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Sermon #5 — 2nd John Series
Title: “This is a Deceiver”
Text: 2 John 7-11
Subject: True and False Religion
Date: Sunday Evening — June 29, 2014
Readings: Bob Poncer and Merle Hart
(2 John 1:7-11) (7) For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
(8) Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
(9) Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
(10) If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: (11) For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
“This is a Deceiver” — That statement at the end of verse 7 is my subject. — “This is a Deceiver” — That’ my subject. — That’s the title of my message. — “This is a Deceiver”
Danger of False Religion
The most dangerous thing you will ever face in this world is false religion. Nothing is so likely to keep you out of heaven, and bring you to eternal ruin as false religion. Religion without Christ is much more than a useless thing. It is positively damning. Our Lord and his apostles knew the terrible danger of false religion. Therefore they constantly warned us to beware of it. The most solemn and the most often repeated warnings of Holy Scripture are warnings against false prophets and false religion.
And, it seems to me, that there was never a time when those warnings were more needed than they are today. Our Lord Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:13-15). The Lord Jesus constantly warned his hearers to beware of false prophets and of the religion they promote. And each apostle, as he wrote to the churches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, did the same thing.
Every man who faithfully preaches the gospel of Christ and seeks the salvation of God’s elect must frequently and solemnly warn men and women about false religion and false prophets. I know it is never to speak against another man’s religion. Men become highly offended when the preacher denounces the enemies of the cross as the enemies of the cross; but denounce them I must. In the last day, if you are kept from the snare of Satan, you will thank me for it. If I offend you today, I am sorry for that; but I would rather offend you by what I have to say than to offend my God and my own conscience by being silent. God holds me responsible to warn you of imminent danger (Ezekiel 33:7-9). And I intend to be free from the blood of all men when I stand before God.
In this message I intend to show you from the Word of God seven marks of a false prophet. I will not try to show you all that the Bible says about these wicked men, though both the Old Testament and the New are full of warnings and descriptions that deserve our attention. I simply want you to see these seven things by which the false prophets of our day may be easily identified by all who are taught of God.
Word of Caution
Before I give you these seven marks of a false prophet, let me give a word of caution. We must not judge the faithfulness of a man’s ministry rashly. I do not suggest that all who differ with us upon various points of doctrine and practice are false prophets. — Far from it!
I have numerous friends who believe that our Lord Jesus, when he comes the second time, will establish a millennial kingdom that will produce a thousand years of earthly prosperity and civil and moral righteousness. I do not believe it for a moment. I cannot imagine the King of glory giving up his throne in heaven for a material throne in Jerusalem! But there are many faithful gospel preachers who teach millennialism. They are not false prophets.
There are some who, through ignorance, preach the law as a rule of life for God’s elect, and try keep the people of God under the bondage and fear of the law. I differ with them vehemently. Theirs’ is a grave and serious error. But it is not necessarily a deadly, damning error. Most of my favorite preachers, writers and theologians of the past were strict sabbatarians and teachers of law. John Bunyan, Robert Hawker, John Gill, and C.H. Spurgeon were all very strict in sabbath observance.
Illustration: John Gill preached Samuel Stennett’s ordination and his funeral. — Stennett was a Seventh Day Baptist!
Thomas Goodwin, Thomas Manton, John Owen, John Flavel, John Newton and even the modern A.W. pink were all men who strongly taught the law as the believer’s rule of life and conduct. I differ with them, because I am fully convinced that their doctrine regarding the law of God is totally contrary to the Scriptures. But these men were not false prophets! They were the giants of days gone by, who valiantly fought the good fight of faith. Of such men as these the world was not worthy!
· Lankmarkers — (Wilbur Johnson)
· Pedobaptists — (Robert Hawker)
· Teachers of Rewards — (Augustus Toplady)
· Teachers of Law Works — Circumcision — (Peter!)
Let us never be guilty of labeling a man a false prophet simply because we strongly differ with him in certain areas of doctrine and practice. When I apply the words “antichrist,” “deceiver,” or “false prophet” to a man I do so with great caution. I advise you to do the same. It is not compromise, but charity, that receives and embraces a brother as a brother with whom we have strong differences. As long as we are in this world, because of the weakness of our sinful flesh, the most faithful of men will differ, and differ strongly, in many areas. The most theologically sound man embraces much error!
Still, we must not hesitate to plainly identify those who are false prophets. It is not our desire to stir up strife and division among men. But where the souls of men, the truth of God, and the glory of Christ are at stake faithful men must speak plainly and boldly.
May God the Holy Spirit be my Teacher as I now endeavor to teach you. — “Take heed therefore how ye hear” (Luke 8:18). And “take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:14). — “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whet her they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).
Here are seven marks of a false prophet. By these seven things every man’s ministry is to be judged.
1. Every preacher who is a mere hireling is a false prophet (John 10:9-13). You know well that every true gospel preacher is to be financially supported and maintained by the people of God. — “It is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.” — And the lesson of that law is this: “The Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:9, 14). But the difference between the hireling and the faithful shepherd is this: The end for which the hireling labors is his hire. He cares not for the sheep, but only for what he gains by the sheep.
(John 10:9-13) (9) I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (10) The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (11) I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (12) But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. (13) The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
The true shepherd labors not for his hire, but for the sheep. His goal, his motive, his object in his labor is the welfare of the sheep.
Throughout the history of the church, God’s people have been ill-served by mere hirelings. Isaiah complained of the preachers in his day, calling them greedy dogs who came only to devour. — “His watchmen are blind: they are ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, everyone for his gain, from his quarter” (Isaiah 56:9-11).
These are the men of whom Jeremiah wrote, “From the least of them even unto the greatest of them everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest everyone dealeth falsely” (Jeremiah 6:13).
This is what God says, by the mouth of Ezekiel, to such worthless, hireling shepherds: “Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?” (Ezekiel 34: 2).
And Paul candidly warned the church at Philippi of the self-seeking, self-serving preachers among them. They were men who “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” Such men are “the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is their shame, who mind earthly things” (Philippians 2:21; 3:18-19). This is the black mark upon the false prophet: He labors for gain! His only interest is himself!
The hireling always has his ear to the ground. He always knows just what the people he preaches to want to hear. He may appear to tackle controversial issues, to keep up appearances. But he never deviates from the accepted doctrines and customs of those who support him. When opinions change, he changes.
· Any man who begs men for money in the name of God has a beggar for a god. He is a hireling. He is not the servant of God.
· Any man who knows the truth of God, but will not preach it for fear of losing his pulpit, is a hireling.
· Any man who alters, or trims his message to suit his congregation is a hireling.
Such men are not concerned for the truth of God, the people of God, or the glory of God. Their only concern is for themselves. They preach and labor for the financial gain, the applause, the approval, and the recognition they get from men. May God have mercy on the church who has a covetous, greedy hireling for a pastor. Such a man, like Esau, has sold his own soul for a mess of beans. And he will sell yours much cheaper!
2. The false prophet will speak peace to sinners when God has not spoken peace (Jeremiah 6:14). These wicked men labor for numbers, statistics and success. They do whatever has to be done to achieve their goal.
(Jeremiah 6:14) They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
Illustrations: “The Romans Road Plan of
“The Sinner’s Prayer”
I have an ever deepening conviction that the preachers of this age commit the greatest morally and spiritually evil crimes of the age. They talk men and women into accepting a proposition, saying a prayer, and joining the church. Churches are filled with people who have absolute assurance of salvation, though they are on the road to hell. They do not know our Lord! Because the false prophet cries peace when there is no peace from God, multitudes shall be damned forever. And in hell, that Godless preacher will have to look those Godless multitudes in the face forever! They shall be damned, because he wanted to impress men with his success! God will not hold that man guiltless who heals the wounds of perishing men slightly!
There is only one voice that can give a guilty sinner true peace; and that is the voice of God himself! Blessed be God, there is peace for men by the blood of the cross (Romans 5:1). But if a sinner needs me to convince him that he is saved, the fact is, he is not yet saved. Peace comes not by the preacher’s voice, but by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ upon the heart by God the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).
Oh, weary, helpless, heavy laden, guilty sinner, if you would have peace with God, you must get it for yourself, from God himself, by faith in Jesus Christ himself. You have got to do business with the Man in glory, Jesus Christ the Lord, or you will never be saved. God help you to see that. Salvation is an intensely personal thing, between you and God. And if God is pleased to save you, I assure you that he will do three things to you and in you.
· He will wound you, pierce you, and break your heart with Holy Spirit conviction (John 16:8-11).
· He will strip you of all personal righteousness, self-worth and merit before him (Job 42:6; Romans 3:19).
· He will cause you to come to the Lord Jesus Christ with a willingly, submissive, and believing heart (Psalm 65:4).
When God saves you, God will give you peace. You will not need to get it from some priest, preacher, or soul-winner. Trust Christ, and you will have peace! Any peace given by man is worse than useless. It is damning.
Makes Salvation Easy
3. The false prophet makes salvation much easier and much more simple than our Lord does. — “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (Luke 13:24).
I know that men and women today think that salvation is nothing more than an agreement they made with God not to go to hell. People have agreed to let “poor, little Jesus” keep them out of hell when they die. As long as he does not interfere too much with their lives, they will not cuss him anymore, get drunk, or go to the movies. As long as it does not cost too much time, money, or effort, they will even go to church now and then, give God a little tip for being good, sing a little song, and shake hands with the preacher. According to the modern theory, “You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain, so why not give Jesus a try.” According to these peddlers of religion, “It’s so easy, all you have to do is say, ‘Lord Jesus, come into my heart.’” But I tell you, it is all a lie! The Son of God says, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.” Peter tells us that the righteous are saved only with difficulty (1 Peter 4:18).
God has to do something for himself before he can do anything for you. Before any sinner can be saved, there are three things that must be done for you, which only God himself can do.
· The justice of God must be satisfied. Your sins must be punished, punished to the full satisfaction of divine justice. And nothing could ever make satisfaction for sin except the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This is what Christ did on the cross. He satisfied the justice of God for his people, put away their sins, and obtained eternal redemption for all God’s elect.
· The law of God must be honored. You cannot honor the law yourself. You and I only break God’s law continually. But God cannot save you, unless you have that perfect righteousness required by his law. This too, the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished as the sinner’s Substitute. — By his obedience in death, Christ satisfied the penalty of the law. By his obedience in life, he satisfied and honored the requirements of the law. — And his obedience is freely imputed to all who believe. This is our justification before God.
· And you must be made a new, holy creature in Christ (2 Corinthians. 5:17). You must be given a heart, will, and nature of holiness. In other words, you must be born again, raised from spiritual death to spiritual life by the power and grace of God the Holy Spirit. You cannot and will not come to Christ, until he makes you willing to come. And if he makes you willing to come, you will, most assuredly, come to him (Psalm 65: 4; 110:3). Until he calls you, not all the preachers on earth or angels in heaven can persuade you to believe the gospel. But once the Lord Jesus Christ calls you by his invincible, irresistible, almighty grace, not all the demons of hell and all the corruptions of your depraved heart combined can keep you from him.
4. False prophets will always make the way to heaven and eternal life much broader than the Lord Jesus makes it (Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23).
(Matthew 7:13-14) (13) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: (14) Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
(Matthew 7:21-23) (21) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (22) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (23) And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
I am telling you plainly as I know how, the gate is strait and the way is narrow, far more narrow than you ever imagined. It is the way of daily repentance, daily faith, daily surrender, and daily consecration to God. If you walk in this way, you will take your orders daily from King Jesus. These false prophets today tell you that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will not cost you anything. They prophesy smooth things such as you love to hear. But they are lying to you. If you follow their doctrine, it will carry you to hell. It may seem right. But remember the word of Solomon: — “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25). Our Lord declares that if you follow him, it will cost you everything you have, down to life itself (Luke 14:25-33; Mark 8:34-38).
(Mark 8:34-38) (34) And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (35) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. (36) For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (37) Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (38) Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
(Luke 14:24-33) (24) For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper. (25) And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, (26) If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (27) And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. (28) For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (29) Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, (30) Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. (31) Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? (32) Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. (33) So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
Illustration: The Pearl
Obedience to Christ is the inevitable fruit of faith in Christ. It is not the man who gives the best testimony, or has the greatest experience who is saved, but the man who does the will of God. In so far as the believer is concerned, nothing is so important as the will of God. The heaven born soul wants to do the will of God. That is the paramount desire of his heart. If I walk in the broad way to destruction, I live under the rule of my own will. I will make every excuse in the world to do what I want to do. If I am in the narrow way of life and salvation, I am under the rule and discipline of Christ my Lord. He earned the right to demand that I bring even my thoughts into captivity to him. And it is my daily responsibility and desire to do so, “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). If you can meet the demands of Christ in the gospel, you will be saved. Sovereign grace alone can bring you to terms with God. What are his terms of peace? You must trust Christ alone. You have got to change masters. King Jesus demands unconditional surrender! He will never lower his terms.
Illustration: “Chief give himself to Jesus.”
· Repentance is nothing less than me voluntarily abdicating the throne of my own heart and life, and turning the rule over to Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
· Faith in Christ is nothing less than utter confidence in his merits as my Substitute and voluntary obedience to him as my Lord.
· And this repentance and faith is entirely the gift of God’s grace. Anyone can say, “I believe in Jesus,” but only a sinner regenerated and conquered by grace can voluntarily bow to the rule of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:3).
5. Every false prophet will try to mix the truth of God with the religious customs and traditions of men. Like Balaam, through his deceitful words, persuaded Israel to commit both fornication and idolatry with the worshippers of Baal (Numbers 25:1-3; 3:15-16), false prophets are ever mixing truth and error, grace and works, true worship and religious ritualism. Balaam did not tell Israel to deny the worship of God, or any aspect of divine truth. He simply persuaded them to accept and join in the worship of Baal.
False prophets do not openly deny the gospel of Christ. They do not openly deny blood redemption and salvation by grace. But they cunningly mix truth and error. They follow the policy of the people, swim with the tide of religious opinion, and go in the path of least resistance. They strive to please everybody and offend nobody. Is this not exactly what you see today? The preachers of today have gotten things fixed up so that everybody is saved and nobody is lost. Catholics and Jews, Baptists and Mormons, Presbyterians and Adventists, Methodists and Pentecostals, Calvinists and Arminians, all are right. None are wrong. All are going to heaven. None are going to hell. Somehow, according to modern religious sentiment, black is really white, wrong is really right, error is really truth, works is really grace, and that which is honoring to the flesh is really honoring to God!
Such confusion of truth and error is contrary to the Word of God. There is a way ordained of God. Every other way leads to hell. There is a truth taught of God. Anything contrary to that truth is damning to the souls of men. And that way which this religious world calls heresy is the truth of God (Acts 24:14). Two opposite opinions cannot both be true. The time has come for clear distinctions to be drawn. Either the God of the Bible is the one true and living God, or there is no God.
Like Joshua of old, I say to you, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Will you serve the god of this age, the weak, helpless, frustrated, defeated god of man’s imagination, or will you serve the sovereign, saving, omnipotent God of heaven and earth, who does as he will, when he will, with whom he will, in the way he will, and gives account of himself to none? I am calling for you to choose up and take sides. How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him. If the helpless deity of modern, free-will fundamentalism be God, follow him. But you cannot worship both! — As for me and my house, we will worship the Lord!
6. False prophets will always make salvation ultimately dependent upon the will and work of man, rather than upon the will and work of God. At some point, either in the commencement, or in the continuance, or in the consummation of salvation, the false prophet will make salvation the work of man. Oh, none would ever come right out and say, “Man is his own savior. He does not need the blood of Christ, the grace of God, or the call of the Spirit.” But any mixture of grace and works is an entire denial of grace (Romans 11:6; Galatians 5:1-4). Any mixture of free-will and free-grace is an entire denial of free-grace (Romans 9:16). — “Salvation is of the Lord!”
· The determining factor in salvation is not your will, but God’s will.
· Salvation is not accomplished by what you do for God, but by what God does for you and in you by his almighty grace.
7. If you asked me to give you one sentence by which every false prophet in every age could be readily identified, it would be this seventh mark: — Every false prophet denies the doctrine of Christ (2 John 7-11).
(2 John 1:7-9) (7) For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (8) Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. (9) Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
Every preacher who denies…
· Christ’s Eternal Sovereignty
· Effectual Blood Atonement
· Omnipotent, Irresistible Grace
“This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” — How are we to treat such men? God the Holy Ghost tells us plainly.
(2 John 1:10-11) (10) If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: (11) For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
Here John tells us exactly what our attitude and behavior ought to be toward those who deny the gospel. “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” Those who preach another gospel are not to be received into our private homes as guests. And they are never to be received into the house of God as brethren. We must not recognize any man who preaches a false gospel as the servant of God, or give him any encouragement in his labor.
In fact, John tells us not to even bid them God speed. We are not even to wish them well, much less support them. Every preacher of free-will, works salvation is to be marked by us and treated by us as a heretic, an enemy of Christ, and enemy of men’s souls.
(Philippians 3:18-19) (18) (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: (19) Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
“This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” God’s servants are not like them.
(2 Corinthians 4:1-7) (1) Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; (2) But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (3) But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: (4) In whom the God of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (5) For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. (6) For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (7) But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.