Not So Random Thoughts 36

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Matthew 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Romans 9:15 For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”

The doctrine of free justification by faith only, which became the storm-centre of so much controversy during the Reformation period, is often regarded as the heart of the Reformer’s theology, but this is hardly accurate. The truth is that their thinking was really centered upon the contention of Paul, echoed with varying degrees of adequacy by Augustine, and Gottschalk, and Bradwardine, and Wycliffe, that the sinner’s entire salvation is by free and sovereign grace only. The doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace; but it actually expressed for them only one aspect of this principle, and that not its deepest aspect. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a profounder level still, in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration—the doctrine, that is, that the faith which receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God, bestowed by spiritual regeneration in the act of effectual calling. (Johnson and Packer’s introduction to Luther’s Bondage of the Will).

If the gate to life and the road to life are as narrow as Jesus sets it out to be, then it would behoove us to be so very careful regarding our own souls and the souls of others. It would be so important to actually beware of false prophets since they are disguised (perhaps to themselves as well) to others. It appears that they are disguised quite well, yet in our pride we think that we are immune to this. People can disguise themselves in academic robes. People can disguise themselves with a great attachment to orthodoxy. People can disguise themselves with the ministry. People can disguise themselves with moral activism and moral causes.

We can quote the idea that the false prophets will be known by their fruits and yet if we are wrong about the distinction between what true fruit is and is not we will have no ability to recognize them. If we think morality and niceness are spiritual fruits, we will not recognize false prophets. If we think that false prophets will be known by their lack of orthodoxy, we may not recognize false prophets. If we think that good fruit is known by being in the ministry, then we may not recognize false prophets. If we think that false prophets will be obvious due to their liberalism or their open sinfulness, we may not recognize false prophets.

What would the Reformers call people who did not believe and teach monergistic regeneration? What would the Reformers have thought of those who were opposed to the very heart of the Reformation? What would the Reformers have thought of those who did not teach people that their very faith (true faith) itself was a gift of God? We need to be very careful at these points and others as well. We must remember that the way to life has a narrow gate and a narrow path and few find it. The broad gate and the broad way that lead to destruction are found with many on it, though those many think that they are on the narrow road. Jesus did not say that only those who think that they are on the broad road are on the broad road, but all who are on it are on the road to destruction.

The false prophets would not be obviously false prophets or Jesus would not have warned us in this manner. There were false prophets in the day of Luther and Calvin as well, and at times they were often in the company of Luther and Calvin. False prophets that we are told to beware of are not the liberals who are obviously false prophets, but they are those who might appear to be on the narrow road. These false prophets bear fruit that if not inspected closely will appear as true fruit. Even the fruit can appear as genuine fruit. As it takes time for a tree to become known by its true fruit, so it may take time to assess the fruit of men. The fruit of our own hearts need to be inspected as well. After all, our own hearts must bear true fruit in order to recognize if the fruit of others is false or not. One hint in the matter is that the true Christ and His true glory are true fruits.

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