22. Beware the 'gospel' the deceiver brings
The Apostle Paul warned us clearly in these words:
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ' (2 Corinthians 11:13)
A true apostle is a man who brings a message and, as a messenger appointed by God, he brings the good news of salvation through Christ to man delivering the one, unchanging gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The false apostles of New Testament times not only produced bad 'fruit' in their lives, but also veered away from the true message of the gospel and preached subtly erroneous doctrines which undermined the true gospel of Christ. Just as false teachers in today's church preach 'another' 'Jesus', ministering in 'another Spirit', they also have 'another gospel' to proclaim. This new 'gospel' was not 'another of the same kind' as the message that Paul preached, their 'Jesus' differs from the One Paul knew, and 'the Spirit' by which they minister is not the same Holy Spirit as the One Paul preached but another of 'a different kind.'
Since it is possible for a preacher to come with a 'different gospel' even today, we need to know how to recognise a 'different gospel'? It is absolutely essential to really know and be familiar with the great truths of the gospel preached by Jesus and the Apostles for, if we do not know the truth, how shall we discern an error? Unfortunately our pulpits today are filled with such pap, and so many false ideas have been fed into the church in the last century, that the average church-goer is used to day-dreaming their way through sermon after ineffectual sermon. Try asking a church-goer what they learnt from the sermon--especially a week later! You can talk to these people in house groups and ask them to open their Bibles to '1 John' and be sure that some of them, who may claim to have been 'Christians' for 40 or 50 years, will open 'John, Chapter 1' and then look around in surprise when they can't follow the reading. That is if they have a Bible with them at all! My children were astonished when the 'deacon' supposedly teaching their Youth Group could not find Numbers in his Bible. Yet his ignorance is typical of the average nominal Christians' knowledge--and equivalent holiness. If you don't know the Book of the Lord how can you know the Lord of the Book? And without a sure knowledge of what the gospel really is how can we discern 'another gospel'.
What are the identifying marks of the gospel according to the Scriptures, and how do some of the contemporary 'gospels' which have crept into the church compare with it. We should be capable of testing any 'gospel' we hear with the following questions from Scripture:
The gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ' (Galatians 1:11-12).
Paul received the message of the gospel from God Himself. He did not learn it from a book by some luminary such as a contemporary Kenneth Hagin type heretic, or discover it through religious 'Studies in the Scriptures' by the Jehovah's Witnesses founder, Charles Taze Russell, or even learn it from the other apostles or from an angel! The Lord Jesus Christ revealed it to him but, most importantly, he also states clearly that he found what he received was in full accord with the Old Testament Scriptures:
'For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.' (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
So the source of his gospel was God Himself, and the Scriptures were the judge of its authenticity.
It is painfully easy to be following the doctrines of man, and to fail to obey God. Many Bible teachers do not attempt to instruct believers in the principles of biblical interpretation and give them the tools with which to understand and interpret Scripture for themselves. Most Christians pick up dribs and drabs of knowledge from sermons and reading books from the local Christian bookshop. I should add here that, in Cardiff, the Heath Christian Bookshop and Wyndham Arcade Christian Bookshop in Cardiff are generally stocked with orthodox material, but the Olive Branch in Rhiwbina has a increasing smattering of Toronto and Pensacola material that will lead some astray since Rhiwbina Baptist, the proprietors of the book shop, were themselves deceived by this false gospel. You will find the results of fellowshipping with unbelievers and deceivers reflected again in the damaged witness given out by this church. It is only a few years ago that two Mormon girls visited our house for some weeks as we shared the true gospel with them. They shared how a nice man in the Olive Branch had served them and inquired after the reason for their presence in Wales (since one of them was clearly from the USA). When they shared that they were on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints he 'hoped that God would bless them in their work.' Well, He did - but not in the way that he may have expected. Sadly, these girls believed from this kind of action that they are just part of the Christian family - except they have the whole truth and the rest of us have a damaged and inferior gospel! A few weeks later they told us how they had visited the same bookshop - and this time were refused service and asked to leave 'because you are a cult', after they had carefully selected some items to send to their loved ones back home. Which was the worst behavior - failing to know the messengers of a false gospel, or failing to share the true gospel when you recognize the messengers bringing a false gospel in ignorance? This represents an accurate microcosm of the British church at work in the world.
Too many pastors today gather submissive 'sheep', but fail to help individual Christians grow toward maturity, or give them the necessary environment in which to find out if discernment is developing. The 'heavy shepherding' demonstrated by cults such as the Central Church of Christ (which reached Cardiff a few years ago despite a massive number of warning tracts being distributed by 'Direction' - and no noticeable action at all being taken by the 'orthodox' churches of Cardiff) is also practiced quietly by other heretics named in these pages (Case History I and II). Christian teaching should never dominate the mind or will of another and, when Biblical submission gives way to un-Biblical domination and repression, it can have serious and even fatal consequences.
While we have the freedom in Christ to be able to discern between the teaching of man and the truth of God, every one of us needs to search the Scriptures for himself and be free to make his own decisions concerning his beliefs - but if we come up with a gospel that is easily shown to be contradictory we need to be humble enough to admit that our interpretations are wrong. The Scriptures at the beginning of this section warn clearly of those ignoring these warnings. Sound exegesis and hermeneutics are demanded otherwise we will be 'children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.' (Ephesians 4:14). It is painfully easy to dismember the 'key' doctrines of the cults but, sadly, more and more people are accepting the errors of their doctrines. The organisers of the 'March for Jesus', Graham Kendrick and Roger Forster of the Ichthus Fellowship, propagate not only a dominionist and replacementist eschatology, but lean towards an annihilationist view of judgement, so that their gospel makes it unnecessary to repent to keep from going to everlasting Hell. They have embraced a doctrine widely promulgated by the Jehovah's Witnesses cult in which the unrepentant will be annihilated in God's final judgement--in other words there is no punishment, but you simply cease to exist. This false doctrine obviously means that crime does pay- that men like Hitler and his demonically inspired henchmen who ran concentration camps and murdered millions will escape punishment. This is an encouragement for men to follow their own selfish ambitions - to 'eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we are annihilated!' This is both illogical and un-Biblical. Coupled to the rise of ecumenical unity with Rome, which is itself in pursuit of ever closer unity with non-Christian religions, and the suggestion that people can escape hell as the punishment for rejecting Christ, what we see is an insidious combination which is slowly but surely undermining the Great Commission. This apostasy does not compare well with the preaching of John Wesley, George Whitfield, D.L. Moody, and other true preachers of the gospel who were not afraid to confront a fallen world with the reality of an eternal Hell for those who fail to repent and reject the love and forgiveness of Jesus. For centuries orthodox theologians have pointed out that the same Greek term--aionion ton aiones (Hebrew equivalent: olam olamim) - meaning "forever and ever" is not only used for the torment of those who reject Jesus but is also used for the glory of God, the High Priesthood of Christ, and our salvation. These doctrines are clearly in the Bible and have been believed and taught by orthodox Christians for centuries, but the 'new Gnostics' apparently know better! These annihilationists appear to believe in eternal Salvation through Jesus Christ for Christian believers even though the same Greek word that speaks of eternal life in Matthew 25:46 is also used of eternal punishment in the same sentence! We have to believe that the word means one thing in one place and then, five words later, means something else. When we can play with Scripture in this way, why should anyone believe that the heavenly reward is also eternal - perhaps it is temporary! Pardon my sardonic comment, but these 'March for Jesus' doctrines are of 'demons' (1 Timothy 4:1) and widely promulgated by the Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists cults. The ancient languages are clear that man will exist for eternity in heaven--or for eternity in Hell (Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 16:19-31; Romans 2:6-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 19:20 & 20:10)--and the choices are made here on this earth before death. We should also note that, logically, those punished in Hell will not all receive the same punishment through eternity, for there will be degrees of punishment (Matthew 11:22-24 & 23:13-15; Mark 12:40; Luke 12:47-48; 20:47).
It is unbelievable that Christians choose to ignore the clarity of Scripture relating to Judgement, Hell and the eternal fate of unbelievers who die in their sins. However, true Christian believers are motivated to be witnesses of the gospel by the preaching of God's Word to unbelievers so that they may be 'saved' by receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and obtaining forgiveness for their sins and the free gift of eternal life. It is bizarre to consider that these Christian Leaders who are supposedly involved in the forefront of current world evangelism could distort the preaching of the true gospel by asserting that unbelievers are annihilated at death. In their ignorance they are not describing the true biblical fate of unbelievers. Sadly the Annihilationist doctrine undermines effective evangelism because it tends to discourage unbelievers from coming to Christ (since they are already happy to believe that they will escape all judgement by disappearing into oblivion!) and de-motivates the majority of already feeble Christian believers from witnessing effectively. Can anyone honestly believe that God is going to honour the purveyors of false doctrine by bringing revival through the 'March for Jesus' which has been infiltrated by Roman Catholics and Mormons? How many years has this march been going on while Britain falls further and further into decadence? I questioned the Evangelical Alliance over this heresy and the Pelagian heresy over ten years ago. What have they done about these men leading others into error? Absolutely nothing worthwhile!
When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, He said, 'I have put My words in your mouth' (Jeremiah 1:9). God's Words were the source of his message, but there were false prophets in Jeremiah's day who were prophesying by the power of Baal (Jeremiah 23:13) and those who spoke visions out of their own imagination (Jeremiah 23:16), related false dreams (Jeremiah 23:25), and in their eagerness to prophesy did not wait to hear from God (Jeremiah 23:21). When God is not the source of prophesy, the alternative sources are either another spirit (a Satanic counterfeit), or self (our own imaginations).
The gift of prophecy is used by God to speak words of encouragement or warning to a church or an individual. I have found that the only Christians who have a true gift of prophecy are humble and gentle in spirit and spend many hours in prayer and Bible reading. Yet they are often insulted, often by people who admit that the individual has this gift from God. I have known pastors reject a word from a prophet with a 100% record of accuracy (one of two clear tests for a true prophet) because they did not like what they were hearing. They have even used information about the individual, who has shared with them in confidence, as a weapon against the prophet using such hurtful words as, 'That's just your past speaking.' At the end of the day there is still the one true test: 'Do not despise prophetic utterances, but examine everything carefully' (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). When the gift of prophecy is exercised, we need to examine it carefully using some simple Biblical tests:
Isaiah 8:20 - Does it agree with Scripture?
1 Corinthians 12:3 - Does it exalt Jesus - is it seeking that His name is honoured (or protected from dishonour)?
3. 1 Corinthians 14:3; Acts 21:10-14 Does it build up, or warn the fellowship?
4. 1 Corinthians 5-6 and13:2 - Is it given in love? This doesn't mean 'Dear Brother Smith, I love you very much in the Lord, but your teaching on salvation by doing good works is heresy'! Neither is it un-Scriptural 'Benny Hinn machine gun' or Charismaniac 'repent or you will die in x days' style? This is different from clear Scriptural exposition which might declare: 'Scripture shows your teaching to be in error in this way' and detailing the problems, including concluding that 'your actions say this about you.' This is a call for repentance and exactly what Paul did in Chapters 5-6 of 1 Corinthians when he never once mentioned love or compassion but had the severest of warnings for the whole church (see Case History II). It is only false prophets such as Paul Cain who 'prophesy' while using the 'threat of God's wrath' and whose prophesies FAIL!
5. Romans 8:16 - Does it witness with the Spirit which, again, will be consistent with Scripture when He witnesses to our hearts and minds?
6. 1 Corinthians 14:32-33 - Is it rightly timed and controlled? ('Indeed, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, 14:33 for God is not characterized by disorder but peace')
7. 2 Corinthians 4:2 - Is it spoken out of prior knowledge in the manner of false prophets?
8. Romans 12:6 - 'And we have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith.' Are they speaking beyond their 'anointing'? Is there any flesh life in the word, or that of another spirit such as the Hinn/Pensacola examples given in 4?
9. Jeremiah 23:14 - Is the person leading a holy life of continuing sanctification?
10. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 - Is the word fulfilled (or is it a 'but if' prophecy - q.v.)?
We need to be able to discern the difference between true prophetic words and those from the 'vain imaginations of men', or of Satanic origin, if we are to be saved from the confusion and devastation that follows false prophecy and deceptive leading. Scriptures frequently quoted to encourage people to prophesy (though often out of context) are, 'You can all prophesy' (1 Corinthians 14:31), and, 'Open your mouth wide and I will fill it' (Psalm 81:10). If God has not spoken the prophet should not speak, and to presume to give a message from God when your mind is blank, as some have taught, is to open yourself to false spirits and thus to false prophecies. This is also the method that has been used to cause people to 'speak in tongues' - 'just open your mind and blurt out the first thing that comes into your head' or 'just speak gibberish to loosen your tongue.' There is no verse in the Bible to support this kind of teaching which leads to clairvoyance being introduced into the church by devotees to these principles such as Rick Joyner, Francis Frangipane and Jack Deere (see Page 5; Section 4-5 and Page 12-14; Sections 106-117).
Those whom God chooses and calls usually have a deep sense of humility and dependence upon God. Jeremiah's response to the call of God was, 'Alas, Lord God! Behold I do not know how to speak' (Jeremiah 1:6). When the prophet Isaiah met with God, he recognised his deep sin and the sins of the people, and only after his lips were purged by fire did he respond to God's call with, 'Here am I, send me' (Isaiah 6:8).
23. Beware if they bring 'another' gospel
'I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins ... and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day' (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
It is 'of first importance' to see that the Lord Jesus Christ is central in our gospel. This is 'the gospel of God ... concerning His Son ... the gospel of His Son' (Romans 1: 1, 3, 9). The good news of the atoning death and life-giving resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ brings freedom from the guilt and the dominion of sin to every one who will repent and believe. The finished work of Christ is the only ground for our forgiveness and justification in the sight of God, and faith in His blood the only pathway to a clear conscience and a daily walk in fellowship with God. Any 'gospel' which ignores or minimises these central truths is to be questioned - see later Case History II (Page 7; Section 36).
The preaching we hear from places like Toronto often give little place to the Lord Jesus and we will often hear more about 'the Spirit' or 'the Lord'. We may hear stories of the wonderful things that God is doing, or of how the Spirit is moving mightily, but often we wait in vain for any mention of the name of Jesus. God spoke about the prophets of Jeremiah's day who 'intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another' (Jeremiah 23:27). God's name indicates His character, and the name of Jesus especially has a particular meaning. The angel of the Lord told Joseph, 'You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins' (Matthew 1:21). If Jesus does not occupy the central place then we are hearing 'another gospel' (Galatians 1:6-9). The Apostle Paul, after years of diligent work, receiving great revelations directly from God, thousands of conversions, miracles, healings, and the casting out of demons, still made it his aim and purpose in life to know Christ in ever increasing measure and to he count everything else as loss in comparison (Philippians 3:8-10)! The Lord Jesus Christ was central in Paul's life, and consequently He was also central in the gospel he preached.
The Holy Spirit's ministry is also Christ-centred. Speaking of the work of the Spirit, Jesus Himself said, 'the Spirit of truth . . . He will bear witness to Me' (John 15:26). He also said, 'He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you' (John 16:14). Jesus will be central and we will hear about Him constantly - not about good works, keeping the commandments, the law, or constant harping after 'signs and wonders' (miracles) for (Matthew 12:39; 16:4) informs us that: "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet". You would have thought that the Charismaniac/Word-Faith movement would have thought of this by now!
24. Beware if he does not bring a Complete Gospel?
Paul declared: 'I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God' (Acts 20:27).
There has been a lot of noise in the last 30-40 years from those boldly proclaiming a 'full gospel'. Usually this phrase indicates that the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit are taught and experienced, along with other associated teachings. While we thank God for every aspect of truth that is taught in the church, it soon become apparent that these teachers often mean 'another (unbalanced) gospel' - for they have merely lost sight of other truths. One of the first experiences I had with a charismatic group proclaiming the 'full gospel' was through "The Full Gospel Men's Fellowship International" when a Christian friend brought one of their renowned 'healers' to the hospital bedside of a young boy form our church who was seriously ill with cancer. The well-meaning friend and the 'healer' prayed in tongues over the boy and when they had finished my friend told the boy: "You're going to be healed and your name will be famous all over Cardiff." The 'healer' made no attempt to correct this statement. As a young Christian, I noticed there was absolutely no mention of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. My wife had been fasting and praying for days for this young boy and his family and God showed her clearly through Scripture (specifically using the suffering of Job) that the young boy was going to die and be released from his suffering. When he died shortly afterwards his funeral service was a time of great healing for his family and a powerful witness to the power of Jesus, who the lad knew as his shepherd - the shepherd of a little lamb who had gone to be with his Lord and Saviour. Of course, a cult leader would have claimed that the 'healing' that was predicted meant the healing of the family! But that was clearly not the prayer and proclamation on this occasion.
The teaching that 'God is love', and 'Jesus loves you' are divine truths which have been emphasized to the detriment of many other Bible truths and then latched onto by 'New Age' adherents and 'love bombing' cults. While it is vitally important to know and experience God's love in our lives, we need to hold foremost in our minds that it is the love of God's truth that separates the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ from the 'other gospels'! Teachers who fail to teach a Scriptural 'fear of the Lord' (Job 28:28; Ac 19:17; 2 Corinthians 5:11; Revelation 15:4) or that, 'If we go on sinning wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain, terrifying expectation of judgment' (Hebrews 10:26-27) are often one step from teaching Antinomianism ('against law,' e.g. Dr R. T. Kendall). The belief that God is holy and judges sin, even the sins of Christians, has been omitted from many pulpits in these days, but Paul said plainly, 'according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus' (Romans 2:16). We need a balance between illuminating sin and lifting our eyes to the Saviour who alone brings peace and salvation. Yet the frequent teaching that we must bring only that which is 'positive' and 'up-building' is often over-emphasised and ignores large portions of Scripture carrying serious warnings which were written for our benefit. Failure to teach the whole truth about the gospel results in bringing 'another gospel'! We need to die daily to the self-life (1 Corinthians 15:31), be crucified to the world (Galatians 6:14), and put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13), but today's Christian seems not to have heard that there is a cross that they must take up daily to be true disciples of Jesus (Luke 14:27) and the 'Word-Faith' heretics present faith as if it were a commodity by which you can 'name and claim' anything you want in life.
Incomplete teaching and doctrines may sound good at first hearing, but every half truth or twisted truth is an untruth, which makes it a lie. If we ignore certain teachings in Scripture we are no better than the cults for whom much of the Bible is a closed book. I have met Jehovah's Witnesses of 30-40 years standing who are magnificently ignorant of large sections of the Word; but, then, it is no surprise when they spend so many hours reading, discussing and selling the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society's magazines! The apostle John completes our Bible with a severe warning against adding to or taking away from the revelation which God has given (Revelation 22:18-19), so the Mormons try and ignore this by quoting Moses, who also gave a similar warning to the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 4:2) - but, in their wresting of Scripture, they forget that this was a word of warning against breaking the statutes and the judgments governing the taking of the land and not concerning the rest of His Word or, obviously there would be nothing recorded after Deuteronomy Chapter 4!:
1 "And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, in order that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.
Preachers and teachers of the Scriptures have a serious responsibility to preach the Word accurately and not over-emphasise one truth at the expense of another, otherwise they are in danger of taking away from the revelation of God, or adding to what God has said!