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Discerning Spots and Blemishes

By Kevin Swartzendruber

In my last blog, “Does God Still Give Gifts?” I firmly established that spiritual gifts did not disappear with the passing of the apostles in the first century. In 1 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul lists the nine gifts of the Spirit as words of wisdom, words of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, spiritual discernment, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Each of these gifts was given to the church as tools to bring the body of Christ into perfect unity in the image of the head, Jesus Christ. Without these gifts, it is impossible for the body of Christ to ever fulfill that purpose. Over the last one hundred years, a special grace was poured out on the church bringing her into this truth and causing her to embrace the gifts as a present reality. What was lost through ignorant traditions was restored.

As with any tools, there is a danger that comes with embracing the spiritual gifts. Legitimate gifts can be misused out of selfish ambition and pride. Immature believers, with their youthful zealousness, may use them without wisdom and bring injury to individuals and the church. At times, lack of understanding of how to properly operate in the gifts to bring true edification may cause disillusionment. These hazards can only be averted in a setting of strong discipleship and submission. Without strong discipleship by those with experience and clear understanding of scripture, future generations of the church will be filled with lone rangers at best, and heretics at worst. Scripture clearly warns us about false prophets and teachers who would come and deceive many. Even in the days of strong leadership from the apostles heretics were a constant problem.

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

False teachers and prophets infiltrated God’s work within the nation of Israel and the early Church, and are ever present with us even today. Satan, as an angel who parades himself as an angel of light, knows his best chance to thwart the plans of God are to work from within the church to bring confusion and anarchy. Because his messengers seldom come with obvious heresy, we as believers must be vigilant to ferret them out wherever they seek to get a foothold. If simply asking someone if they believe Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God were a strong enough test they would not have been sitting among the apostles of the early church! In fact, the Apostle Paul, understanding how quickly false doctrine could enter the church, tells us this:

He (an overseer of the church) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (1 Timothy 1:9-11, 13-16)

Although there will always be some who teach unsound things in the church because of immaturity or lack of understanding, false prophets and teachers come into the church to draw men away after themselves. The former should be taught and corrected, as Paul instructs, so that they may become more firmly founded on sound doctrine. False prophets and teachers, however, will not submit to discipline or instruction founded on sound doctrine. Church leaders should warn of false doctrines and practices being taught within the church, but should be far more careful of labeling someone as a false prophet or teacher. That being said, we do need to sound a warning when we see those with influence willfully teaching and walking in error. Although there is a place for sound interpretation and illumination of scripture, warning flags should be raised when new “teachings” or “revelations”, not found in scripture, are introduced. No one, whether someone claiming to bear a message from angels, someone who has accurately prophesied about past or future things, or even someone who has taught scripture accurately in the past is above examination when they introduce such things. The Apostle Paul, himself, extolled the virtues of the rigorous cross examination of the Jews in Berea.

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:10-11)

Sound interpretation of scripture is the ultimate litmus test for false teaching. We must be vigilant to grow in our understanding of its meaning as well as examining ourselves and others by its light. We are imperfect people with an imperfect understanding of scripture and God’s ways. When we find those we believe are false prophets or teachers, we must confront them knowing that our understanding of scripture may need stretching. However, scripture gives us many of the attributes of false teachers.

1. Insubordinate – Titus 1

2. Empty talkers Titus 1

3. Deceivers Titus 1

4. Detestable Titus 1

5. Disobedient Titus 1

6. Deny Christ 2 Peter 2

7. Greedy Titus 1 & 2 Peter 2

8. Indulge in fleshly lustful acts 2 Peter 2

9. Despise authority 2 Peter 2

10. Blasphemers in things they don’t understand 2 Peter 2

11. Willful 2 Peter 2

12. Partiers 2 Peter 2

13. Adulterous eyes 2 Peter 2

14. Can’t stop sinning 2 Peter 2

15. Entice unsteady souls 2 Peter 2

16. Boasters 2 Peter 2

17. Promise freedom (false grace) while being slaves to sin 2 Peter 2

18. Escaped defilement of sin through knowledge of Jesus Christ, but went back to sin.

19. Bear bad fruit as they will not obey God Matthew 7

20. Perform lying signs and wonders Mark 13

21. Claim to be Christians Matthew 24 2 Peter 2

It seems we are living in a time when people are looking for new teachings, more spiritual “power” and an easier life. We will gravitate to those who speak to those things our ears want to hear. We must examine whether our motives are pure or tainted by our worldly desires.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

Right now there are men, pretending to be believers, who are teaching heresy. Some claim their message comes from angels who visit them. One has even publically bowed to an angel in direct violation of scripture. Some openly mock the Holy Spirit and scripture, reducing them to drugs. Others are teaching us that there is profit in seeking mysticism through occultists and other false religions. They are often caught walking in the sins of the flesh. They claim to repent, but then fall again, demonstrating they are not really living under grace. Peter calls these false prophets and teachers “spots and blemishes.” We cannot afford to follow these imposters!

They are spots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. (2 Peter 2:13)

The church, as the bride of Christ, cannot enter the wedding feast with spots on her garment. She must be purged from the destructive heresies that keep her from perfection before Christ’s return.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

We must stay in the study of scripture and be careful to exercise true discernment. In my next blog, “False Gifts and Manifestations,” I will delve into how we can know if the displays in our churches are from God or not.

Kevin Swartzendruber was raised from an early age to know scripture and to seek God. Hunger for more of God lead him into many seasons of prayer, bringing with them a greater understanding of the divine purpose for the church as seen through scripture. See more at http://www.chronicallychristian.com

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERMAKE A WEBSITE

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