‘Jesus said, "Watch out; don't be fooled. Many men, claiming to speak for me, will come and say, "I am he!' and, "The time has come!' But don't follow them.’ Good News Translation
‘And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.’ KJV
Literally, this can mean both claiming to actually be THE Christ and/or to be ‘anointed’ and sent from God with the words of God. There are many who have and are claiming to be the Christ, even as I write. A quick Google search will pull up a good number of claimants to this title throughout the 20th and 21st century, let alone over the last 2000 odd years. However, it can also refer to those who claim to be ‘anointed’ and that therefore, by implication, we must give credence to all that they say because they speak ‘form God’. Either way, they are ‘false prophets’ and both the Lord Jesus and the apostles, warned us to expect them. That being so they must be present right now, today, here and in our midst, and they must be recognisable and identifiable as what they are, ‘false prophets’. Nevertheless, by their very nature as ‘false’ and as ‘deceivers’ they will not be easily identified. For that reason we must, as the scriptures warn us, ‘be on our guard’, and be very ‘alert’ and ‘watch’ and pray.
I have argued for some time now that the key word in relation to the age in which we live is ‘deception’. The Lord Jesus, Paul and Peter (as did many of the OT prophets) warned that this would be the principle activity of Satan in the days in which we live. Jesus explained very clearly that this was an expression of Lucifer’s character from the beginning. He said,
‘Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. John 8:44 KJV
Two Key Marks of Deception
Further, the Word of God clearly warns us that this deception, inspired by Lucifer, will, alarmingly, find its expression in large measure from within, and among, those who claim to be Christian. This imposes upon each one of us the necessity to listen with great care to the things we are told and to what we hear preached. We must weigh everything thoughtfully and prayerfully against the Word of God in dependence upon the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us into all, and only, the truth of His Word. Consider Paul’s warnings to the Ephesian elders when he said farewell to them for the last time,
‘Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.’ Acts 20:30 KJV
I urge you to read the rest of Paul’s remarks in this passage as well as they are all thought provoking in this context.
One hallmark of false teaching and deception in this regard is an emphasis upon what I call a ‘this life only’ philosophy or emphasis. This finds expression in two principle areas.
1. ‘Triumphalism’. I.e. that all the blessing of the gospel has its fulfilment in ‘this, present’ life, right now, this side of the return of Christ. This line of thinking gives rise to the argument that the ‘victorious’ Christian life means that we must always get our prayers answered in exactly the way we think they should be, that the Christian life is meant to be full of only good things and one constant, happy, emotional high. Out of this understanding comes the ‘hyper faith’ movement of the sixties and seventies and into which a large slice of the present day Charismatic Movement is caught up. The truth is, that this side of the return of Christ, we ‘taste’ the powers of the world to come (Hebrews 6:5). We do not have a full experience of them –not by a long country mile. In fact, for many, many believers, life is often one constant trial and challenge. The truth is that in this life we ‘see through a glass darkly’, i.e. ‘unclearly’, (1 Corinthians 13:12), and only ‘in part’. Or, as the NIV translates it, ‘Now I know in part; then (when the Lord has returned, physically and visibly) I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. We look forward to the fulfillment of the promise ‘at His coming’. In this life we ‘walk (live NIV) by faith’ and ‘not by sight’, 2 Corinthians 5:7. Life, this side of heaven is full of what I have referred to often as ‘tension and paradox’. ‘Tension’ because the life of faith is challenging and full of trouble (tribulation), Acts 14:22. We face resistance from the forces of darkness and Satan who are implacable enemies of every confessed follower of Christ. (Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:8). We must actively and constantly ‘resist’ (James 4:7) these attacks and ‘believe’ for the victory. Sometimes we must be prepared to accept that this victory is manifested in our ability to remain ‘unmoved’ by trouble, testing, misadventure, and even total apparent disaster! Paul, speaking of exactly these sorts of things said, ‘none of these things move me’, Acts 20:24. Please note he said this in connection with the ‘bonds and afflictions’ he knew were to face him in Jerusalem. Read the list of his ‘trials’ in 2 Corinthians 24:27. He refused to lose heart or be dismayed by anything that happened to him this side of heaven. He knew that his faithfulness ‘worked’ to produce an even greater ‘weight of glory’ when He would come to stand before His Lord and receive the ‘reward for the things done in the flesh (this body)’, 2 Corinthians 5:10. ‘Paradox’ because many things in life this side of heaven are totally contradictory to the reality of God’s Word. That’s why we need faith, patience, trust and endurance. The world we live in is a fallen world that ‘groans and travails’, ‘waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God’ (Romans 8:22). It is an absolutely false teaching that even begins to suggest that we will see that manifestation BEFORE the physical, visible, return of Christ. We have ‘this treasure in earthen vessels’. The reason for that is ‘to show that this all-surpassing power [that keeps us true and faithful and enables us, in spite of the ‘tension and paradox’, to fulfil His will for our lives] is from God and not from us’. 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV
The reality of this is spelled out by Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian believers,
‘For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 KJV
2. The second hallmark of this false teaching is that we are to usher in and establish the visible Kingdom of God by our own efforts in this dispensation before the physical and visible return of Christ in power and glory. From this arises the drive to build the so called ‘mega’ churches, the emphasis on numbers, growth and large crowds. The bigger the crowd, the larger the church building, the more money the greater the supposed credibility and so called ‘anointing’ of the leaders. This gives rise again to the error of ‘church growth’ techniques and the use of marketing ideas and philosophies to draw or ‘attract’ people to church. One sad and tragic evidence of this misguided thinking is the developing trend, emerging in large measure from the distortions of the ‘charismatic’ movement, to turn our so called ‘worship’ services into what can only be described as ‘rock concerts’. I have been in meetings where there is even fake smoke distributed which, along with the spotlights, floodlights, and other forms of lighting, plus the driving and heavily rhythmic music from the bands and the singers, makes for something that is simply no different from a full blown worldly Rock Concert. Much of this is based upon a completely false notion of the ‘greater works’ that the Lord Jesus mentioned in John 14:12. When we reflect on this in the light of all that the Lord Jesus taught and include the words of Paul, Peter and James, we come to a totally different conclusion. For example, Jesus said very clearly that the ‘work’ of God was to ‘believe on Him...’
‘Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.’ John 6:28-29 KJV
There is no doubt in my mind that healing the sick and casting out devils (Matthew 10:8, Luke 9:2, 10:9) are all part of the work that the Lord Jesus has commissioned us to do while we ‘wait for His Son from heaven’, 1 Thessalonians 1:10. However, the miraculous is only one aspect of the work of God. Living consistent, godly and faithful lives is a huge, and arguably, in the light of our topic, a much more important part of it as well. ‘Building’ (1 Corinthians 3:10) on the foundation of Christ in our lives so that we ‘show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light’ (1 Peter 2:9) has a lot more to do with character, life style and godly living than the glitzy and entirely false rigmarole that we see in much of contemporary Christianity today. Twice in the NT we read the telling and rather categorical statement, ‘this is the will of God...’
‘For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:’ 1 Thessalonians 4:3
‘In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:18.
In light of our context, these two thoughts are both interesting and challenging. We are to be ‘sanctified’, meaning ‘set apart’, ‘holy’ and ‘pure’. Further, we are to ‘give thanks’ IN everything –the good and the bad! These two things constitute a large measure of our really important ‘business’ this side of heaven and are, in fact, what we need to be ‘working’ on more than anything else. Following are some more ‘connected thoughts’ in this context.
From the age of twelve Jesus knew He must ‘...be about His Father’s business’, Luke 2:49. Later He said,
‘I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.’ John 9:4 KJV
The ‘work’ that He came to accomplish was climaxed upon the Cross when He took our place and was punished instead of us. He called this ‘the cup’ that His Father had given Him to drink,
‘...the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?’ John 18:11 KJV.
Many of the ‘works’ were focused upon this. Much of the supernatural that accompanied his ministry and that drew the crowds were to bear witness to who He was and the mission He came to fulfil. That ‘mission’ was one of redemption and vicarious suffering in our place. He came to be ‘despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’, to ‘carry our sorrows’. To be ‘stricken’ and ‘afflicted’, to be ‘wounded’ bruised... put to grief, and chastised’, to bear the burden of our ‘iniquity’ and to be ‘oppressed’, and much more besides. Isaiah 53:1-12.
Paul’s exhortation to ‘take heed how we build’ upon the foundation of Christ in our lives needs to be kept in the forefront of our lives constantly in connection with doing the ‘works’ of God. Here are Paul’s words to the Corinthians,
‘For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is . 14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss : but he himself shall be saved ; yet so as by fire. 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 JKV
The challenge to each one of us is to ‘build’ upon the foundation of Christ in our lives in such a way that we will receive a reward and not suffer loss. This loss does not refer to the loss of eternal life, but to loss of reward for faithful labour done in humble dependence upon the grace of God in our lives. Many believers will find themselves entering into the visible Kingdom at the return of Christ, ‘saved so as by fire’. In other words, the rewards they could have received will be lost because they have not been faithful in this life.
Good and Faithful Servants I am fully convinced in my own heart and mind that the measure by which we will be judged at this ‘prize giving’ at the ‘bema’ or ‘judgement seat of Christ’ (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10) will be based upon our ‘goodness’ and ‘faithfulness’. In other words, holiness, Christ likeness, purity, character and consistent faith and trust in spite of the ‘paradox and tension’ of life this side of heaven. The writer to the Hebrew believers tells us that ‘without holiness no man [or woman] shall see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).
The parable that Jesus told concerning the servants who were entrusted with differing amounts of money during their masters absence commonly referred to as the ‘Parable of the Talents’ in Matthew 25 is, I believe, meant to illustrate this for us. Note that in verses 21 and 23 the rewards go to those servants who are ‘good and faithful’. Note also that the Lord Jesus also said,
‘...You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Matthew 25:21 NIV
This is repeated in verse 23. Isn’t the Lord wonderful! We are faithful in a ‘few things’, He rewards us with charge of ‘many things’.
I have already mentioned 2 Corinthians 4. I would like to draw your attention to it again in this context of rewards for works of faithfulness and goodness,
‘For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory’. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 KJV
Again, we need to follow the example of the pattern Son (1 Peter 2:21-25), He whose name is Jesus, our Lord and Saviour,
‘let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.’ Hebrews 12:1-3 KJV
Good Fruit We must not allow ourselves to be distracted from these ‘greater works’ of faith and righteousness that are the true measure of the grace of God in our lives. The Lord Jesus warned so clearly, and in so many ways, against these deceptions of the enemy. Deceptions which, as I have attempted to show, are designed to get us misdirected and focused upon things that are very far from what He, the Lord Jesus, has truly called us to focus upon. In Matthew 7:13 He warned about the need to enter into the kingdom by the ‘straight gate’ and the ‘narrow way’ that alone leads to life. He clearly tells us there that there would be FEW who would enter in by that path. The ‘wide gate’ and ‘broad way’ would be much more attractive and MANY would choose that path to their eternal loss. Then in verse 15 He warned of false prophets who would come in ‘sheep’s clothing’. In other words they would look and sound like the genuine thing, but are in fact false and deceptive. The fruit is the test –do they bring forth good fruit. Fruit in the Bible always speaks of the character of our lives. What we truly believe will affect our lifestyle. It will be heard and seen in the way we speak and the things we do. ‘A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit’, verse 18. Then He said, ‘Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.’ Verses 19-20. This means we need to study the lives and character of those who purport to speak for God -as well as their words. This is why I personally do not place much credence on anything said by those whom I do not know personally. If I can’t sit down and spend time with them over a cup of tea and get to know them on a personal level, then I cannot know whether they are even half way genuine. Here the Lord Jesus is telling me that unless I can do this and ‘test their fruit’ then I have only myself to blame if I am led astray by their oratory and flowery words. No matter how scriptural they may sound. This again adds credence to the need for the shepherds and leaders of the true ekklesia of God to be local people who lead ordinary lives that everyone who knows them can get very close and personal with. Again, this is another powerful argument for small, local groups of believers, as opposed to large, crowds of many hundreds that are ruled over by leaders no one can have any real knowledge of personally. The history of the church in the last 100 years is replete with the stories of immoral, unethical, leaders in Christian churches who were more interested in making large amounts of money and enjoying the prestige of their position and office, than whether they preached the truth of God’s Word or not. Others were driven by other and even more carnal appetites. Tragically, on many occasions the truth doesn’t come out until much later and maybe, sometimes, not at all. Paul argued for this openness and accountability very strongly when he said,
‘But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving , and being deceived.’ 2 Timothy 3:10-14 KJV
Please read the entire context as Paul is talking about the exact same topic we are dealing with here. He is talking about men who ‘resist the truth’ are ‘corrupt’ and ‘reprobate concerning the faith’. We are, I believe, living in the ‘perilous times’ to which he refers in verse one. In verse five he sums up by saying these false prophets (see the context and the reference to ‘Jannes and Jambres’, verse 8) ‘have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof’. From these we are to ‘turn away’. I believe the ‘form of godliness’ refers to the hypocrisy of their lives. They appear to be very sound and genuine. But, in fact are not. They preach and teach, but when you dig a bit deeper you find that they, in fact, have another agenda and it is not the pure simple gospel of Christ. We are seeing this today as so many of those who ‘seem to be somewhat’ (Paul’s reference to similar deceivers in his day when writing to the Galatians concerning those who wanted to curtail his activities as the Apostle to the Gentiles and whom he called, ‘false brethren’ who came into the church to ‘spy’ and ‘bring them into bondage’), have been exposed for what they really are. By implication he was saying, ‘they are not what they claimed or appear to be’. They are, in fact, deceivers and imposters.
The ‘Other Agenda’ of the False Church This ‘other agenda’ I am referring to here is often ecumenism, primarily an initiative of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has long sought to bring back the ‘separated brethren’ of the protestant churches. They use many methods to achieve this, some of them subversive and secretive and often largely through initiatives by the Jesuits, a largely secretive society who have been charged with this task in a special way. On the wider front, there is a widely accepted initiative to unify all religions under one huge umbrella –a world-wide church under one leader who would have some general acceptance by all faiths. This includes Buddhism and every other religion you can think of including witchcraft, mysticism and the occult. One other aspect of this is ‘Crislam’, an attempt to sell the idea to Christians that Allah is just another name for the God of the Bible. This is, of course, completely false, as the God of the Bible is not Allah who, according to Islamic faith, is not a ‘Father’ and certainly did not ever have a ‘Son’. This, in Islam, is considered a blasphemy. One of the names by which we can identify these trends is that of the so called, ‘Emerging Church’. This is a mix of a vast number of groupings and religions, both Christian and pagan, that have, as their common denominator, the insistence that we are all worshipping the same God, but by different names. Some of these ‘gods’ are pantheistic and embrace all of creation, with the earth, known as the ‘Mother Goddess’ and every human being who is, in fact, part of that one universal God of creation. There are, of course, an infinite number of variations on these themes, but regardless, they are all in violent contradiction to the truths revealed in the pages of what we, as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus, believe to be taught in the Word of God, the Bible. The fact is that Bible believing followers of Jesus Christ do not worship the same God at all. The Bible affirms that there is only one God,
‘...to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.’ 1 Corinthians 8:6
Further, this ‘one God’ means exactly that, ‘ONE’ God.
‘Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD’. Deuteronomy 6:4
I, for my part, believe in ONE God manifested in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said,
‘If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. 8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.’ John 14:7-11 KJV
Couple these words with Paul’s,
‘For in him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.’ Colossian 2:9
For myself, I infinitely prefer the word, ‘Godhead’ to the ‘trinity’. The word ‘Godhead’ appears in the New Testament three times, the word ‘trinity’ never. Each time it has immense significance in understanding the nature of God. Paul tells us,
‘Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.’ 1 Timothy 3:16 NIV
I agree with Paul. The nature of God is a mystery. To suggest that we fully grasp and understand it is the height of pride and great folly. It was for that very reason that ‘God was manifest in the flesh (in a body)’. KJV. Jesus told us that ‘God is a spirit...’ (John 4:24), and the OT tells us that, ‘God is not a man...’ God is a totally different order of being to any other in the universe. We need to walk very softly when talking about the ‘nature of God’. He is altogether ‘other’ and we should remember that Moses was told to,
‘Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ Exodus 3:5.
I suggest that endeavouring to be totally precise and dogmatic about the nature of God is actually ‘forbidden ground’. I suggest that Deuteronomy 29:29 applies very profoundly in this area,
‘The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.’
He has, however, manifested, revealed or ‘spoken’ unto us in His Son,
‘Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power,’ Hebrews 1:2-3 KJV
The Lord Jesus is God’s ‘last word’ to the human race. He has ‘spoken to us IN SON’. This is the literal translation of these words. God is now ‘IN SON’. ‘In Him dwelleth ALL the fullness of the Godhead bodily.’ Colossian 2:9 (previously quoted). I cannot fully comprehend the Godhead, but I can comprehend Jesus –at least in measure. He became a human being just like us. We can relate to Him. He is ‘My Lord and My God’, John 20:28. You can confess Him as your Lord and God just as Thomas did after the resurrection. If you have not done so, I urge you to do so now. Accept the Lord Jesus as your Lord and God. Then, by reading and spending time in His Word and praying and committing every aspect of your life to Him begin to serve Him by living righteous and godly lives from now until you stand before Him at His coming to receive the rewards He has promised.
Any movement, church or religious teaching that attempts to lead us down the road towards a ‘one world church’ organisation is anti-Christ. It doesn’t matter how ‘sound’ the rest of their teaching may be. Any appeal to any other authority to establish truth or provide assurance of salvation, other than the Word of God as contained within the 66 books we refer to as the Bible, is anti-Christ. Have nothing to do with it whatsoever, reject it like the plague. Your eternal destiny depends upon it. As Paul said so emphatically,
‘But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.’ Galatians 1:8-9 KJV
Paul is very bold and states categorically,
‘But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.’ 1 Corinthians 10:20 KJV
For ‘sacrifice’ you can read ‘worship’, or ‘acknowledge as God’. The implication is exactly the same. Could anything be clearer? Add to that the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 7,
‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.’ Matthew 7:21-23
Please note very carefully that those whom the Lord Jesus warns us about here include many who will be noted for ‘prophesying’, ‘casting out devils’ and doing ‘many wonderful works’ –all in His name! But, the Lord Jesus tells us that they are, in fact, those that ‘work iniquity’.
Again, the answer to all of these various ‘deceptions’ is to turn back to the simple truths of the Word of God and live lives of simplicity (2 Corinthians 11:3), godliness, and faithful worship of the one true God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Read and read and read the Bible for yourself. Meditate on it, think about it, pray much and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth from its pages. He is faithful and you can depend upon Him to do what the Lord Jesus said he would,
‘...when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth...’ John 16:13.
Discuss what you read with fellow believers whom you know and trust. That’s why a warm, close, fellowship of believers is so important. When you listen to speakers and preachers, test their words against the truths of the Word of God for yourself and discuss them again with your own spiritual family. Avoid utterly and totally any organisation or group of believers that is centred around or focused with any degree of exclusivity, on one person, man or woman, and venerates their words above others. Nearly every cult and pagan religion is characterised by this one single mark of apostasy and heresy. Our faith is based and built upon the words of Christ and the apostles and prophets –plus nothing. In this sense we are totally exclusive and utterly dogmatic. Why? Because the Word of God is, itself, totally exclusive and utterly dogmatic.
‘Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20 and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.’ Ephesians 2:19-20 KJV
Be very clear that the apostles are the apostles of the Lamb, the twelve apostles who were ‘eye-witnesses’ of His resurrection. The prophets are the OT prophets up until John the Baptist. C.f. Matthew 11:13 and Luke 16:16. They do not include anyone after that time. The Bible is very clear about this. Those who are referred to as ‘prophets’ and are mentioned in the NT are not in this category. They, those subsequent apostles and prophets, do not constitute the ‘foundation’ upon which we are built. They are part of the equipping ministry of the people of God, but their words do not constitute scripture or anything close to the authority given to those referred to in Ephesians 2:19-20. KJV.
The Lord is faithful and will always guard the sincere believer against error and deception when we walk softly before Him and seek to know and understand the Word and Will of God for our lives. Jesus said very clearly in this context,
‘If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out (or ‘know’ KJV) whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.’ John 7:17 NIV
It is failure to ‘love the truth’ that Paul warned the Thessalonians was the root cause why so many would be deceived by Satan in the last days. Speaking of the rise of Antichrist he said these words,
‘...whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish ; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved . 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.’ 2 Thessalonians 2:9-15.
Bear in mind always that as you approach the Word of God, the Bible, you are handling the written Word and there is a powerful and wonderful relationship between that and the Living Word Himself, the Lord Jesus. Let me repeat what I have said so often, and now say again, “You do not love He who is the Living Word any more than you love the Written Word. Your attitude to and your relationship towards the written Word is no more and no less than your attitude to and your relationship towards He who is the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Himself.”
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men... the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth... For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.’ John 1:1-2, 14, 17-18.
His name is Jesus the Christ, Yeshua Ha Mashiac, Jesus the Messiah, The Lord Jesus Christ. He who is, King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the one before whom ‘every knee shall bow’...and ‘every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord’.
‘Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ Philippians 2:9-11.
There is so much more to be said, however, let me finish here with Paul’s very applicable words of farewell to the Ephesian elders on his way to Rome,
‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. 33 I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. 34 Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. 36 And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. ‘ Acts 20: 28-36 KJV
While this is addressed to the Ephesian elders and their charge over the flock, it is first addressed to them as individual believers, then to them in their capacity as elders, or leaders. We must ALL be aware of Paul’s warnings and do exactly what he counsels us to do, ‘watch’. Interesting how this is exactly the counsel the Lord Jesus gives us, ‘watch…’ The Lord Jesus adds the word, ‘pray’ as well. I notice Paul mentions his intense prayer and intercession as well in this very same context. He prayed with ‘tears’, such was the wholeheartedness and deep concern for these ‘dangerous times’ that he knew would come.
I note also that he points them to the ‘Word’ for security. He also asks them to remember his own words, counsel, teaching and warnings.
Finally I note the area he calls them to stay focused upon, the ultimate goal –the inheritance the Lord Jesus will bring with Him at His coming. Again, this is to be secured by staying faithful, not being ’deceived’ and serving the Lord by sharing generously and caringly with our brothers and sisters from our wages and earnings. I.e. giving to the ’necessities’ of those with whom we are in fellowship, exactly as Paul did himself as an example to every believer. This is true koinonia, fellowship. Living so close to our fellow believers that we know when one is in need and can minister out of our resources to help them, individually. This is how we ’earn’ our wages and rewards at His coming.
I have seen this happen in our midst, here in our little corner of the Lord’s vineyard. I have seen one and another give to help meet the needs of our brothers and sisters. Praise the Lord!