False Prophets and the True Promises of God
In the world of Christianity it has grown harder and harder for some to discern false teaching and teachers.
“The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this. Not really. That’s why you’ve got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I’m telling you. I’ve got to just trust God that He’s putting it into your spirit like He put it into mine.” – Joyce Meyer
The church TD Jakes says the following in their belief statements: “There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” This is false because it’s modalism which is unbiblical. It presents one God who appears three different ways or modes… but in this teaching God is not all three at the same time, he is all three and manifests himself in three different ways. TD continues to teach and use the word manifestations rather than persons when referring to the Trinity, and that’s core to the gospel and renders him false in his teaching and potentially his faith.
“God has already done everything He’s going to do. The ball is now in your court. If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you’re going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family” – Joel Osteen
“If you are believing for your child to find God, go help somebody else’s child to develop a relationship with God. If you’re struggling financially, go out and help somebody who has less than you have ... f you want to reap financial blessings, you must sow financial seeds in the lives of others ... If you want to see healing and restoration come to your life, go out and help somebody else get well” – Joel Osteen
“Following Jesus doesn’t change you into something else, it reveals who you’ve been all along. What would it be like to see the you that God sees…” - Steven Furtick
As many others have said, this view is unbiblical… Jesus doesn’t show us who we have always been. The Bible says over and over again that God makes us new! And there’s no way to explain the statement away other than through an admission of wrong and repentance.
As Shai Linne says in his song False Teachers, “And you’re thinking they’re not the dangerous type because some of their statements are right? That only proves that Satan comes as an angel of light This teaching can’t be believed without a cost The lie is you can achieve a crown without a cross”
There were many false teachers in the days of Jeremiah. And, many of them were in influential and persuasive positions among the religious leaders of their day. They were serving and working alongside the true prophets of God… and like the host of false teachers that are preaching and teaching in person and all over the internet they were hard to notice and discern.
In Jeremiah 28 a man named Hananiah claimed to be a prophet of the Lord. There were many false prophets in Jeremiah’s day… that He prophesied and said, 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4 I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.” - Jeremiah 28:2–4 (ESV)
The problem here is that Hananiah claimed to be a prophet, but he wasn’t a prophet. He was claiming that the captivity would be short and that everything would be returned to normal soon.
The problem with their news is two fold: First it was problematic because it was wrong. Which leads me to the 2nd part, it was wrong because God didn’t say it.
Right here, free of charge one of the greatest lessons we can learn when it comes to false teachers is that they are false because they say that God said things that He didn’t say.
The peoples prophets had been speaking of the freedom that God was bringing to them immediately. But, this isn’t what God was saying to His true prophets, and it didn’t come true. So, Jeremiah writes a letter, or a series of letters, to the Israelites who had been taken captive as slaves and deported to Babylon.
Jeremiah delivers a contradictory message to the one the other false prophets were saying.
Jeremiah writes and says in Jeremiah 29:4-11, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord. 10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”
3 Implications from this passage
God’s plans are perfect He is faithful and true
Even though God’s plans were different than the people wanted… they were exactly as they should be and the outcome was exactly as the Lord planned.
God knows right where you are and He is with you
At no point were the Israelites out of God’s view. If God knows what happens to a sparrow… the he absolutely knows what is happening in your life.
And, this requires trust and faith on your part that God knows… you can and should still pray, but the Lord knows where you are and He has not abandoned you.
Hebrews 13:5 (ESV) says,
5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
False prophets are not as easy to spot as you think
The false teachers of Jeremiah’s day were speaking on behalf of God, saying something God didn’t say, and saying what they knew the people around them wanted to hear.
But, regardless of the motivation of a false teacher, it always does harm to people and to the teaching of the church.
Tim Challies writes and identifies 7 types of false teachers in the church today:
7 types of false teachers in the church today:
The Heretic- the person who teaches what blatantly contradicts an essential teaching of the Christian faith. He is a gregarious figure, a natural leader teaching just enough truth to mask his deadly error. The Charlatan- only interested in the Christian faith to the extent it can fill his wallet The Prophet- claims to be gifted by God to speak fresh revelation outside of Scripture—new, authoritative words of prediction, teaching, rebuke, or encouragement. The Abuser- The Abuser uses his position of leadership to take advantage of other people, and in taking advantage of other people he is feeding his personal and fleshly desires rather than loving and sacrificing for the good of others. The Divider- uses false doctrine to disrupt or destroy a church. He gleefully divides brother from brother and sister from sister. The Tickler- the false teacher who cares nothing for what God wants and everything for what men want. He is the man-pleaser rather than the God-pleaser. Paul thought of him as the ear-tickler The Speculator- obsessed with novelty, originality, or speculation. The author of Hebrews warned his church of these “strange teachings,” while Paul told Timothy to protect the church against any “different doctrine” (Hebrews 13:9, 1 Timothy 1:3). Teaching focused on speculation displaces the sure and steady doctrine of Scripture.
Satan’s greatest ambassadors are not pimps, politicians, or power-brokers, but pastors. His priests do not peddle a different religion, but a deadly perversion of the true one. His troops do not make a full-out frontal assault, but work as agents, sneaking into the opposing army.
Jude 3 (ESV)
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
We must keep in mind that we are focusing our attention on those who teach against the Gospel and the faith that was once for delivered to the saints. False teachers are not people you disagree with… at least not in terms that label them harmful. We do disagree with false teachers… but its much harder to know the false teacher.
It is easy to say that the Presbyterians are wrong, or the Methodists are wrong because what they believer about some doctrines is one of the reasons why we don’t worship together each week. (Baptism and ordaining women to the pastorate) And yet, while these disagreements are big and real, they don’t compromise our faith. Whereas, false teaching not only runs contrary to the truth of Scripture, it is often taught by someone who you find yourself agreeing with at times.
Learn to Identify False Teachers: 4 Characteristics
Take the list of the 7 types of false teachers and then add these characteristics to your evaluation grid.
The testimony of their lives.
Matthew 7:15–20 (ESV)
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Look for the fruit of Christ and the gospel in their personal lives. How are they with spouses, kids, neighbors, friends (do they even have friends), and others.
The testimony of their teaching
1 Timothy 6:3–4 (ESV)
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions,
Does their teaching match with the Words of Jesus?
“We need to measure the doctrines that are being taught by the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ.” - John Piper
Unfortunately there are many who label those who preach the words of Jesus as false… And this is exactly how the Lord said it would be.
The lack of submission to Scripture
1 John 4:6 (ESV)
6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
“If a person does not submit his thinking and his teaching to the authority of the apostles — to the authorized teachers of Christ who wrote the New Testament — then they’re not going to be reliable teachers. It doesn’t mean they won’t say true things. Everybody says true things from time to time — even the devil. But that doesn’t make them reliable teachers.” - John Piper
The teaching of salvation by grace through faith with works.
Those who teach a gospel that includes works as a foundation for being saved have missed the entirety of the gospel… You cannot do it… Without Christ there is no salvation for anyone. False teachers are teaching against the truth and teaching with false motives.
And yet, Paul write and says in Galatians 1:9–10 (ESV) “9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."
God keeps all of His promises, which means you can trust in Jesus Christ.
God kept His promise to them 70 years later, and God kept His promise to fully restore and unite His people through Christ.
Through Christ we have access to God by faith. As enemies God has reconciled us to Him through the death of Christ
Romans 5:1-10, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
Hebrews 10:19-22, tells us that because of Christ we can draw near to Him with confidence.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
When you seek the Lord with all your heart you will find Him.
Luke 11:9 (ESV) , 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
Mark 12:30 (ESV)
30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Christ came to rescue us so that we would know God and experience true peace and prosperity.
True peace is when you and God are reconciled by the blood of Christ on the cross
True prosperity is the reward of heaven- the joy of your salvation, the inheritance of Jesus Christ.
God’s plan for your future is Christ, so live for Christ in the present
Through Jeremiah God told the people of Israel that they had a future… and because of that future they were to trust Him and live for Him in an enemy land.
As one commentator said, “Jeremiah received information that false prophets in Babylon were telling the exiles they would return home soon. The exiles made little or no effort, therefore, to adjust to their new surroundings for a long stay. Disturbed by their unrealistic attitude, Jeremiah sent a letter, exhorting them to settle down, build homes, and plant gardens; for he knew they would be in Babylon many years (25:11).”
F. B. Huey, Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol. 16, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 250–251.
Paul writes in Galatians 2:20 (ESV), “20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Rebelling against your present circumstance is rebellion against God
You are called to trust God and His Word not your circumstances
Hananiah was working to do a good thing for the Lord by leading Israel against the Babylonians. But, God was working out His will through Nebuchadnezzer, the King of Babylon. Even though Hananiah was doing something in the Lord’s name, He was not doing things in line with God’s Word- which is His will.
You must trust God and His Word not your intentions.
God’s Word and His will are interconnected.
What God speaks is true, not possible. God’s Word will be accomplished, and His will must be trusted.
Just because you obey His Word today does not mean your circumstance will change tomorrow.
God is working for your welfare, you pray for the world around you and serve and share the Gospel.