by Mike Ratliff
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:15-23 ESV)
The attack on Sola Scriptura is nothing new nor should we be surprised by the shrill and accusing voices of those whom seem bent on leading their adoring followers into greater and greater error and apostasy. This attack on the Word of God is first seen in Genesis 3 when our enemy asked of Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” This enemy has raised up his own false prophets and teachers since the fall who are bent on creating “alternate truths” and creating paradigms which are structured as counterfeits of the genuine Christian religion. These “alternates” come in a very large variety of forms and flavors. Each is designed to draw a group of people into error and cause their irreparable separation from God. This isn’t a very hard job since the natural man is born spiritually dead and has no ability to know God or His truth. Those our enemy targets with his most virulent lies, however, are the religious. He works continually to use his charlatan prophets and teachers to keep in darkness the religious who follow them.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1 ESV)
What is a false prophet (ψευδοπροφηται)? This Greek word means, “a spurious prophet, that is, pretended foreteller or religious impostor: – false prophet.” Our Lords own words from Matthew 7:15-23 above says these false prophets come among Christians in sheep’s clothing. That is, they come among professing Christians as a true shepherd of the sheep. However, inwardly they are ravenous wolves. How are we to recognize these false prophets? We are to recognize them by their fruits. Our Lord is telling us that the doctrines of false prophets promote the wide way instead of the narrow way of the true Christian. The fruit of these false doctrines cannot restrain the flesh while our Lord’s true doctrines of walking the narrow way as His disciple do that very thing. This video gives a pretty good cross-section of the false prophets of our day.
In their own way and from their own direction these false prophets and teachers bring in destructive (απωλειαν) heresies (αιρεσεις). In the New Testament, απωλειαν refers to the state of perdition after death to the exclusion and separation from salvation. I would like to spend a little time with the word αιρεσεις (heresies). This is a very interesting word. This word literally refers to “a form of worship, discipline, or opinion.” The “doctrines” which are held by those in these αιρεσεις are only theoretical not practical. They do not seek to become separate from the Church. No, they want to stay and be tolerated for their different views even though they are heretics. In this they become much more destructive than if they split and formed their own religion. Carefully read the following quote from Emergent Zach Lind.
What is so promising about these cracks continuing to form and widen, is that a new posture is emerging within Christianity where doubt and ambiguity are to be wrestled with, cherished, even. When one moves from mere belief to faith, the Biblical text has become not just a static, inerrant, literalist playground. It receives new life in ways that makes one’s daily life more enriched.
We leave behind the God who is in his black robe, angrily sitting on the bench ready to levy our deserved damnation and we awaken to a God who is in us yet all around us… Our religious life ceases to be defined strictly by a cold and rational system of doctrines. Instead, in faith, we attempt to embrace a love that includes and transcends reason. (source)
While this man’s verbiage is creative and his message thought provoking in some ways, the focus of it is pure αιρεσιν (heresy) because it is a rebellion against the Biblical doctrines of our faith and it elevates doubt (unbelief) as more virtuous than faith. Notice also that the focus of this is self not God. It is all about having an enriched life by rejecting the doctrines that reveal God’s ways to us that we can pursue them as we become cleansed in our sanctification from the parts of us that are fleshly and self-focused.
The ravenous wolves in the midst of the Church hold to their απωλειαν αιρεσεις to the point of even denying the Master (δεσποτην) who bought (αγορασαντα) them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. What does this mean? Does this mean that these are Christians who actually have been purchased by the blood of Jesus, but who have fallen into αιρεσιν? Peter is using the language of redemption, but in an analogical rather than theological way. The word translated here as Master and Lord in the KJV is not the word used to refer to Jesus as our Lord, which is κύριος. Instead, he used the word δεσποτην from which we get our English word “despot.” A δεσποτην was ruler over slaves and not always for good. On the other hand, the word used for our Lord throughout the New Testament, κύριος., refers to one who exercises morally restricted authority for good. In any case, what is Peter talking about here? Doctrinally, Peter’s analogy can be viewed as responsibility for submission to God which these false prophets and teachers have refused. They claim to be Christians, and in this claim they insist that they are actually bought and owned by Jesus, but they are false. Peter is using sarcasm here in referring to their rebellion in their απωλειαν αιρεσεις. I have debated and endured the attacks of many of these people and they are consistent across the board in their insistence that their αιρεσεις are a matter of opinion and no one should rebuke or confront them about it. Their destruction awaits, but when it comes, it will come swiftly.
And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:2 ESV)
We are seeing this throughout the visible Church my brethren. The pressure to compromise in order to be relevant has drawn many “Christian leaders” to join the ranks of those following the sensuality of Joel Osteen or the intellectualism of Rob Bell or the coolness of Tony Jones or the extreme popularity of Rick Warren. Our Lord said that all who call Him Lord, Lord are not all genuine. These defections reveal the fruit of αιρεσιν for the actual contents of the hearts of these people are revealed in their apostasy, which includes attacks on Sola Scriptura and attempts to redefine our faith along the lines of emotion, personal fulfillment, and inclusion of heretical doctrines and practices from Buddhism and Hinduism, et cetera.
My brethren, the attacks from heretics in the Church are nothing new. This is why we are commanded throughout the New Testament to stand firm and rebuke those who are false prophets and false teachers. The lies of the enemy which are the doctrines of these people cannot be allowed to be taught in the Church as the pure doctrines of God. We must never stop praying for wisdom, discernment, and direction in this that we can know the truth and use it to shine its light into the darkness created by our enemy.
Soli Deo Gloria!