Not So Random Thoughts 43

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. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in 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.

“God has surely promised His grace to the humbled: that is, to those who mourn over and despair of themselves. But a man cannot be thoroughly humbled till he realizes that salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works, and depends absolutely on the will, counsel, pleasure and work of Another—God alone. As long as he is persuaded that he can make even the smallest contribution to his salvation, he remains self-confident and does not utterly despair of himself, and so is not humbled before God; but plans out for himself (or at least hopes and longs for) a position, an occasion, a work, which shall bring him final salvation. But he who is out of doubt that his destiny depends entirely on the will of God despairs entirely of himself, chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work in him; and such a man is very near to grace for his salvation. (Martin Luther, Bondage of the Will)

The false prophet does not tell us that he is a false prophet. The false prophet does not necessarily think that he is a false prophet. The false prophet is dressed in sheep’s clothing so this false prophet has the appearance of a true prophet. The false prophet not only wants others to think that he is a true prophet or preacher, but is perhaps trying to convince himself that he is a true prophet as well. The false prophet may not be easy to spy out in all circumstances. The false prophet in his fighting to convince himself may be striving for orthodoxy in doctrine and quite stringent in his morality. The false prophet may be what appears to be a dedicated servant as he does many things to help people. The professing church may grow in numbers due to the dedication of the false prophet, but that would not be a growth of spiritual fruit. The false prophet may be a cause for a professing church to grow because of the biblical principle that people love those who love themselves. People will attend a professing church based on the personality of the “pastor” and on his kindness to them.

All of those things, however, are not proof that a person is a true preacher of God. In the Old Testament the proof of being a prophet was that a prophet had to be 100% right. That demonstrated that God was speaking through him. In this passage in Matthew 7 (given above) a false prophet can be detected by his fruits. One must be careful to note what the text says about that, however. If we try to judge what a false prophet is by using the wrong idea of fruit, then we will go wrong here as well. The issue of a false prophet being detected by his fruit is connected to that of a good tree and a bad tree. For example, a tree can be known by what kind of fruit it bears. An apple tree will bear the fruit apples regardless of what people think it is. The fruit shows what kind of tree that is there. The issue in this case, then, is that of a good tree or a bad one.

An orthodox man can be harder to detect as a false prophet because of his clothing of orthodoxy. The outwardly loving man can be harder to detect as a false prophet because of his clothing of love and kindness. The outwardly energetic man who serves a lot of people can be harder to detect because of all those outwardly good things that he is doing as well as the love of self that the people have. The man who is a false prophet may have many people who are unconverted as parishioners and their view of their own salvation is tied up with how they view him. It is not a simple thing in many if not most cases. But again, a person must look to see what kind of tree the person is by a biblical standard of fruit and not just some outward things going on.

It may be a horrible thought to some, but unless it is a time of true revival a true prophet will not have large crowds following him. Prophets were lonely men who had hard lives and were held in disdain by the people, and even by the religious people. The true preacher is known by his faithfulness to God and to preaching the truth. The true preacher is known by true love and that may not be popular. True love is looking after the true spiritual welfare of the souls of the people because that is a true way to love Christ. The true preacher will not just preach true things, but will preach hard things to the people. In fact, a true preacher will preach impossible things because apart from Christ no person can do one thing spiritually good.

The Gospel itself is good news, but it is also impossible for people to attain themselves. The Gospel is good news to those who see that salvation is utterly beyond their own power and ability and that God does it all by grace alone. The Gospel is good news to the broken and the humbled. The true preacher will seek to make this plain to people and will help them to see their own utter brokenness. The true preacher will seek the true good of the people and seek to help them seek humility and brokenness from God. The true preacher will extol the glorious grace of God and the power of God in saving sinners for His own glory, but the false preacher will preach that God does all He can do and then leaves the rest up to man. The false preacher will not set out a Gospel that is beyond man, though he may make it hard. The false preacher is a bad tree and will not preach the impossibility of salvation and the Christian life and the need of grace. The false preacher does not want of offend people, though one can offend at certain points in order to maintain his view of his own orthodoxy.

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