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Bible verses about False Ministers/Prophets
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Because of the way "prophet" is commonly used, there is a misconception that its basic definition is "someone who foretells the future," but this definition is too narrow. Prophet is better defined as "one who speaks for another." A true prophet, then, is a person who speaks for God, delivering a message that God has ordained him to give. In Exodus 7:1, God tells Moses that Aaron, his brother, would be his (Moses') prophet, even as Moses was God's prophet. Because of Moses' unbelief in God's ability to speak through him, God would speak to Moses, who would tell Aaron what to say to others - Pharaoh in particular (verse 2). It is the function of speaking for another, rather than the miracles they performed or their foretelling of what would befall Egypt, which defined Moses and Aaron as prophets.

Frequently, the words a prophet spoke on God's behalf were, in fact, foretelling what would happen later. However, the prophet's essential role was to speak for God, regardless of whether he did any predicting of the future. A prophet expresses the will of God in words, and sometimes he uses signs to back up what he says and to demonstrate God's power behind it.

In a similar way, a false prophet also may not be in the business of foretelling the future. A false prophet is simply someone who speaks for another but falsely. False prophets either speak for the wrong god, or they claim to have heard from the true God but do not accurately represent Him or His words. At the very least, they speak out of their own human hearts, but more likely, the "god" they are speaking for is really a demon.

It is true that, if a prophet foretells something that fails to come to pass, he is a false prophet (Deuteronomy 18:20-22), but foretelling the future correctly is not the determining factor when looking at false prophets. The real issue is whether one who claims to be representing God and speaking for Him is doing so accurately or falsely. A prophet may accurately predict an event or demonstrate supernatural power, but if he is leading people away from the true worship of the true God, he is a false prophet.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

A false prophet can be anyone who claims to be speaking for God, but whose message is contrary to God. False prophets will not convict people of sin, for they themselves do not feel convicted. While true prophets speak according to God's law and testimony, false prophets speak soft, easy things to make them more popular. They will tell people what they want to hear.

A true prophet expresses the will of God with words. Sometimes signs, wonders, and foretelling are involved to add additional weight, but the most important part is the message. A true prophet points people to God and shows people their sins. False prophets point people to almost anything else. If they do try to point people to a god, it will be a different god from the God of the Bible. Whoever they point to, they do it for their own benefit.

Many false prophets simply point people to themselves. Their covetousness manifests itself in a desire for power, influence, control, prestige, or importance - the antithesis of being poor in spirit, meek, pure in heart, and mourning over their ungodly weaknesses. The true prophet does not draw attention to himself but to God. If a prophet or teacher spends a great deal of time talking about himself, it is a good indication just who his god is!

John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet, serves as a positive contrast. He undoubtedly knew what the angel Gabriel told his father, Zacharias (Luke 1:13-17), but there is no record of John promoting this remarkable story. His focus was not on proclaiming who he was, but on doing the work that God had given him to do. The fruit of his life and teaching reveals that he fulfilled the role of Elijah, which Jesus confirms. A false prophet, though, with his covetousness, presumption, and self-will, is more likely to end up spending a good deal of time talking about himself.

Other false prophets, like Balaam, are essentially in it only for the money, and so they will do what is necessary to ensure that the gold rolls in. The False Prophet in Revelation points the whole world to another man - the Beast. A true prophet would never suggest that a man be worshipped, with the exception of John the Baptist pointing the people to God's Son, Jesus Christ. John pointed people to a Man who was also God, and thus worthy of worship.

Prophets are false when they fail to express God's will accurately, and they fail because they are not in contact with the true God. The fruits of their lives and the meaning behind their words will indicate the source of their teaching. To paraphrase Jesus Christ, by their words they will be justified, or by their words they will be condemned (Matthew 12:37). If the words of a prophet are contrary to Scripture, contrary to God's law, the prophet is false, and worthy of condemnation for leading people astray.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

This is the earliest formal warning to God's people that attacks against their faith would take place within the fellowship of His children, and the pattern has occurred repeatedly. God raises up a prophet or minister to instruct His people. Opposition arises, usually in the form of ministers who see things differently, who force the people to choose which way they will follow. Understand, God is not passively watching. He actively tests His children's loyalties through such calamitous situations.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

The first factor added here is that God recognizes that false prophets, through the power of Satan, can accomplish signs and wonders. The magicians of Egypt imitate Moses' staff-into-a-serpent miracle before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-12). The end-time False Prophet will do similar signs as the Two Witnesses, causing most of the world's population to worship the Beast (Revelation 13:11-15). Paul warns in II Corinthians 11:13-15 that Satan's servants are clever counterfeits of Christ's. Signs, wonders, and miracles, then, are not conclusive proof that a prophet is from God.

The second factor Deuteronomy 13 adds is our need to recognize the spiritual message accompanying the prophet's signs and predictions. This is the essence of the apostle John's admonition, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). No matter how impressive or accurate a prophet's miracles or prophecies, his credibility hangs on whether he leads people toward or away from God.

The following questions, then, must all be answered before we judge a person as a true or false prophet:

1. Does he claim to prophesy in God's name or in a false god's name?
2. Do his prophecies come to pass?
3. Does he do signs and wonders?
4. Does he teach the truth based on God's Word?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Was Herbert Armstrong a False Prophet?


 

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

What is coming from the prophet's mouth? Something false. Who is this prophet speaking for, what supernatural spirit? It is not the spirit of God, but a demon speaking through a human being, inspiring and motivating him. God permits it and expects His people to put that person to the test. God expects us to be able to discern the spirit that is motivating the speaker. The test is to see whether we will remain loyal to God—loyal in terms of keeping His commandments.

Thus, the listener better have a good working knowledge of God, which returns us to II Corinthians 10:5, where Paul warns that reasonings will exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. This clarifies the devices that Satan will use to turn us aside. This also underlines our need to be able to thwart those devices. We need to have a good working knowledge of God—not things about God so much, but the knowledge of God the Person, the Being with whom we have a relationship.

Also, Deuteronomy 13 confirms that some of these false prophets will be able to do miracles, which Paul confirms in II Thessalonians 2, and John confirms in Revelation 11. What is in the New Testament is built upon what God has already shown in the Old Testament—that Satan's modus operandi will be carried through from one covenant to the other. We have to understand that such signs—the ability to do miracles—are not of themselves indications of authority from God. They must be combined with teaching that agrees with God's already revealed will.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)


 

Deuteronomy 18:20-22

If a man falsely claims to speak in God's name, or if he speaks in another god's name, he is worthy of death. If the man's predictions do not occur, he is a false prophet. Conversely, if a man speaks in God's name, and what he says happens, he may indeed be a true prophet (Jeremiah 28:8-9).

Apart from Christ Himself, Ezekiel may be the clearest case of a true prophet. He prefaces many of his prophecies with "the word of the LORD came to me, saying . . ." (Ezekiel 3:16; 6:1; etc.), followed by a direct quotation of God's words. This is speaking "a word in My name" (Deuteronomy 18:20). If it is indeed what God commanded him to say, he is guiltless, whether or not it comes to pass within his lifetime. Many of Ezekiel's prophecies, for instance, had a near fulfillment (in type) and a far fulfillment (antitype). In both cases, he is shown to be a true prophet of God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Was Herbert Armstrong a False Prophet?


 

Deuteronomy 18:20-22

In the remaining verses of the chapter, verses 20-22, the subject matter changes. God seems to acknowledge that He has purposely left the true Prophet unnamed, perhaps wanting His people to put effort into recognizing the Prophet or prophets who truly represent Him. Of course, He wants us to use His criteria, which He proceeds to explain. This is just as true today as it was in ancient Israel.

Staff
The Prophet


 

Deuteronomy 18:20

The "generic" prophet mentioned here does not refer specifically to the Prophet of God of the previous verses. The Bible translators seem to have picked up on this point and have highlighted it by capitalizing "Prophet" in verses 15 and 18, but leaving it in lower case in verses 20 and 22. These latter verses seem to refer to any prophet—true, professing, and even false prophets. Verse 20 warns that, if a man calling himself a prophet claims to speak in God's name but speaks words that God has not given him or speaks in the name of false gods, he puts himself under the death penalty.

Staff
The Prophet


 

2 Kings 4:27-31

As the Shunammite woman clutches Elisha's feet, a posture of abject humility, grief, and supplication, Gehazi attempts to push her away from the prophet. Elisha sternly rebukes him for not noticing her distress and accommodating her in her sorrow (verse 27). The servant is not perceptive enough to see her heartfelt anguish—all he sees is another demanding supplicant to be dealt with, to be put in her rightful place before the great prophet.

Who is this Gehazi? The Bible describes him consistently and solely as Elisha's servant, shedding very little light on his background or position. In his All the Men of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer speculates that he "likely stood in the same relationship to Elisha as Elisha had done to Elijah" (p. 124). This would make him the prophet's probable successor as well as his assistant. If this is so, it makes him, as the type of a false minister, that much more significant and sinister.

Scripture records very little that is good about Gehazi. He heeds Elisha's commands well enough, but the sense of his basic unbelief and impure motives that hovers between the lines is real. He appears in three scenes, and only in one of them does he do anything of even moderate merit (II Kings 8:1-6). The second scene in II Kings 5:20-27 exposes his greed for money and the power it brings, and God through Elisha curses him and his descendants with leprosy, a hideous form of excommunication.

The third scene appears here in II Kings 4, bringing out his inconsiderate attitude and spiritual impotence. It shows him living intimately with the righteous example of Elisha but never instilling it into his own character. He is a servant who never learns how to care for those he serves. He is a man with great potential for growth in God's way and service who instead seeks material wealth and position in society. In the end he receives the "reward" of a false minister.

Gehazi's spiritual inadequacy comes out when Elisha sends him ahead to try to heal the dead child (verses 29-31). The text does not mention him praying for the child's healing, and even using the prophet's staff does him no good. The terse narrative suggests that, once Gehazi sees no change in the boy's condition, he says, "Oh, well!" and reports his unsuccessful attempt to Elisha and the grieving mother. "Try, try again" is not in his spiritual vocabulary (see Luke 18:1-8)!

This should give us some general clues about false ministers, tares among the wheat in God's service. Many are avaricious; they see "serving" God's people as a means to a profitable end. Many are inconsiderate; their "ministry" is more about them and their desires than the true needs of the flock. Many are spiritually weak, "having a form of godliness but denying its power" (II Timothy 3:5); they merely go through the motions of godly works. The apostles Peter and Jude expound on other elements of false ministers in their books (II Peter 2; Jude 5-19).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elisha and the Shunammite Woman, Part II: Serving God's Children


 

Jeremiah 5:30-31

The entire nation—Jeremiah is reporting here on Judah around the time Nebuchadnezzar invaded in 607 BC—was spiritually and morally sick. "And the priests rule by their own power" means in more modern language that the priests were functioning on their own authority, that is, they had pushed the law of God aside.

The people loved it because in so doing, they allowed themselves to be deceived into thinking that the restraints and penalties of God's law would not affect them. "It will not happen to me." That is what God shows happened in the Garden of Eden. Satan said, "You shall not surely die," and Adam and Eve became convinced that the penalty for sin would not affect them if they disobeyed what God said. They fell for what Satan sold them.

Why does God concentrate on morals in His Book? There are many things He could have written about, but He chose to write a great deal about the morals of the people with whom He had made a covenant.

One reason is that morals are like a weathervane. They show the direction a nation, a church, or an individual is headed in.

A second reason why God concentrates on morals focuses on the prophets and the preachers. Why? Because He has appointed them to be the conscience of His people. Preachers tend to lead the people either into morality or immorality—one or the other. They are like the tip of the spear or the point of an arrow that points the direction of the nation. They are leading indicators. So it says in verse 30, "An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power."

Even if a minister is not doing his job, pointing out the sins of the people for whom he is responsible to God, we still, individually, have the responsibility to obey God regardless.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Jeremiah 14:1-16

Notice what is happening. The land is suffering from a drought. Did the people connect drought with obedience to the message of a false minister? Probably not.

The spirit that was speaking to them was not divine, but it was supernatural. The people submitted to it because they did not put the prophet to the test to see whether or not his teaching was in harmony with what had already been revealed through God's messenger, Moses.

God blames the plight of the nation on the false prophets to whom the people listened. What did the prophets do? They lulled the people into complacency, which led them to believe that all was well when it was not. They preached to them smooth things because the people had itching ears. They liked the things that were taught to them, but it was not the Word of God. God says they preached lies in His name. If one listens to them, then it is the same thing as the blind leading the blind and both falling in the ditch.

The land was in drought. How many carnal people would connect a drought with obedience to a false minister? Not very many because they would be thinking carnally and say, "It's just part of the cycle of things. It happens every so many years." They are not thinking that there might be a spiritual cause for it: that God is concerned about the well being of His people, and that He had brought the drought to make them think about why it is happening. The cause for concern is spiritual in nature.

Would any U.S. President or presidential candidate make an appeal to American citizens that the cause of our problems are spiritual in nature? If a national figure said before a group of people that the reason we are having troubles in the United States is that we need to repent and get back to our God, they would be laughed into shame and contempt. The reason we are seeing the immorality in the United States is the effect of listening to false ministers!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)


 

Amos 3:13-14

Israel's false religion, represented by the altars of Bethel, is at the root of her problems. The violence and injustice in Israelite society ultimately stemmed from the false teaching proclaimed from the pulpits.

For this reason, God shows that the preacher, not the civil authority, is the most vital part of the community. God set up the Levites within Israel to function as the teachers of His way of life, and He sent the prophets as watchdogs on the Levites and civil leaders. In many cases, when the king or the nation had wandered from the way, the prophets were sent to correct them (e.g., II Samuel 12:1-15; I Kings 18:17-19; II Kings 21:10-15).

At the foundation of every community is a way of life that its people live and teach their children. Does that way of life conform to the God of the Bible, or does it spring from the mind of men? If it is of men, it will not work very long. So it was in Israel. The religion of Israel began with a man, Jeroboam I, who changed the true worship of God (I Kings 12:26-33).

  • He established a feast in the eighth month to replace the true Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh.
  • He may have replaced the Sabbath with Sunday worship.
  • He replaced the Levitical priesthood with men of his own choosing.
  • Lastly, he replaced God with golden calves in Bethel and Dan.

A religion with such a beginning was doomed to fail, bringing the nation down with it.

When religion is ungodly, its power is destructive, and every institution in the nation suffers. For instance, Amos 2:7 describes a deliberate act of ritual prostitution in a pagan temple: "A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name." What was the rationale behind this perverse, immoral act?

Because Baal was neither alive nor a moral force, his worshippers felt they could communicate with him only by ritual actions that portrayed what they were asking him to do. Since Baal was, like almost all ancient deities, a fertility god, the human act of intercourse demonstrated that they wanted Baal to prosper them. But what was its real effect on the participants and the nation? Ritual prostitution only served to erode the family, eventually leading to the destruction of the nation.

Baal was different from his adherents merely in that he was above them. God's difference from us is that He is holy; He is moral and we are immoral. After we accept His calling, He commands us to become moral as He is.

The basis of all immorality is selfishness, the exact opposite of what God is. God wants to transform us from people who are bent on pleasing ourselves to people who show concern for others. This is the crux of our salvation through Jesus Christ. In those God calls out—those who, by faith, will voluntarily yield to Him—He is building character based on outgoing love.

Immorality lies in the desire of men to live self-centered lives independent of God, as when Adam and Eve took of the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:1-19). To become moral, we must kill our selfish egos through the use and guidance of God's Holy Spirit. When we see that our thoughts and ways are not His, we should reform and repent. By submitting to Him, we take a small step in being transformed into what He is.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Matthew 7:13-14

These verses lead into Christ's teaching on false prophets. From its context, it appears that Jesus says that false ministers will neither acknowledge or teach the narrow way that leads to life, the narrow way that leads to persecution. Instead, they will do just what God shows the Old Testament false prophets did: They will teach "peace, peace"—the smooth, easy, and broad way.

In other words, they will teach that Christians need make no sacrifices in their obedience to God. It is so interesting that, in the last few years in the church, so many things have been liberalized. Are we getting away from the straight and the narrow, the difficult and the sacrificial way?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)


 

Matthew 7:15-20

The description here is very apt—wolves in sheep's clothing. They appear on the outside to be something they are not. When Jesus uttered this, He was probably thinking of false ministers who would insinuate themselves into the church by appearing to be sheep within the sheepfold.

Jesus uses this terminology in regard to His relationship with the church. He was the Shepherd, and we are His sheep. Here we have wolves (false ministers) who look like sheep, but it is hypocrisy. They only look that way on the outside. He tells us we will know them by their fruits. The fruit that is produced will not necessarily appear quickly. But Christ guarantees that over a period of time the church will be stripped of its true spiritual vitality in terms of the character that will be produced within the flock, making the rise of wolves in sheep's clothing more likely.

What is He saying? The implication is that Jesus is connecting belief with practice. If we believe a certain set of doctrines, we will practice something because of the teaching. A religious creed or the dogma that a group is following will produce a certain kind of conduct by the people. Belief and practice, creed and conduct—Jesus is saying they are vitality connected. In other words, the teacher cannot hide what he is going to produce. Eventually it will come out. Their false philosophies, no matter how attractive they may appear at first sight, will in the long run be exposed for what they really are.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)


 

Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus does not spell out what "fruits" to look for, although in the Olivet Prophecy, He does link the deceptions of false prophets with the lawlessness and lack of love that abounds at the end time (Matthew 24:11-13). However, the rest of the Bible elucidates God's character and nature, so we already have the tools to evaluate whether a message allegedly coming from God fits with what His Word reveals about Him. God is not double-minded; He will not contradict Himself.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

Matthew 10:16

Christ's mandate to us that we become "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" implies that we must develop discernment, the ability to detect motivation and the spirits that motivate. The gift of discerning the spirits will become increasingly important as we approach the end of this age because deception will be the hallmark of these extremely dangerous times.

In the Olivet Prophecy, the disciples ask Jesus to reveal the sign of His return. Jesus does not give one sign but several. At the top of the list, he warns the disciples of deception, and follows it up with warnings of false prophets, false miracles, and the warning not to be deceived (see Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-26).

We deduce from this last warning that false "Christian" ministers and ministries will have the capability of performing convincing lying wonders and signs. These false ministers will demonstrate power—occult power—for the specific purpose of leading all people astray, including the most sincere believer.

We have a clear warning from the apostle Paul that the battles we face on a daily basis cannot be won by conventional weapons that we can attain from the world. The weapons we must seek should be spiritual, having the power to destroy arguments and every false claim that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and God's Word (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

David F. Maas
The Gift of Discerning Spirits


 

Matthew 13:24-30

When understood in the light of what Peter and Jude wrote about false prophets being marked out beforehand to be part of the church fellowship (II Peter 2:1-3; Jude 3-4), this can be easily seen as a prophecy. It occurred in the apostles' day, and it occurs in ours. We should not be surprised that both the converted and unconverted fellowship in the same congregations.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

Matthew 21:33-46

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record Jesus' Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19). Not long before, the scribes, chief priests, and elders had accused Him of taking too much authority upon Himself, but in this parable, they find themselves indicted for high crimes. Having discounted Jesus Christ as the Son of God with all authority, in this story they—and the people (see Luke 20:9)—learn His identity, who sent Him, and the death He would die at their hands. In earlier parables, He had exposed the religious leaders of His day as spiritually empty impostors, and now, in this more condemnatory parable, He reveals them to be persecutors and murderers as well.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers


 

John 10:1

Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Messiah prepared people to think of Him as a Shepherd (Psalm 23; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23; 37:24). In John 10:1, Jesus explains that the shepherd enters by the gate, the lawful way of going into a sheep pen as opposed to some other way. By this, He contrasts himself with false messiahs, who by deceitful claims seek to steal sheep or who presumptuously try to exert control over the people. Jesus Christ came as the legitimate Heir of the chosen seed and fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament.

Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Good Shepherd (Part One)


 

John 13:19

Jesus tells us - within the context of speaking of His betrayer - how we are to approach prophecy: "Now I tell you before it comes, that WHEN IT DOES COME TO PASS, you may believe that I am He." He repeats this two other times (14:29; 16:4) so that we understand that prophecy has its greatest impact on us after it is fulfilled!

God has drummed this principle since Moses' day. The sign of a true or false prophet is whether or not their predictions happen (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). The prophet Ezekiel vividly illustrates this principle. God made him do many strange things, all of which represented points of prophecies, many of which have yet to be fulfilled. God says of him, "Thus Ezekiel is a sign to you; according to all that he has done you shall do; and WHEN THIS COMES, you shall know that I am the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 24:24).

Dozens of times in Ezekiel, God uses the phrase, "and they shall know that I am the LORD," or a variant of it. In every instance, it implies the subject understanding this after its fulfillment. For example, notice Ezekiel 22:16, where God speaks to the people of Jerusalem about their sins: "You shall defile yourself in the sight of all the nations; then you shall know that I am the LORD."

Most, if not all, of the prophets had little or no idea how and when God would fulfill their prophecies. Daniel is a classic example. Though angels explained the prophecies to him, he still did not understand.

Although I heard, I did not understand. Then I said, "My lord, what shall be the end of these things?" And he said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:8-9).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
No Private Interpretation


 

Acts 20:28-31

Paul's address here to the Ephesian elders probably took place in the springtime of AD 56. He prophecies to them of apostasy and corrupt leadership that Peter, Jude, and John would later write about as it was happening.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Acts 20:29

He calls these future apostates, these future false teachers, "savage wolves." Jude later calls them "brute beasts" (Jude 1:20). This conjures in our minds the idea that man's animalistic nature—what one could call the physical side of man's nature, what he shares with the beasts—is driving these false teachers. It is not necessarily their minds and their ideas that are driving them but their bodies, their desires, their lusts, and they want these lusts satiated in some way. It is not just eating, drinking, sex, and similar carnal needs, but also the base desires that men have for gain, for standing atop the pack, for glory and prestige. These false teachers are letting their "animal nature" get the best of them.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Acts 20:29-30

Paul specifically says these apostates will rise up from among the ministry. In verse 29, he says that "savage wolves will come in among you," and in verse 30, that "among yourselves men will rise up." They will be people in leadership positions or those who are considered to be pillars in the church and highly respected. Thus, they are in an advantageous position, from their point of view, to do the most damage.SS

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Acts 20:30

The false teachers Paul foresees will do the damage with their tongues. They will manipulate the brethren with cunning sermons and with seemingly logical arguments, but their motivation is to get for themselves. Jude says they "speak great swelling words" (Jude 1:16). They are full of bombast, and they sound quite appealing, but one must look beyond their eloquence and notice what they are really saying.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Acts 20:30

The false ministers do their evil deeds to gain a following. Their motivation is to gain, to get for themselves. Specifically, Paul says, they want a following. They want people to follow them, to love them, and to do the things they do and say to do. They also want other things like power, influence, money, prestige, wine, women, and song. They are very happy for other people to join them in this. One word describes their motivation: "self-seeking." They are seeking for themselves.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Romans 16:18-19

The point of these two verses—including what led up to them—is that Paul did not want the Roman church to be drawn into a perversion of truth. We should be wise in promoting and doing what is right and not get mixed up with anything that to God is wrong and evil. We should shoulder our responsibilities, which, within this context, are to be watchful, avoid what the false teachers are saying, obey God, be wise, and at the same time be innocent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 6:10

"Thieves" is translated from kleptes, a stealer or one who uses stealth. Kleptes is the root of our word "kleptomaniac." Interestingly, Jesus uses it metaphorically for false ministers, those who secretly steal away salvation from unsuspecting people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Eighth Commandment


 

1 Corinthians 11:17-19

The phrase "must also be" has the sense of "it being necessary." Paul understands factions as God-ordained because he could see the pattern of them from Old Testament times, as well as the benefits derived from them.

The Corinthian congregation was a troubled group divided into factions by heresies (I Corinthians 1:10-13). This circumstance was not helping the already-calamitous situation, but Paul says that the calamity would eventually produce a good result. The true sons of God would be revealed by their reactions to the false teaching. They would not accept it, and thus would be witnesses to the weaker for the truth of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)


 

2 Corinthians 10:12

Paul speaks of those who were creating division, the false prophets who were dividing one group against the other within the congregation. They were comparing righteousness by evaluating themselves against each other. Paul says, "Don't do that."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 3): Ephesians 4 (A)


 

2 Corinthians 11:1-4

Paul had to deal with the Corinthian congregation because they had fallen under the sway of false apostles (see II Corinthians 11:13). These false ministers had convinced many of the brethren that they knew more and better than the apostle through whom they had heard, believed, learned, and been converted to the gospel. They were in the process of throwing aside what they had learned from Paul in favor of what they were hearing from these new "apostles."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

Galatians 3:1

The word translated here "foolish" means unintelligent or unwise, and by implication sensual. This implication is very interesting when considered in light of what the letter to the Galatians is fundamentally about: The Galatians were trying to use the rites and ceremonies and physical requirements of Gnostic Judaism to "work" their way into God's Kingdom. Their emphasis was on what they were doing, rather than on God's work in them. Their focus was on things dealing with the senses; things that would be, by definition, sensual—not in terms of being sexual or provocative, but rather indicating the emphasis on the physical senses.

This word (anoeetoi—Strong's #453) is a derivative of a negative participle and noeo (Strong's #3539), which means to exercise the mind, observe, to comprehend, heed, consider, perceive, think, or understand. So the word foolish is the opposite (because of the negative participle) of all these things. The Galatians, then, were not exercising their minds; they were unobservant, uncomprehending, unheeding, inconsiderate, imperceptive, non-thinking, and non-understanding. They were not thinking things all the way through, and not fully considering all of the aspects of the way they were living. They were unable to see that their ideas and views did not add up—that there were some obvious gaps in their understanding that had brought them to the condition they were in.

Paul here is continuing with a theme from Galatians 1:4-9—namely, that the Galatians were falling away ("so soon removed") from the original teaching that had been given to them by God through His human servants. The very foundation of the New Covenant with God is that we can build a relationship with God directly—because of the sacrifice of Christ. For them even to make the covenant with God properly, it was a requirement that they understand that justification by means of a sinless sacrifice was the only way it is possible for us to come into God's presence! Our own righteousness is as "filthy rags" in comparison to God's; our works simply do not amount to enough to even out the scales. But this does not negate the necessity of working! The Galatians' problem was that they thought their personal righteousness was sufficient—and if that was the case, then truly there was no need for Christ to die.

Paul refers to the Galatians being "bewitched." This word means "to malign," or "to fascinate by false representation." The Galatians were drawn in—their fascination was piqued by these Jewish and Gnostic ideas. It did not take long for them to begin slipping spiritually, and a large part of this was because of their misplaced faith. They had more faith in themselves, in their own works, to save them than they had in Christ's crucifixion, resurrection, and intercession! They did not see or know God clearly enough, and the absence of Him in their lives created a void that was quickly and easily filled by these false ideas.

This is the only place in the New Testament where this word ("bewitched") is used (Strong's #940), but numerous other verses speak of this principle. Paul is speaking of this principle when he says in Galatians 1:7-9 not to deviate from this gospel message even if an "angel" from heaven gave them different instructions! The Galatians were weak enough in the faith that they could be easily deceived and drawn away if one of Satan's angels were to appear before them.

Matthew 24:24 speaks of false Christs—false ideas, pictures, impressions about Christ—arising, as well as false prophets, who will be able to manifest terrific signs and wonders to the extent that even the elect of God could be deceived if God allowed it! This is why we have to have such a concrete picture in our minds of what "Christ" is comprised of so that when we begin to hear about or see miraculous things, our faith will not be shaken as the Galatians' was.

David C. Grabbe


 

Hebrews 2:1-4

Paul's warning to the Hebrews here is a bit stronger than what he says in Philippians 1:27. He says there, "Let's all with one mind strive together to keep the faith of the gospel." Here he says, "Give earnest heed to the doctrine, to the gospel, to the things we heard, because we're in danger of losing it!" He feels he must frighten them, saying, "Don't you remember that under the Mosaic dispensation people were punished very severely for neglecting what they had heard? Every transgression and disobedience received a just reward. How much greater under the dispensation through Christ, the Son?" He is quite serious. Work hard. Be diligent. Make your calling sure!

It is about this same time that Peter and Jude add their voices to his. The brethren were undergoing a rough time because false ministers and false teachers were in the church, and like us, they also had to fight off the pressures from the world to conform. It takes great effort to resist both in the church and out in the world. When there are problems among us, it is tough. When we must also resist all the downward pulls outside in society, it is a difficult, sore trial. Thus, Paul uses particularly strong language to motivate them to stand up, face the problem, give it their all, and vanquish it.

Are we in a similar circumstance? Perhaps some of the details are different; the deception has taken a somewhat different form (this time we do not have to contend with Gnosticism, per se). However, there is enough similarity that warnings here, as well as in the books of Peter, John, and Jude, make a lot of sense. Certainly the results, the fruit of false teaching, are the same: apostasy, falling away, confusion, distrust (especially of those who have been given a measure of authority, the ministry), scattering, and disunity. The apostles, then, are speaking to us.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

2 Peter 2:1-3

These verses show us in a general way that traitors will come from within the church and subvert many to follow their carnal ways. Peter uses the word "but" to provide a contrast with the preceding section about the "sure word of prophecy" (II Peter 1:19, KJV). These traitors to the faith are not led by the Holy Spirit as were those God inspired to write the prophecies (verse 21). The apostle immediately warns that these "false teachers" will come from within the church, or as Peter writes, "among you." The implication is that "forewarned is forearmed"! Therefore, be on guard!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Peter 2:1

Alarming as II Peter 2:1-3 is, Peter does not define heresy, but he does tell what one heresy is and will be. He also does not tell us here what the source of heresy is either.

Heresy is the translation of the Greek hairesis—meaning literally "choice" or "selection"—which has an interesting secular as well as biblical history. Until its biblical use, it had no evil connotation. Even in the Bible, it is mostly used to refer to a party or a philosophy with which a person had chosen to identify or ally himself. Thus, hairesis is frequently translated "sect." In Acts, Luke applies it to the Sadducees (Acts 5:17) and the Pharisees (Acts 15:5; 26:5). Outsiders also used hairesis in Acts 24:5, 14 and Acts 28:22 to identify the Christian church.

However, when Paul and Peter's writings began circulating, hairesis meant a destructive element within the church that creates division through consciously formed opinions and ideas in disagreement with the orthodox teachings of the apostles. Paul condemns it in Galatians 5:20 as one of "the works of the flesh." Sometimes it is translated "factions" or "party spirit," but regardless of its translation, Paul says that people who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (verse 21)!

In the ordinary course of secular life, heresy was of little consequence; one person's opinion or choice about most things in life is just as good as another's. A person can be given any number of alternatives, any one of which he may be perfectly free to believe. However, in Christianity we are dealing with revelation, with God-given truth, with absolutes. When God's truth comes to men, we either have to accept or reject it. Thus, a heretic is a man who believes what he wishes to believe instead of accepting the truth of God that he ought to believe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Peter 2:1

If "secretly" ("privily") were translated into the closest English synonym, it would have been rendered "smuggle." They smuggle in heresy by cunning deceit. The word literally means "they bring it along side," that is, they present this heresy in such a way as to make it appear favorably with the truth. "Oh, it's just a refinement. We're not really changing anything. You understand that, don't you? We're not really changing it. It's just a refinement, a clarification."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

2 Peter 2:1-2

Destructive will also translate into the English word "pernicious," which means "deadly." We hear it most frequently in a medical term, "pernicious anemia." What is so interesting is that it may appear innocent, but all the while it is destroying life. It gives the appearance of being not overtly or openly dangerous, but all the while it is undermining one's health. Peter, of course, is talking about spiritual health.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

2 Peter 2:1

The King James Version calls their heresies damnable, implying that their words—their messages—are destructive to one's faith and relationship with God. "Denying the Lord" does not mean they deny that He lived or died or that He is God, but that their words and conduct are opposed to His fundamental nature. Their lives deny any close contact with Him.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

2 Peter 2:3

The false teachers are themselves driven by covetousness. They desire to get something for themselves—power over people, possibly the perception of being a scholar, maybe popularity or money. With that motivation, they prove they are not led by the Holy Spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

2 Peter 2:3

False prophets use human nature's proclivity toward covetousness to make inroads to a person's heart.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

2 Peter 2:10-11

False prophets "walk according to the flesh"; their minds are primarily on physical things rather than the true things of God. God is not in all their thoughts (Psalm 10:4). They also despise authority—other than their own—and apparently think themselves superior even to God's angels. They are presumptuous and self-willed, acting out of the dictates of their own hearts (or the influence of a demon) rather than following God with humility and trusting Him to bring His will to pass.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?


 

1 John 1:1-5

Notice the apostle's frequent use of "we" and "our." John was establishing his authority for what he was teaching! He is saying that what he writes in this epistle he received firsthand from Christ! During his day, false teachers were contacting Christian congregations claiming that John was a one-hundred-year-old fuddy-duddy who was "out of touch" with reality. What they were teaching was the truth, they said. John later labeled these people as antichrists (I John 2:18). His first epistle is an exhortation to reestablish their faith in the original beliefs and doctrines by and into which they had been converted.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Damnable Heresies


 

1 John 1:1-5

Why did John begin his epistle in this manner? He was establishing his authority to preach the true gospel because some were disparaging the message he said he heard from Jesus Christ. The false teachers disparaged his message as too conservative, orthodox, and some said downright wrong. His defense was that he had personally seen, heard, and touched the Christ when He was on earth, and for almost seventy years after that, he had continued his fellowship with Him through prayer, study, and obedience! As he wrote, his detractors viewed him as a senile, cranky, old man who looked at life through 100-year-old eyes. Human nature never changes. Satan never changes. Most importantly, God never changes those things that are basic to His purpose! Knowing this, John could speak with powerful authority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

1 John 2:3-6

This passage helps us understand how we can have the right attitude and emotion in our obedience. We come to know God through the same general process we get to know fellow human beings—by fellowshipping or experiencing life with them.

Around 500 years before Christ, Greek philosophers believed they could come to know God through intellectual reasoning and argument. This idea had a simple premise: that man is curious! They reasoned that it is man's nature to ask questions. Since God made man so, if men asked the right questions and thought them through, they would force God to reveal Himself. The flaw in this is seen in the fruit it produced. Though it supplied a number of right answers, it did not—could not—make men moral beings. Such a process could not change man's nature.

To them, religion became something akin to higher mathematics. It was intense mental activity, yielding intellectual satisfaction but no moral action. Plato and Socrates, for example, saw nothing wrong with homosexuality. The gods of Greek mythology also reflect this immorality, as they had the same weaknesses as human beings.

A few hundred years later, the Greeks pursued becoming one with God through mystery religions. One of their distinctive features was the passion play, which always had the same general theme. A god lived, suffered terribly, died a cruel, unjust death, and then rose to life again. Before being allowed to see the play, an initiate endured a long course of instruction and ascetic discipline. As he progressed in the religion, he was gradually worked into a state of intense expectation.

Then, at the right time, his instructors took him to the passion play, where they orchestrated the environment to heighten the emotional experience: cunning lighting, sensuous music, fragrant incense, and uplifting liturgy. As the story developed, the initiate became so emotionally involved that he identified himself with and believed he shared the god's suffering, victory, and immortality.

But this exercise failed them in coming to know God. Not only did it not change man's nature, but the passion play was also full of lies! The result was not true knowing but feeling. It acted like a religious drug, the effects of which were short-lived. It was an abnormal experience, somewhat like a modern Pentecostal meeting where worshippers pray down the "spirit" and speak in tongues. Such activities are escapes from the realities of ordinary life.

Contrast these Greek methods with the Bible's way of knowing God. Knowledge of God comes, not by speculation or emotionalism, but by God's direct self-revelation. In other words, God Himself initiates our knowing of Him, beginning our relationship by drawing us by His Spirit (John 6:44).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

Jude 1:1

Jude's entire book is based on Matthew 7:15-20, where Jesus tells us, "Beware of false prophets," and "by their fruits you will know them." We should keep this thought in the back of our minds as we study Jude because most of the book describes these false teachers and their false teachings. Jude is giving this warning so that we will be able to spot them when they come out, when they begin to show their fruit.

In this way, Jude and II Peter are both witnesses to the certainty of false teachers, giving us instruction on identifying them and their effects. That said, however, the two epistles are only similar on the surface. They bring out different nuances of these false teachers. It is good to read them together, but it is also good to study them separately, because they are not necessarily saying the exact same things. They agree, but they give us different details, different information, so we can know more fully how to spot these false teachers.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Jude 1:5-11

In these seven verses, Jude expands on his general description of false teachers in verse 4. He compares them in turn to the unbelieving Israelites, to the angels that sinned, and finally to the perverts in Sodom and vicinity. He is giving examples of the three major hallmarks of apostasy:

  1. Unbelief, the Israelites' major failing.

  2. Rebellion, which the angels who sinned did.

  3. Immorality, what occurred in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Unbelief, rebellion, and immorality all result in divine judgment and punishment. The Israelites died in the wilderness, the angels that sinned were placed under restraint, and Sodom and Gomorrah were blasted off the face of the earth. We cannot find better examples of divine judgment and punishment than these.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Jude 1:6-9

Jude is attacking false prophets, and thus men and demons are interwoven in the context. He indicts these false prophets for three sins:

1. Lust: They defile the flesh, allowing a feeling to take them over the edge into sin.

2. Rebellion: They flout authority in general, but primarily that of Christ. It is hidden in the Greek, but the word authority is really "lordship." It normally refers to Christ and His lordship over us.

3. Disrespect or disregard of spirit beings.

This third sin is interesting because he is saying that it is not that these false prophets will not talk about Satan, but their speech is gratuitous, despising, or denigrating of angelic powers. Their preaching suggests that these demons are not something Christians need to be concerned about. They side-step the issue.

Why would they do that? Because a false spirit is leading them, so they downgrade the existence and powers of demons through their preaching. This is clearly seen in Protestant Christianity, especially the mainline denominations that have gone to the point that they almost universally agree that Satan the Devil and his demons do not really exist. It shows how successful the demons have been in their deceptions.

On the other hand, there are evangelical or Pentecostal groups who talk about demons and Satan in a flippant, dismissive way: "Oh, we're going to put down the Devil tonight!" They say such things in their tent shows as part of their evangelistic campaigns. But what they are doing? They are putting Satan into a position where they seem to have power over him. They are so deceived.

The truth in regard to Satan is somewhere in between. The true church of God will have that truth, and they will understand that, yes, Satan is, he is powerful, but because of God, they do have power over him in that they can reject him and his deceptions. We are not puppets on a string, and he cannot influence us unless we give him the opportunity. If we are spiritually aware and can see him at work, we do not have to submit to him.

Jude is giving us signs to look for in the preaching of false ministers. They will denigrate Satan and his demons, there will be indications of lusts, and they will flout the authority of Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 4)


 

Jude 1:8

Jude calls these false ministers "dreamers," but this really is a poor translation. It should properly be: "Likewise also these, as a result of dreaming, defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries." Their new beliefs that they teach to the church are based on dreams, on visions, on foolish imaginations of their hearts, and—who knows?—trips on LSD. The basis for their false teachings is from anywhere but from God.

The apostle is pinpointing specific Gnostic beliefs: debauchery, total freedom from authority, and even insulting angels (the literal understanding of "speaking evil of dignitaries." Dignitaries is literally "glorious ones").

Gnostics believed that a person was free to do whatever he wanted, debauch himself to any extent, and God would forgive it, for He is gracious.

They believed that no one had authority over them, that they were free from law, and that they were free from government because they were spiritual. No one, then, could tell them what to do. They had progressed beyond all need for physical law of any type of authority, court, or physical government.

Lastly, they were so self-willed that they would even reject the authority of angels, believing that they were higher than the angels, forgetting or ignoring that Psalm 8:5 and Hebrews 2:7 say that God has left man for a little while lower than the angels. The Gnostics had already exalted themselves above the angels, so they had no fear of speaking evil of them. This put them in an exalted position, and the ideas that lesser humans have to adhere to are below them and thus comtemptible. Being beyond all law and government, they can do whatever they want, and no one can stop them.

It's no coincidence that one of the hallmarks of apostasy today is a total rejection of government. It is the number one problem in the church. No one wants to be governed. Such modern Gnostics say such pious things as, "Only God governs me," which is a false teaching. They have placed themselves above their station, which is exactly what Korah did, as Jude goes on to mention. Since government tends to point out and punish evil doing, these apostates thing that, if they get rid of government and law, they will be free to do whatever they please without any oversight.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Jude 1:10

Jude calls the false teachers "brute beasts," just as Paul called them "savage wolves" (Acts 20:29) and Jesus called them "ravenous wolves" "in sheep's clothing" (Matthew 7:15). They have sunk down to the level of animals in that their only desire is to satiate their lusts, the drives that we share with animal kind: food, security, sex, power, authority, prestige. They really cannot comprehend the higher values because they only think in terms of gratifying themselves. If one attempts to convince them of their error from the Scripture, they will never get it because they simply do not care. All they want is what they think is theirs—their position, their food, their sexual gratifcation, their prestige. The object of their desire makes no difference. If they want it, if they feel they need it, no one can convince them from pursuing it in most cases because they are on an entirely different—lower—level. They are being driven purely by their physical desires.

Paul ran into this problem in Corinth. Notice I Corinthians 15:32—34:

If in the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. Do not be deceived: Evil company corrupts good habits. Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

People in Corinth were already using such fallacious arguments as saying the resurrection was already past in order to do whatever they wanted to do sexually, or as Paul mentions in chapter 11, to gorge themselves at the feasts and drink until they could hardly stand. The idea here is they used illogic, as far as we are concerned, to justify doing whatever they pleased. It is almost impossible to talk such people out of what they are doing.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Jude 1:12

Jude uses a nautical theme here. Thus, "hidden reefs" (a variant translation supported by the Greek) is preferable to "spots." The apostle says that these false teachers are like hidden reefs at our socials; they are just under the surface, waiting for the unsuspecting Christian to come along and be shipwrecked upon them.

Paul dealt directly with a similar problem in Corinth (I Corinthians 11:17-22). They held "feasts without the fear of God." They do not fear the oversight and punishment of God, that what He says will happen as a result of their self-satisfying sins, which may take many forms. Gorging themselves is only one part of it. Worse is that they use these occasions to shipwreck people, to undermine their faith, to whisper in their ear to get them thinking along the wrong lines.

Jude says that they serve only themselves. Again, this phrase is poorly translated due to being interpreted rather than given literally. It should be "shepherding only themselves." Ezekiel 34:1-5, 10 alludes to the same problem Jude faced.

Verse 12 also says that these false shepherds outwardly show promise of producing fruit, of bringing rain, but they never do. Paul indeed calls some of Satan's ministers "angels of light" (II Corinthians 11:13-15), but their fruit shows they possess nothing of godly, spiritual substance (Matthew 7:15-20). They will never produce godly fruit. They look good on the outside, but on the inside they are corrupt and full of bones (Matthew 23:27). When Jude describes them as "twice dead," he may be refering to the second death (Revelation 20:14; 21:8)—that they will die physically once, and then they will die spiritually the second time. It is at least saying they are well on the road to the Lake of Fire.

Hebrews 10:26-31 says plainly that once we have been forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Christ, there is no going back. If we continue to sin as a way of life, there is no second redemption, and all we face is the vengeance of God, who is a consuming fire. This is what Jude is trying to get across in relation to these false ministers.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Jude 1:13

Jude continues the nautical theme begun in verse 12 by calling the false ministers "raging waves of the sea." He describes them as storms in the church, causing trouble and turbulence wherever they go. James describes the doubting person in a similar way (James 1:6-8), as wind-tossed waves, double-minded, and unstable in everything. Such people will end up causing problems. Such waves toss people into hidden rocks, or as his brother Jude puts it, hidden reefs. Naive members can become caught in the turbulence and eventually be turned from the truth.

He then describes them as "foaming up their own shame." It is quite a picturesque phrase. He alludes to the foam on the beach after a storm. The strand is littered with all kinds of driftwood and other debris a storm can dredge up. They brag about their past feats as great accomplishments, but a godly eye sees them for what they are: shameful deeds.

He also calls them "wandering stars," another nautical allusion, this time to the movement of the planets. Mariners used the fixed stars - not the planets - to guide their ships over the trackless sea. They would align themselves toward a certain star to reach their destination. These teachers are supposed to be leaders, guides for those who are not as experienced on the road of life, but as we would say, they are all over the map! They go here and there, this way and that. It is the blind leading the blind, and anyone following them will fall into a ditch (Matthew 15:14). They are unreliable guides. They give horrible advice. They are not worth even talking to about one's problems because they will lead a person astray.

Jude foretells their fate at the end of the verse: "for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." The literal translation of this is really dark: "Their fate is the utter darkness of darkness for eternity." Lights out forever! James 3:1 says that those who are teachers will receive the stricter judgment, and this is an example of it: the utter darkness of darkness forever. God takes the deception of His people personally.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Jude 1:15-19

Verse 15 emphasizes ungodliness. These false ministers are the total opposite of what God is, and if we know what God is—what godliness is—then we can identify and avoid them.

Jude then gives four more descriptors to help us identify false teachers: 1) They are discontented murmurers and complainers. They always have something to gripe about. Discontent with their lot in life, they find fault with everything. Nothing is ever right for them. 2) They live to satisfy their every desire, a trait Jude has already explained thoroughly. 3) They speak bombastic bragging words, and 4) they are respecters of persons, if it will benefit them. They will do anything to get ahead.

In verse 17, we were warned that such people will enter the church and try to ruin it, so we have no excuse. They are here already, and we need to make sure they do not stay here by keeping an eye out for them and giving no quarter to them when they begin their ungodly work.

Jude then gives three final descriptions of them in verse 19. He calls them 1) "sensual" or worldly. They are based totally in this world, in the realm of the five senses. They have no connection to the heavenly. 2) They "cause divisions," meaning when they appear, the congregation begins taking sides. 3) He ends his description with the opposite of his description of true church members in verse 1: False teachers do not have God's Spirit. They are not of us. They may be among us, but they are not God's spiritual children (Romans 8:9-17). We can see from their fruits that the spirit they have is not God's.

With these descriptions of false teachers, we can be more confident in testing the spirits (I John 3:24-4:6).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Revelation 2:2-3

Any saint who has sorted right from wrong doctrine, discerned good from evil leadership, and patiently continued to labor in Christ's name can identify with Ephesus! Identifying today's false apostles was not initially easy either, but many have seen how church leaders have turned true grace into lawlessness and voided God's law from their lives (Jude 4; Psalm 119:126; Romans 3:31). If we have continued in patience and good works, we can be encouraged by Christ's initial words to Ephesus, for they apply to us in principle, if not directly.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Ephesus


 

Revelation 2:3

Jesus actually commends the Ephesians quite a bit. They had stood up to the falsehood and to the false teachers of the mid- to late-first century. Of course, He is speaking of the "core" group, the ones who were truly converted who stuck it out. They had seen who was false, and they avoided them.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

Revelation 2:4-5

The Ephesian church did have a problem. It was not in holding false teachers at arm's length, but in tending to become lax, to "drift with the tide," as it were, and this made them an easy target for false teachers. In this way, their weakness was, in a way, connected to their strength. They approached matters somewhat lackadaisically when times were fairly good, but when times became bad, they seemed to be able to stand up for the truth.

At certain times, their devotion to God's way left a lot to be desired. Just before the apostle John died in about AD 100, this was very much the case, and he really had to rouse them to get them back. From what we know from church history, by this time the membership of the true church was small and concentrated mostly around John in the church at Ephesus and some of the nearby towns in Asia Minor that he directly pastored.

Jude recognized the beginning of this drifting when he wrote in the mid-60s. All the apostles wrote similar things in their epistles: that the members of the church needed to get on the stick because false doctrines and false teachers were already in evidence among them and beginning to cause problems. If they did not root them out quickly, destruction would follow. The brethren were far too tolerant of divergent beliefs and practices, and Jude, especially, makes this point rather bluntly. He basically yells at them. Those who know Greek intimately say his language is very terse and sharp, and with it he lays in to them for being too tolerant of untruth.

His brother, Jesus, is more circumspect in His wording in Revelation 2:5. To paraphrase, he says, "I would rather that you were strong all the time. You need to go back and do the first works and remain strong so that these false teachers do not get a foothold in the church in the first place."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Jude


 

 




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