Nothing can be more damaging to the body of Christ than when presumed Christians—whether clergy, academics, or church leaders—demean the Word of God with false testimony. The quandary facing the rest of us is what should we do about it? When someone with a fancy title says something we believe is non-biblical, do we feel unqualified to correct them? What message do we want the world to hear, the false testimony of an authoritative name or the honest and faithful witness of one of His humble followers? The answer is clear: We speak up. That doesn’t make it easy to do, just correct.
“Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.’” — Jeremiah 14:14 (NIV)
“Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” — James 3:1 (NASB)
COULD OUR LORD GOD be any clearer in His proclamation that those who claim to speak in His name actually should be speaking His words?
How do we respond when someone claiming to be a church leader, officially trained and sanctioned, declares publically that “God did not write the Bible” but that “Jesus is the Word,” as though these are separate entities?
God told us that He wrote the Bible. See 2 Timothy 3:16 (NET): “Every scripture is inspired by God” and 2 Peter 1:20-21 (CSB) “No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation … men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus, speaking to the Father in prayer (John 17:17 ESV), declared the Father’s word to be truthful: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
THIS COMES ESPECIALLY as supposed church leaders misrepresent the Bible’s teaching regarding same-sex marriage, sanctity of life, respect for authority, and other issues that are foundational to a soundly run society.
So many of those voices are intermingled with the secular political left that it’s hard to keep separate the so-called Christian voices from the decidedly pagan ones. In fact, one has to wonder what the starting point is for those claiming to be of the body of Christ, but whose shrill voices rise to condemn fellow Christians who are faithful to the Bible’s teachings.
Why? The Bible tells us that Satan is behind the false teaching. He disguises himself as “an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) and teaches a false doctrine (John 10:10a; Gal. 1:7). Jude tells us in verse 11 of his one-chapter book that false teachers have substituted the truth of God for personal pride or human adoration.
The Old Testament shows us the true prophet Micaiah telling King Ahab of Israel that he would not survive a coming battle. Before delivering that prophesy, he was told by the king’s messenger that the king’s prophets were projecting victory and that Micaiah should, too.
Michaiah, however, was true to his faith in God, and said: “As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak” (2 Chron. 18:13).
The rest of the chapter (2 Chronicles 18) tells how Satan had promised to put “a deceiving spirit” in the mouths of the king’s prophets, which is exactly what he did.
Should we be surprised that it’s still happening?
OF COURSE, ANYONE can be misinterpreted, and we should give any writer/speaker some leeway pending clarification, but a self-proclaimed church leader should present basic doctrine in a clear enough manner that we can take his/her words at face value, especially when, over time, that person has not provided clairification but has let the words stand.
What do we do when someone who claims to be a church leader condemns their Christian brethren who quote from the Bible — God’s Word — as authority for values and practices supporting what God has proclaimed and then states that the Bible-quoters are “weaponizing” the Bible for their personal agenda?
How would those “church leaders” respond to God’s Word as referenced in the source text quotations above? The first one cautions against falsifying God’s word; the second one cautions against misrepresenting one’s leadership role.
Let’s unpack those four steps.
- BE PRAYED IN. Paul tells us: “Never stop praying.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT). Other translations say: “Pray continually” (NIV); “Pray without ceasing” (ESV), and “Pray at all times” (GNT). The reason for this is clear. Jesus reminds us in John 15 that we need to “abide” in Him and He will “abide” or “remain” in us, because, He says, without Him we can do nothing. “You can do nothing without me” (John 15:5 GNT). Let’s let those words sink in as we meditate on them. Let’s not breeze over them quickly because they’re familiar. They mean exactly what they say: We cannot represent the Lord unless we are connected to Him and He lives in our hearts.
- LIVE LIVES THAT GLORIFY GOD. Jesus told us: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV) and Peter reminded us: “Conduct yourselves with such honor among the Gentiles that, though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us” (1 Peter 2:12 BSB). Still, if we’re prayed-in and asking the Holy Spirit to guide our lives, we are more likely as we mature in faith to act out the Fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV). Without a Godly witness to back up our words, we’re just “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthian 13:1 CSB) or “like a man (or woman) who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (James 1:23b-24 NIV).
- QUOTE GOD’S WORD. Jesus, who provides the ultimate model for how to live our witness did exactly that when He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Three times, we are told, Satan challenged His Sonship, and each time Jesus quoted from Scripture to rebuke him. If God’s word is on our lips, we will speak His truth, not our own version. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:8 ESV) we are advised. In fact, Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit will guide our tongue: “At that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you must say” (Luke 12:12 GW).
FINALLY, WE ARE TO PRAY for those who witness falsely. We are to pray that the Lord will change their hearts, to soften the stone so it becomes like flesh, to cause them to rebuild their homes on solid rock instead of shifting sands, that those with ears would listen … and take in … and obey.
We are to do that with gentleness and love, not with judgment or rancor, we are to do that believing that God can change their hearts and will work on them, and we are to check our own hearts to be absolutely certain that we are not substituting our will and values for the Lord’s.
Nothing could be worse for us than to pray for others from a position of arrogance and human pride. Instead, we must pray from a position of humility and awe.
Lest we quit out of frustration, let us claim Jesus’ promise:
“For people, this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26 NCV)
Our Father God, we praise Your holy and glorious name. You are so gracious and loving towards us. We ask You to forgive us for our pride and arrogance, our self-centeredness, our selfishness. Empower us, O Lord, to be bold and courageous in our witness and guide us to live lives beyond reproach that our witness, both in action and in word, will glorify You. In the holy and mighty name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen