Beware of False Prophets by Ann- Louise Gremminger
“Beware of false prophets,
who come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”
- Matthew 7:15
Since Jesus Himself gave this warning, we need to take it very seriously. Just our military must be fully aware of the tactics of the enemy; we in the Lord’s army must be educated in regard the tactics of the enemy of our souls. Until we grasp the dangers, and see the need for preparation and action, we are vulnerable to attack and open to deception.
I suggest we begin by asking the following questions. How can we identify a false prophet? And, how do we protect ourselves against deception?
How can we identify a false prophet?
Every preacher we dislike or disagree with is not necessarily a false prophet. We need to be careful whom we label in such a serious manner. We need to be able to distinguish an actual false prophet from a person who, while preaching the true gospel, may be in error in some other relatively insignificant area. The Word of God is the best source of information for all matters of life including the issue of false prophets, as seen in Galatians 1:8, 9.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel
to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches
any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
Noteworthy in those verses is Paul’s repetition of the phrase “let him be accursed”. Such strong wording which, remember, came directly from the Holy Spirit, reveals that perversion of the gospel is not something God takes lightly. Anyone who adds to or takes away from the good news of salvation by grace through faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ who shed His blood for the sins of the world, is therefore easily identified as a false prophet.
Some false prophets, at least at first, are not as blatant in their misrepresentations of the Word of God. A recent encounter on the internet is one such example. For several months an individual in an online community had been posting messages which, on the surface, seemed acceptable. Initially, his writings were a simple call to the church to return to obedience of the commandments of the Lord, but something made me uneasy. In Matthew 26:41, Jesus told His disciples to “watch and pray.” Heeding that instruction, I simply watched and prayed. In the mean time, this person gathered quite a following. Then, one day, he finally showed his true colors. Along with other things contrary to the Word of God, he claimed to be one of the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7 and 14 and also declared that those who do not stand with him are in danger of hell fire. There are two problems with such a claim. First, according to the Scriptures, the 144,000 will not be revealed until the tribulation period when they will preach the gospel throughout the world. Secondly, they will be chosen from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. This man is not a Jew and we are not yet in the tribulation period. Therefore, he is a false prophet. Sadly, most of those who have supported him and claim to be believers still stand with him. I pray that the Lord will remove this deception that has taken root in their hearts and minds.
How do we protect ourselves against deception?
The very first incidence of deception took place in the Garden of Eden, perpetrated by the deceiver himself who has continued his scheming to blind minds to the truth of God’s Word throughout the ages. In 2 Timothy 3:13-17, Paul gave Timothy good instruction in regard to this subject. He began with a warning that, “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Paul went on to say, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.” Therein we find the answer to the question, “How do we protect ourselves against deception?”
In order to know what is false we must have something true with which to compare it. We must know the truth and be so grounded and assured it in that we will never be deceived and pulled away from it. As Paul said, “…you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Wisdom to know truth and to identify evil can only come from the Word of God. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Bible is the only basis upon which we can establish our doctrine, know the way to live, and be equipped for God’s purposes.
We must be equipped to protect ourselves from deception. How do we do that? I strongly encourage you to get involved in a church that teaches the Word of God in its entirety, holding to the foundations of the faith, and most importantly, proclaiming the true gospel of Lord Jesus Christ. At the end of this writing, I have included a sample doctrinal statement from a non-denominational source. (The web page where it was found is not copyrighted, so I believe it is acceptable to share it here.) This statement of faith fits well with the criteria listed above. If you haven’t already, find a church that holds to those basic principles and benefit from the teaching provided.
Of supreme importance is the need for all believers to saturate themselves in the Word of God. We cannot simply rely upon the pastor to spoon feed us on Sunday morning. We must search the scriptures daily, like the Bereans in the Book of Acts, feeding on the Word so that we can “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) David declared, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!” Hiding God’s Word in our hearts keeps us from both sin and deception. Consider the man David describes in Psalm 1.
“Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly”
The counsel of the ungodly most certainly includes the teachings of a false prophet. Since those who do not follow such instruction are blessed, then it follows that one who does follow false teaching will, as Paul said, “be accursed”.
How is it that the blessed person David speaks of keeps himself from being deceived? The second verse reveals his secret to living, standing, and walking in truth.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night”
That statement is the key to both questions we began with. How can we identify a false prophet? And, how do we protect ourselves against deception? By delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it day and night.
A final word from Colossians 3:16,
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom,
teaching and admonishing one another
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
** Sample Statement of Faith follows
Sample Statement of Faith
- WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life; and we believe that God created the Heavens and the earth out of nothing by His spoken word, and for His own glory.
- WE BELIEVE that God has revealed Himself and His truth in the created order, in the Scriptures, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say.
- WE BELIEVE that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, and was true God and true man, existing in one person and without sin; and we believe in the resurrection of the crucified body of our Lord, in His ascension into heaven, and in His present life there for us as Lord of all, High Priest, and Advocate.
- WE BELIEVE that God directly created Adam and Eve, the historical parents of the entire human race; and that they were created in His own image, distinct from all other living creatures, and in a state of original righteousness.
- WE BELIEVE that our first parents sinned by rebelling against God's revealed will and thereby incurred both physical and spiritual death, and that as a result all human beings are born with a sinful nature that leads them to sin in thought, word, and deed.
- WE BELIEVE in the existence of Satan, sin, and evil powers, and that all these have been defeated by God in the cross of Christ.
- WE BELIEVE that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice, triumphing over all evil; and that all who believe in Him are justified by His shed blood and forgiven of all their sins.
- WE BELIEVE that all who receive the Lord Jesus Christ by faith are born again of the Holy Spirit and thereby become children of God and are enabled to offer spiritual worship acceptable to God.
- WE BELIEVE that the Holy Spirit indwells and gives life to believers, enables them to understand the Scriptures, empowers them for godly living, and equips them for service and witness.
- WE BELIEVE that the one, holy, universal Church is the body of Christ and is composed of the communities of Christ's people. The task of Christ's people in this world is to be God's redeemed community, embodying His love by worshipping God with confession, prayer, and praise; by proclaiming the gospel of God's redemptive love through our Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth by word and deed; by caring for all of God's creation and actively seeking the good of everyone, especially the poor and needy.
- WE BELIEVE in the blessed hope that Jesus Christ will soon return to this earth, personally, visibly, and unexpectedly, in power and great glory, to gather His elect, to raise the dead, to judge the nations, and to bring His Kingdom to fulfillment.
- WE BELIEVE in the bodily resurrection of the just and unjust, the everlasting punishment of the lost, and the everlasting blessedness of the saved.