research Institute has issued a warning about Parsley, which reveals his disdain for Bible training:
Caution and discernment should be exercised when listening to Rod Parsley, because he considers himself to be a disciple of Lester Sumrall, who promotes Word of Faith theology ... Also, his statement on TBN's 'Praise the Lord' that 'exegesis X's out Jesus' (6/ 26/ 92) demonstrates an irresponsible perspective toward the serious study of the Bible. This type of anti-intellectualism is dangerous, because it can lead to a faulty interpretation of God's Word.
Parsley employs a repertoire of confusing hermeneutics. Parsley is a Word-Faith teacher. The basic premise of the Word-Faith idea is that faith is a force that we can use in our speaking, to get what we want. We can and should use creative words just like God did, (as He created the world from nothing by simply speaking it into existence).
In typical Word-Faith fashion Parsley teaches:
In the beginning, He spoke the Word, and out of the nothingness of space, there was suddenly Life! Using just His Word, God invented the sun, the moon, and endless galaxies of stars. ... If the Lord and His Word never change, and if He created life with a spoken thought, then He is still able to speak into existence whatever you need today. Healing is not hard. It is as simple and easy as saying, 'I believe your Word, Lord. Now speak. Create new life in me.
The power that is attributed to God is then attributed to us. Our major reason for reading the Bible, Parsley says, is so that we can speak Bible phrases and bring blessings into existence:
"Learning the Godly guarantees which deal with your situation and rehearsing them over in your spirit will help you, like Peter, to possess the kind of faith that makes the impossible an everyday occurrence. ... keep His Words of faith and healing always before you," states Parsley.
Faith is not a force but is a word meaning: "trust". The objects of our trust are to be God and His Word. Paul, in Romans 10: 17, clearly speaks of the object of our faith and trust, and it is God's Word. Believing what God has spoken and finding comfort in His promises is a far cry from taking what God has spoken, and thinking we can create our own reality and get anything we want by just speaking it.
We are told that Scriptures can speak comfort to us (Romans 15: 4) and are to reprove, rebuke, correct and instruct us (2 Timothy 3: 15-17), as we respond in faith and obedience to it, but nowhere in the Bible are we told that if we will just speak Scripture out, we can get what we want or create our own reality.
Another staple of the Parsley ministry is the use of prayer cloths. Inner-City Christian Discernment Ministry describes Parsley's use of the relic:
Rod Parsley is a fast rising star in Pentecostal/ charismatic circles. ... sent right to my home is a glossy packet stating 'Release the anointing ... Receive Your Miracle! Lo-and-behold enclosed is a MIRACLE PRAYER CLOTH and I am supposed to: (1) RECEIVE this prayer cloth as your point of contact (2) PLACE this prayer cloth in the envelope provided and (3) BELIEVE God to receive YOUR miracle ... I am to do these 3 things and RUSH my MIRACLE PRAYER CLOTH back to Pastor Rod (hopefully with a donation) and wait for my miracle to manifest. 'As you send me your prayer cloth and your most generous gift toward our Breakthrough ministry, I will send you my 3-tape audio cassette series, "Releasing the Anointing ... Your Breakthrough to Victory." ' This is nothing but a shameless con to transfer dollars from the pockets of God's people, who in many cases have a genuine need but lack biblical understanding, and thus fall prey to ministers of this type.
Parsley teaches that sin is in the physical blood. He says of Adam: "That single exposure to Satan was all that was needed to transmit the communicable disease of sin into the bloodline of humanity."
Parsley teaches that Jesus was "injected" with sin, and that His blood once tainted by sin became immunized and then capable of giving us salvation and healing. At the outset, he mistakes identification for identity.
As he puts it: "The nails that pounded into Christ's hands and feet that day 'injected' Him with every blatant iniquity, every subtle sin, every vile act that mankind had ever or would ever commit."
"Hanging from those nails, Jesus was also deliberately infected with all manner of sickness and sin, so to bring about salvation and healing, through His divine, immunized blood."
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
How could Jesus "be sin for us"? This has always been understood by all major commentators and commentaries to relate to the sin offering of the Old Testament. It means that Jesus became a sin offering for us, not that He had to become inherently sinful or carry sin in His blood. Nothing intrinsically changed in the sacrificial lamb. Blood that becomes infected with everyone's sin and disease and then is somehow immunized is a figment of Parsley's imagination.
Reminding us that 2 Corinthians also says, "He knew no sin," Albert Barnes notes:
Literally it is, 'he has made him sin, or a sin offering, ' ... Nor (2) can it mean that he was a sinner, for it is said in immediate connection that he 'knew no sin' and it is everywhere said he was holy, harmless, undefiled. ... if the declaration that he was made ' sin' (hamartian) does not mean that he was sin itself, or a sinner, or guilty, then it must mean that he was a sin-offering -an offering or a sacrifice for sin; and this is the interpretation which is now generally adopted by expositors.
Parsley's "gospel" is the gospel of prosperity. He claims that the Gospel is our ability to work miracles and be rich. It is a distortion of the worst kind. His "good news" is that the poor can be wealthy.
In God's Answer to Insufficient Funds, Parsley affirms his false gospel:
For you to sit in physical bondage is to deny the power of the gospel. ... Most people would have no trouble shouting whatsoever if I said, 'To remain in the bondage of sin and death is to deny the power of the gospel. ' But if I said 'What about healing for your body? ' the amens would not be quite so loud. If I said the same thing about poverty and financial bondage, it would get as quiet as a tomb. If I said that for you to live from paycheck to paycheck is to deny the power of the gospel, many of you would get angry. In Luke 4: 18 ... Notice there was an anointing to preach good news to the poor. A lot of people don't like to look at that because good news to a poor man is that he doesn't have to be poor anymore. We have multitudes saved, delivered and filled with the Holy Ghost, and many are healed, yet over 90% of the church of Jesus Christ are living in absolute financial bondage. All the while, Jesus is saying, 'I've been anointed to preach the good news to the poor. ' ... You have held back the flow. You have denied the perpetual propulsion of power that could deliver you from not only sin and sickness but from the horrible stench of poverty.
So the Gospel, in Parsley's view, is telling the poor man, "He doesn't have to be poor anymore." Poverty is a stench. He is confusing gold with God. Jesus never said there was anything sinful about being poor. In fact, He warned that being rich may throw one into idolatry: "No man can serve two masters. ... you cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6: 24; Luke 16: 13). We may seek to relieve poverty and improve our lot, but Paul reminded us of the dangers and snares that accompany riches (1 Timothy 6: 9-10).
Did Jesus promise Paul material riches and health? In Acts 9: 16, Jesus says: "I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." Paul reminds us that we are, "Blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ"(Ephesians 1: 3).
It is amazing to me how many people don't even think in terms of teaching being true of false. It's much more common for people to measure truth by how it makes them feel, or how comfortable they are with it, or whether it meets their needs. Truth and error don't even seem to enter into the equation in many people's minds.
We need to beware of teachers who are not teaching according to the Word of God. We need to be on guard against those who would lead us down the broad road that leads to destruction. There are multitudes of teachers that are wrong in their doctrine of Christ and are not living a Christlike life. As believers, we are to guard our lives by comparing everything that is taught with the Word of God. This means that we must spend time in the Word so we know what is right and what is wrong. We must be Bereans!
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