In Revelation Jesus told John to write to the seven churches in Asia. The first of those churches was the church of Ephesus. (Revelation 2:1-7). Jesus praised this church for putting to the test those who called themselves apostles and were not. By proving that they were not apostles and indeed false prophets they protected the integrity and true teaching of the church. We also find Paul in II Timothy 6:20 instructing Timothy to “guard what has been entrusted to you.” What was Timothy entrusted to? What did he need to guard? The church. Timothy was the pastor of the church of Ephesus. Guarding and protecting the church from false teachers was planted in Ephesus DNA from its very beginning. For this reason, Jesus praised the church.
We test those who claim that they are of God with the authority of God’s word. If they fail to line up with God’s word they are false prophets. Let’s be clear though. We can have doctrinal differences with other Christians who are truly Christians. We simply disagree on certain subjects. One can believe in a pre-tribulation rapture while the other believes in a mid or post-tribulation rapture and another doesn’t believe there will even be rapture at all. I am a very solid pre-tribulationist. I personally believe that the pre-tribulation rapture is abundantly clear in scripture. Does this mean that I should view anyone who believes otherwise as a false prophet? Of course not. Christians can and will disagree on a variety of issues. However, a false prophet is one who denies the fundamentals of the faith such as the person and the work of Christ, along with the means and method of salvation. Once we have determined who is a false prophet we must then ask the question, “How do we deal with those who are sheep in wolves clothing; those who claim to be of God and are not?
First, don’t get distracted. Paul told Timothy to, “avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”— which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.” II Timothy 6:20-21. If Satan can’t trick us into his lies he will try to distract us from sharing truth. He is perfectly happy with us stomping out embers as long as we are ignoring the forest that is ablaze. If this happens he still wins. If we get caught up into debating “worldly and empty chatter” rather than proclaiming the truth of God’s word we are losing that battle. We must stay focused on the task at hand. When dealing with false prophets, stick to the simplicity of the gospel.
One of Satan’s greatest distractions is to try and bring guilt upon the proclaimer of truth. When the proclaimer of truth calls a false prophet out for being false the devil will say, “You are being judgmental and Jesus said we shouldn’t judge.” However, within the context of scripture that Jesus said “Judge not least you be judged” (Matthew 7:1) He also said, “Beware of false prophets.” (Matthew 7:15). Don’t bother acknowledging the lies, stick with the truth, for the truth will set you free.
Secondly, although we do not need to be distracted by their deceit we need to pay attention to their deceit. Paul said in Romans 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned.” How is their deceit impacting our witness? How is their deceit impacting non believers? How is their deceit impacting the church? When we understand their deceit we are better equipped to counter act it with truth. In the mid 90’s I spent some time in Salt Lake City. Prior to going I studied what Mormons teach and believe. As a result I was better equipped to share the truth of God’s word. Because of this I saw many place their faith and trust in the Jesus of the bible-the true Jesus. Does this mean that we need to become intimately familiar with every lie Satan ever told? Of course not. He is such a great liar I doubt that is even possible. It does mean that we should be intimately familiar with the Word of God. God’s word is truth. The greatest way to counteract a lie is with the truth.
Lastly, we need to turn away from false prophets. Paul continued in Romans 16:17-18 in saying, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites.” Paul said to turn away from them. We should have nothing to do with them. When the true church disassociates itself from those who are false we make a clear and distinct statement, stating, “We are not of you and you are not of us.” Some would say that this is unloving. However, when we do not make a clear and bold statement of disassociation we are in danger of making others think we are in acceptance of the lies which makes them much more susceptible to receiving it which sets them up for destruction. Which is more unloving? If they choose to repent from the lie and turn to the truth, we will receive them.
Our heart should be as God’s heart, not wishing that any should parish and that all would come to repentance. However, when our clear testimony of truth has been presented and they refuse to come to the truth and are set on following the lust of their flesh rather than the truth of God’s word we sever ties, especially if they are in our churches. The time must come when we wipe the dust off our feet and move on. We continue to pray that the seeds of truth that was planted continue to work in their lives bringing them to the truth.