'False prophets shall arise among Christians'
These words, from William Dell, are still relevant today.
Dell preached during and immediately after the English Civil War almost 350 years ago. He was among those 2000 Puritan and other non-conformist clergy who were ejected from the Church of England in 1662 when the Act of Uniformity was proclaimed.
Hear what he had to say,
'... We declare unto you from the Word of the Lord, concerning false prophets, who will make a lot of mischief: They shall not come from among the Jews, or Turks, Moslems or Hindus or atheists; they shall arise out of such as are called Christians.
Amongst Christians some are openly profane and evil, others seem to be religious and godly. The false prophets shall be found among the better sort; and therefore, as Christ Himself said, ‘they shall come in sheep’s clothing’, as though they were of Christ's own flock. St. Paul says, "they have a form of Godliness", that is, they shall be painted over gloriously, with all appearances of Truth, righteousness, honesty, goodness and all the names of godliness.
Amongst those that seem to be the better sort of Christians, some give themselves to the ministry of the Word, and some do not. False prophets shall be found among those Christians, who take upon themselves to be preachers, as Paul testifies having called together the elders and teachers of the church of Ephesus, he says to them, "Out of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them". (See Acts, chapter 20)
Among ministers, some are shallow, vain, carnal, and formal persons; others have great worth and reputation, and seem to be precious members of Christ, and even pillars in the Church, so that the common people think that their goodness justifies all their religious statements and claims. Here’s where you’ll find the false prophets, among those who appear to have gifts and charisms of the spirit, and who seem outwardly to be especially godly, religious, wise, holy, sober and devout.
And as they who opposed Christ at his first coming in the flesh, seem more wise, and holy, and eminent in the Church than the rest, as the Scribes and Pharisees, who sat in Moses' chair, and had the outward letter of the Word in all exactness, and the outward form of religion in all strictness; so they who most oppose Christ in His coming in His Spirit, contradict His Word, and resist His servants and witnesses of His Truth, do appear more wise, holy, learned, and godly, than the rest of the teachers in the Church.
Again, people of such appearance and worth and holiness as these, nuzzle up to the greatest and highest persons in the kingdoms and nations, and manage to obtain, not only their countenance and favour, but also prestige and authority for themselves.
By these two means, their seeming holiness, and then their interest with worldly powers, they enlarge their credit and reputation with the world, and get multitudes of people and nations entrapped.
For the Anti-Christ could not deceive the world with a company of foolish, weak, ignorant, profane, contemptible persons.
He always uses the greatest, the wisest, most self-righteous, and most eminent in the visible church for his purpose, and by these he seduces and subjects to himself, even the whole world.'
Some false teachers are easy to spot but Dell rightly echoes Scripture in saying that in all these regards it will (often) be a hard matter to discern the false teacher. It's easy to say Jesus is Lord. It's another matter entirely to actually allow Him to be in whole-hearted control of our lives.
The institutional churches are entangled in their historical alliances with various nation states. They still attempt to sideline those who will not conform to their mediocrity, and by their collusion with worldly interests and vain use of worldly wisdom, the Enemy seeks to use the decaying institutions of Christendom to distract many from the true and rightful Lordship of Jesus.
But God will not be mocked. Judgement is at hand!
Consider Paul's words to Timothy:
'There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with them.
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. ... These men oppose the truth and are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.
But they will not get very far because ... their folly will be clear to everyone.
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.'
Scripture records that Israel began to trust in other nations rather than in God alone. In a similar idolatry, we in our worldly churches have given other corporate interests inordinate freedom to distract us from our single three-fold priority:
May God forgive us and restore to us the joy of our Salvation!