When They Both Wear a White Hat (Jeremiah 28:1–17)

“Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Hananiah the prophet in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD, and the prophet Jeremiah said, ‘Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD make the words that you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles. Yet hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet’ ” (Jeremiah 28:5–9)

cowboy-gunman-1419969-1279x1705In Jeremiah 28 we have a showdown between a true and a false prophet. There are a number of such face-offs in the Scriptures. The most memorable is perhaps that of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. In that instance it was 450 to 1, as far as mere human ratios go (1 Kings 22).  A less well known instance, not very far into the future from this one, is that of Ezekiel and Pelatiah. Pelatiah wasn’t a prophet, but a leader who gave wicked counsel and devised iniquity; so he pretty much functioned like a false prophet. Ezekiel is commanded to prophecy against him. As he does so, Peletiah dies (Ezekiel 11). In the New Testament, one thinks of Ananias (also not a prophet), who lied about the gift he gave to the church. When Peter confronted him saying, “you have not lied to man but to God,” Ananias fell down and breathed his last (Acts 5:4–5).

This episode is a bit more subdued, but the results are the same. There is a face-off, and though everyone walks away, one does so certain to die. In all of these instances, ultimately, the bad guy is on the ground and the good guy lives to ride on.

This is not the theme of every story. Sometimes the good guy gets killed. But this does speak to the way things play out ultimately. In Matthew 5:11–12 Jesus tells his disciples, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Winning in this life isn’t guaranteed. Persecution is to be expected. And the reward is to be found in heaven. But it’s episodes such as these that let you know with whom truth really lies. Men kill true prophets. In these instances, God kills the false prophets. When YHWH decides to draw, He wins every time.

What is peculiar about this showdown, is that if you immerse yourself into it as a single episode, you can’t distinguish the good guy and the bad guy by quick glance. When Elijah had a showdown with he prophets of Baal, they were wearing different colors. Both of these men speak in the name of Yahweh. Both of them are wearing white hats.

Here, Jeremiah and Hananiah both use the same formulas of expression. Much of what Hananiah speaks of, Jeremiah has also promised. Jeremiah too has said that the vessels will return (27:21–22) along with the exiles (24:4–7). He also has promised that the yoke of Babylon will be broken (27:7). 

In order to tell them apart one can’t just look. Nor can you casually listen for certain markers of orthodoxy. You must listen and you must listen carefully. We come to this story knowing who wears the white hat. But immerse yourself into the moment. Or, think of a parallel situation today. Two teachers stand opposite one another. Both make Biblical arguments. Both cannot be right. The differences are not negligible. Theirs is no gentleman’s argument over tertiary matters, but  a truth war, a matter of life and death. So how do are we to discern?

Deuteronomy outlines two tests concerning false prophets. First, if they make a prediction and it doesn’t come to pass, that prophet is not to be feared but executed (Deuteronomy 18:20–22). Second, when a prophet calls for them to go after other gods, to break covenant, he is to be executed (Deuteronomy 13:1–5). Obviously, Jeremiah applies the “wait and see test,” but I believe he does so in a way that says they don’t really need to wait and see.

The prophets were raised up by God to call the kings, the priests, and the people back to covenant faithfulness when the strayed. If mercy, grace, and peace were held out, they were promised on the other side of repentance or judgment. This is the precedent Jeremiah sets forth in this chapter, the precedent which Hananiah deviates from.

So how can you distinguish between the false and the true when they look similar, sound similar, and yet stand on opposite sides of critical issues? Yes, we must test them against the Scriptures, but false teachers are good at wrapping up heresy in Biblical paper so that we think they’ve handed us a gift. Before you tear in, look to see if some Biblical truth is exaggerated while another is absent.

Many false teachers have an over-realized eschatology, which is a fancy way of saying they’ve got their cart way in front of the horse. Eschatology is the study of the end. Prosperity teachers over-realize the end. They put the very end well before the very end. With Jesus’ first advent and resurrection, the future kingdom began breaking into the present; but that future is not fully present yet and the present is not yet fully past. Still, many false teachers today promise no pain, no suffering, and no sickness. All health! All wealth! All happiness! All victory! Some will even promise victory over sin in this life. A great deal of what they say the saints have in and because of Jesus is true. Like Jeremiah, we could say “Amen!” to much of their message, if we too add qualification. The problem is timing. The reason they get the timing wrong is because their hearts are wrong. They don’t really want Jesus, so much as they want His stuff, and like the younger brother, they’ll have it right now thank you! False teachers take God’s good gifts, paint “god” on them, and with faux piety, demand that God give them their “gods” in the name of God.

What is absent? Sin, judgment, righteousness, repentance, and wrath for starters. While their eschatology is over-realized, their Christology and soteriology are under-emphasized. They say Jesus’ suffering liberates us from suffering. It certainly will, one day, but do they speak of it as a propitiation, a sacrifice placating the righteous wrath of a holy God against our sins? Do they glory in the cross of Christ as a place of substitution, where the ransom of Christ’s blood was spilt to redeem us out of our bondage and pay our debt? Do they speak of Jesus life as one of obedience so that His righteousness might be imputed to us by faith? When they glory in the resurrection, do they mention that we were dead in our trespasses and sin, but by grace, we were raised with Christ? Do they speak of adoption as the highest privilege of the redemption we have in the only begotten Son, or do you sense that it is not really the Father they want, but an inheritance? And as evidence of this supreme love for God himself, do you ever hear them say with Job, “Though he slay me yet I will hope in him” (Job 13:15), or “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21)? 

Perhaps exaggeration was the wrong word though. It isn’t that the false prophets can promise more; they can only promise wrongly. They offer cheaply. There is so much less to their teaching. Less God. Less Jesus. Less suffering. Less beauty. Less meaning. Less glory.

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 28:1–17 || Showdown || Josh King

Do Not Listen! (Jeremiah 27:1–22)

“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. I have not sent them, declares the LORD, but they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you” (Jeremiah 27:14–15).

Poison is just as deadly if you change the label. Speaking lies in the name of Jesus doesn’t make them true. Slapping the label “Christian” on the world’s product and cleaning it up a bit doesn’t make it beneficial. It doesn’t even make it benign or neutral. Not everything “Christian” is Christian. For the Christian, the most dangerous poisons are the ones labeled “Christian.” It’s the pills labeled with our name that we mistake as intended for our health.

The saint would likely never consider buying into the advertisements of bottles labeled secularism, humanism, new age, paganism, or Buddhism; but change the label, modify the phraseology, and now you’re curious. Let me give just one example, perhaps it is the most pernicious one there is—Christian music.

Slapping the adjective “Christian” on the noun “music” doesn’t make it so, any more than one could change the nature of a demon by calling him a holy demon. When you see the label “Christian” what is often concealed is nothing more than a slightly “modified” poison.

people-2562222_1280Bethel Church in Redding California is a cesspool of false teaching where angel dust falls from the ceiling, members practice grave soaking (soaking up the anointing of the deceased), and prophets declare fresh apostolic revelation from God. Though their following is huge, I venture that many professing Christians wouldn’t want anything to do with such poison. But Bethel Music, directly connected to the church, has multiple albums at the top of the Christian music charts. They have one won four GMA Dove Awards. Jeremy Riddle is associated with Bethel Music and has “led worship” for them. Heard “Reckless Love” by Cory Asbury? Yes, that hose is connected to this cesspool. Still want a drink? Phil Wickam has also recorded songs with them and taught at their school.

Vineyard Music is, you may have guessed, part of the Vineyard Movement. See the pattern? They’re not making it hard. Vineyard shares more than sharp naming skills with Bethel. They like to jam together sometimes. You’ll see some of the same artists associated with Bethel here as well. Their churches share much of the same theology.

Kari Jobe is a member of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas which preaches a slick hip version of the prosperity gospel and also has ties to Bethel Church. Todd White has preached there! Enough said. What Joel Osteen was to Benny Hinn, Robert Morris (their pastor) is to Joel Osteen—a repackaged product to market to a fresher demographic.

Finally, consider Hillsong United coming out of Hillsong Church (yep), which not only preaches the prosperity gospel but has waffled on issues regarding gender and sexuality. It was the pastor of Hillsong New York, Carl Lentz, who baptized Justin Bieber. No comment.

I’m not aware of one song from any of these sources that explicitly preaches their more heretical views, but the worldview of the lyrics is frequently and thoroughly alien to the Scriptures. Their message apes that of pop psychology, self-help, and humanism. Such music is the bait Satan uses to hide the hook. Many evangelical protestants likely never become prosperity gospel charismatics as a result of listening to such music, but they do become experiential, feelings-driven, and mystical in their approach to God. Satan doesn’t mind diluting a deadly poison and sweetening it up with some truth, or even adding some beneficial nutrients, so long as it remains poison just the same.

It is true that sometimes false prophets can speak truth, but such instances are very rare and not to be sought. God used Balaam. But how are you to know when God is using Balaam? Are you too going to claim to be a prophet? Ah, let’s test is according to the Word right? If it’s Scriptural, all truth is God’s truth, right? We’ve done such with Horatio Spafford’s “It Is Well with My Soul.” He drifted into heresy. We use his song. Yes, but very few know this and virtually no one is led into Spafford’s heresy by his enduring hymn. The danger of Bethel Music and Hillsong is different. The virus is living. Throngs are attracted to their ministries by their music. The appeal is to bypass the mind go straight for the emotions. It is not truth but the aesthetic that is the attraction. It isn’t a theological commitment, but a taste of genre that draws one in.

What should we do then? I believe the answer is clear from Jeremiah 27. Do not listen to them! If for no other reason than this, can you not sense the narcissism, the self-centeredness, the self-obsession that dominates the music? The music is full of lies that will drown you in the image of your own reflection. Do not listen! It is a lie that they are prophesying to you.

Meridian Church · Jeremiah 27:1–|| 22 Bear the Yoke and Do Not Listen || Josh King

The Tools You Use Tell Me What You’re Building

“WHEREAS, Concerns have been raised by some evangelicals over the use of frameworks such as critical race theory and intersectionality; and

WHEREAS, Critical race theory is a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society, and intersectionality is the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one’s experience… be it…

RESOLVED, That critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks…” —Resolution 9, On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality

The permitted is certain to be utilized. This is what frightens me.

Yes, God’s common grace pervades the world and grows in unexpected soils, but this is no reason to promote the nutritional value of radioactive apples grown in Chernobyl. Some fields devoid of saving grace are ripe with common grace. I don’t think that’s where we’re gleaning. While Paul did quote a few pagans, he didn’t commend Stoicism or Epicureanism themselves as useful tools. I may have quoted Freud once but I’m certain I’ve never commended Freudian psychoanalysis. Critical race theory has tools within it but is itself is a theory, not a tool. Trying to use it as a tool is like trying to use abortion as a tool for life. Intersectionality as a tool for racial reconciliation is about as valuable as using the morning-after pill as a prenatal vitamin. Wrecking balls make poor hammers when you want to drive nails and build something good.

life-after-the-soviet-union-2-1244693-1279x1705

But what about demo work? Racism, injustice, and tyranny are evils, but critical race theory and intersectionality are not the tools the saints should use to tear them down. When you use the devil’s tools to tear down the devil’s works, you’re still playing in his toolshed. Taking over a racist Nazi regime with a revolutionary Communist one is not the answer. Instead of destroying strongholds, we’ve built new ones and now labeled them safe playgrounds, with the qualifying fine print of playing by the rules of Scripture of course. We’ve traded our DeWalt tools for those of Playskool because we’ve been told they’re “safe” and cannot be used for oppression. This is just a ploy of Big Brother to keep potential usurpers under control. Also, these toy tools are likely coated in toxic paint.

Some tools are custom made for evil jobs such that the tool cannot be separated from the designated task. Further, to seek some redeeming use of such tools is folly when we already have that through which God is building up a new creation. He has promised to supply the power, we need only pick up the tool. Our task is simply to be faithful. The gospel is the tool. The Word is sufficient. If you want an analytical tool, it pierces and divides. If you want to build unity, it’ll do it and it alone. Why buy a dusty pagan stone axe when you’ve got a chain saw?

If I am told that such tools can help me in using or applying the tool, yes, perhaps the abortionist may have some information that can help a doctor deliver a baby. Common grace can indeed grow in such places. But the worldview ain’t that tool and that is what it seems I’m being permitted to pick up. I don’t feel as though I’m being asked to sniff the flower of God’s common grace so much as the manure pile it grew out of. The Word itself is the best lens by which to read both the Word and the world. When I breathe in the Word, I notice more clearly the stink of the world and am better able to spot and appreciate a flower when I find one growing there.

True, God’s big book of natural revelation does help in understanding His small book of special revelation, but it’s one thing to pick up a flower, another to pick up forceps. Look at the build date and the manufacturer. Creation was made good by our good God. Intersectionality was crafted by man post-fall (for some background on its forging, listen to this episode of Al Mohler’s The Briefing). It is an idol. I don’t need to learn from Baal to understand how YHWH liberates his people. A study of Baal may help me understand sinners, and in this way, what God is communicating to them; it might serve as a dark backdrop, contrasting God’s truth with this world’s lies; it cannot, however, in itself, serve as a tool in the way of righteousness.

Where others see permissible “analytical tools” I see a hammer and sickle: a hammer that cannot build but only tear down the church and a sickle that can only gather weeds and not wheat. Let us lay them down and take up again the sword of the Word.

An Empowering Reply to an Encouraging Inquiry

Dear Sister,

For the message you recently sent me I am downright grateful.. It was encouraging. I pray that you will find this empowering.

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 9.33.23 AM.pngRegarding women preaching, you’re correct, the current quake finds its epicenter in Beth Moore’s tweet that she would be preaching on Mother’s Day (reportedly at North Point Church where Andy Stanley is). On the heels of this, was news of her invitation to Truett Seminary for their National Preaching Conference”, being listed as a “Guest Preacher.” Many have been supportive of Moore, even out of reformed camps.

Frankly, I’m glad the cat is out of the bag and that she isn’t pretending to do anything otherwise than preach. She’s been flying under the radar for far too long. Calling a missile a bird might fool some, but now there is no excuse. Will we stand on the side of Biblical orthodoxy or join those attacking it?Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 9.25.47 AM.png

Additionally, I would add that my biggest concern with Moore isn’t that she is a woman. She would be disqualified if she were a man. Mysticism, emotionalism, and poor exegesis permeate her teaching. You mentioned your past experience in the heretical Word of Faith movement and how this all sounds eerily familiar. I believe the Charismatic movement has been subtly making major inroads in Baptist circles for decades (i.e. the soft prosperity of The Prayer of Jabez). We came to a fork in the road way back and chose the wrong path. This is just the latest incident demonstrating that we haven’t turned around. Another disconcerting mark of her teaching noted way back was the use of word studies to find the broad semantic range of a word as leverage for eisegesis, that is, reading her desired meaning into a text. I don’t think Moore’s intent is to be unfaithful to the text, but that is the result.

Regarding the trajectory of the denomination, my biggest concern is how deeply this is tied to feminism, #MeToo, cultural marxism, and intersectionality as driving forces in the culture. The current is strong, and I’m afraid we’re not acting like salmon anymore. I agree, we need to hate all evil acts of abuse, but when you use the devil’s tools to destroy the devil’s works, you need to know you’re just playing around in his toolshed. We’ve come to another fork, and I think the disaster is going to be more severe. If at first fork we chose a path leading to false teaching, we’re now pondering one that leads to apostasy.

Yes, historically it has always been the orthodox belief that the office of elder is limited to qualified men. The main “Biblical” argument for including women is to recall the small number of prophetesses we find in the Scriptures. While there obviously are female prophets, we never find a woman who is “king.” Though Athaliah makes a run as queen and Jezebel is essentially pulling all the strings, these are not exactly positive role models. Nor do we find women acting as priests. The function of teaching is tied to the priests and Levites more than the prophets. The prophets preeminently spoke God’s word, rather than teach it. Also, in this vein, when Paul gives instructions concerning women prophesying in the New Testament, she is to do so manifesting that she is under a head, (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:2–16). This connects to Paul’s prohibition of a woman teaching men or exercising authority over a man in the church (1 Timothy 2:12).

The novel spin being put on 1 Timothy 2:12 today, making room for women preachers, is that it should be read as a hendiadys, that is, two words joined by a conjunction to express a single idea. If what was banned was a woman “teaching and exercising authority over a man” as a single idea, then a woman could be permitted to exercise the function of an elder, teaching, while being denied the office. This is what some are calling “soft complementarianism.” I think it’s rather a hardened compromise.

But this anticipates the question you asked, what of those men who teach in the assembly who are not elders? While it’s understandable that the question arises, as it is deployed by opponents of the Biblical view, it is a smoke screen. When a non-elder preaches he isn’t violating any prohibition. Let me demonstrate with a question. How is one to know if a man is qualified when one of those qualifications is being “apt to teach” if he is never able to teach until he is an elder?

Truly, all teaching in the church should be under the elder’s oversight, as part of his promoting truth and guarding against false teaching. When the elders permit a woman to preach, then automatically, in the very act, they and the woman involved have already violated the Scriptures, however orthodox the sermon may be.

I thank God for your recognizing the rightness and goodness of God’s order and recognizing the lies of the world and your desire to mortify them as they seek to take root in your own heart. “Feminism” is a peculiar word for that which is an attack on the feminine, saying that if womanhood is to have any value, it must be equivalent to manhood. I’ll allow Douglas Wilson to colorfully reiterate the point: “Ironically, we call this attempt by some women to be more like men “feminism,” which is a bit like calling an attempt by cats to be like dogs felinism.” And thus we have already tilted the hat to gender confusion in the church.

In reply to the accusation of belittling women, I believe the Biblical view bebigs them. Womanhood, motherhood, and sisterhood are glorious things in which women are immeasurably superior to men. Chesterton nailed the disparity when he said, “Nothing can ever overcome that one enormous sex superiority, that even the male child is born closer to his mother than to his father. No one, staring at that frightful female privilege, can quite believe in the equality of the sexes.” Equal in value, dignity and worth? Certainly. In roles? Heaven forbid!

Yes, the serpent is whispering in Eve’s ear again as you suggest, and the blame still lies with Adam, but at least in the Garden his sin was one of passivity. Now he is actively inciting his wife with snake’s crafty lies. “Become like me, and you’ll be like God.”

Dear sister, I thank God that you are feeding on that which is far more nourishing and empowering, the Word of truth.

Running Well by Standing Fast (Galatians 5:7–12)

“You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” —Galatians 5:7–9

The race of faith is one in which if you are cut off, you take the blame. If you’re tripped, you’re at fault for not being ready. If you’re not running well, it’s because you’re not standing fast (Galatians 5:1). Enemy interference is expected. This is no gentleman’s race. It is a race for warriors.

The word translated “hindered” can carry the connotation of being cut off. It’s hard to avoid the double entendre. By circumcision the Judaizers were trying to cut the Galatians off in the race of faith. The knight cannot reason that he committed treason because his opponent had a bigger sword.

If you are duped by a false teacher, the blame falls on you. If you eat the apple, you cannot blame the serpent. Tolerated lies are soon digested. Stand firm. Do not submit. Give no quarter.

Rest assured, the serpent and his spawn have been crushed under the crucified foot of Christ. Our Lord will manifest this victory when He returns in glory and the serpent is crushed under the feet of the saints (Romans 16:20). But the saints are those who persevere in the faith. So, paradoxical as it may seem, if you are to run well, you must stand fast.

The Shocking How of a Shocked How (Galatians 3:8–11)

“Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” —Galatians 4:8–10

Here, Paul is shocked that those who were once the lowest of slaves but who have become sons of the highest of kings, would turn back to their slavery. But just as shocking is the how of this how. How is it that these sons are turning back to slavery to the “elemental spirits of this world”? How is it that these former idolators are returning to the bondage of those that are not gods (cf. Deuteronomy 32:17)? By observing days and months and seasons and years.

The context of Galatians insists we understand these to be the Jewish Sabbath and Feasts. These are part of those works of the law wherein they were seeking to stand just before God (Galatians 2:15). The law is a pedagogue meant to bring sinners to Christ (Galatians 3:24–26). To return to the law from Christ is to swim against the current towards death. To turn from Christ back to the law is to turn from the law as it is of God, to a perversion of the law that is of demons. Luther comments,

“Whoever falls from the doctrine of justification is ignorant of God and is an idolater. Therefore it is all the same whether he then returns to the Law or to the worship of idols; it is all the same whether he is called a monk or a Turk or a Jew… For once this doctrine undermined, nothing more remains but sheer error, hypocrisy, wickedness, and idolatry, regardless of how great the sanctity appears on the outside.

…There is no middle ground between human working and the knowledge of Christ; if this knowledge is obscured, it does not matter whether you become a monk or a heathen afterwards.”

To the Jews who insisted that they were the children of Abraham and that God was their father, but who rejected Jesus, Jesus said, 

“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (John 8:42–47).

The highest moral efforts, devoid of Christ, are nothing more than slavery to demons.

Curse or Be Cursed (Galatians 1:6–9)

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” —Galatians 1:6–9

nuclear-power-plant-1314782

The church is like a nuclear power plant. In his letter to the Romans Paul says, “the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” The church’s receiving and being entrusted with the gospel is like her being entrusted with nuclear power. To be clear, the church is not the power, but she is the authorized custodian thereof.

There are attacks against the gospel from without, and so we do well to build strong walls of defense around the church, but the greatest potential threat always lies within. It is the spy within the church, tampering with the nuclear core that can cause the greatest devastation. This is precisely the danger the Galatians find themselves on the precipice of—a nuclear meltdown of the church and their souls.

This is why Paul open this letter with rebuke instead of thanksgiving. In nearly every other letter Paul writes, thanksgiving follows greeting. Consider the following example from Philippians.

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:3–11).

That letter, Philippians, written while imprisoned, is one of Paul’s warmest letters. The tone there is the complete opposite of Galatians. You may reason that this is because there are no serious errors being embraced by the Philippian church at this time. And this is mostly true, but, then what are we to make of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians?

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:4–9).

Is there any church to whom Paul writes that had such a diversity of problems as the one in Corinth? Among them were divisions, sexual immorality, failure to exercise church discipline, suing one another, syncretism, disorder in the church gatherings, perverting the Lord’s Supper, and a denial of the resurrection of the saints. All of this and Paul still says, “I give thanks to my God always for you.” 

With the Galatians, thanksgiving is not only absent but replaced with a scathing rebuke. Why? Because the very core is being threatened. They are on the cusp of the worst possible spiritual catastrophe, a Chernobyl of the church; and thus it is that Paul expresses astonishment at the Galatians and anathematizes the false teachers. Concerning his cursing the false teachers, no more severe statement could be made and no lesser statement could be justified. When heretics have made their way to the core, it is curse or be cursed. If false gospels are not damned, men are.

“They’re (like) Animals” (2 Peter 2:10b–16)

“But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction” (2 Peter 2:12 ESV).

Long before President Trump described the members of MS-13 as animals, Peter used that word to describe a far more deadly gang. False teachers are like animals in that their behavior is irrational and instinctual. Paul spoke of this instinct which we all have in Adam as the “passions of the flesh” and “the desires of the body and the mind.” This impulse in false teachers is set loose and wed to audacious arrogance (2 Peter 2:10). Some false teachers may appear intellectual and have many academic accolades but what really drives them isn’t the mind, but an animal like lust, craving, and desire.

Additionally, their blasphemy, for that is what their false teaching is, is a further expression of their animal-like, irrational instinct for they blaspheme “about matters of which they are ignorant.” Consider how often false teachers make a big deal of obscure and vague passages in the Scriptures. Their claims of new revelation are really just a cover-up for ignorance. One of fresher laid piles of heresy is known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). People like Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding California are regarded as new apostles, just like those of old. John MacArthur quips concerning the NAR, “It is not new, it is not a reformation, and it is certainly not apostolic.” Their arrogance is a guise to veil their ignorance—blasphemous ignorance.

Because our theological walls are down, these animals are allowed to arise within the church (2 Peter 2:1). Peter pulls back the sheep’s clothing to reveal the hideous wolf beneath. Peter’s description of these animal-like predators is meant to revolt, somewhat like watching a predator tear into its prey on a nature documentary. This is not a pleasant chapter, but it is a most necessary one.

Detecting Spirit Fraud (1 Peter 1:10–12)

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…inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” —1 Peter 1:11 (ESV)

Where the Spirit is so emphasized that there is little to no emphasis on Jesus, it’s not the Holy Spirit who’s involved. Many churches are all kinds of spiritual, in a bad way. A way that grieves the Spirit of Christ. In his great book, The World-Tilting Gospel, Dan Philipps sets forth the litmus test.

“Show me a person obsessed with the Holy Spirit and His gifts (real or imagined), and I will show you a person not filled with the Holy Spirit.

Show me a person focused on the person and work of Christ—never tiring of learning about Him, thinking about Him, boasting of Him, speaking about and for and to Him, thrilled and entranced with His perfections and beauty, finding ways to serve and exalt Him, tirelessly exploring ways to spend and be spent for Him, growing in character to be more and more like Him—and I will show you a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He is sent by Christ. He ministers Christ. He puts us into union with Christ. He is the witness of Christ, the Scriptures are His recorded testimony, and through them He speaks of Christ still (John 15:26). If this is too opaque for you, J.I. Packer stings together a slew of similes that should make things clear.

“We may multiply the illustrations. The Spirit, as we said, is the floodlight, or the searchlight, picking out and illuminating the Lord Jesus for us; also, he is the contact lens that enables us to see him clearly; also he is the matchmaker, drawing us close to Christ for a permanent union; also, he is the intercom, making communication between Christ and us a reality of our experience; also, he is the spiritual pacemaker, implanted to ensure heart-healthy functioning in love to Christ; and with all this he is the channel through which Christ pours his life and power into us for worship, sanctity, and service. But in all that he does he keeps himself out of sight. When he works in us, Christ, not the Spirit, is the center of attention. Spiritual experiences that lead away from Christ, or bypass him, are not from the Holy Spirit at all.”

Any kind of spirit that draws attention away from Jesus, towards itself, isn’t holy, but demonic. You don’t want to be filled with such spirits. You don’t want to be empowered by such spirits. You don’t want gifts from such spirits.

Silly Spirituality (Colossians 2:18–23)

“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

…These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” —Colossians 2:18–19, 23

False teachings, like the teachers themselves, travel as a pack of dogs. Where you find one, the others are likely present. Do you sense an unbiblical esteem for the spiritual and disdain for the physical that leans toward asceticism? If so, you’ll likely find an unhealthy fascination with angels and demons. Is spiritual warfare concerning said angels and demons made much of in an extra-biblical way? Then there will likely be talk of visions to justify such nonsense.

The irony of this false teaching is that their qualifications disqualify. Their severity to the body strengthens the flesh. Their show of humility is fuels pride. Worshipping angels, they’re enslaved to demons. Seeking higher spiritual knowledge, their minds are fleshly and of this world. By starving the body they’ve only fed the flesh.

Paul is ridiculing these false teachers in the light of the gory of Christ. They are a joke, but not one to be taken flippantly or casually. Laugh at heresy with the utmost seriousness. Let no one disqualify you insisting on something so stupid and silly. See Jesus Christ the Lord, supreme as Sovereign, Savior, and Sanctifier.