How God Uses Heretics
I was getting a bit upset recently regarding the explosion of heretics in recent months. For example, there was Mormon Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor Rally” in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. back this past August 2010 (see my note below within the comments section of this post to see just a few of the outlandish and horrific heresies taught by Mormonism). Beck clearly stated that this event was “not political” and he even proposed that it was a “new Great Awakening” (but only in a weird Mormon sense, of course). He even introduced his new “Black Robe Brigade” of apostate preachers (mixed also with a few Jewish and Muslim clergy). It would have been far more honest to entitled it, “The Parade of Heretics Rally” given the bizarre doctrines that were subtly promulgated there (read also here, and here).
A couple of friends and I had an email discussion about some of these things over a few days, and we were all praying. Quite frankly, like any true Christian believers should be, we were quite concerned. We already had Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Kenneth Copeland (whose third and current wife, Gloria, spoke at Beck’s August 27th, 2010 Kennedy Center event), and many other heretics out there pimping their poison to gullible people, but now a Mormon has become a new “spiritual leader” in America? (Perhaps Gloria Copeland thinks so, but not me.) Needless to say, we have been very vexed about these things within our own hearts.
However, a wonderful thing happened…
The Spirit of God seemed to lead me one afternoon to pick up a binder wherein I have a collection of books by John Bunyan (1628-1688 A.D.). Most people know Bunyan as the author of the second-best-selling-book of ALL TIME, Pilgrim’s Progress (the first being the Bible). John was also a faithful witness of the Lord Jesus Christ who had been refined in the fires of persecution. In fact, it was within a jail cell that he wrote that beloved masterpiece of literature.
Bunyan was also a very skilled minister of the Word of God, and should be far more well-known for his marvelous theological writings (all of which you can download here) than he currently is in some circles today. Though not formally educated as a theologian, he surpassed in biblical wisdom exponentially beyond most of the theologians of his time (and even many of those today).
Within Bunyan’s A Vindication of Gospel Truths Opened, written circa 1656, I discovered both comfort and insight into what is going on today. Having meditated those truths for over a week now, in the light of additional Scripture, I have written this article with the expectation that it will encourage you also.
In short, God has a plan for heretics — and a TRUE revival will soon emerge as righteous preachers arise in God’s wisdom and power to confront them, and to preach His Eternal Truth.
Strange, But True
As strange as it may seem, God has His sovereign purposes regarding heretics and their heresies. When we consider the various instances of evil people being used by God unawares within Scripture, it becomes easy to see that this is true. For example, the Bible indicates that the Lord foretold and used the devices of the heinous traitor, Judas Iscariot, towards our redemption (note especially John chapter 13 and Acts 1:15-20); and that the wicked stubbornness of Pharaoh of Egypt served God’s purpose when he was confronted by Moses (see Exodus chapter 9 and Romans 9:16-18). Thus, in a very similar manner, heretics and their demonic doctrines fit into a special place within God’s unfolding plan — although the “reward” for their vile labors will be nothing short of severe divine judgment for their wickedness (unless they repent), just as Judas and Pharaoh eventually discovered.
I will explain these truths from God’s Word that my readers may have that eternally firm foundation for their understanding of such things; and I will tie in what Bunyan wrote about these matters as I do.
Pawns In God’s Plan
In the most startling example of God’s using the wicked for His sovereign plans is regarding satan himself. (Note: I purposely do not capitalize the devil’s name, out of sheer disdain of him). The Bible explains:
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:7-8, NKJV, emphasis added).
The “rulers of this age” mentioned in the passage above are the wicked spirits that oppress and influence mankind (i.e. satan and his evil-spirit cohorts). This fact is brought out more clearly when we compare the above passage with Ephesians 6:10-13:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (NIV, emphasis added)
So in the 1 Corinthians citation above, Paul is telling us that if satan had ever possessed even a “clue” as to what God was going to accomplish in redeeming mankind on the Cross of Calvary, he would have never lifted his murderous hand against the Lord Jesus Christ.
Likewise, we can be sure that if heretics today had any idea what terrible judgment awaits them for their demonic doctrines, they would themselves have second thoughts about the arrogant paths they so greedily pursue.
Another intriguing passage of Scripture regarding how God will use the wicked for His sovereign plans is found in 1 Kings, chapter 22 (NIV, emphasis added):
Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the [false] prophets [of Baal] prophesying before them. Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what the LORD says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’ “
All the other [false] prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.”…
Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’ “…
Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD : I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
“One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’
” ‘By what means?’ the LORD asked.
” ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
” ‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’
“So now the LORD has put [i.e. allowed] a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.” (clarifying statements in brackets and emphasis added)
The Lord had already judged and condemned King Ahab to death for all his violent iniquity and many blatant sins (see 1 Kings 21) — many of which had been instigated by his wife, Jezebel (see 1 Kings 16:31; 21:25). Now He permitted an evil “lying” spirit to fill the “mouths” of Ahab’s prophets in order to lead him to his doom.
In a shockingly similar way, the Lord uses lying “heretic” spirits (through the false prophets/heretics who succumb to them) and their “doctrines of demons” to test people, and to lead those who fail those tests into judgment:
If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams [i.e. a heretic], and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 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. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst. (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, NKJV, emphasis and note added)
God actually said He might test His people by using a false prophet (i.e. a heretic, please note 2 Peter 2:1 and 1 John 4:1). In fact, when one considers just the few examples I have used within this article already, it is clear that the wicked are merely objects of His creation which have fallen perversely from His original design:
The LORD has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. (Proverbs 16:4, NKJV)
Pawns…But NOT Willing Servants
However, let me be clear that God does not MAKE these people evil, nor does He encourage them to perform their wickedness. In fact, the passages above (and many we are using in this article) make it VERY clear that God fully intends to bring disaster upon their heads for their wickedness (unless they repent). In Deuteronomy 13 above, for example, He said that the false prophet was being used by Him to test His Own people…but that they should pass the test by stoning the false prophet to death, “Because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God.” He then emphasized that they must do this, “So you shall put away the evil from your midst.”
Again, the Lord is NOT in the temptation or heresy business, but ONLY in the truth business:
Blessed is the man who endures temptation [including the assaults made by heretics]; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures. (James 1:12-18, NKJV, emphasis and notes added)
The Bible is quite clear that false prophets and teachers (i.e. heretics), traitors (like Judas Iscariot), even the Anti-Christ himself, are products of their OWN making, but ALL are also unwilling participants in His amazing plan:
- On their parts, these people are motivated by their own pride, lust, and self-deceit. They seek power, fame, wealth, and even worship; but all to their own destruction.
- On God’s part, He is perfect in His foreknowledge (i.e. He is omniscient). Therefore, He knew what they would do before they were even born! He created time, and is not subject to it. God is also omnipotent (all-powerful) and can use ANY object of His creation as He sees fit. Thus, God sees the “end from the beginning” and uses EVERYTHING for His Own perfect plan on behalf His foreknown elect (i.e. truly born again Christians, see Romans 8:28-40).
We can understand, therefore, that these vile miscreants are NOT willing servants of the Lord (though sometimes they do falsely claim divine inspiration and authority). They actually serve Him inadvertently and unawares as objects of His pending wrath (unless they repent).
In short, God is ultimately in control of His Own sovereign plan for His creation — though He permits many things to occur on their own accord, if they do not interfere with His sovereign plan; and especially if His saints do not call on Him to intervene through their prayers. That is why He tells His people things via Bible prophesy hundreds and thousands of years before they are fulfilled. He has full control over His sovereign plan, and the devil and his cohorts are only His reluctant servants whenever He chooses to manipulate them for His purposes.
But what are his purposes in so-using heretics? We will examine what the Bible says about THREE of the reasons for which God uses heretics to promote His good and sovereign will, namely:
- To uproot the ‘tares’ from among the ‘wheat’;
- To reveal the truly righteous Christians in contrast;
- To judge those who “love and believe a lie” with their own error.
Before we get into those points, however, I need to explain another key biblical truth that will be very helpful in illuminating these issues.
It may come as a surprise to many, but NOT everyone who claims to be a Christian really is one. This fact was most clearly explained by Jesus Himself, as He warned:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:21-23, NKJV, emphasis added)
The Greek word translated “knew” underlined within the passage above is “ginōskō” (Strong’s # 1097). It means “to become acquainted with, to know, and perceive” (Source: Thayer). There are many who know “about” the Lord Jesus, but who have not experientially come to know Him through the new birth. In other words, they have a “form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” (2 Timothy chapter 3) because such people have never truly been transformed by being born again by God’s Spirit (i.e. saved). They may be “religious” but they are NOT children of God.
This class of unsaved false ‘Christians’ have been referred to by preachers throughout history by names such as “false converts,” “false professors,” “pretenders,” “counterfeits,” and even simply “hypocrites.” Jesus, however, used allegorical terms that compared the true Christians with the false. There are the “wheat” but also “tares” (Mat. 13:24-30, 36-43); “good fish” but also “bad fish” (Mat. 13:47-50); “sheep” but also “goats” (Mat. 25:31-46); “wise virgins” but also “foolish” ones (Mat. 25:1-13). That is why the Holy Spirit was so careful to explain through Paul:
Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:19, NKJV, emphasis added)
Today, it seems that many who claim to be Christians just cannot seem to “depart from iniquity” as they attempt to press forward within their Christian walks. While this is perplexing to them (and often others), the simple reason for their trouble is that many of these people are simply not “His” to begin with:
Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect–being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will).
You know that He appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him there is no sin [essentially and forever].
No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains in communion with and in obedience to Him--deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].
Boys (lads), let no one deceive and lead you astray. He who practices righteousness [who is upright, conforming to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action, living a consistently conscientious life] is righteous, even as He is righteous.
[But] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done].
No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, for God’s nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine sperm, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God.
By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God's will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow believer in Christ). (1 John 3:4-10, AMP, emphasis added; but the bracketed words and parentheticals are in the original Amplified Bible text)
This fact that many who claim to be Christians are actually not, was well-known to the apostle Paul as well. That is why after confronting the terrible sins of the Corinthian church within his two letters to them (sins which were VERY similar to those being committed today in many Charismatic circles, I might add), he began to question the salvation of some people due to their lack of repentance. Thus, he wrote them by the Holy Spirit:
Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you….
For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged….
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 12:12:14, 20-21; 13:5, NIV, emphasis added)
Now, if at least some within our midst are NOT genuine Christians, then what is to be done to “weed out” the true from the false? Let’s begin our study of three of the reasons God uses heretics, and you will see that the first reason is for this very purpose:
Reason 1: To Uproot the Tares
Actually, Jesus answered that question above within his parable of The Wheat and the Tares:
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.
So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”…
Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Mat. 13:24-30, 36-43, NKJV, emphasis added)
In the VERY Last Days, we can expect that the Lord Jesus will send His holy angels to DIRECTLY “remove the wicked from among the just.” However, the Greek word translated “angels” above is “aggelos” (Strong’s #32) and can be literally translated “messengers.” It is used at times in the NT to refer to human messengers, and not only to divine beings (e.g. Matthew 11:10; James 2:25).
So in the light of the Scriptures we have already examined — and those we yet will — we can understand that the Lord has used heretics (and even evil spirits) throughout history as His indirect “messengers” and “servants” to affect His Own sovereign plan. Again:
The LORD has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. (Proverbs 16:4, NKJV)
As we already learned, the Lord allowed an evil spirit to fill the “mouths” of Ahab’s false prophets to indirectly lead that wicked king to his doom. Consequently, He still indirectly uses false teachers and false prophets to lead the hypocrites out from among His holy people. (But, of course, He then brings a severe judgment upon unrepentant heretics due to their willful apostasy and infectious doctrines of demons.)
Thus, we again see a well-documented biblical truth: God uses the devil, and even heretics and false prophets, for His Own sovereign purposes — including, to weed out the false converts from among the true.
Preach The Word!
So as we have already discussed, WE are not authorized by God to try and “weed out” the false converts from out midst ourselves. As Jesus put it in Matthew 15:13-14 (NKJV, emphasis added):
He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
Jesus tells us to NOT try and “uproot” the tares from among the wheat, for we would likely mess things up and accidentally “uproot some of the wheat with them.” Instead, we are “preach the word” and leave it to God Himself to uproot the tares (for only He knows which is truly which). Eventually, He will allow some false teachers to come along and entice the false converts to leave any church or group that teaches sound doctrine:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 3:16 through 4:5, NKJV, emphasis added)
They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. (1 John 2:19, NASB, emphasis added)
So in these Last Days, true ministers of Christ will boldly proclaim God’s Word — but those with “itching ears” will not have anything to do with such life-giving doctrine, and will instead turn towards teaching that feeds their own lusts and desires. In this way, the hypocritical “goats” walk away from the “sheep pen;” and, thereby, they reveal their true nature.
Built-In (Inherent) Resistance
The main reason these false ‘Christians’ leave is that they are not born again, and therefore do NOT have the Spirit of God on the inside of them to guide them into truth:
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come [i.e. those who are "against Christ" by their deeds and agendas], by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us [i.e. heretics and false converts drawn away by their heresies], but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. (1 John 2:18-21, NKJV, emphasis and notes added)
In other words, true Christians have a “built-in” resistance to heresies, in that they are born of God’s Spirit and have Him as their guide:
And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18, NKJV, emphasis added)
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13, NKJV, emphasis added)
However, those who are still in the world (i.e unsaved) “cannot receive” the Holy Spirit, because He is only conveyed through the new birth into the hearts of men, and in a fuller measure by the subsequent Baptism in the Holy Spirit which equips born again people for service (note Acts chapters 1, 2, and 19 in particular).
Now let me clarify that this does NOT mean that Christians cannot be deceived, for Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 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!
Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ….
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. (Galatians 1:6-10; 3:1, NIV, emphasis added)
So genuine Christians have a built-in resistance to error, but NOT an immunity. In fact, the degree of “resistance” within a genuine Christian grows dramatically in proportion to the degree of the individual’s maturity in Christ:
It was he [i.e. Jesus Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:11-24, NIV, emphasis and clarifying note added)
Obviously, maturity in Christ is NOT based upon time (i.e. how long the person has been truly saved) but upon their knowledge of God through (biblical) experiences with Him and an accurate understanding of His word. As the believer matures in their walk with God — and ‘crucifies’ his or her own fleshly desires in increasing measure — he or she becomes less and less susceptible to being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” brought by heretics.
So because we do not possess an automatic “immunity” against error, the Bible repeatedly warns “be not deceived” in the New Testament; and thus, to actively resist heresies (See Luke 21:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Galatians 6:7). We can note also Jesus’ warnings to His churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 for more example of how believers can be led into error by false teachers. Thus, we can conclude that it is primarily those who are not true Christians, and those who are not genuinely mature Christians, who are lacking in their ability to resist heresies as they tempt their minds and fleshly desires.
So to clearly state this point:
- Genuine Christians have a built-in resistance to error, because their very nature has been changed spiritually through the new birth and they will seek to please the One Who saved them from their sins (see 1 John chapter 3, and the Gospel of John chapter 10).
- Mature Christians have even greater resistance to error, because they have “trained their flesh to discern both good and evil” (see Hebrews 5:11-14 and also Galatians 2:20; 5:24); and they can more easily compare the false teaching with true doctrine from God’s Word (as the Ephesians 4 passage above clearly explains).
- False Christians lack all of these, and thus, are extremely apt to be led into error by heretics when they appeal to their fleshly lusts and carnal reasoning (see 1 Corinthians 2:13-15, James chapter 1 and 2 Peter 2:18-20).
John Bunyan also testifies to this very same in-dwelling resistance against errors, which is found ONLY within genuine Christians. As I mentioned already, I will be citing him from his A Vindication of Gospel Truths Opened. However, I have also taken the liberty to modernize the English usage and insert clarifications within [brackets] and bold emphasis at points, in order to aid my readers:
These things, together with many more, I might mention [regarding the heretics Bunyan was then discussing]. But now I will refrain [from doing so] because I know that none shall be lost, nor altogether carried away by [such false doctrines], nor [by] any heretics, but [only those that are] “the sons of perdition” [i.e. destined for destruction, as Judas Iscariot was, note John 17:12 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3]. So that the [heretics] might be more able to make their doctrine take place within the [minds of their] hearers, they endeavor to make “a fair show in the flesh,” that thereby they might now, as did their [predecessors] in times past, compel and coerce them who are not planted by the Lord’s [own] right hand into the truth of Jesus, to follow their concealed errors. As it is written, (Gal 6:12) ‘As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh,’ That is, according to works of the law; do ‘by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.’ (Rom 16:18) And indeed it is clearly apparent, that those that are carried away [by such false teaching] are such as are not able to discern between the “fair speeches” declared by heretics, and the sound doctrine being declared by the pure-hearted servants of Jesus.
Now I shall lay down several reasons why not only are errors advanced within the world; but also, why so many [people] are carried away with them.
1. One reason why so many errors do from time to time come into the world, is so that those who are not indeed planted [in the church] by the Lord’s [own] right hand [and are consequently unsaved hypocrites] might be rooted out. (Matt 15:13) Now these [unregenerate people] are many times carried away by deceiving doctrines: And truly in this our God has both a concern for His own glory, and for His church’s welfare. His first objective is that they should be swept away [from among God's people] by some heresy or other, in order that there might not be great dishonor brought to His name by their continuing among His people: And His second objective is that He might take away [along with them] such grievances [that the hypocrites] may bring [to the true Christians], had they continued still within the society of His children.
Reason 2: To Reveal the Righteous
The second biblical reason that God allows and uses heretics is to provoke true ministers and mature Christians to conduct “spiritual warfare” through prayer and by the propagation of the truth of God’s Word. Godly men and women will be stirred to confront such errors, and thus, hereby God makes it obvious to the Church (and to the general public) who the real ministers of God’s truth are, in contrast to the heretics.
Keep in mind that Paul explained clearly by the Spirit that there actually are false ministers who claim to be Christians, but who are actually unsaved and work for satan:
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!…
But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:2-4, 12-15, NKJV, emphasis added)
Great preachers such as George Whitefield. John Wesley, Martin Luther, Charles G. Finney, and others, often referred to fact that the greatest opposition to the truth that they faced was false unsaved ministers.
Moreover, Luther himself began in “ministry” as an unsaved monk with a Doctorate in theology. He even taught at one of the most prestigious theological universities in Germany, before he discovered how to be saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-10). Wesley likewise had a Doctorate, and was an Anglican Cambridge University theological professor for years before being saved. So just because a person is a “preacher” (even an educated one) does NOT mean they are actually a Christian.
So in contrast to false ministers, how can one identify the true ministers of Christ? One sound method (of several given by Scripture) is to note those who can and do confront heretics and their demonic doctrines with the truth as Bunyan advocated and practiced (and as both Luther and Wesley did themselves also, once they were saved):
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Ephesians 5:11-14, NKJV)
The underlined word above for “to speak” is the Greek word, “legō” (Strong’s # 3004), and it can mean “to refer to” (i.e. to discuss). The common rendition of that passage (as shown above) does not make sense; for the verse within its context obviously emphasizes exposure of such “unfruitful works of darkness” and does not exhort us to keep our mouths shut about them. A better way to render that sentence for our understanding, and to agree with its full context would be, “For it is shameful even to [merely] discuss those things which are done by them, in secret [i.e. discussing such things privately only; but not publicly so as to warn others].” Thus, it is shameful to keep our mouths shut in the face of such grievous error.
In other words, only those who are bold enough to stand up for the truth and to expose the works of darkness, are those who are actually demonstrating themselves to be true “light” in this world:
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16, NKJV, emphasis added)
Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:21-23, NKJV, emphasis added)
So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:26-28, NKJV, emphasis added)
Again, this would not apply only to ministers, but to all TRUE believers on the Lord Jesus Christ — and especially the genuinely mature Christians.
Any and all true Christians should feel compelled by their own consciences to confront error when they see it. So long as they do not override such convictions through either the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25; Galatians 1:10), or through false concepts about “love” that might blind them to what is best for the other person; they will show themselves “approved” before God and man by their manifest confrontation of such error when they encounter it:
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20, NKJV)
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ….
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:1-4, 20-25, NKJV, emphasis added)
So the Lord uses the very existence of heretics and their false doctrines to provoke His true children to spiritual warfare and bold confrontation. Hereby, He is glorified, His truth is proclaimed, and His true servants are made manifest.
Now to address this same point, Bunyan continues:
2. Another reason why the Lord allows such errors to come into the world is so that those that are Christians indeed, might be “approved” and be made obvious: (1 Cor 11:19) ‘For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest.’ Should the Lord not sometimes proceed this way [in His] work [among His saints], there would be many [false converts, i.e. those who are rejected and unapproved] that would make people believe that they are Christians, and yet [they] are not. And again, that He desires to make it apparent [to everyone] that though there be heretics, yet He also has a [truly born again] people, who are enabled by His Spirit to contradict, and oppose them; and plead to the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his glorious gospel against such [heretics and their heresies].
Reason 3: To Judge Lovers of Lies
The third — and perhaps the most profound — biblical reason why God allows false doctrines to propagate is to judge those who LOVE lies:
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. (Revelation 22:12-15, NKJV, emphasis added, with the words of Jesus in red)
To those of us who love THE truth (i.e. God’s Word) and truth in general (i.e. verses false information) it seems almost incomprehensible that there are actually people who LOVE lies. But there really are such people. Either due to their lusts, or perhaps due to their fears, there are some people who live life as if they are saying, “Please do not tell me the truth; I cannot endure such honesty, and I would prefer to continue to believe a lie because it suits me better.”
Such people are extremely odious to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is “THE way, THE truth, and THE life.” Consequently, the Lord has a special place for them:
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:6-8, NKJV, emphasis added)
Thus, it should seem as no surprise to Christians that the Lord would want to turn them from their wicked path before they reach such an eternal torment. So He permits, and even SENDS, heretics and their demonic doctrines to chastise (punish) such people for hating truth. Of course, in the very last of the Last Days, it will play out this way as God’s wrath is poured out on the earth:
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin [i.e. the Antichrist] is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-15, NKJV, emphasis added)
However, this same principle happens even today, as our beloved John Bunyan now explains:.
3. Another reason why the Lord allows — and even sends — delusions among the people, is: That those who were too idle and slothful to seek after the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, might be taken away and violently possessed with error, and actually be made to run greedily after the same. [His purpose is] that they might suffer even more for their neglect of the truth. For those who were always lazy in seeking after the truth when it was offered, but afterward were very hasty after the doctrine of devils when that was declared to them, are guaranteed to have their latter behavior to rise up in judgment against them. For when the truth was offered to them, they were idle and did not receive it; and yet when delusion did offer itself, they were industrious, and laboring [to receive that error greedily]. Now [take note of the Scripture], “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness; because they received not the truth in the love of it, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they might believe a lie, and be damned.” (2 Thess 2:10-12)
There is suffering within false religions and cults, for their false doctrines are themselves a punishment to their adherents for failing to pursue the truth.
NEVERTHELESS, to God’s glory, many have come out of such cults through the years (e.g. Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Freemasonry, Universalism, extreme pseudo-Charismatic heresies such as “prosperity gospel” teaching, etc.). Such ex-cult members are quick to testify how much they suffered under such bondage, and are very active at both warning others about them, and endeavoring to save others who are still bound within those errors.
So one could say on this third point that the Lord would seem to be saying, “Okay, so you do not want the truth? You want lies? I’ll give you your heart’s desire to the full by allowing damnable heresies to deceive you; and THEN, if you wake up to your sorry condition, you will quickly vomit up such error and run to my truth thereafter.” My brothers and sisters, though it seems severe; this is a VERY good thing.
Revival is on the Way
So to quickly recap what God seems to be doing in these days, in the light of Scripture and John Bunyan’s excellent observations:
- There are heresies abounding today, as heretics seem to be multiplying like smelly bacteria.
- Part of the reason for this is to “uproot” the false converts from among the true, and to protect God’s church from their errant influence on His beloved children. (i.e. The purification and purging of the Church.)
- Another reason for this is to manifest those who are “approved” by having them confront the heretics and their errors with God’s truth. (i.e. The provocation and manifestation of true ministers and mature believers.)
- A third reason for this state of affairs is that God wants to punish with judgment those who are prone to seek lies and shun the truth, so that they can turn from such blatant stupidity before eternal fire is their final reward. (i.e. To draw the unsaved to the True Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by challenging them to abandon lies for the love of truth.)
Now compare the above bullets (and the teaching which proceeded them) with this passage from Ephesians chapter 5:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (5:25-32, NKJV, emphasis added)
The Lord Jesus is returning for a Bride (i.e. Church) “not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but…holy and without blemish.” By purging the Body of Christ of false ‘Christians;’ provoking the true ministers and mature believers to rise up against heretics with true doctrine; and challenging the unsaved “lie lovers” to become lovers of truth, to repent, and to put their whole trust in Christ for their salvation; our loving “Husband” (Jesus Christ) is preparing a Bride for His return.
Where’s Your Faith?
Sadly, there are some people who have more faith in the coming “great apostasy” that will precede the Lord’s return (e.g. 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1) than that the Lord might have any revival plans for His Church. Such is a tragic state of mind to have, because it alienates the individual from God’s purposes:
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23, NKJV, emphasis added)
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV)
Surely we must realize that for the “glorious Church” to manifest, we must have a revival so that God’s people might truly qualify as a “glorious people” when He returns. If you haven’t noticed lately, the Body of Christ is in quite a mess. So consider this passage about our prayers:
And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:7-8, NKJV)
Many of us are “crying out day and night to Him” for an outpouring of His Spirit, a reformation of His Church, the bold proclamation of His Word, a true revival among His saints, and an amazingly large harvest of born-again souls to flood into His Kingdom. I believe God will speedily “avenge His elect” and do exactly that for which we are asking so earnestly. Do you?
It is also important to note that nearly EVERY major revival of which we know throughout history, was preceded by a rise in false-Christs and heretics. Just three notable examples:
- Before Jesus came, there arose “Theudas” and “Judas the Galilean” who claimed themselves to be “deliverers” and led many to their deaths (see Acts 5:36-27). And Jesus also said in the Last Days, “false Christs” would arise to deceive many (see Matthew 24:24 and Mark 13:22) before He returns for His holy Bride. So again, He plans to use such false teachers for His Own sovereign purposes to prepare His Church for His return.
- Before the great Reformation under the ministries of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others, back in the sixteenth century, the true Body of Christ was oppressed by the false doctrines and totalitarian rule of the apostates and heretics who then controlled the Roman Catholic Church. By rising up against such doctrines and errors, Luther, Calvin, and their contemporaries, gave us an amazing example of how we should “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” against such things in our day (review again the Jude citation above).
- Before the great revival of the mid 1800′s under America’s greatest evangelist, Charles G. Finney, a wave of Universalism heresy had spread across the Northern States of America. (By the way, I do not agree with everything Finney taught; but he was certainly an amazing evangelist.) This error, as he wrote in his autobiography, he had to confront MANY times, as he sought to turn people away from their sins and to their ONLY hope of salvation, Jesus Christ. Finney also had to repeatedly confront Freemason heretics as he boldly declared that their luciferian Deism was demonic and they were heading straight to Hell in their sins (see also Ex-Masons for Jesus at emfj.org). Consequently, a major revival occurred, which is estimated to have resulted in over 500,000 direct converts under his own ministry (in the days of horse and buggy travel) and millions more through ministers affected by Finney’s “Principles of Revival” teaching.
So both the Bible and history tell us that heretics and their doctrines of demons (again, all which God uses for His Own sovereign plan) tend to proceed major reformations, outpourings of God’s spirit, revivals of God’s saints and true doctrines, and mass genuine evangelism. Consequently, when you consider all of these points above (and many more which could be made), it becomes clear:
A genuine outpouring of God’s Spirit, upon anointed ministers and believers proclaiming His pure truth, is about to come in full-force into manifestation within the United States of America and around the world; and this will help to prepare His “Bride” for His return.
Thus I believe this major revival is coming VERY soon, because the heretics have become so prolific today and have deceived so many. That is something to get excited about…and makes one want to praise God for using heretics to as an indirect means to purge His Church.
Lord willing, I will continue to write more and more about heretics and their particular characteristics over time (along with other topics, of course, as I have many issues I can address). However, for those of you who want more teaching on this topic now, please consider these posts here on RichVermillion.com:
Most Importantly: If you question your own salvation and want to get further information that can help you, or would like to learn how to better share your Christian faith, visit these websites: WayOfTheMaster.com (and be sure to take the “good test“) and NeedHim.org. For Jewish inquirers, please also consider the content on Yeshua.co.za.
Until my next post….
Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love. (Ephesians 6:24, NIV)
Always in Jesus,