The Counterfeit Christianity 2 Timothy 4:1-8
By P. G. Mathew, M.A., M. Div., Th.M.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. Timothy 4:1-8
We have been speaking about counterfeit religion. This counterfeit religion appears on television and in churches all over the world today. It is a false religion that preaches a gospel that is different than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In our previous study we spoke about the false church and the false ministers of this counterfeit Christianity. In this study we want to consider the Satanic doctrines of the counterfeit religion, which are described in 1 Timothy 4:1 as “doctrines of demons.”
What Are Doctrines of Demons?
The Bible speaks about sound doctrines, healthy doctrines. They are summarized in the term “apostolic doctrines.” Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus commissioned his disciples to teach these doctrines, saying, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). In Acts 2:42 we read that the first believers in Jerusalem devoted themselves to these doctrines of the apostles.
But there are also doctrines of demons, as we read in 1 Timothy 4:1, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times, some will abandon the faith,” meaning the apostolic doctrines, “and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” The apostle Paul speaks about such doctrines in Galatians 1:8-9, saying, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” Of course, demons are not corporeal beings, but spirit-beings; therefore, demons come on human beings. When pastors and teachers are directed by demons, they will begin to teach these lies, or what we call the doctrines of demons.
So in the church today we find doctrines that give life and cause spiritual growth as well as doctrines that destroy. The latter are described as having a form of godliness but denying the very heart of it. That is why we should consider carefully which church we want to join. The idea that one church is as good as another church, that one preacher is as good as another preacher, and that one teaching is as good as another, is false.
When we read Genesis 3, we encounter Satan and his doctrines. Satan, according to Jesus Christ, is the father of all lies. He always contradicts God’s word. Thus, he told Eve, “You will not surely die.” Any teaching that contradicts God’s word is a doctrine of demons, and any preacher who contradicts God’s word is a false minister.
Satan denies that there will be a judgment. By the words, “You will not surely die,” he meant that Adam and Eve could live any way they wanted; there is no judgment or punishment. But this is not true. Additionally, rather than encouraging people to believe in the word of God, Satan encourages people to sit in judgment of it. We see that illustrated in the history of higher criticism, which began in the seventeenth century and whose influence continues today. Higher critics like Rudolf Bultmann have sat in judgment on the word of God, rather than trusting in it.
Satan encourages man to defy God and give in to his own evil desires. Satan says, “Don’t worry about what the Bible says. Do what you want to do. Give full expression to your lusts.” Satan inspires man to become proud, autonomous, and unsubmissive to God. He tempts man with the idea of absolute freedom and tells him not to tolerate any limitation. God told Adam that he could eat of all the trees of the garden but one. But Satan said, “No, don’t tolerate that prohibition of even one tree. It is a serious limitation upon your freedom. You must always look for absolute freedom.”
What Satan loves to do is to dangle before man the intoxicating possibility of becoming God; in other words, he tempts us with self-deification. But Jesus said the devil can only steal, kill, and destroy. When we read Genesis 3, we see that Adam and Eve, having eaten of the forbidden tree, naked, afraid, and hiding from God. Eventually, they were judged by God and died.
Doctrines of demons are inspired by lying, evil spirits, as we read in 1 Kings 22:22-23. When such spirits come upon false prophets, they are inspired to lie. This is in direct contrast to what we find in Acts 2. When the Holy Spirit came upon one hundred and twenty disciples, they spoke about the deeds of God as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance. So there are two kinds of speech: evil-spirit inspired and Holy-Spirit inspired.
Doctrines of demons always promote sinful human lusts and contradict God’s moral law. Doctrines of demons promise man total freedom but deliver absolute slavery. Doctrines of demons promise eternal life but deliver eternal damnation. Thus, we want to look at some of these doctrines of demons as we discover them in the Holy Scriptures.
Doctrines of Demons
1. The Standard of Subjectivism
The first doctrine of demons is subjectivism. Both unbelievers and believers have standards by which they live and make judgments. For believers, the standard is the Holy Scriptures. It is an objective standard. But the doctrines of demons teach we should never submit to that standard. Instead, the standard for our lives should be our subjectivity, lusts, and desires. According to the doctrines of demons, subjectivity is truth, and whatever lust we have, we must fulfill.
So in 2 Timothy 4:3 we read, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers who will teach what their itching ears want to hear.” Doctrines of demons teach that the standard by which people should live is not the standard of God, but the standard of their own lusts.
In Philippians 3:19 Paul spoke about so-called Christians who came under doctrines of demons during his time: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Their god is their belly! These people do not worship the Creator of the ends of the earth; they worship their lusts and appetites. Such people are led around by their belly.
In 2 Peter 2:18 we read, “For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.” These teachers know what people like. They appeal to that lust to entice them and turn them away from God’s objective truth.
In Jude 16 we read, “These men are grumblers and faultfinders.” They are grumbling against God, his teachings, and his ministers.
In 1 John 2:15 we read, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.” Just listen to some of these preachers on television. All they preach about is, “This world. . . this world. . . this world.” They seem to have forgotten about the world to come. They have fallen in love with this world. For them life consists of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boasting of things.
So the first doctrine of demons is that the standard for life is our own lusts. Those who live by this standard negate any influence God and his word might have in their lives. They would say, “We have nothing to do with the things of God. I am interested in my own lusts, and I want to seek and fulfill them. Whenever I lust, I will do what my lust tells me. I live by my lust.”
2. Rejection of God’s Authority
The second doctrine of demons is rejection of God’s authority. Because the standard of these people is their lust, they also reject God’s authority. In Jude 8 we read, “In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.” The Greek word for “reject” is atheteô, which means to veto or nullify. The Pharisees also nullified the word of God by their own traditions.
Such people reject the lordship of Jesus Christ. They will confess “Jesus is Savior” but they will never say “Jesus is Lord.” They set aside any objective authority, accepting only the authority of their own subjectivity.
Not only do these people reject Christ’s authority, but they also reject Christ’s delegated authorities. The Bible says, “Children, obey your parents.” But these people say, “No, I am not going to obey my parents. I want to follow my own desires.” They also reject the authority of pastors and elders. The Bible says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” But they would say, “I refuse to come under the spiritual authority of another person. I submit only to the authority of my lusts.”
In Luke 10:16 Jesus Christ said, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you, rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The word atheteô, “reject,” is used here also. So the second doctrine of demons is rejection of the objective authority of God and his delegated authorities.
3. Rejection of Truth and the Acceptance of Myths
The third doctrine of demons is a rejection of truth and an acceptance of myths. In 2 Timothy 4:4 we read, “They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” These people cannot stomach hearing the word of God. They will deliberately turn away from it and turn to fiction, speculation, and falsehood. Such people accumulate teachers around them who will tell lies, as we read in Jeremiah 5:31, where God says, “[M]y people love it so.” They will tell the minister, “Preacher, don’t preach truth to me; entertain me with uplifting stories.”
In Isaiah 30:9 we read, “These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction.” Unwilling! These people are allergic to truth. In verse 10 we read, “They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right!’”
Suppose a person is fornicating, but the pastor preaches that fornication is wrong. Do you think that person will like the minister? Oh, not at all. Instead, he will find a preacher who says, “Fornication is all right. Aren’t we all sexual beings? In fact, fornication is a sign of health. Dogs do it, bees do it, birds do it, and man does it. So fornication shows that you are a normal, healthy human being! Who is that preacher who told you that is not the right way to go?” Notice, Isaiah said, “They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right!’” They turn away from the truth and turn aside to lies, speculation, philosophy, and psychology.
What else do the people say to their false ministers? “Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.” They say, “We love lies. We love pleasant things. Don’t preach the word of God to us!” They will tell the minister, “Pastor, I want to give you some counsel. You should take a poll, find out what people want to hear, and preach that. It should be need-based, in other words, something that makes people happy. You should only tell them pleasant things. Don’t ever speak about sin, repentance, and holiness.”
For such people truth is myth and myth is truth. Rudolf Bultmann said, “The central message. . . of [the Bible] is incredible to modern man” because it speaks about miracles. Though he was a great student of the Bible, Bultmann rejected the truth of God’s word and believed in his own hollow philosophy instead. He looked at the Bible and “accordingly [found] it necessary to discard such obviously mythical elements as Christ’s preexistence and virgin birth, his deity and sinlessness, the substitutionary nature of his death as meeting the demands of a righteous God, his resurrection and ascension, and his future return in glory, also the final judgment of the world, the existence of spirit-beings, the personality and power of the Holy Spirit, the doctrines of the Trinity, of original sin, and of death as a consequence of sin, and every explanation of events as miraculous.” According to Bultmann, the wonder is not that God became man, but that God chose “an ordinary, mortal individual, no different from every other man.” (Hughes, Philip Edgcumbe, “Myth,” Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, ed. by Everett F. Harrison, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Carl F. H. Henry, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1960] 368-369).
4. Hollow and Deceptive Philosophies
The fourth doctrine of demons is the turning away from the truth and turning to hollow and deceptive philosophies. Paul dealt with this tendency in his letter to the church of Colossae. In Colossians 2:8 he wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”
In 2 Peter 2:18 the apostle Peter writes, “they mouth empty, boastful words.” If you are students, I urge you to be careful when you go to the university. Many professors will try to turn you away from the truth and turn you to the falsehood of the phony philosophy, phony psychology, and scientism.
The problem with hollow human philosophies is that they refuse to acknowledge the true God. In a recent booklet by John Blanchard this view is expressed by George Wald, a biochemist and professor of biology at Harvard who received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1967. Although Wald was a top scientist, he chose to believe scientific impossibilities rather than admit there could be a Creator God:
When it comes to the origin of life on this earth, there are only two possibilities, creation or spontaneous generation. There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved 100 years ago. But that leads us to only one other conclusion of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible, that life arose spontaneously by chance. (John Blanchard, Evolution—Fact or Fiction? [Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2002], 29).
5. Private Revelation
The fifth doctrine of demons is the idea of private revelation. If you turn on “Christian” television programs, most of what you see will be based on this doctrine of the devil called private revelation.
In Colossians 2:18 we read, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.” This subjectivism was as prevalent among false prophets in the Old Testament as it is among false prophets today. How many of these people will claim, “I had a dream,” or “I had a vision,” or “The Lord told me. . . .” This is private revelation. Jude calls those who say such things “dreamers.” They are inspired by demons.
Private revelation was found also in New Testament times. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1 Paul wrote, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us.” These false prophecies did not come from the apostle Paul. They were not true prophecy; they were private revelations, designed to unsettle God’s people.
What is the inspiration of such private revelation? Evil, lying spirits, such as the one we read about in 1 Kings 22. When a lying spirit came upon all four hundred prophets of Ahab, they all spoke lies in unison. So when someone tells you, “I had a dream,” or “I had a vision,” or “The Lord told me. . . ,” please run, because that person just wants to put his hand into your pocket. Oh, he may prophesy a few things to you, but if you want to have a good mind, keep away from such people. Their prophecies are prompted by demons who only want to unsettle you, manipulate you, and make you captive to them. It is all demon activity. You must be careful.
6. Denial of Jesus Christ
The sixth doctrine of demons is the denial of the person of Jesus Christ. In 2 Peter 2:1 we read, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be a false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction upon themselves.” In Jude 4, the brother of Jesus Christ wrote, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ, our only Sovereign and Lord.”
Denial of Christ’s person and work is denial of the very heart of the biblical revelation. It is a denial that Jesus Christ is eternal God. It is denial of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In 1 John 4:2-3 we read, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
Denial of the incarnation is to say that Jesus Christ is not the eternal Son of God who took upon himself a human body. It implies that he did not die for our sins as God/man and that he is not God/man forever. Thus, denial of incarnation means denial of atonement and therefore denial of our salvation.
It is also denial of the cross of Jesus Christ. In Philippians 3:18 we read, “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Those who deny the cross are enemies of the cross. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 the apostle Paul said he resolved to know nothing while he was with the Corinthians “except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Crucifixion demonstrates that God takes sin very seriously. He sent his own Son to die in our place for our sins. But the doctrine of demons denies the cross; therefore, it denies the atonement and the reality of sin. It tells us, “Live as you please; there is no judgment.” No wonder Paul said their god is their appetite! A person must deny the cross in order to sin. But we know that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins. We are justified only through the cross of Christ.
7. Denial of the Second Coming
The seventh doctrine of demons is denial of the second coming of Jesus Christ. In 2 Peter 3:3 we read, “First of all, you must understand in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.” They scoff at the apostolic doctrine. They are characterized by a mocking spirit that manifests itself especially when the word of God is preached. That is demon activity.
In verse 4 we read, “They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised?’” Not only did Jesus Christ speak about his second coming, but the apostles also did. The Bible says Jesus Christ is going to come personally, physically, visibly, powerfully, and gloriously. But here the mockers come, questioning the authority of Scripture and say, “No, Jesus Christ is not going to come again. Where is this coming he promised?”
The doctrine of the second coming is biblical doctrine. Jesus told his disciples they are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper until he comes again. In 1 John 3:3 we read, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” This is the blessed hope of the church which causes us to want to prepare ourselves to meet the Lord. Because of this hope we repent, confess, and forsake our sins.
But false teachers are not preaching that Jesus Christ is coming again. Look at television preachers. Are they saying Jesus Christ is coming? Not at all. They have fallen in love with this world. They have big rings on their fingers and wear designer clothes. They want a good life and they have it. Their only desire is this world, not the world to come.
8. Denial of the Final Judgment
The eighth doctrine of demons is denial of the final judgment. When people deny the reality of the second coming, they also are denying a final judgment.
In John 5:28-29 Jesus declared, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” So when the reality of the second coming is negated, the final judgment is also denied. If Jesus Christ is not coming again, there is no eternal judgment, no heaven, hell, no new earth.
9. Denial of the Resurrection of the Body
The ninth doctrine of demons is a denial of bodily resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:12 we read, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
“There is no bodily resurrection.” By this the false teachers were saying that Jesus did not rise from the dead bodily. As we already said, Bultmann completely denied that Jesus ever rose from the dead, calling such an idea myth.
When people say there is no resurrection from the dead, they are saying that Jesus did not rise from the dead bodily, and therefore we also will not rise from the dead bodily. Perhaps people said this because of the Greek idea that matter is evil: if there is no resurrection of the material body, that is a good thing. In other words, why should matter be resurrected if it is evil to begin with?
But notice the subtlety of this doctrine of demons: If there is no resurrection and final judgment, then what we do with our bodies doesn’t matter. Thus, this doctrine of demons is really declaring, “Go ahead, sin all you want. There is no final moral accountability.”
The tenth doctrine of demons we want to examine is antinomianism. Remember, these are doctrines that are taught in the church by those who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. This demonic doctrine of antinomianism is a serious problem in the church today.
Antinomianism goes against God’s moral law. In Jude 4 we read, “For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” You see, these people believe in grace. Oh, they glory in it! They will say they are saved by grace, but then they add that this grace is what gives them license to sin. This is the essence of antinomianism.
There are people today in the church of Jesus Christ who believe that Christians do not have to follow God’s moral law. They say, “We are not under law; we are under grace.” They say, “Jesus is our Savior but he needs not be our Lord.” They say, “What we do with our body does not have any eternal consequence.” They use grace as a license for immorality.
Paul spoke about this issue of antinomianism in the book of Galatians. In Galatians 5:13 we read, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”
In Romans 5:20 Paul makes this profound statement: “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. . . .” This is the glorious truth of the gospel. But in Romans 6:1 Paul asks, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” What is the resounding answer? “By no means!”
In 1 John 1:6 the apostle writes, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” In verse 8 he adds, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” In verse 10 he says, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” All these scriptures point to the demonic doctrine of antinomianism. In other words, antinomianism says, “Ethics do not matter; do whatever you want. Aren’t you already saved?”
The eleventh doctrine of demons is legalism, which says that salvation is not by grace alone by faith alone, but by grace plus the human keeping of God’s law. Legalists say that we cannot be saved by believing in Jesus Christ alone; we must also keep the law.
Does this mean saved people should not be guided in their conduct by God’s moral law? No. But legalism says to be saved, a person must keep the law. PGM That is the doctrine of demons.
Paul addressed this problem in his letter to the Galatian Christians. In those days there was a teaching that one could not be saved simply by believing in Jesus Christ; he had to be circumcised also. So in Galatians 5:2-4 Paul wrote, “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”
Legalism denies the full and perfect efficacy of Christ’s atonement and says that we have to add something to what Christ has already done. The Roman Catholic church teaches that people have to take care of the temporal punishment of their post-baptismal sins. That means that if you are baptized as an infant, you somehow have to deal with all your subsequent sin. That is a denial of the perfect atonement of Jesus Christ our Lord. We are saved by grace alone.
The twelfth and final doctrine of demons we want to speak about is asceticism. In 1 Timothy 4:3 we read that these hypocritical liars, these false teachers, also forbade people to marry. That prohibition is against God’s order. God himself ordained marriage, so this doctrine of demons denies the very appointment and ordaining of God.
In the Roman Catholic church, celibate priests are seen as living higher, holier lives than married people. That is absolute falsehood according to the Scriptures. That does not mean that marriage will solve all problems, but to say that the celibate state is a holier state than the married state is false.
Not only did these false teachers forbid people to marry, but they also ordered them “to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.” “You should only eat vegetables,” these people said.
In Colossians 2:20-23 we read, “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belong to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
The Great Apostasy
How many in the visible church will abandon the true gospel and follow after the doctrines of demons? The Bible says many will fall away. In other words, a true church, true believers, true ministers, and true teachings are few. As Americans we have a tendency to say that if vast numbers of people are believing in something, it must be right. That is because in America we like everything big. We glory in numbers. But what is popular in the world is an abomination to the Lord. When large numbers of people are flocking after something, we must begin to wonder what it is they are going after.
The Bible speaks about a time of falling away. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 we read in reference to the day of the coming of the Lord, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs. . . .” meaning until apostasy takes place. Where does apostasy take place? In the church. In other words, many people will abandon the faith before Christ returns. In fact, we are living at a time when we see vast numbers of people abandoning the true gospel in favor of a lust-promoting autonomous form of Christianity.
In Luke 18:8 Jesus Christ said, “I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Then he added, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” What is the expected answer? No. No matter how many people are in the church, only few will be true.
In Matthew 24:4-8 Jesus warned against demonized teachers and pastors, saying, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” Where will the many be deceived? In the church! The people in the world are already deceived and under the power of Satan. This is speaking about people in the church. Then Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. But see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All of these are the beginning of birth pains.”
Then in verses 9-13 we read something interesting. First Jesus says, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time, many will turn away from the faith . . .’” Jesus Christ himself, the head of the church, is saying that many will turn away from the faith, which is the gospel, “and will betray and hate each other.” In other words, false professors will betray and hate the true people of God. Then, in verse 11 Jesus says, “[A]nd many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” Notice, not a few, but many false prophets will deceive many people. Then Jesus concludes, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Those who are God’s elect, who are effectually called and justified, will persevere to the very end because God will help them.
In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it.” Notice, only a few find the road to life.
In Matthew 7:22 Jesus said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them very plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” These are people who are demonized and follow the teachings of false preachers.
The Doctrine of God
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we read, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We are not here to judge, critique, or demythologize the word. We are here to believe and preach the word.
Why do we preach God’s word? Because the word alone points to Jesus Christ. Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification, and salvation is found in no other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved. He alone is the Savior of the world. He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. We find him in the Holy Scriptures, and that is why we must declare the word of God. In 1 John 5:11 we read, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in the Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Why do we preach the gospel? Because the whole Scripture reveals to us Jesus Christ. Therefore we say that all religions and philosophies, except that which preaches Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen, are of human origin and impotent to save sinners. This is why we preach the gospel, because it alone is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greeks.
True churches and ministers are few. Thus, whenever you find a church that preaches the gospel, pray for it and its ministers and pay close attention to its teaching. To see if a church is true or not, you should examine what it believes. See whether it fundamentally agrees with the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Baptist Confession of 1689, and so on. Many people say, “We believe in the Bible,” so you must make sure they do not reinterpret it to suit their own ideas. Ask questions such as, “Do you believe in the miracles of the Scripture? Do you believe that God out of nothing created the whole universe? Do you believe in the virgin birth?” and so on.
Above all, I urge you to think and commit yourself to the word of God. If you don’t, you will be unstable and soon duped by itinerant phonies whose only interest is to serve their own appetites.
May God help us to not only endure sound doctrine, but to delight in it. God’s word is life and spirit. May we study the objective word of God so that we know clearly who God is, who we are, and how we can be reconciled to God through the mediatorship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. May the Spirit of the living God fall afresh upon us and draw us to himself. May we know that true happiness is found, not in indulging our lusts, but in doing the will of God. May we therefore resist the devil and the doctrines of demons, and may we love God and his word. Amen.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark office by International Bible Society.