Category Archives: DENOMINATIONS, CULTS, & FALSE TEACHING

Who is speaking in Proverbs 8:22?

WHO IS SPEAKING IN PROVERBS 8:22?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old,” says Proverbs 8:22. Who is the “me?” Is it Jesus Christ, as often assumed?

In the first few centuries A.D., there arose a heresy by the name of Arianism. Supposedly, the Lord Jesus Christ was a created being, a “begotten God,” rather than the eternal JEHOVAH God of the Bible. You hear a modern-day form of this nonsense when a so-called “Jehovah’s Witness”—better termed a “Russellite” (follower of Charles Taze Russell)—tells you that Jesus Christ is “a god” rather than “God.” In fact, their New World Translation was rendered in John 1:1 so as to reflect their unorthodox theology: “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” (Our King James Bible, or Authorized Version, reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”)

Furthermore, John 1:18 says in the New World Translation, “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom [position] with the Father is the one that has explained him.” (Our King James Bible has, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”) The “conservative” New American Standard Version agrees in John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Friends, we could not have a more liberal translation here!!!!

Where the King James Bible and its underlying manuscripts read “Son” (“only begotten Son”), some manuscripts have “God” (“only begotten God”). This latter set of manuscripts is the source of the New American Standard Version (NASV) and the New World Translation (NWT). From where did this ancient error originate? One church father and major Bible manuscript editor, Origen (A.D. 185–A.D. 254), held to Arianism. He likely perverted John 1:18 in some ancient Bible texts, among other mutilated textual passages. That would also make Origin responsible for the resultant English translations found in the NASV and NWT. “Son” was changed to “God,” and we can see how heresy has actually crept into certain English Bibles!

In light of the above confusion, some have appealed to other Bible verses to strain to find “Scriptural” evidence that Jesus was a created being, someone who has not existed eternally (as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit have). Proverbs 8:22 is one of their “proof-text” verses—although the wording in the King James Bible cannot be used to teach Arianism. “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old,” says Proverbs 8:22 in the Authorized Version. Read the verse in the following popular modern English versions, and note how they have unnecessarily added the verb “created”/“made”/”formed,” or the concept of creation or bringing something (someone?) into being:

  • New International Version: “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;”
  • Amplified Bible: “The Lord created and possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old [were accomplished].”
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible: “The Lord made me at the beginning of His creation, before His works of long ago.”
  • New Living Translation: “The LORD formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else.”
  • New Revised Standard Version: “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.”
  • Good News to Modern Man: “The LORD created me first of all, the first of his works, long ago.
  • The Living Bible: “The Lord formed me in the beginning, before he created anything else.”
  • Common English Bible: “The LORD created me at the beginning of his way, before his deeds long in the past.”
  • The Message: “GOD sovereignly made me—the first, the basic—before he did anything else.”
  • The New English Translation: “The LORD created me as the beginning of his works, before his deeds of long ago.”
  • The Voice: “The Eternal created me; it happened when His work was beginning, one of His first acts long ago.”
  • Revised Standard Version: “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.”

Some interpret Proverbs 8:22 as Father God speaking of Jesus Christ. Then, the verse is made to read (using modern versions): “God created Jesus Christ at the beginning of creation….” However, this is not only heresy, it violates the context of Proverbs 8:22. The context was set in verse 1 (“Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?”) and in verse 12 (“I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.”) The speaker of Proverbs 8:22 is not Jesus Christ; wisdom is the speaker. Wisdom is personified, given the trait of a living being, and it talks in order to issue counsel.

“The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.” It would be so awkward to say, “The LORD possessed Jesus Christ in the beginning of His way.” What nonsense! “Me” here is wisdom. Proverbs 8:22 is simply teaching that Almighty God—actually Jesus Christ the Son (Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2)—exercised wisdom during the Creation Week. Contrary to what most scientists tell us, the heaven and the earth are not the result of some nebulous, random explosion and expansion of matter. Creation is the work of a wise God, a Supreme Being who had a plan and then brought it into existence by His spoken Word. He had knowledge about time, space, and matter—and then He had wisdom to bring it about. What an awesome God we Christians serve, brethren!

Also see:
» What does the Bible say about blood transfusions?
» Which Bible version should I use?
» “But what if they read the Bible at my church…?!”

Can you explain, “They be blind leaders of the blind?”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE EXPRESSION, “THEY BE BLIND LEADERS OF THE BLIND?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

“Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he [the Lord Jesus Christ] answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:12-14). Do the blind still lead the blind? (Yes, they do!)

We have an English expression derived from the above passage. Physical blindness is not under discussion. It is spiritual blindness. Those in the position of leading others to God have no idea how to reach God themselves. While they may hold a religious title, they are just as clueless about spiritual truths as skeptics!

Long ago, there was an evangelist who had “preached the Gospel” for over two decades in his particular denomination. Now facing death, he paced the floor, worrying aloud, “Am I going to Heaven when I die?” (Where did all this man’s followers go upon death? In all those years, had he ever preached to them a pure Gospel of Grace? That is quite scary! If he was worried about eternity, what peace had he offered them?!) Stop and think, dear friends, of how damaging denominationalism truly is. It does not matter what group or sect. People are so confused about even such basic Bible facts as a clear Gospel message. Yet, they would not hesitate to announce, “I am a Christian, and I know Jesus!”

The Gospel of the Grace of God (Acts 20:24) is found mostly succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” We do not have to wonder if we will make it to Heaven. If we rely on or trust the simple truth that Jesus Christ at Calvary paid our sin debt in full, that makes us fit for Heaven. We are showing God we as sinners cannot please Him. We are admitting that He had to do for us what we simply cannot do for ourselves. Alas, leave it to sinful man to complicate it!

Without question, the Lord Jesus did not hesitate to tell the truth about the religious leaders of His nation. These educated men had been entrusted with the Old Testament Scriptures, but they were evil. They hid God’s Word from the common people. Frankly, despite their godly appearance, they were enemies of the truth. They claimed to be serving the God of Abraham but were anything but!

Jesus, in Matthew 15:12-14, said Father God would judge those wicked priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and so on. According to Jeremiah chapter 23 and Ezekiel chapter 34, corrupt religious leaders had been a pervasive problem in Israel for centuries. Unfortunately, a similar condition has largely crippled the Body of Christ for nearly 2,000 years. Today, most Bible colleges, seminaries, and denominations train shallow Bible users and perverted Gospel preachers. These graduates matriculated through courses and classes, took and passed examinations, received certifications, and underwent ordinations. Philosophies learned, committees satisfied, and denominations approved. But, does God endorse them? Are they even members of the Church the Body of Christ? Or, just members of manmade denominations? Is the Spirit of God leading them? Or, is it simply the spirit of man? Did they learn the Bible? Or just suppositions, speculations, and hypotheses about Scripture?

Consider the leading “scholars” in Christendom today. They are experts in church history, fluent in Greek and Hebrew and Latin, longtime seminary professors, popular counselors, best-selling authors, members of denominational churches, and hosts to large television and radio audiences. However, how many have actually trusted Jesus Christ exclusively as their personal Saviour? Are they nothing but Christians in name only? Since much of the processing church is clueless about the Scriptures, they exalt non-Christians as Christians and pagan teaching as Christian. Indeed, “they be blind leaders of the blind.”

Notice Israel’s religious leaders. They misquoted Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:6, and were willfully ignorant of other Old Testament passages and truths (Matthew 12:3-5; Matthew 19:4; Matthew 22:31; Mark 12:10,26; Luke 6:3; John 7:52). Even after witnessing numerous miracles, they asked Jesus to perform more (Matthew 12:38; Matthew 16:4). They were content in their unbelief! The Lord exposed the fact that they had set aside God’s Word so as to keep their church traditions (Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13).

They pretended not to know the truth, so as to conceal their unbelief (Matthew 21:24-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8). On three occasions, to no avail, they attempted to trick Jesus (Matthew 22:15-46; Mark 12:13-34; Luke 20:40). They actually looked for false witnesses to accuse Christ to condemn Him to death (Matthew 26:59-62)! Read His scathing rebukes of them as found in Matthew chapter 23, Luke chapter 11, and John chapter 8. They even lied to cover up His resurrection (Matthew 28:11-15).

Even today, those in “church leadership” are often unfit to lead God’s people. This author can honestly tell you that most of the so-called “Christian clergy” he has encountered these past 10-plus years could not identify Christian teaching. In fact, some have taken scoffer’s (!) positions at times—the preacher who did not take the Bible literally, the priest who outright laughed at Scripture, and so on. This author recalls the “Christian” lady who refused to hear him read the Bible to her. Never will he forget the church members who had attended denominational services for decades and were still biblically illiterate. Long ago, this author too was an ignorant Christian leader—one of the many blind leading the many blind. However, when he learned about dispensational Bible study, he left his denomination and never returned to it! Indeed, the blind do not have to stay blind.

In Matthew 15:12-14, the Lord said, “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” What exactly is this “ditch?” That deep hole into which Israel will fall had already been predicted in Proverbs chapter 23: “[26] My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. [27] For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit. [28] She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.” There is something more than physical prostitution here.

Notice the spiritual whoredom in Revelation chapter 17: “[1] And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: [2] With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. [3] So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. [4] And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: [5] And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Since Israel’s religious leaders had taken her away from God’s truth, the nation would fall for the Antichrist’s false religious system (still future). Likewise, Christendom’s leaders have lured billions of church members into Satan’s trap. Greek, Hebrew, and Latin literacy are no substitute for the indwelling Holy Spirit! Familiarity with theology, church history, and denominational tenets are no replacement for sound Bible doctrine! Yet, the Holy Spirit and sound Bible doctrine are usually ignored when evaluating and choosing local church leaders. Followers of such ministries “carry on the tradition” by using those faulty criteria to assess life!

Read the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians. These saints exalted “scholarship,” believing that philosophy was key to learning God’s wisdom. First Corinthians chapter 2: “[11] For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. [12] Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. [13] Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. [14] But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Sadly, the professing church today has yet to learn these truths. Most preachers and teachers are filled with the world’s wisdom. Very few are filled with the Holy Spirit, thinking as He would have them think. They do not approach the Bible dispensationally. They do not use the right Bible text (the manuscript family of the King James Bible). We can meet the people resulting from those ministries. They are copies of the confused souls who taught them. All this perplexity leads to atheism, agnosticism, and more denominations. Indeed, the blind are leading the blind! (And God is not to blame!)

Also see:
» Should we hate the denominational people who misled us?
» “If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant?”
» I believed the Gospel, so why do they not believe?

Why did the Lord Jesus never tell jokes?

WHY DID THE LORD JESUS NEVER TELL JOKES?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Why did Christ never tell jokes? (This question implies that He did not have a sense of humor. He did!)

The Lord was not a standup comedian but He was willing to “tell it like it was”—even if it meant employing amusing language to expose religious nonsense. Since we have a written record (and not audio), we cannot identify with certainty the tone in which these statements were made. Still, they are especially ridiculous, said in such a way as to pinpoint spiritual silliness in Israel’s midst. Similar words could be used to describe today’s religious absurdities.

STRAINING AT A GNAT, SWALLOWING A CAMEL

Matthew 23:24: “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” Is not this a most preposterous idea? Israel’s religious leaders are utterly insane as concerning priorities. They consider it utterly repulsive to find a tiny gnat in their wine, so do their best to filter it out before they eat it. Yet, they let a gigantic camel remain therein and proceed to swallow it with the wine! They willfully lack spiritual discernment: instead, they emphasize the minor and ignore the major. Moreover, as leaders, they are misguiding others to repeat their errors. They had the Word of God (Old Testament Scriptures), but they did not care to believe them. In fact, they had Jesus Christ in their midst and they did not want to hear Divine truth from His lips either.

ATTRACTIVE TOMBS, HIDEOUS CORPSES

Matthew chapter 23: “[27] Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. [28] Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” On the outside, these religious leaders looked like they were God’s servants. They had a nice outward appearance wearing their gorgeous clothing, performing their humbling ceremonies, and working in sumptuous buildings… but it was all an act, a duplicitous show. On the inside, they had ugly hearts of sin, unbelief, and spiritual death. (For more information, see our “fig tree” study linked at the end of this article.)

LARGE CAMEL, SMALL EYE

Matthew chapter 19: “[23] Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. [24] And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Mark chapter 10: “[23] And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! [24] And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! [25] It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Luke chapter 18: “[24] And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! [25] For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

The idea of trying to fit a camel through a needle’s eye is another ridiculous scenario. Christ was intentionally absurd to prove a simple point. Wealthy people in Israel’s program—if given the opportunity to choose between their riches and faith in God—they would invariably decide to keep their wealth. Read the contexts of these verses: an affluent man was so materialistic he rejected Jesus in order to retain his fortune. The idolatrous wealthy would be as able to enter God’s kingdom as the camel could pass through the needle’s eye. Impossible! (See our related study linked below.)

Also see:
» Why did Jesus curse the “poor” fig tree?
» What is “the eye of the needle” in Matthew 19:24?
» Should we be “fruit inspectors?”

What is the difference between apostasy and heresy?

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN APOSTASY AND HERESY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

These are terms frequently used in religious contexts so we must be sure to define them as the Holy Bible does. “For what saith the Scriptures?”

APOSTASY

We shall deal with the subject of apostasy first. Scripture makes two references to “apostasy.” While the English word itself does not appear, the Greek form does: “apostasia” transliterated yields our English term. The Greek prefix “apo–” means “away from;” the word “stasis” is defined as “standing.” Imagine someone standing in one camp of doctrine suddenly walking over to stand in another camp of doctrine. This is a simple illustration of apostasy. Now, we turn to the actual verses to see that concept borne out.

Acts 21:21: “And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.” The word “forsake” is the Greek “apostasia.” Paul the Apostle is falsely accused of encouraging all Jews everywhere to abandon the Law of Moses. While he told his converts that they were under grace not law (Romans 6:14-15), never did he tell this to the Jews who had trusted Christ before him. Paul did not encourage Israel’s Little Flock to turn away from the Law, for law was their operating system (see Matthew 5:18-20). What Paul did teach is that members (Jews and Gentiles) of the Church the Body of Christ were not under the Law of Moses (read the Book of Galatians). God had changed the program, from law to grace (see Ephesians 3:2). That did not change the doctrine previously given to the Little Flock, Israel’s believing remnant. They were to remain with their revelation, just as Paul’s converts were to remain with his revelation.

Second Thessalonians 2:3: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;….” Here, “apostasia” has been rendered “falling away.” The only way Israel can embrace the Antichrist is if they first far remove themselves from God’s Word. Had they believed on His Son (Jesus Christ) when He showed up in their midst 20 centuries ago, had they not crucified Him in unbelief, there would be no Antichrist. Jesus said, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). Antichrist will use a false religious system to deceive the masses in Israel, but the believing Jews will not be fooled. In 2 Thessalonians chapter 2, we can see the apostasy leading up to the Antichrist: “[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.”

There is an interesting concept put forth in Galatians chapter 1, where Paul is warning the Galatians who have just left God’s grace to be legalistic: “[6] I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: [7] Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. [8] 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.” They have been “removed” (apostatized) from God’s grace that Paul preached to them. Now, they are works-oriented, law-oriented. False teachers have slipped into their midst, and they did not guard themselves. How deceived they are! (And millions of Christians are just as deceived today—anti-grace and pro-law!!)

In one succinct statement, let us summarize what we have said thus far. Apostasy, if we use the English Bible with the Greek Bible, is the moving from one doctrinal position to another. One teaching has been abandoned in favor of another teaching. More specifically, it is a renouncing of the truth in order to embrace false doctrine. If you want to see examples and imagery of apostasy in Scripture, consider the “rebellion” in Joshua 22:22 and Jeremiah 29:32, the “casting away” (throwing out) of God’s holy vessels in 2 Chronicles 29:19, and the “forsaking” of the LORD in Jeremiah 2:19. Apostasy is always a downgrade; never is it an improvement. Spiritual harm is the inevitable outcome of apostasy, and never forget it! We can study the Bible, we can appeal to church history and secular history, and see that brought to pass many times over.

HERESY

As the English term “apostasy” is from Greek, so is our English word “heresy.” The Greek is “hairesis,” appearing nine times in the Textus Receptus. In our English Bible, the word has been transliterated four times (“heresy”). The remaining instances have been rendered “sect.” Again, we let the Bible speak for itself:

  • Acts 5:17: “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect [hairesis] of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,….”
  • Acts 15:5: “But there rose up certain of the sect [hairesis] of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”
  • Acts 24:5: “For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect [hairesis] of the Nazarenes:….”
  • Acts 24:14: “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy [hairesis], so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:….”
  • Acts 26:5: “Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect [hairesis] of our religion I lived a Pharisee.”
  • Acts 28:22: “But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect [hairesis], we know that every where it is spoken against.”
  • 1 Corinthians 11:19: “For there must be also heresies [hairesis] among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
  • Galatians 5:20: “Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies [hairesis],….”
  • 2 Peter 2:1: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies [hairesis], even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

Pharisees, religious Jews known for their meticulous observance of the Mosaic Law and reverence for oral tradition, were a special group or “sect” (Acts 5:17; Acts 15:5). Paul the Apostle, a former Pharisee himself (Acts 26:5), was seen as promoting a “sect” (same word as “heresy” in Greek, remember). This is the critics’ title for Christianity (see Acts 24:5,14; Acts 28:22). It is seen as a “branch of Judaism,” as Christians identify with the God of Israel.

The last three occurrences of “hairesis” deserve particular attention. Paul’s converts in Corinth have aligned themselves with various and sundry ideas and practices—heathen philosophy, sexual deviance, idolatry, drunkenness, gluttony, among other dreadful errors. These diverse “pet” views have resulted in splinter groups or denominations.

First Corinthians chapter 1: “[10] Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions [Greek, “schisma”—as in “schism”] among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. [11] For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. [12] Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.”

As we saw, chapter 11 and verse 19 spoke of the “heresies” or sects that exist among fellow members of the Body of Christ in Corinth. Instead of all following Paul as he follows Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), the Corinthians are adhering to numerous religious leaders (see 1 Corinthians 4:14-16). One of the “works of the flesh” (sin nature) is “heresies” (Galatians 5:19-20). The Corinthians are “carnal” or fleshly Christians, driven by sin instead of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Hence, they are divided. They have no unity in sound Bible doctrine because they have accepted false doctrine! Instead of relying on God’s viewpoint, they are depending on man’s viewpoint (see chapters 1-3)!

Heresy is one of Satan’s most effective tools in splitting Israel too (just as he uses it to divide the Body of Christ). The Apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 1:19-21, referred to God’s prophets or spokesmen. He opens chapter 2 with, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” Heresy is designed to oppose the truth by counterfeiting and (ultimately) replacing it. New information is introduced in order to form a new system. Someone seeks to start a following, a new denomination, or a cult. Fame is sought, fortune is sought, but truth is not on the agenda. The Lord Jesus Christ is not at the heart of the heretic’s plans because the Lord Jesus Christ has been pushed aside.

We find one reference to the “heretick” in the King James Bible (the spelling variation need not distract you). Titus chapter 3: “[9] But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. [10] A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; [11] Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” Concentrate on verse 9. The heretic uses these techniques to introduce his or her false teaching into a preexisting local church or ministry. Silly questions, profitless questions are presented. Personalities and people (“Dr. So-and-So,” “Reverend So-and-So,” et cetera) are exalted while doctrine is ignored. Arguments and fights break out. Wars based on legalistic issues overwhelm and discourage. The Bible declares this is “unprofitable” and “vain.” It is empty and worthless, accomplishing nothing for God’s glory.

The Bible says the “heretick” should be warned twice of his or her errors (Titus 3:10). If after the second time he or she continues down that path of false teaching, the Bible says to “reject” that person. Heretics should not be given public platforms to spread their nonsense. They are not to be allowed to address local churches or speak at Bible conferences. Souls are at stake, and it is the pastor’s job to make sure his people are not listening to heretics!! God commands him to guard his pulpit without apology!!

Listen to the Apostle Paul’s advice to the church elders of the Ephesians in Acts chapter 20: “[28] 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.”

Did you see how the heretics introduce false teaching for the sake of forming new groups, “to draw away disciples after them” (verse 30)? These resulting sects or cults are inherently flawed. They cannot be purged. They must be abandoned entirely. Heretics cannot be reformed if they have willfully gone down that path. It is not our job to risk our ministries for the sake of salvaging someone (even a Christian) if it will damage our testimony and corrupt our souls and the people we reach. We must be on guard, we must be on guard—especially in grace circles!!! It bears repeating over and over and over and over and over and over.

CONCLUSION

Apostasy is the abandoning of truth for the sake of embracing error. It is moving one’s spiritual feet from one doctrinal position so as to stand in another doctrinal faction. Heresy is the introduction of new doctrine for the sake of dividing believers and forming new groups (sects, denominations, cults).

Whereas “apostasy” underscores the activity of moving from one doctrinal position to another, “heresy” emphasizes the division that false teaching produces. Apostasy can lead to heresy (someone can switch doctrinal positions and wind up forming a new group, that new group adopting a special set of beliefs). Heresy can lead to apostasy (upon learning and embracing a heretical doctrine, one grows apostate). Leaving the truth gives rise to new groups and new groups give rise to further departures from the truth. See 2 Timothy 2:14-18.

Brethren, our only hope in not growing apostate and/or heretical is to fervently maintain and believe the word of God’s grace—Paul’s Gospel and his epistles, Romans through Philemon. Acts 20:32: “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.”

Also see:
» How do we identify false teachers?
» Does doctrine really matter?
» Should we be “fruit inspectors?”

Are the Jews supposed to still get circumcised in the Dispensation of Grace?

ARE THE JEWS SUPPOSED TO STILL GET CIRCUMCISED IN THE DISPENSATION OF GRACE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Are the Jews supposed to still get circumcised in the Dispensation of Grace? What about Galatians 5:3-4? “[3] For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. [4] Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”

Let us begin at verse 1 and move through to verse 9.

“[1] Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. [2] Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. [3] For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. [4] Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. [5] For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. [6] For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. [7] Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? [8] This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. [9] A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”

The problem in Galatia is false teaching in the form of legalism (Law-keeping as means of gaining God’s blessings, the belief that we can gain Heaven by our religious works, using the Law under the impression it will produce fruitful Christian service). Notice how the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul titles this “the yoke of bondage” (verse 1). That phrase hooks to Acts 15:10: “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” Let us read the first five verses of Acts chapter 15 now.

“[1] And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. [2] When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question. [3] And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren. [4] And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. [5] But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.”

Paul’s Gentile converts (found in Acts chapters 13-14) were being told that they had to “be circumcised after the manner of Moses” or they could not be saved (Acts 15:1). “It was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses” (verse 5). Such notions parallel what we just read in the Book of Galatians, and that is no coincidence. The Galatians were saved in Acts chapters 13-14, and the apostolic conference of chapter 15 is repeated in Galatians chapter 2. Yes, never forget, Acts chapter 15 is quite useful in grasping Galatians.

Friend, you have used Galatians 5:3-4 to ask whether Jews still need physical circumcision in our Dispensation. You have misunderstood the context. Those being circumcised in that passage are not Jews but rather Gentiles. Specifically, they are Paul’s Gentile converts. Gentile believers in the Gospel of Grace have been misled to assume they are under Israel’s program (the Law of Moses, physical circumcision). Paul’s argument in Galatians chapter 5 is to show them they are not “rightly dividing the word of truth” as 2 Timothy 2:15 states. They are mixing dispensations, uniting the mystery and prophetic programs God has divided.

The only rightful purpose of the Law in our Dispensation is that it points out our sin and our need for the Saviour (1 Timothy 1:7-11). Like the Galatians originally, we have already recognized our sin problem and trusted Jesus Christ as the fully-satisfying sacrifice for our sins (Romans 3:23-28). The Law, our performance, plays no role in saving us from our sins—both the eternal penalty (Hell) and the temporary struggles (daily living). This is what the Galatians had forgotten since Paul left their midst. False teachers had entered and tricked them with denominational teaching (Galatians 3:1-3; Galatians 4:17; Galatians 5:7-12; Galatians 6:12-13)! Such dangerous individuals lurk in the pulpit of the average “Christian” church even now, and likely fooling most people reading these very lines!

Paul wrote in Galatians chapter 5 that, if those Gentiles in Galatia wanted to be physically circumcised, there was much, much more to Law-keeping. The Law system is an “all-or-nothing” arrangement—failure to keep it in one point results in being guilty of breaking all the commandments (James 2:10). In other words, the Galatians had not grasped the magnitude of the spiritual trouble in which they had placed themselves. By getting under the Law system, they were to follow every precept and each rule found in Moses’ writings—not just physical circumcision!! Since they had chosen to forsake God’s message of grace to them through Paul’s ministry, they were now subject to several hundred rules (the entire Mosaic system)! They had been justified unto eternal life by faith in Christ, but they had discarded that truth and returned to “work to be justified.” “Fallen from grace” indeed! Satan had deceived them, and he uses that same works-religion and (self)“righteousness” system to con us even now (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Such a performance system is “weak and beggarly,” Galatians 4:9 says. Such is spiritual immaturity, Galatians 4:19 says. “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?” (verse 20). For the rest of the chapter, Paul differentiates between man’s efforts and God’s grace—we are not under the performance system but under the grace system! It is not about us but all about Jesus Christ!

Let us now address your first question, thereby “tying up” our comments to your second question.

ARE JEWS OBLIGATED TO BE PHYSICALLY CIRCUMCISED IN OUR DISPENSATION?

Physical circumcision for Jews (or even for Gentiles) is not required in this the Dispensation of the Grace of God. Today, there is no spiritual advantage to being physically circumcised and there is no spiritual disadvantage to being physically uncircumcised. The ground is level at the foot of Calvary’s cross (Ephesians 2:11-22). Such words were completely unknown prior to God’s Word through the Apostle Paul, our Dispensation of Grace.

Galatians 5:6: “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Never do we find anything like this in Moses’ writings; in fact, we find the exact opposite!! Also see Matthew 10:5-7, Matthew 15:24, and John 4:22—these show us that Christ’s earthly ministry cannot apply to us either!!

A Jew needed physical circumcision as a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 17:7-14; cf. Genesis 12:1-3 and Acts 7:8). Since there is no nation Israel in God’s program today—she is fallen—there is no Abrahamic Covenant in effect either. God is blessing the world today, not through Israel’s rise, but through her fall. That is Paul’s message found in Romans chapter 11: “[11] I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. [12] Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? [13] For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: [14] If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

While people today are physically circumcised for health reasons, that was not why God wanted Abraham and his seed to have it. It was a religious rite, later incorporated into the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:3). Circumcision is the sign of being separated from, or deadness to, the ability of our sinful flesh (an outward reflection of an internal, spiritual circumcision—cf. Romans 2:28-29). We cannot work in our flesh to please God. He will bless us, but not because we work to please Him (for we sinners cannot work to please Him—Romans 3:9-20). God will bless us simply because of His grace, His goodness, His performance. That is what Abraham learned in Galatians 4:21-31, when God rejected the son he produced in his own strength, and God gave him a son He caused to be born miraculously (cf. Genesis 16:1-16; Genesis 17:1-27; Genesis 21:1-21). Grace and works cannot cohabitate! That goes for Abraham, the Galatians, and even us! “And if it be by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Romans 11:6).

Calvary cannot impact lost people if they are focused on their efforts. It cannot benefit Christians who are fixated on their labors either. Therefore, Satan’s evil world system exploits man’s natural self-righteous attitude. Lost people stay lost, dazzled by their “religious goodness” to such a large degree that Christ’s perfect sacrifice on Calvary means nothing to them. Christian people stay confused, saved by grace and yet trying to “prove salvation by works” or attempting to “keep salvation by works.” God does not want our efforts; He wants our faith resting entirely in His Son Jesus Christ. That goes for unsaved and saved alike.

Going to Heaven is all about Christ’s finished crosswork on Calvary. We trust in that and that alone. It is not about our prayers, our water baptism, our confession of sins, our commandment-keeping, our sacrifices, our alms, our church membership, our circumcision!! Notice how religion is all about US, US, US, US, US! The cross wipes that all away—and that is exactly why the message of Jesus Christ is so offensive (Galatians 5:11)!!! It removes us and puts the focus exclusively on the Lord Jesus Christ. Our sin nature fights that, as it wants to be praised, worshipped, exalted. Religion is thus so appealing. Boasting is why God hates religion.

Romans 3:27–4:5: “[3:27] Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. [3:28] Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. [3:29] Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: [3:30] Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. [3:31] Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. [4:1] What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? [4:2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [4:3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4:4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [4:5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

Faith in Christ—not works—is counted for righteousness! The lost person thus passes from death to life. Likewise, Christian living (daily sanctification) is just like justification unto eternal life. It is Christ’s finished crosswork on Calvary. We are dead to sin (Romans chapter 6). Sin, our flesh, does not have dominion over us (Romans chapter 7). We are alive unto God by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans chapter 8). It is not we making ourselves acceptable to God; it is God making us acceptable to Him because of His Son’s merits applied to us!

Once we place our faith in Christ, we receive a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17), and that new nature will produce good works. However, that is not the same as religion motivating us to do good works so we can be accepted of God. This “fine-line” distinction is how Satan deceives. People who do not want to know the truth believe the lie as though it were the truth. They claim to be Christian but then work. They say Christ is their Saviour but they cannot say exactly how He has saved them. They never can say for sure they will go to Heaven. That is because they are working to gain God’s favor—and if they die unsaved, they will surely learn they have inspired the exact opposite!

Friend, how urgent it is that we see we can be Scriptural and be completely out of God’s will! To grab Moses’ writings (the Bible!!) and try to follow them is to believe the Devil’s lie! It is important not only to be Scriptural, but also dispensational. If we want to do God’s will, we must follow the directions He gave in our dispensation—“the Dispensation of the Grace of God” Jesus Christ revealed directly to the Apostle Paul so he could then teach us (Ephesians 3:1-2). God’s Word to and about us is Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” (Romans 6:14-15).

Also see:
» Is grace a license to sin?
» Why did Paul circumcise Timothy but not Titus?
» Why did Israel have to keep so many strange laws?

“If any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant?”

“IF ANY MAN BE IGNORANT, LET HIM BE IGNORANT?” BUT, ARE WE NOT SUPPOSED TO TEACH THE IGNORANT?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Yes, and yes.

First Corinthians chapter 14: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Why would the Holy Spirit move the Apostle Paul to write verse 38? After all, does God really desire people to be unlearned, lacking information and understanding? How could He then order us to let people remain in their ignorance?

Friend, if God wanted us to remain ignorant, then He would have never given us His words to read here, now would He? It is in light of the Bible being given that we let people stay in their ignorance. In order words, despite Him giving revelation, they prefer to stay in darkness. It is a willful ignorance, a deliberate choice to pay no attention to what Divine words have already been spoken. Since they reject His words, they refuse to hear our speech quoting those words.

In the context, it is whether or not one is aware of the Lord Jesus Christ giving apostolic authority to Paul. If someone prefers to see Paul’s words as but men’s words, and not the Lord’s words, then he or she is to be left in that woeful state. The God of the Bible values free will. No one has to believe the truth if they do not want it. If they crave error, He will not stand in their way. This goes far beyond Pauline authority and actually would encompass all Bible themes, whether basic and advanced. If darkness is preferred, they will have it until they can no more tolerate it!

Recently, a dear Christian brother lamented that he was “ignorant” of the Bible. This author quickly corrected him. We are all ignorant of Scripture to some degree. No man on Earth today knows the Bible as he ought to know—even he who has memorized 15,000 verses is not guaranteed exemplary spiritual discernment and superior Bible understanding! Certainly, it is no sin to be uniformed about Holy Writ. The problem is when we are willfully or deliberately unfamiliar with it. After all, it is easier to remain uneducated. Preconceived notions remain unchallenged. Religious tradition is hard to abandon. Habits are not easy to change.

Second Peter chapter 3 speaks of Bible mockers who intentionally overlook historical truth—namely, the Great Deluge of Noah’s day—because it contradicts their “things never change” prejudice: “[3] Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, [4] And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. [5] For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: [6] Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:….” Such willful ignorance could apply to any Scriptural topic!!

Jesus Christ asserted in John 7:16-17: “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” In the same vein of thought as 1 Corinthians, “If you truly desire to know if I am speaking mere human thoughts, or Divine thoughts, you will be able to discern God’s will in order to obey that will!”

Frankly, many professing Christians know little to nothing about the Bible—and (here is a worse truth) that is just how they want it. Even genuine believers in Christ, those who have a testimony of soul salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, even they often prefer ignorance. In fact, the vast majority of “grace” Christians are also babes in Christ: they can draw a Bible timeline, they know about Paul’s special ministry, they recognize the Body of Christ and Israel as separate entities, but they have no real idea of how to go about grace living. It is easy to memorize verses, draw diagrams, make outlines, delineate differences between the dispensations, and do all sorts of mental gymnastics and intellectual exercises; they ignore the hard part, applying by heart faith that information so that it becomes a part of their daily living!

God gave gifted men to the early Body of Christ to bring Christians to spiritual maturity, until the Bible canon was completed. He did not want them ignorant of the truth any more than He wants us ignorant. Ephesians chapter 4: “[11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [12] For the perfecting [completing, fixing, repairing] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying [building up] of the body of Christ: [13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: [14] That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;….” Yet, many Christians are content in being spiritual children—“tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” Inexperienced, and doggedly so, they fall for every idea no matter how ridiculous or false it is.

The LORD lamented through the Prophet Jeremiah, chapter 5, verses 30-31, some 600 years before Christ: “A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” Is that not sad? God says,My people love to have it so! They love to be deceived, to hear nice “feel-good” messages, to be taken advantage of, to have a “religious high” and please their flesh!

We find such fleshly Christians in verses 25-26, and we are encouraged in verse 24 to be ready to gently and patiently teach them: “[24] And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, [25] In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; [26] And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Likewise, 1 Timothy says the bishop must be “apt to teach” (3:2). God wants people to learn more about Him and His Word, but are they interested in learning? Well, the fact is, usually not. That is the plain and simple reality.

Back to 1 Corinthians chapter 14: “[37] If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. [38] But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” Verse 38 is to be interpreted in light of verse 37. Revelation from God—the commandments of the Lord—has been provided in earlier verses (all of 1 Corinthians, especially since chapter 12 which began the section concerning spiritual gifts). The ignorance in verse 38 is implied to be a deliberate overlooking of the truth. This is not someone struggling to grasp God’s Word; this is someone who could not care less about God’s Word. It has nothing to do with illiteracy, a low IQ, learning disabilities, complicated material, no access to a Bible, or no available teachers. It is someone who has chosen to make no effort in mastering the Scriptures. They are lazy and content in having misinformation… or no information!

Notice deliberately-apostate Christians known to the Scripture 20 centuries ago! “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15). “[2] Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. [3] For the time will come when they will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; [4] And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

The Bible’s definition of “sin” is Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way….” Proverbs chapter 18 adds: “Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom. A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (verses 1-2). The fool has an agenda, a “pet” idea or system, and has no interest in changing it on account of the Bible. Thus, he pleads ignorance—willful ignorance! Dear friends, may we not be numbered with him. We are ignorant, yes, but we are nevertheless endeavoring to correct and refine our distorted thinking by “studying… rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Also see:
» How long should we keep witnessing to the same person?
» “I believed the Gospel, so why do they not believe?”
» If dispensational Bible study is true, how come so few believe it?

Should we be “fruit inspectors?”

SHOULD WE BE “FRUIT INSPECTORS?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Should we be “fruit inspectors?” This question stems from the Lord Jesus Christ’s words in Matthew 7:20: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” In religion, the practice of “fruit inspecting” means going around and looking (read that, snooping) to find fault with and criticize others after evaluating their alleged “Christian” service/works. If there is little to no performance, little to no spirituality, we are supposed to conclude that the person is not saved. Unfortunately, Matthew 7:20 is then brought in to justify such a practice. Some people, mainly preachers, have taken this concept so far as to “lord over” or bully church members, supervising them to make sure they are living right. Is Matthew 7:20 being correctly applied?

It is always helpful to look at the context of any verse with which we are struggling. We start with verse 15 and move through to verse 20: “[15] Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. [16] Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? [17] Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. [19] Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. [20] Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Who is the “them” of verse 16? Of verse 20? Why, it is the “false prophets” of verse 15! The “fruit” here, as the context demands, is not deeds or actions (as in sins of the flesh) but rather doctrine or teaching (information taught). False prophets appear good but the content of their message exposes them as evil. A corrupt tree, or a false teacher, manufactures wrong information; a good tree, or a godly teacher, brings forth good information. Specifically, these are false preachers in Israel who are deceiving the nation so as to lead her people away from the Lord Jesus Christ. They have an outward form of religion, but it is false religion. While claiming to be serving God, students of the Word, they are about to put His Son to death. They love quoting Moses but have staunchly rejected the Messiah whom Moses predicted would come to them. After all, remember it was these—Israel’s religious leaders—who conspired to bring about, and later demanded, Christ’s crucifixion! They even joined in mocking Him as He hung there!

“Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people” (Luke 22:1-2). “And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none” (Mark 14:55). “When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (John 19:6-7).

“And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:39-43).

False teachers deceived national Israel, which ultimately lead to two particular unfortunate events found in the Bible—Christ’s rejection and death on Calvary, and the rise of Antichrist (counterfeit Messiah). Since Israel did not want the true Christ, God says He will judge her by giving her the false one! This is yet future.

Notice Jesus’ words in John 5:43: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” The Antichrist is predicted in that latter clause! Now, read the parallel passage, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12: “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Romans 1:18-32 shows us that the God of the Bible gives people over to what they want. If they prefer the lie as opposed to the truth, then He will let them have the lie… and they will not be spared the awful consequences that come with it!

WE SHOULD BE “FRUIT INSPECTORS”—BUT IN WHAT SENSE?

It is Biblical to inspect fruit, but “fruit” in Matthew 7:15-20 is in the sense of doctrine being taught. Even today, we should evaluate what we hear in church, at Bible study, prayer service, et cetera. A careful examination of messages/sermons will reveal to us who are the false (flesh-led, Satan-led) Bible teachers and who are true (Spirit-led, God-led) Bible teachers. It is our responsibility—not to tell everyone every little thing that he or she is doing wrong in life—but rather recognize and uncover incorrect teaching (whatever idea, whichever denomination, whoever is involved, and so on).

While millions of church members are currently scrutinizing the lives of others, condemning them for this “sinful” behavior and that “sinful” behavior, they themselves believe and teach denominational lies. God pity these “goody-goodies” who look down their nose on others when they have less obvious—and yet more serious—problems. They believe every word their preacher or priest says, but they do not engage in personal Bible reading and study to see what God’s Word says. Unfortunately for them, they do not know have good spiritual sense (discernment) to notice they are feasting on unhealthy, rotten fruit!

May they (and we) follow the wise examples below of people not blindly listening to spiritual leaders but carefully comparing the message preached with the Bible written!

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).

“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

Also see:
» How do we identify false teachers?
» Should we read denominational literature?
» “But what if they read the Bible at my church…?!”

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