The Bible promised there would be a proliferation of false ministers today, and so it is. So the question we must have an answer to is this- among all those carrying Bibles and claiming to be ministers of the gospel today how can the elect actually tell who is genuine and who is fake?
God has not left us in doubt and has given a very clear template for this in His Word. If you are interested in being open-minded then kindly join me in looking at this minute piece of information we have gleaned from the Bible.
In this article we will concentrate on knowing the deceivers- the false prophets.
We will look exclusively at the Bible to see God’s own definition of false prophets in the Bible and we will quote the Holy Book copiously.
So please get your Bible handy. Check for yourself and see if what I will say is true and, although this template is not exhaustive, use it for yourself to check everyone you know and follow who you call a servant of God.
Satan inspires his ministers to imitate Christianity and even copy miracles (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
If we understand the devices of the enemy it will be clear to us what he attempts to achieve when he does this. I will explain by showing a case study in the Bible.
“Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’”
(Acts 16:16-17 NKJV)
It has always been the case that diviners and sorcerers would want to identify with the genuine servants of God so they can use that platform to legitimize their evil work.
In Ancient Greek civilization Macedonia was a major geographic centre and Philippi was its capital.
According to Greek fable, Pytho was a huge serpent that had an Oracle on Mt. Parnassus, which was famous for predicting future events.
Any person who was used as a medium in this place was usually one possessed by the “Spirit of Python”.
In the scriptures above we see one such medium who was a slave girl used by her owners for commercial gain through the demon spirit that predicted the future.
The interesting thing I would like us to note here is that the devil immediately wanted to identify with Apostle Paul and Silas by giving a prophecy about who they were.
This is nothing new. It is an age old trick of the enemy to identify with what God is doing either to nullify it from the inside or to gain some legitimacy from it.
Just like it has always been there are people who will not be able to tell the difference and will ascribe to God what the devil is doing or end up claiming that what God is doing and those He is using are of the devil.
We see the same tactic used in the case of Simon the Sorcerer who followed the apostles with an ulterior motive (Acts 8:9-23).
So there are native doctors and sorcerers who put on suits and even use the Name of Jesus when they talk. They adopt the paraphernalia of Christianity but inside they are wolves with no care for the lost or for God’s people. They are everywhere from Warri to Aba, and from Onitsha to Uyo.
Of course they do not only operate in Nigeria, and they are not localized.
In the Old Testament it was essentially one group of false believers the Bible highlighted- and these were false prophets.
But in the New Testament, at different times false prophets (Matt. 7:15; Matt. 24:11, 24; 1 John 4:1), false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13), false teachers (2 Peter 2:1), false brethren (2 Cor. 11:26; Gal. 2:4), and even false Christs (Matt. 24:24) make the cut.
Because everyone who spoke for God in the Old Testament, irrespective of the spiritual office he occupied, was regarded as a prophet I will just use the same method for this article and group all characteristics of New Testament false Christs, false apostles, false prophets, and false teachers into one group, and then put the false brethren in another group.
For the sake of convenience we will just use the Old Testament pattern and call everyone in the first group- “False Prophets.”
And everyone in the second group will just make do with “False Brethren.”
CHARACTERISTICS OF FALSE PROPHETS:-
(1) THEY LIE IN THE NAME OF GOD.
This is not about giving their opinion about something, it is about constantly saying authoritatively that God asked them to say something that is totally untrue, and in most cases has no bearing or connection to His Word. They speak this out of the deception of their hearts and mostly contradict God’s Word. They speak out of their own desires and say God said what He did not say.
(2) THEY DO NOT PROFIT THE PEOPLE.
By this I am not referring to financial profit really. Although financial profit is a consequence of obedience to God it is also possible for false prophets to give short-term financial benefits. This is the reason why you should not use financial aid or even financial benefits you get from a person directly or from their proclamation over you as the yardstick for measuring the person’s ministry.
I learnt a long time ago that, in the final analysis, the proof of effectiveness in ministry is that people make heaven but even before this that their lives are transformed here on earth.
A genuine servant of God builds people and causes them to profit in all areas of their lives. Their faith, their mental, emotional, physical health; their families and relationships; their careers etc will get better because they are under a real man of God.
(3) THEY DESTROY THE PEOPLE.
While real shepherds build false prophets destroy. If you see people who are under a ministry and a good portion of them are retrogressing rather than progressing then chances are they are under a wolf.
That’s what a false prophet is.
Anyone who tears the flock and destroys people is a wolf (Matthew 7:15).
You will see a litany of broken lives, broken promises, and broken dreams in the people who follow them. They function like their father the devil and only kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10)
(4) THEY PRODUCE EVIL FRUIT.
From their doctrines and the heresies they teach to their lifestyles. They handle the Word of God deceitfully (2 Cor. 4:2) and give false or watered down doctrines that neither glorify Christ or edify God’s people (Matthew 15:1-9; 1 Tim. 6:3-5). Then they contradict everything they espouse in the way they walk and talk. They only pursue their interests and have little or no concern for the salvation of souls and the profit of the gospel (Phil. 1:15-16; 3:17-19; 2 Tim. 3:1-9)
These people produce evil fruit in their lives as well as in the lives of those they lead. Rather than reveal Christ to people and make them hunger for Him and know Him, they lead them astray and away from Christ.
(5) THEY EXALT THE FLESH.
Not only do their teachings exalt the flesh and make people more carnal because of their focus on material things and the fact that they are bereft of any spiritual value, they also exalt the flesh by pointing to themselves. They commend themselves regularly, pointing inwards when it is time to take the glory (2 Cor. 10:12).
When people idolize and worship them they do not shift the focus to God. They indulge in the adulation and defer to no other, including the Most High. They actually regale themselves with the adulation (Matthew 23:1-7)
When the Lord Jesus rebuked Peter for allowing the devil use him the Lord made it clear how we could tell when Satan was operating from when the Spirit of God was.
“He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; FOR YOU ARE NOT SETTING YOUR MIND ON GOD’S INTERESTS, BUT MAN’S.’”
(Matthew 16:23 NASB) Emphasis Mine
He said anything that is always mindful of the flesh is of the devil. Whenever the enemy functions he exalts and empowers self; pride, arrogance, greed, envy etc. All these are works of the flesh and when you see a person pointing to himself always and lapping up the glory (“my church”, “my power”, etc) chances are you are dealing with a false prophet.
(6) THEY HAVE SATANIC BACKING.
The fact that a person performs miracles does not mean very much if it does not glorify Christ.
Sometimes even the “miracle” might bring some relief and the “prophecy” might be correct, but like we see in the case of the slave girl with the spirit of divination (Acts 16:16-18) giving accurate prophecies does not legitimize the person prophesying.
Correctly calling a person’s phone number, his account details, and the color of his underwear does not make a person a real prophet.
You want to ask who it is that miracle or prophecy is glorifying. Is it adding to the purpose of God in the salvation of souls, the edification of men or the unlocking of their ministries to the glory of God or is it just boosting someone’s profile?
Even when the Lord Jesus and the early apostles healed people they would send them back to their people and say they should tell about the good works of God (Mark 5:1-13, 18-19) and even when He did not He would never lap the glory and point to Himself as the source, instead He expressly commanded they obeyed what the Word said in order to give the Father all the glory (Mark 1:40-45)
False prophets use satanic power to sustain their miracles and there is a way to tell if you are a believer.
(Matthew 7:22; Matthew 24:24; Acts 8:9-13; Acts 13:6-13; Acts 16:16-24; 2 Cor. 11:23-15)
I am sure it has been a long read for you but I need to throw in something here.
“But you have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ.”
(1 John 2:27 NLT)
IF you are a born-again and Spirit filled believer the inward witness is a very important tool in identifying a fraud.
When you make being in the Presence of God a habit you will be able to know those who do not come from there.
One way is to check the leading of your heart. Even when this “man of God” says all the right things but somehow on the inside you are very uncomfortable, and you feel a tugging at your heart you need to look twice.
Mostly it is the Anointing within that is tugging at you and telling you something is not quite right.
If you have trained yourself to follow the Spirit of God that Anointing will not fail you.
I pray that the good Lord will keep us from the guile of the enemy and protect us from deception in the Mighty Name of Jesus.