Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bad Apples

Oftentimes people use individual Scripture verses to attempt to corroborate their false & ungodly instruction. One example I've often heard in the assertion of mendacious doctrine is- “by their fruit you shall know them.” They prop up unbiblical teachings by speaking of attendant good works or even supposedly supernatural miracles. The full text of Scripture is quite scornful of false teachers, & interesting enough, even when real miracles accompany such teachings...

Deuteronomy 13:1-18If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, (2) and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' (3) you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (4) You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. (5) But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. "

(6) "If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which neither you nor your fathers have known, (7) some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, (8) you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. (9) But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. (10) You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (11) And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you. "

(12) "If you hear in one of your cities, which the LORD your God is giving you to dwell there, (13) that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' which you have not known, (14) then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently. And behold, if it be true and certain that such an abomination has been done among you, (15) you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword. (16) You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its open square and burn the city and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God. It shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again. (17) None of the devoted things shall stick to your hand, that the LORD may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers, (18) if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God."

No one- not strangers, not kin, not even the worker of miracles was accorded mercy if he was found guilty of leading God's people into darkness. No measure of good works could atone for this "abomination". But "mercy and compassion" are given- to those whom prove to be His people by striving to "purge the evil from (their) midst."

Surely, God's people stand out from the world by their hatred of sin, as well as their desire for good works. 1John 1:6-7 says- "If we claim that we have fellowship with Him, and we are walking in the darkness, we are lying, and are not practicing the truth. But if we are walking in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." But the parable of the sower (Matt. 13) teaches us the tares will dwell among the elect as well. They will appear as of "the light" in many ways, but the often subtle shadowiness of a teaching that leads people astray from worshiping God- as revealed by Scripture to be the Father, the Son, & the Spirit- is revealed when we "inquire and make search and ask diligently" (Deu. 13:14) of the Scriptures as to the veracity of their instruction. The Bereans were noble for two reasons- they rightly received Paul's word with all eagerness, & then they followed by examining the Scriptures daily to see if his teachings were so.

Deuteronomy 13 warns that none of us should be so simple minded (or lazy) to accept anyone's teachings as God-given without first comparing them with the full scope of Scripture. Closeness to our hearts, anecdotal testimonies, not even personally witnessed miracles should supplant the need to "prove all things & hold fast to that which is (actually) good." (1Thess. 5:21) Deuteronomy13 is the corroborative antecedent to our Lord's warning in Luke 6 & Matthew 7...

Matthew 7:15-23 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (16) You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (17) So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (18) A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (21) "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' (23) And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

Notice, in the corporate reading of this text, that both groups bear “good” fruit, but the false prophets produce truly substantial bad fruit overriding their apparent good fruit of "many mighty works". What I think Jesus is saying here is, just as in Deut. 13, the "good" doesn't even come into play if the consequence is God's people being led astray. It matters not the measure of seeming goodness a man or ministry exudes if God is not honored in the end. Verse 16- “You will recognize them by their fruits”- speaks not of the minor fruit of “many mighty works”- but of any ministry’s only suitable first fruit- bringing the elect to worship, more & more, Jesus as Savior & Lord. They may well have done all those things in Jesus' name, but they were not done to bring honor & reverence to His name, & so they are rightfully judged "workers of lawlessness" in the end.

The first "law" of Godly ministry is not meeting the needs of man but illuminating the incomparable splendor of the triune God.

Today this truly detestable fruit is most often evidenced by the abominable practice of leading people away from worshiping Jesus Christ as God & Savior. One group preaches Christ as a mere "idea" of God, & Jesus as nothing more than the man who expressed this "idea" best. When faced with indisputable Biblical evidence to the contrary, they fall back on imagined or possibly real "demonstrations" to shore up their fallacious doctrine. Whether imagined or real is of no consequence, for Exodus 7:11, Deuteronomy 13:2, Is. 47:9-12, Jer.29:8-9 Matt. 7:22, Matt. 24:24, Acts 8:9, & Acts 16:16 are a few among many verses that conversely "demonstrate" that spiritual deceivers are sometimes enabled to work ostensibly supernatural signs as well. If the teacher or prophet does not employ the so-called “good fruit” to draw his hearers to brokenness before Jesus Christ, then his ministry does not carry out the primary purpose of Christian ministry.

So how do we concisely respond to the "good fruit" defense of bad doctrine? Simple- while Jesus did teach that we will know them (the saints) by their fruit, He never declared the existence of seemingly good fruit to be the sole arbiter of true prophets or right doctrine. He (& His disciples) did often teach that the elect will have good fruit, but this was never meant to be a solitary litmus test of sorts that we can use to shortcut the noble "Berean" method of discovering the actual identity of a prophet. The best way to find the measure of a man is to hold his teachings up to the Word of God. Good fruit is but one of many notable indicators of a true man of God.

Matt.24:23-24 “Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. (24) For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

Heb 13:15-15 "So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. (13) Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. (14) For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (15) Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name."


Even So... said...

The first "law" of Godly ministry is not meeting the needs of man but illuminating the incomparable splendor of the triune God.

Good stuff...

Dan said...

This was a great lesson Steve. Thanks