Apostates, tares, fiery trials, and tests

by Mike Ratliff

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Matthew 10:24-25 (NASB) 

When God saves a person, it is a resurrection from spiritual death to spiritual life. No matter how many years that person lives in this life after that, that condition will not change. However, all those whom God saves are left to deal with their flesh in a demon infested temporal place that He uses to purify and mold them unto the image of their Saviour. This process is dealt with all through the New Testament and is referred to as fiery trials or tests. The journey from that moment of spiritual rebirth to the Celestial City is a pilgrimage along a narrow way through these tests and trials. The way is not bereft of problems, false brethren, false teachers, false prophets, pressure to conform to this Vanity Fair, pressure to dilute the pure truth from God’s Word, pressure to fit in with this lost and dying world, et cetera. It can seem at times that we are about to be destroyed by the very things God is using to perfect us and ready us for our eternity with our Saviour forever. 

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
WE were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:28-39 (NASB) 

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? 19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. 1 Peter 4:12-19 (NASB) 

Doesn’t it seem that every part of the Church is under some form of attack? It does to me and I have addressed much of it.  Through these unpleasant things I have tried to point each of you to the truth that we must not place our trust in mere men, no matter how great they are at preaching, teaching, or rightly dividing God’s Word for us. No, we must not put men on pedestals of idolatry. Eventually, cracks and inconsistencies will be found in them and their ministries because they are men not God. This is trying for us, especially if we tend to idolize them. In fact, what we must come to understand fully is that popularity with the world is not a sign that a ministry is on the right track, but, in fact, is the very opposite. The more a “Christian” leader is lauded by the world, the more we should be wary of him.

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Matthew 10:24-25 (NASB) 

No one will dispute this statement, for it would be unseemly for the servant to be exalted above his Master. When our Lord was on earth, what was the treatment He received? Were His claims acknowledged, His instructions followed, His perfections worshipped, by those whom He came to bless? No; “He was despised and rejected of men.” Outside the camp was His place: cross-bearing was His occupation. Did the world yield Him solace and rest? “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head.” This inhospitable country afforded Him no shelter: it cast Him out and crucified Him. Such-if you are a follower of Jesus, and maintain a consistent, Christ-like walk and conversation-you must expect to be the lot of that part of your spiritual life which, in its outward development, comes under the observation of men. They will treat it as they treated the Saviour-they will despise it. Dream not that worldlings will admire you, or that the more holy and the more Christ-like you are, the more peaceably people will act towards you. They prized not the polished gem, how should they value the jewel in the rough? “If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of His household?” If we were more like Christ, we should be more hated by His enemies. It were a sad dishonour to a child of God to be the world’s favourite. It is a very ill omen to hear a wicked world clap its hands and shout “Well done” to the Christian man. He may begin to look to his character, and wonder whether he has not been doing wrong, when the unrighteous give him their approbation. Let us be true to our Master, and have no friendship with a blind and base world which scorns and rejects Him. Far be it from us to seek a crown of honour where our Lord found a coronet of thorn. – C.H. Spurgeon – from Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening for November 10.

Not that long ago I needed some information about for some research I was doing so I contacted some men I knew at John MacArthur’s church. We naturally discussed some of the church issues and controversies going on. From them I learned that even though their church is geared to minister to Christians, they still attract many unbelievers to hear John preach. In this, we should rejoice. However, they also have a continual stream of protesters picketing their church services complaining about all sorts of things. Some of the attacks get personal and with the help of technology, it is quite easy for some to attack their ministry via mass emails and web sites. Character assassination has never been easier. Even on my small scale, I have received my share of it. This is the reality of being an obedient servant of the living God in this lost and dying world. Our Lord made it clear that there will always be false prophets and religious leaders who are enemies of the truth. I would much rather debate an atheist than an apostate (tare). The apostate believes that he or she is a holder of the pure truth, but what they have is a demented form of it that cannot stand up to scrutiny via Sacred Scripture. This is why they always decry our dependence upon Sola Scriptura. Instead, they claim to possess direct revelation from God.

One tactic is to misquote a Christian leader by taking what is said or written out of context or isolating it from the whole council of what the man teaches and preaches. These things are simply part of the fiery trials, the tests, which God is using to perfect His people to conform them unto the image of their Saviour. This is the spiritual transformation process that all of us so desperately need.

My brethren, look not to men for your fulfillment. No, look to the Lord alone. Understand that there are evil people who hold to aberrant forms of “Christianity,” but are simply our enemy’s seed whose crop is tares. Some of them attack those who do nothing but teach the uncompromised truth. The closer a man of God gets to aligning his ministry to what God’s Word says and nothing more, the more he will be maligned by these pseudo-Christians. Let us not be surprised when this happens, but be ready to give an account to all who question us. The Holy Spirit will give us the words to say in the time of our trial. Worry not, for all truly in Christ are just one heartbeat away from being with their Saviour for eternity, which is far better than anything this world has to offer.

Soli Deo Gloria!

One thought on “Apostates, tares, fiery trials, and tests

Comments are closed.