The ministry gifts
The ministry gifts
It is written: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Brothers in the Lord, when you believed in the name of the Son of God you united yourselves with the Lord and you became one spirit with Him, thus you became members of the body of Christ.
We, as believers in the Lord, are one body, we have one hope, that is, the hope of glory to which God called us through Christ Jesus; we have one faith; we have one Spirit, that is, the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’; we have received one baptism, that is, the water baptism ministered to us by immersion in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; we have one Lord, that is, Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead; and we have one Father, that is, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have nothing to boast about before God, because we have been saved by the grace of God, and not by good works which we have done, “but to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7 – NKJV), which means that each one of us has his own gift from God and thus, since we have different gifts, we do not all have the same function in the house of God.
It is written: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-15).
The first thing I want to say about the ministry gifts is that “there are differences of ministries, but the same Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:5 – NKJV), therefore the ministries which God has appointed in His Church are different from one another. However, though their function is different from one another, they are given by the same Lord to those who have been called by God to the ministry. The ministers of God know that they have received from the Lord different gifts and that to each one of them grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. As you can see, the Scripture calls it ‘the measure of Christ’s gift’, this because each ministry gift is given by Christ Jesus, as it is written: “When He ascended on high …. He gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:8 – NKJV. Psalm 68:18). The ministry gifts too are from above, as it is written: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above ….” (James 1:17 – NKJV). No Bible School can give you a ministry because it is God the one who works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure, and because it is God Himself, and not men, who appoints a believer as an apostle, or a prophet, or an evangelist, or a pastor, or a teacher. Listen, brother in the Lord: ‘If you have received from the Lord one of the ministry gifts, the other brothers will surely know that you have received a ministry gift from the Lord, and they will know that God has worked in you for that particular ministry; they may encourage you to go on, and they may give you good advices, which you will do well to follow if they are according to the will of God for you; you may even be taught by another minister of God, but the fact still remains that it is God who works in a man to make him complete so that he may fulfil a certain ministry. The training of a Bible School is not indispensable and I exhort you not to consider it indispensable; those who think that in order to receive a ministry gift from God and to fulfil it they must attend a Bible School are not sound in the faith because they show that for them a ministry gift is not a supernatural gift, nor an ability that Christ gives to his servant but an ability which can be obtained by attending a school as any other human ability, and this is a mistake. So what induces many people to attend a Bible School? It is evident that many of those who attend a Bible School were not called by God to fulfil a particular ministry, however the fact is that they attend it in order to take the diploma of that school. Why do these people consider this piece of paper, which is called diploma, so important and long for it? Because in every self-respecting religious organization, the titles and the acknowledgements given by men to other men (even if those titles and acknowledgments are not according to the truth of the gospel) are important. Therefore, it is evident that if the leaders of a denomination affirm: ‘If you want to become a pastor, you must have the diploma of the Bible School of our denomination’, many will be led (not by the Lord but by their envy and vainglory) to attend that school. Today, in many cases if one has a diploma and a certain number of followers he is considered a pastor. No matter if he is a hireling, who does not care about the sheep, surely he is a pastor because the leaders of the religious organization ordained him a pastor! Some people want to become pastors because to be a pastor means to have a ‘prestigious’ position in the midst of the organization they belong to and of which they are so proud. There is no doubt that many unscrupulous men, who are corrupt of minds, through the Bible School have received the title of pastor (the title, not the ministry because they have never received this ministry) by all unrighteous deception, and they have infiltrated the Church. They have their diploma, they have studied, they have passed their examinations, they have done their training, and thus they are in order, they are behind the pulpit, in that place so much envied for many years; now they are free to show their covetousness because they know that they are unlikely to be expelled from their organization.
Paul said of himself and of his fellow workers, who were ministers of the Gospel: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). As you can see, Paul and his fellow workers had been made able ministers of the New Covenant by God and not by other men, therefore it is wrong to think that a Bible School can enable you to preach or teach the Word of the Lord. We have come to the conclusion, also from experience, that if God does not give the ability to preach and teach to one of His sons, even if he attends a Bible School he will continue to be devoid of that ability.
Now let us examine the way God worked in Paul, so that we may understand that it is God who works in those whom He has chosen to fulfil a ministry or more than one ministry (as in the case of Paul).
Paul of Tarsus, according to the flesh, had lived a Pharisee and had been brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of his fathers’ law. Now one day it came to pass that while he was going to Damascus to persecute the disciples of the Lord, he had a vision in which Jesus appeared to him and, among other things, He said to him: “I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you” (Acts 26:16 – NKJV). Before Jesus appeared to Paul on that road, Paul persecuted the Church, but through that vision he turned to the Lord. In that vision which Paul had, Jesus said to him: “I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister ….” (Acts 26:26), this means that Paul was made a minister of the Gospel by the Lord and not by men. Several years later Paul confirmed that he had received the ministry from the Lord when he said to the elders of the Church of Ephesus: “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24 – NKJV). After the Lord appeared and spoke to Paul, the men who journeyed with him led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus where, after three days – during which he was without sight and did not eat or drink – God sent to him a certain disciple named Ananias so that Paul might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. “Then Saul [Paul] spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:19-20 – NKJV). At that time Saul had not yet known the apostles of the Lord, yet he preached with boldness in the synagogues at Damascus; God had begun His work in Paul. At this point I need to say two things. The first thing is this: when God revealed His Son in Paul, Paul did not consult any man and did not go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him, for he wrote to the Galatians: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (Galatians 1:15-17). The second thing is this: Paul was not taught the Gospel which he preached, for he said to the Galatians: “But I make known to you, brethren, that 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 it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12 – NKJV). All this may seem strange and incomprehensible, yet it is true, and it shows that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. Pay attention to this, the fact that Paul did not receive the Gospel from any man does not mean that teachers are useless in the Church or that all those who have been called by God to preach the Gospel have received the Gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ; I tell you this so that no one may deceive you.
Paul went up to Jerusalem only after three years to see Peter and remained with him fifteen days, but He saw “none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19 – NKJV). Also at Jerusalem Paul “spoke boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:29 – NKJV), and since the Hellenists attempted to kill him, “when the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus” (Acts 9:30 – NKJV).
Paul stayed at Tarsus for a certain period of time, then “Barnabas (who had been sent to Antioch) went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people” (Acts 11:25-26 – NIV). Christ made Paul a teacher of the Gentiles, and a few years after his conversion Paul, together with Barnabas, already taught the saints at Antioch. After a long time, Paul went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with him, and he went up by revelation. When he went up to Jerusalem, He was already preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. There he met the apostles of the Lord. James, Cephas and John, whom Paul calls “those who seemed to be important” (Galatians 2:6 – NIV), added nothing to Paul’s message, “but on the contrary – Paul says – when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised” (Galatians 2:7-9 – NKJV). I want you to note that James, Cephas and John, recognized that God had worked in Paul to make him an apostle to the Gentiles and they saw the grace of God which was with Paul, so they gave Paul and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; those wise and holy apostles could not do otherwise. What happened to Paul on that occasion, when he met James, Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, shows us that the wise and sincere ministers of God recognize another minister of God, even if the Lord has worked in him in a different way, they receive him (even if he does not have letters of recommendation nor the ‘identification card’) because they see the grace of God with him. Reflect upon this: Paul had not been with Jesus for those three years, no man had taught him anything about the Gospel, yet the other apostles received him and recognized that God had made him an apostle!
God still acts in a particular way (which may seem strange to some and incomprehensible to others) in some people to make them ministers; do you know why? Because He wants to show the proud and the vainglorious persons (such as those who think that unless one attends a Bible School, which is recognized by his denomination or even by the Government, he can’t receive a ministry from the Lord nor fulfill it) that He has not changed but He is the same. God knows how to humble and to put to shame those who exalt themselves and at His appointed time He humbles them and puts them to shame. Thanks be to God for all those brothers who are poor, who are called ‘uneducated and untrained men’ by those who are wise according to the flesh, who don’t know what the word ‘homiletics’ means, perhaps the only Greek words they know are Christos and Paracletos and the only Hebrew word they know is Mashiach, but they have been appointed ministers of the Gospel by God, they have been anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and filled with the wisdom of God. They are an example to the believers in conduct, and when they speak they speak from God with sincerity; they do not speak like the philosophers, nor do they speak like those people who expound the things pertaining to the kingdom of God with words of human wisdom.
Some people are called pastors, teachers and evangelists, but unless they have some sheets of paper before their face or in the midst of their Bible or unless they have learned by heart their speech to recite it in public, they are not able to speak about the doctrine of God or to preach the Gospel: only in this way they manage to deliver a speech, they are so devoid of the Word of God that if you take away from them their notes they are no longer able to preach; this, because the word of Christ does not dwell in them richly; they have a heart trained in covetous practices, their heart is not trained to receive with meekness the Word. When the Jews heard Jesus they marvelled, saying: “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” (John 7:15 – NKJV); instead, when we hear and see many so called ministers of the Gospel we marvel, saying: ‘How is it that these men do not know the Scriptures, having studied so much?’
A man who had worked as a carpenter turned Israel upside down for three years. He had never been taught by any teacher of the law, rather when He was twelve years old He asked them questions and “all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47 – NKJV); by contrast we hear many who have been believers for many years who astonish us for they have no knowledge or little knowledge of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. Yes, brothers, that’s the way things are, and this shameful spectacle produced by the proud and vainglorious persons is before our eyes; the people who are responsible for this are those persons who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from God; who want to be wise according to the flesh but refuse to be wise according to God; they are wise by the standards of this age, for they know philosophy, they know both the Greek and the Hebrew language, they know the laws of physics and the laws of economics, but they do not know the Scriptures, they do not know the power of God, they do not know the holy ways of God. These people lord it over the Church of God by their social status and their eloquence, but they are impostors and idle talkers; they are not able to speak with boldness for they speak with words of human wisdom or with excellence of speech they love so much and seek in order to appear intelligent and spiritual to men. Ah! what miserable people: they think that the more complicated their sermon is, the more artful their speech is, and the more edifying it will be, but they are greatly mistaken, they deceive themselves. The churches they shepherd want to hear the Word of God preached with boldness for they hear from the pulpit only speeches which are full of excellent words and which are incomprehensible on many points to those who are not educated; don’t you see these things? Their speeches are in order, they are subdivided into several points which are called according to the words they want to comment on (the three A’s, the three B’s and so on), their speeches are well prepared indeed! But they do not edify the church. May the Lord work powerfully also in this country as He worked in ancient times in Israel by the apostles. My prayer and my desire is that He may work powerfully soon, raising up faithful and holy men full of the Spirit and wisdom, and stretching out His hand to confirm His word through signs and wonders, so that His Word may be glorified and anyone who thinks he is wise may become ‘a fool’ to the glory of God.
Do you remember what the people of Nazareth said about Jesus? It is written: “He began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?” (Mark 6:2) Jesus got those things from God; the wisdom He had was given to Him by God and the mighty works wrought by His hands were the manifestation of the Spirit of God. Did He have any diploma? Did He hold any flapping sheets of paper while He preached to the people? No, He did not have any of these things, but He had the things a minister of God must have, that is, the power of God and the wisdom of God, so that he may edify the Church of God.
God made men like Peter, Andrew, James and John, who were fishermen, apostles, ministers of the Gospel; they were not wise according to the world, for when the chief priests and the elders saw the boldness of Peter and John they “perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men” (Acts 4:13 – NKJV); notwithstanding this the Holy Spirit spoke through them and performed mighty works through them. Consider this: when we read the epistles of Simon Peter and of John, we read the words written by two fishermen. They were not engineers or professors who could show their ‘degrees’ but simple fishermen; yet we are edified when we read their epistles, whereas we are not edified at all when we hear those persons who are very educated expound the things of God with words taught by man’s wisdom.
Brothers, remember these things: Noah was a farmer but also “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5 – NKJV); Amos, who was appointed as a prophet by God, “was among the sheep breeders of Tekoa” (Amos 1:1 – NKJV) and he himself confirmed this when he said: “I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of sycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me: ‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel” (Amos 7:14-15 – NKJV); when the prophet Elijah found Elisha (whom Elijah anointed as prophet in his place) he “was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth” (1 Kings 19:19 – NKJV); when Jeremiah was set over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant, he was only a child.
In this generation also, God has chosen some farmers, some fishermen, some carpenters, and even some manurers, some shoemakers, and many others who haven’t had much schooling (some were even illiterate) and made them ministers of the Gospel and enabled them to preach with boldness, with power and with deep conviction (to some of them God gave gifts of healings and the working of miracles), and this in order to put to shame those who think they are wise and powerful, so that they cannot boast before God.
The apostle is one who is sent forth by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word of God to a nation (or to unevangelized regions).
Let us take for example the twelve disciples of Jesus, who were appointed apostles and sent forth to preach the Kingdom of God to Israel. Luke says: “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor” (Luke 6:12-16). As you can see, the twelve did not become apostles by their own will, for it was Christ Jesus who appointed them as apostles. Note also that not all those who had become disciples of Jesus were appointed apostles because this confirms that not all believers can be called apostles, but only those who have received this ministry from the Lord. Jesus appointed the twelve apostles to send them to preach the Kingdom of God, to heal all kinds of sickness and to cast out demons, as it is written: “Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1-2 – NKJV).
After the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, other men were appointed as apostles by the Lord; among them were Paul and Barnabas. Here is how they became apostles. It is written: “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:1-4). As you can see, Paul and Barnabas were already fulfilling a ministry in the Church that was at Antioch, that of teacher, and this is confirmed also by the Scripture which says that they “taught a great many people” (Acts 11:26 – NKJV). But one day, as Barnabas, and Simeon, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, and Saul, ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said to those who were gathered together with Barnabas and Saul: “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2 – NKJV), and they obeyed that order by separating Barnabas and Saul to the Holy Spirit. So from among those ministers of God, the Holy Spirit chose only Barnabas and Saul for that specific work, even though all those men were ministers of God, and that shows us that the Lord makes His choices according to the counsel of His will, thus He entrusts whom He wills with a specific task to accomplish. I would like you to note also that Barnabas and Saul are called apostles (as it is written: “The apostles Barnabas and Paul ….” Acts 14:14) because they were “sent out by the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:4 – NKJV) to preach the Gospel. As far as Paul is concerned, it must be said that when Jesus some time before appeared to him in a vision, while he was praying in the temple, He had said to him: “Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21 – NKJV); so it was while Paul was at Antioch that those words, which the Lord had said to Paul some time before, were fulfilled, for the Lord sent Paul to the Gentiles through that revelation given by the Holy Spirit at Antioch. The apostles Paul and Barnabas founded various churches during that journey (and had elders elected in every church), many people were saved, many believers were baptized with the Holy Spirit and God bore witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. After a long time they returned to Antioch and when they had gathered the church together “they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27 – NKJV). That journey made by Paul and Barnabas, as it was reported by Luke, shows what kind of work an apostle does.
Among the other apostles mentioned by the Scripture are also Silvanus and Timothy, who were fellow-workers of Paul. We learn that they also were apostles of Christ from the following words of Paul to the Thessalonians: “Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ ….” (1 Thessalonians 2:6 – NKJV), for when Paul wrote ‘we’ he referred to Him, Silvanus and Timothy, as it is written: “Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, to the Church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1 – NKJV).
Paul wrote to the saints who were in Rome: “Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me” (Romans 16:7 – NKJV), therefore those brothers also were apostles.
God “has appointed these in the church: first apostles …..” (1 Corinthians 12:28 – NKJV), therefore we must recognize the ministry of apostle.
I conclude by saying that just as there are apostles of Christ so there are also false apostles, who transform themselves into apostles of Christ. Some false apostles came in among the Corinthians, for Paul said to the Corinthians about some: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The false apostles are not bondservants of Christ but they are servants of Satan, therefore they hate righteousness; notwithstanding this, they outwardly appear righteous to the believers because they transform themselves into ministers of righteousness. However, their works, being evil works, witness against them. Know this, that when the false apostles are tested they are found liars and that the Lord will repay them according to their works.
As for the ministry of prophet, Paul wrote that God has appointed in the church: “….. second prophets ….” (1 Corinthians 12:28 – NKJV).
Brothers, know this, that God still appoints some believers as prophets and it could not be otherwise in that the ministry of prophet also is among the ministry gifts.
Now, how do we know if one was appointed as a prophet by God? He who has received the ministry of prophet has received the gift of prophecy and some gifts of revelation as well. According to the Scripture, the gifts of revelation are the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge and the ability to distinguish among spirits (or the gift of discerning of spirits).
A prophet is one who often has visions and revelations.
God said to Aaron and Mary: “Here now my words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak to him in a dream” (Numbers 12:6 – NKJV). These words show that a prophet receives visions and dreams from God; bear in mind this thing because it is one of the things that characterize a prophet.
Under the Old Covenant there were many prophets and if we examine carefully their ministry we clearly see that besides prophesying when the Holy Spirit came upon them they often received visions and revelations from God, through which God revealed His word to them.
Samuel and Elisha
Let us take for example Samuel; it is written: “And all Israel from Dan even to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again in Shiloh: for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the LORD” (1 Samuel 3:20-21). The Israelites recognized that Samuel, even though was still a young man, had been established as a prophet by God because what Samuel said in the name of the Lord came to pass. Samuel grew up and since all the things that he foretold came true he was mightily respected by the Israelites.
Let us see what the Scripture says about the encounter of Saul with Samuel in order to understand how the gifts of revelation were present in the prophetic ministry of Samuel. It is written: “And the asses of Kish Saul’s father were lost. And Kish said to Saul his son, Take now one of the servants with thee, and arise, go seek the asses. And he passed through mount Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalisha, but they found them not: then they passed through the land of Shalim, and there they were not: and he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they found them not. And when they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant that was with him, Come, and let us return; lest my father leave caring for the asses, and take thought for us. And he said unto him, Behold now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honourable man; all that he saith cometh surely to pass: now let us go thither; peradventure he can shew us our way that we should go. Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? for the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we? And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way. (Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.) Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go. So they went unto the city where the man of God was. And as they went up the hill to the city, they found young maidens going out to draw water, and said unto them, Is the seer here? And they answered them, and said, He is; behold, he is before you: make haste now, for he came to day to the city; for there is a sacrifice of the people to day in the high place: As soon as ye be come into the city, ye shall straightway find him, before he go up to the high place to eat: for the people will not eat until he come, because he doth bless the sacrifice; and afterwards they eat that be bidden. Now therefore get you up; for about this time ye shall find him. And they went up into the city: and when they were come into the city, behold, Samuel came out against them, for to go up to the high place. Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came, saying, To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel, that he may save my people out of the hand of the Philistines: for I have looked upon my people, because their cry is come unto me. And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people. Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer’s house is. And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me to day, and to morrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart. And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found…. “ (1 Samuel 9:3-20). Now, the people of Israel had asked for a king, so God sent Saul to the prophet Samuel so that Samuel might anoint him commander over the people of Israel. And God used the donkeys of Saul’s father first and secondly one of his servants to cause Saul to come to Samuel. The donkeys of Kish were lost by the will of God, and Kish sent Saul and one of his servants to look for the donkeys. They looked for them but they did not find them because God did not permit them to find them; seeing this, Saul thought of returning to his house, but his servant advised him to go to the man of God for he was convinced that he could show them the way that they had to go. Saul accepted the advice of his servant and he and his servants went to the city where Samuel was. The day before Saul came, God had given Samuel a word of wisdom (the word of wisdom is the revelation of a fact which will happen) telling him that the following day (about the time he had received the revelation) He would send him a man from the land of Benjamin whom he had to anoint commander over the people of Israel. The following day, at the time appointed by God, Samuel saw Saul coming toward him and before Saul asked Samuel where the seer’s house was God said to Samuel: “There he is, the man of whom I spoke to you. This one shall reign over My people” (1 Samuel 9:17 – NKJV). When Samuel met Saul, Samuel told him that the donkeys had been found; in this case, Samuel received from God a word of knowledge (the word of knowledge is the revelation of a fact which has taken place or which is happening while the prophet is speaking). The day after, very early in the morning, Samuel anointed Saul with oil, kissed him, and foretold him certain things which would happen to him on that very day; in this case, Samuel had another word of wisdom. For he said to Saul: “When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son? Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Bethel, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine: And they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands. After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy: And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man” (1 Samuel 10:2-6). That word of wisdom was fulfilled on that same day, as it is written: “And all those signs came to pass that day” (1 Samuel 10:9).
It is evident from the above mentioned Scriptures that the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge were operating in the ministry of Samuel. However, besides these gifts, Samuel had also the gift of prophecy (thus he prophesied, and I remind you that “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men” 1 Corinthians 14:3 – NKJV). Samuel stood as leader over the group of prophets for when Saul sent messengers to take David, who was at Naioth in Ramah, “they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them” (1 Samuel 19:20 – NKJV). This confirms that the prophet Samuel had the gift of prophecy. To sum up, through the Spirit, Samuel prophesied and often received a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge. Someone may say: ‘Were the gifts of the Spirit distributed also under the Old Covenant then?’ Yes, of course, because the Spirit of God manifested Himself even under the Old Covenant. However I’d like to make it clear that the gift of different kinds of tongues and the gift of interpretation of tongues were not operating at that time because they have been distributed from the day of Pentecost on (on which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church of God).
So that you may understand that the gifts of revelation are present in the prophetic ministry, I will speak to you about the prophet Elisha as well.
After Naaman the Syrian was healed of leprosy, it came to pass that Naaman urged Elisha to take a gift but the prophet refused to take a gift from Naaman. However, after Naaman departed from Elisha, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, pursued Naaman and asked him for silver and garments. So he secretly took gifts from Naaman. But God revealed Gehazi’s sin to Elisha through a word of knowledge. Here is what the Scripture says: “But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him. And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (2 Kings 5:20-27).
Now, in order to show you that Elisha was able to know some incidents which had happened to other people only if and when God wanted him to know them, I want to remind you of the following incident. “And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life. And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again. And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well. Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee. So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well. And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me. Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child. And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her. And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked. And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son. Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.” (2 Kings 4:8-37). As you can see, the fact that Elisha told his servant to ask the Shunammite woman if it was well with her child, shows that Elisha did not know that the child had died, and that is confirmed by the fact that a short time later he said to Gehazi: “The Lord has hidden it from me, and has not told me” (2 Kings 4:27 – NKJV). So Elisha came to know hidden facts in a supernatural way by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, unless the Lord gave him a word of knowledge, he could not know a certain thing a man had done or said secretly or what had happened to him at his home or somewhere else.
Here is now a revelation concerning a future event (that is, a word of wisdom) which Elisha received from the Lord while there was a great famine in Samaria because the Syrian army was besieging Samaria. Elisha said in the presence of the elders: “Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria” (2 Kings 7:1). That prediction was fulfilled the following day (2 Kings 7:16).
The word of knowledge and of wisdom in the Lord Jesus
Let us see now a word of knowledge that Jesus (who was a prophet) spoke while He was talking with a Samaritan woman. John says: “He [Jesus] left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit [or God is Spirit]: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours. And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did” (John 4:3-39). How did Jesus know that woman had had five husbands and the one she had at that time was not her husband? By the Spirit, through a word of knowledge. Do not forget that Jesus was a man who fulfilled His prophetic ministry by the Holy Spirit. Note that when Jesus said to the Samaritan woman: “Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly”, she said to Jesus: “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet”; reflect upon these words. That woman perceived by those words of Jesus that Jesus was a prophet. She was not mistaken; that woman knew that only a prophet could tell her all that she had done. After Jesus said to her those words concerning her former five husbands and the man whom she had (and other words concerning the worship of God and His messiahship), it came to pass that she left her waterpot, went her way into the city and said to the men: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). As you can see, that word of knowledge had a positive effect because it led that woman and many Samaritans to believe in Jesus, for it is written that “many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did” (John 4:39)
Here is now a word of wisdom which Jesus spoke on the night He was betrayed. He said to Peter: “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (Matthew 26:34 – NKJV). That word was fulfilled on that same night, as Jesus had said.
The word of wisdom in the prophet Agabus
In the book of the Acts of the apostles Luke speaks of a certain prophet named Agabus, who foretold two different events on two different occasions. Let us look at them. First prediction; it is written: “During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius)” (Acts 11:27-28 – NIV). Agabus was a prophet and received a word of wisdom concerning a severe famine which would spread over the entire Roman world. The words “through the Spirit predicted” show clearly that it is not through the spirit of man or through a natural knowledge or by intuition that a prophet predicts what will happen, but through the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit wills, for Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “To one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:8 – NKJV). Someone may ask, ‘Was that word of wisdom profitable? Of course, it was, for all the things revealed by the Holy Spirit are profitable to the Church, as it is written: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7 – NIV). As for the prediction of the severe famine, it is written that “the disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:29-30 – NIV). As you can see, that revelation led the disciples of Antioch to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. Second prediction: while Paul was at Caesarea, the prophet Agabus predicted through the Spirit what would happen to Paul at Jerusalem. Luke wrote: “And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (Acts 21:10-11). Through the prophet Agabus God revealed to Paul that the Jews would seize him and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Therefore, when the Jews seized Paul in the temple and began to beat him in order to kill him, Paul already knew that the Jews on that occasion would not kill him for they would deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
How God speaks to the prophets
The prophets of old often received the word of God in vision; the following expressions: “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:1 – NKJV. The IBRV reads “Parola che Isaia, figliuolo d’Amots, ebbe in visione, relativamente a Giuda e a Gerusalemme,” that is, “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz received in a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem”); “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received” (Habakkuk 1:1 – NIV. The IBRV reads, “Oracolo che il profeta Habacuc ebbe per visione,” that is, “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received through a vision”); “The word of the Lord given to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah – the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem” (Micah 1:1 – NIV), and many other expressions concerning other prophets show that the prophets had visions, through which the Word of God was revealed to them.
However, many times God revealed His word to His prophets even without visions, that is, by making them hear His voice. The passages of the Scripture which indicate this way of revealing the word on the part of God are the following ones: “The word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying ….” (1 Kings 18:1 – NKJV); “Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back” (1 Kings 13:20 – NKJV). Please note in the latter passage that although the prophet was with other people he alone heard the voice of the Lord.
God, through His prophets, still reveals things to the Church and to men individually. This means that even today, when God wills, He sends a prophet to bring a specific word to a Church or to a man.
The gift of prophecy
As I said before, in the prophet are operating the gift of prophecy together with at least two gifts of revelation (the gifts of revelation are three). In the manifestation of the gift of prophecy there is no revelation of future events for “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (1 Corinthians 14:3 – NKJV). I will give you some examples taken from the Scripture to show you what the gift of prophecy consists of.
Isaiah, who was a prophet of God, through the Spirit, by the gift of prophecy spoke to men the following words of edification: “Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and rie in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him. For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working” (Isaiah 28:23-29).
Here is an example of exhortation spoken to men by Isaiah through the gift of prophecy: “Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. …. Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. ….. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 46:8; 8:13; 1:16-17).
Let us see now an example of comfort spoken to men by Isaiah through the gift of prophecy: “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; …. Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation. …. But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 51:12; 51:7-8; 43:1-2). Have you noticed that in the above mentioned prophecies there is not any prediction of a future event, such as a famine, a war, the birth of someone and the death of someone?
Know this, that when God exhorts a man through a prophet, if he accepts the words that the prophet has spoken in the name of the Lord and he submits to the will of God, he will prosper; but if he rejects the words of the prophet he will bear the consequences of his rebellion.
I want you to know also that God punishes those prophets who presume to speak in His name anything He has not commanded them to speak; our God is holy, and thus falsehood, even if it is practiced by one of His prophets, is an abomination in His sight. God says in the law: “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:20 – NKJV). These words written in the law show us clearly how much serious is the sin of the prophet who uses his tongue and says: ‘Thus says the Lord’.
How do we know if the thing predicted by a prophet in the name of the Lord is a word which God has not spoken? We must wait for its fulfilment because when the prediction of the prophet does not happen that means that his word was not the word of God but just a word spoken presumptuously. For God says also: “And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ – ‘when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22 – NKJV).
Testing prophecies and revelations
The things which are spoken by a prophet of God in the name of the Lord must be tested and judged, as it is written: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge” (1 Corinthians 14:29 – NKJV), and also: “Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 – NKJV). Someone will ask: ‘Why?’ Because the prophet could say untrue things by following his own spirit. So prophecies (both the prophecies spoken by the prophets and the prophecies spoken by those who are not prophets but they have only the gift of prophecy) must be tested and if they are scriptural or agree with what the Scripture teaches must be accepted, but if they contradict the truth (that is, the Holy Scripture) they must be rejected without hesitation. Know this, that many among the Churches of God speak prophecies (or tell the brethren that they have received visions and revelations from God) which are inconsistent with the Word of God, and those who accept their words are deceived by their lies. Therefore, brothers, as Paul said: “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 – NKJV), but as for what is evil, reject and expose it.
Here is an incident which happened in the days of Jeremiah which teaches us that a prophet can speak presumptuously. It is written in the book of Jeremiah: “And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the LORD’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon: And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, saith the LORD: for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Then the prophet Jeremiah said unto the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests, and in the presence of all the people that stood in the house of the LORD, Even the prophet Jeremiah said, Amen: the LORD do so: the LORD perform thy words which thou hast prophesied, to bring again the vessels of the LORD’s house, and all that is carried away captive, from Babylon into this place. Nevertheless hear thou now this word that I speak in thine ears, and in the ears of all the people; The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied both against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil, and of pestilence. The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him. Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck, and brake it. And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years. And the prophet Jeremiah went his way. Then the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the prophet, after that Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Go and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron. For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him: and I have given him the beasts of the field also. Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD. So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month” (Jeremiah 28:1-17). Now the prophet Hananiah prophesied to the people that God would shortly cause the vessels of the temple to be brought again from Babylon and he prophesied other nice things; but he spoke those words presumptuously and thus made the people trust in a lie. Had not God, some time before, in the same year, said to the people through Jeremiah: “Hearken not to the words of your prophets that prophesy unto you, saying, Behold, the vessels of the LORD’s house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you” (Jeremiah 27:16)? So God punished Hananiah by putting him to death for his presumptuousness. This story teaches us that God cannot deny Himself; He does not change the Word which has come out of His mouth nor His plans for any purpose because “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent” (Numbers 23:19 – NKJV). God does not go against His plans or His own Words, rather He confirms them. But the rash people oppose them, and they do this using His name. For not only do they make false predictions (just a few examples: they predict the healing of some who are seriously hill, but the sick die a short time later, and they predict even some marriages but the man or the woman who should have got married dies a short time after the prediction or God wants those people to marry different people, and so on), but also confirm false teachings through their prophecies, for they prophesy the following things:
– a woman can teach, while the Word of God says: “I do not permit a woman to teach” (1 Timothy 2:12 – NKJV)
– if a woman prays to God with her head uncovered she does nothing wrong, while the Scripture says: “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved” (1 Corinthians 11:5 – NKJV)
– if a woman wears jewelry or expensive dresses she does nothing wrong because God ‘looks at the heart,’ while the Scripture states: “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works” (1 Timothy 2:8-10 – NKJV)
– divorced people can remarry, while the Scripture states: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 16:18 – NKJV), and also: “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man” (Romans 7:2-3 – NKJV).
We reject all these prophecies because they contradict the Word of God and thus they do not proceed from the mouth of God. It is not the Spirit of truth who speaks these prophecies but the spirit of error. These things are nice in themselves, yet at the same time they are untrue.
There is another biblical story which shows that God cannot contradict His own Word, it is the story of that prophet who came from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, as Jeroboam, king of Israel, was standing by the altar to burn incense to the golden calf he had set up in Bethel. Here is what the Scripture says: “And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD. And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king’s hand was restored him again, and became as it was before. And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward. And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest. So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel. Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father. And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon, And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am. Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water. And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers. And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back. And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase” (1 Kings 13:1-24). As you can see, brothers, that man of God refused to go to eat at the king’s house because he did not want to disobey God; and afterward, at first he refused also to go to eat at the house of the old prophet for the same reason. However, when the old prophet saw that the man of God was not willing to turn back and go with him, he resorted to a lie, and said to the man of God: “An angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water” (1 Kings 13:18). Then the man of God returned with the old prophet and ate and drank in his house. In other words, he believed that lie and thus disobeyed God. You see, when Satan sees that he can’t deceive the sons of God by unbelieving people, he tries to deceive them through believers. Here is what happens: when certain believers see that you hold fast the Word of God and you refuse to come to a compromise because you want to hold fast the Holy Scriptures, they try to induce you to reject some of the commandments of God, which are true and righteous like all the others (but they do not like them), by false prophesies, that is, lies, using the name of the Lord. In other words, they act just like that old prophet. Some say to you: ‘I too am a minister of the Gospel, as you are, and God has spoken to me, saying that this commandment was only for the believers of that time and not for us today’; some others say: ‘God told me in a dream that you are mistaken because God wants us to move with the times.’ All these words are lies, which these people tell to you to induce you to disbelieve what Jesus said or what Paul and the other apostles commanded us to do, but since these people do not want to say to you clearly: ‘Disobey God and His Word’, they say it to you by using lies, and words such as ‘vision’, ‘dream’, ‘prophecy’, ‘revelation’, which are words that arouse interest and also a certain fear of God. However, since those words are used to induce you to forsake the commandments of God, I urge you to say to these people with boldness: ‘What you say is false because it contradicts the Word of God’. Beloved, know this, that God has not changed His doctrine in these last days; with the passing of time He has not changed His mind on any of His commandments He gave through His Son and through His apostles. Let no one deceive you, take heed to yourselves, the times are hard and evil; Paul said to Timothy: “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” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 – NKJV), and we live right in this time. The teachers who have turned their ears away from the truth and walk according to their own lusts, are continually increasing in number and many people follow them. Beware of them.
Some prophets, by their false prophecies, are trying to induce those teachers who hold fast to the truth to turn their ears away from the truth. In order to induce the simple to reject the sound doctrine, they try to deceive them into believing that the doctrine of God is out-of-date, that the doctrine of God needs to be revised, but the doctrine of God is not to be revised at all, and woe to those who try to revise it, they will bear the consequences of their rebellion, no matter who they are.
Some false teachings on the prophetic ministry
It is not true that the pastor is also a prophet in that he speaks of the things to come written in the Word of God, such as the coming of the Lord and other events which are to take place. A pastor is also a prophet if God has given him also the prophetic ministry, otherwise, no matter how much he speaks about the things to come which are written in the Bible, the fact that he speaks of these things does not make him a prophet.
Neither is it true that we are all prophets in the Church because when we speak of the Lord to other people, we speak to them from God as did the prophets of old. The fact that one evangelizes and proclaims the Word of God in the name of the Lord does not mean that he is a prophet, for in order to be considered a prophet a believer must have received the gift of prophecy and gifts of revelation.
Even the fact that one has the gift of prophecy does not mean that he is a prophet, because a prophet – I say it again – besides the gift of prophecy, has also some gifts of revelation. “Are all prophets?” (1 Corinthians 12:29 – NKJV). Of course the answer is ‘no’, because the body of Christ is not comprised of one member but of many; the prophet is one of the ministries appointed by God in the Church for the edifying of the body of Christ.
Some teach that since the Holy Spirit has been poured out, and He guides every Christian into all truth, today we do not need prophets any longer, as the Israelites needed them under the Old Covenant. However, this cannot be proved by the Scripture, thus we do not accept it.
In the early Church there were some prophets; the Scripture says that Judas and Silas were prophets (Acts 15:32); in the Church that was at Antioch there were some prophets (Acts 13:1); the ministry of prophet is mentioned among the ministry gifts Paul speaks of in his epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:11), and it is also mentioned in one of his letters to the Corinthians, as Paul wrote to them: “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. … And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:29-30, 32-33). These are commandments of the Lord. Paul recognized the ministry of prophet and if he said: “Let the prophets speak two or three”, no one has the right to say: ‘Prophets no longer exist’, or: ‘Those who claim to be prophets must not speak when the saints are gathered together’. Anyone who tries to prevent a prophet of God from fulfilling his ministry, becomes an enemy of God, as the Israelites became enemies of God when they forbade the prophets to prophesy. As God said to the Israelites: “But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink, and commanded the prophets saying: ‘Do not prophesy! “Behold, I am weighed down by you, As a cart full of sheaves is weighed down. Therefore flight shall perish from the swift, The strong shall not strengthen his power, Nor shall the mighty deliver himself; He shall not stand who handles the bow,
The swift of foot shall not escape, Nor shall he who rides a horse deliver himself. The most courageous men of might Shall flee naked in that day,” (Amos 2:12-16 – NKJV); God said these words to a people who said: “The prophets become wind, for the word is not in them” (Jeremiah 5:13 – NKJV), to a people who had a stubborn heart and who opposed the prophets who spoke from Him.
Of course, Paul said that what is spoken by the prophets must be judged, but he did not forbid the prophets to speak in the church: the apostle said also that if anything is revealed to another (that is, one of the prophets) who sits by, the first must keep silent, therefore Paul did not believe that God had ceased giving revelations for the Church. Why then should we believe that God has ceased giving revelations? Note that when Paul says: “If a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop” (1 Corinthians 14:30 – NIV), the word ‘revelation’ does not refer to ‘a teaching of the Word of God’ (as some say for lack of knowledge) because a short time before Paul says: “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26 – NKJV), making it clear that teaching and revelation are not the same thing. Know this, that when God wills, He gives some visions for the church as the saints are gathered together, and by these visions the saints are edified, comforted, strengthened, and rebuked when they need to be rebuked.
Paul said: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40 – NKJV). Therefore the prophets also must fulfil their ministry decently in order not to create confusion in the midst of the Church; this is the reason why Paul says: “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. For God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:32-33 – NKJV).
As for the prophetic ministry under the Old Covenant, I want to say this. As you know, under the Old Covenant the Spirit had not yet been poured out upon all flesh, however I remind you that at that time God anointed some kings with the Holy Spirit and those kings were guided by God also through some revelations, that God gave them by the prophets. David, for instance, was anointed with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit was in him, yet on certain occasions God spoke to him through the prophets. While Saul was persecuting David, and David was in Mizpah of Moab, the prophet Gad said to David: “Do not stay in the stronghold; depart, and go to the land of Judah” (1 Samuel 22:5 – NKJV). When David became king and he wanted to build a house for the name of God, God prevented him from building the temple through a revelation given to Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 7:1-29); after David committed adultery with the wife of Uriah and he had Uriah killed, God sent to him Nathan the prophet to rebuke him and to foretell him the punishment He would inflict upon David for his sins (2 Samuel chapters 11-12); when David had the people of Israel counted (which thing displeased the Lord), God sent to him the prophet Gad who said to David: “Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me” (2 Samuel 24:13)
I have mentioned these incidents of the life of David so that you may understand that although the Spirit was upon David and in David, for the Holy Spirit spoke through him, God spoke to David through His prophets as well. From this point of view, things have not changed, because even though the saints have the Holy Spirit in them (those who are filled with the Holy Spirit have a greater measure of the Holy Spirit than those who have not yet been filled with the Holy Spirit), and the Spirit guides them, on some occasions God speaks to them through the prophets (by a prophecy or by some visions), just as He did under the Old Covenant. On the other hand, the prophet Agabus received from God a personal message for Paul, while Paul was at Caesarea (Acts 21:10-11), therefore no wonder that God sometimes guides, comforts, strengthens, and rebukes His sons, through some revelations given to the prophets. I do not understand why we should say: ‘The ministry of prophet is no longer necessary!, and at the same time: ‘However, the ministry of pastor is necessary!’. All the ministry gifts are profitable to the Church, no one of them is useless. I say to you who affirm that the prophetic ministry is no longer necessary because the Spirit who is in us guides us into all truth: ‘As things are, according to your argument, if you say that the Spirit of truth guides you into all truth, you should have no need of the pastors either, who shepherd you, nor of the teachers, who teach you. Why then do you recognize these ministries but you do not recognize the ministry of prophet? Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’. No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary ….” (1 Corinthians 12:21-22 – NKJV). Listen to me, you who say that the ministry of prophet is not necessary in the Church: if one of your eyes could speak and you heard it say to your right foot: ‘Listen, I don’t need you!’, would you be happy? Would you not say that something is wrong with one of your eyes? Would you not see a division in your body? Do you think then that by saying such a thing about the prophetic ministry you make the Lord glad, who is the Head of the Church? No, brother, the Lord does not like at all these words of yours; come to your senses, acknowledge that the prophetic ministry is still profitable; be wise for the Lord says: “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will rejoice – indeed, I myself ….” (Proverbs 23:15 – NKJV).
The false prophets
I want to say something about the false prophets, so that you may not ignore their existence and you may beware of them.
The apostle Peter said that in ancient times there were some holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, but he said also that there were also false prophets among the people. That is clearly confirmed by the Scriptures of the Old Testament, which teach that on the one hand there were prophets who spoke by the Holy Spirit, and on the other hand there were some false prophets who used their tongues and said: ‘The Lord says’, when the Lord had not spoken to them.
Before speaking about the false prophets, their false prophesies, and their wicked conduct, I want to speak to you about the conduct of the people of Israel and I want to tell you how the prophets exhorted the people of God to repent.
The Israelites forsook the Rock of their salvation and turned to the idols of the nations surrounding Israel, they played the harlot after those idols, for they made for themselves idols and put them on the high places and they offered incense and sacrifices to their idols (they even caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to their gods). In addition to this, the Israelites stole, murdered, lied to one another, were lovers of money; according to what the Scripture teaches, the Israelites forsook the commandments of God. God saw their iniquities and was grieved in His heart; however, He was not indifferent and so He sent the prophets to the Israelites and commanded them to make known to the Israelites their sins and to exhort them to repent. The holy prophets of God obeyed God and spoke the words of God to the rebellious people; now I will quote some of the warnings the prophets gave to the people of Israel, that you may know that the holy prophets did not flatter the wicked.
Jeremiah said: “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings” (Jeremiah 4:4), and again: “Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the LORD thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the LORD. Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion” (Jeremiah 3:12-14).
Ezekiel said: “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11).
Isaiah said: “Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. …. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 46:8; 1:16-17)
God said to the people of Israel that if they turned from their evil ways He would forgive them, but He said to them also that if they refused to turn from their evil ways He would punish them. The prophets foretold the punishments God would inflict on the Israelites if they kept walking according to the stubbornness of their heart: here are some words spoken by Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Isaiah said: “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 1:19-20).
Jeremiah said: “But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the Sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched. …. For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:27; 8:17), and again: “Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the LORD: it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say. Their quiver is as an open sepulchre, they are all mighty men. And they shall eat up thine harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat: they shall eat up thy flocks and thine herds: they shall eat up thy vines and thy fig trees: they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, wherein thou trustedst, with the sword” (Jeremiah 5:15-17).
How did the rebels react to the warnings of the holy prophets? They persecuted, slandered, beat, put in prison, and killed the prophets.
However, there were also false prophets in the midst of the people of Israel; they claimed that they had received visions and dreams from God, but all the things they told to the people contradicted the law and the words of the holy prophets. The false prophets conducted themselves in a wicked way, prophesying lies and doing other evil things. Here is what God said about the conduct of the false prophets: “I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wickedness: they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. …. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. …. Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. …. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word [yet they hope that the word may be confirmed – NKJV] … They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you. …. Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. … the prophets thereof divine for money …. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (Jeremiah 23:14-15; Ezekiel 22:25; Jeremiah 23:16; Ezekiel 13:6; Jeremiah 23:17; Micah 3:5,11; Jeremiah 23:21).
Therefore, from the Word of God we learn the following things about the false prophets:
● they are greedy for money, for they prophesy for money, and thus if one gives them something to eat they proclaim ‘peace’, but if one puts nothing in their pockets they prepare to wage war against him
● they commit adultery (or other sexual sins) for they are sensual persons
● they love and practice falsehood because they speak about things which they have not seen and which they have not heard from God, thus their predictions fail
● they are unjust because with lies they make the heart of the righteous sad, whom God does not make sad; and they strengthen the hands of the wicked, so that they do not turn from their wicked way
● the rebellious people speak very well of them because the false prophets flatter them by telling them that they will have peace and no evil will come upon them
Therefore, we conclude that the false prophets are really bad trees, which bear bad fruit. However, just as the Lord did not leave the false prophets of old unpunished, so the Lord will not leave the modern false prophets unpunished. Jesus said that “every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:19 – NKJV), therefore we know that the false prophets will be surely cast into the furnace of fire and God will bring a perpetual shame upon them.
Brothers, there are many false prophets. Beware of them, lest you be torn by their teeth. Remember that inwardly they are ravenous wolves even though they come to you in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15), and their purpose is to harm you.
The evangelist is one who goes from one town and village to another, evangelizing, that is, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God. To evangelize means to proclaim the Gospel.
Philip was an evangelist, for the Scripture calls him “the evangelist” (Acts 21:8 – NIV). Philip had been appointed to wait on tables together with other six brothers, for he is also called “one of the seven” (Acts 21:8 – NKJV). Here is what Luke says about the choosing of the seven: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them” (Acts 6:1-6). At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word. “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed” (Acts 8:5-7). Many Samaritans believed the Good News and were baptized by Philip, as it is written: “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).
Therefore, the evangelist, according to the example we have in Philip, preaches the Gospel, heals the sick (thus he has received gifts of healings), and he has power to baptize in water those who repent and believe in the Lord.
Someone will say: ‘What is the difference between the apostle and the evangelist, since both of them preach the Gospel to the unbelievers?’ Here is the answer. The apostle is sent by God to preach in another nation, while the evangelist, in most cases, preaches in his own nation; furthermore, the apostle goes to preach in unevangelized regions (that is, where there are no churches), there he founds some churches and has elders elected for them in each church, while the evangelist, in most cases, goes to preach in regions where there are already some churches, he preaches the Gospel and then he goes away.
According to what is written in the book of the Acts of the apostles, there is another difference between the apostle and the evangelist; the apostle possesses the power to lay hands on believers that they may receive the Holy Spirit (that is, he possesses the power of imparting the Holy Spirit), while the evangelist does not have this gift. This is what we infer from the following facts, which happened in Samaria after many of the Samaritans believed and were baptized by Philip: “Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:14-17). As you can see, if Philip had possessed the same authority as the apostles Peter and John possessed, it would not have been necessary for Peter and John to come down to Samaria to pray for those believers that they might receive the Holy Spirit; while it was necessary for them to come down to Samaria because Philip did not have power to lay hands on believers that they might receive the Holy Spirit, even though Philip was a man filled with the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul also had power to lay hands on believers that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for Luke says about some disciples Paul met at Ephesus: “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve” (Acts 19:5-7).
A pastor is one who has been appointed by God to shepherd and to keep watch over the flock of the Lord.
As for this ministry, it must be said that the ministry of pastor is mentioned only in the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. There is not even a single passage in the Scriptures of the New Covenant which clearly affirms that someone was the pastor of a certain church. According to the Scriptures of the New Covenant, in the days of the apostles the Churches were shepherded and watched by the elders, that is to say, every church was governed by some elders (or bishops) who took care of the flock of the Lord. The passages of the Scriptures which show that the churches were led by some elders (or bishops), equal to one another in power, function and rank, are the following ones.
● Book of the Acts of the apostles: “And from Miletus he [Paul] sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, …. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:17,18,28); Paul and Barnabas “had elders elected for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord in whom they had put their trust” (Acts 14:23 – NIV); “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren” (Acts 15:22); “Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:29-30); “And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present” (Acts 21:18).
● Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Philemon 1:1).
● First epistle of Paul to Timothy: “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. …. Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:14; 5:17. The NKJV reads ‘eldership’ instead of ‘presbytery’).
● Epistle of James: “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15).
● First epistle of Peter: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder …. Shepherd the flock of God which is among you …. Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders” (1 Peter 5:1,2,5 – NKJV).
● Epistle to the Hebrews: “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account” (Hebrews 13:17 – NKJV).
As you can see, all the above mentioned passages speaks of the elders of the church but they do not mention the pastor of the church. However, we have to say also this: the fact that the ministry of pastor in mentioned only once in the New Testament and that the New Testament never speaks of the pastor of a church, does not mean that it is wrong for a church to have a pastor who is helped by a group of elders. Someone will say: ‘Does the Scripture somehow teach that a church can have a pastor and a body of elders then?’ Yes, it does. Now I will show you from the Scriptures that a church can have a pastor.
When Jesus appeared to John, who was on the island that is called Patmos, He told him to write to the angels of the seven churches which were in Asia. Who were those angels? Of course, they were not spirits or spiritual beings, because according to the words the Lord told them they were men with a nature like ours who were fulfilling a ministry among those churches. That they were fulfilling a ministry is confirmed by the following words Jesus said to the angel of the church in Thyatira: “I know your … service” (Revelation 2:19 – NKJV. The IBRV reads ‘ministerio’ that is, ‘ministry’). I would like you to note the following thing; the Scripture says that from Miletus Paul “sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17 – NKJV), however the Scripture shows that while the apostle John was still alive there was the angel of the Church of Ephesus, for the Lord commanded to write to the angel of the Church of Ephesus too (and not to the angels of the Church of Ephesus). The Lord did not tell John to write to the elders of that church, but to the angel of that church: this shows us that angel was the pastor of that church.
In addition to this, when the Lord appeared to John, “He had in His right hand seven stars” (Revelation 1:16 – NKJV), those stars were the angels of the seven churches which were in Asia, as Jesus said to him: “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20 – NKJV). The fact that the pastor of a church is a star (or symbolized by a star) should not be underestimated. Jesus, who is the Chief Shepherd, is the bright morning star; while the pastors He has appointed over the Churches are the stars which He has in His right hand. The stars which God set in the firmament of the heavens give light on the earth and guide people, for they are a sure point of reference for those people who are without a compass in the midst of a wilderness or a sea. Likewise the pastors who have been set by God in the Church illuminate the faithful and lead them in the paths of righteousness. Do you remember what that star which appeared to the wise men in the East did? The Scripture says that “the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was” (Matthew 2:9 – NKJV). Now, is it not true that the pastor too goes before the sheep? That star led the wise men to the King of the Jews; take this expression “till it came and stood over where the young Child was” and compare it with the following words of Paul to the Ephesians: “And he gave …. some, pastors …. Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11,13), and you will realize that the stars of the Churches (the pastors of the Churches) have been set by God in His Church to lead the saints to the unity of the knowledge of the Son of God.
To sum up, we say that all the Churches of God have a body of elders. However, while some of them are ruled only by elders, equal to one another in rank, power and function (no one of them is called pastor, but actually all of them do the work of a pastor), some others are ruled by some elders and a pastor as well, who is the president of the body of elders, the spokesman for the elders, and the one who, as a matter of fact, has a greater power than the elders. One thing is sure: in both cases, the faithful are not left to themselves because they are watched by people who have been appointed to shepherd the flock of God.
Let us see now how the pastors must shepherd the flock of the Lord. The apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, before He ascended to heaven, had said: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17), wrote to those who have been called to shepherd the flock of God: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:2-4).
First of all, I want to say that the flock belongs to God, that is to say, the sheep belong to God; He has bought them at a price, and this was confirmed by Paul also when he said to the elders of the Church of Ephesus: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). I have said this because there are some pastors who call the church of God ‘their church’, ‘their sheep’ and this is not true because the sheep which the pastors are called to shepherd belong to the Lord, for the Lord Jesus said to Peter: “Feed my sheep” (John 21:18), and not: ‘Feed your sheep’.
The pastor must shepherd the flock of God not because he must, but because he is willing, as God wants him to be; he must not consider his ministry an unpleasant and useless work, rather he must consider his ministry a wonderful and useful work, thus he must fulfill it joyfully. The pastor must shepherd the flock of God not for dishonest gain (that is to say, he must not take advantage of the generosity of the sheep of God), therefore he must not be moved by greediness but he must shepherd the flock sincerely with a good conscience. The pastor must not lord it over the sheep entrusted to him by the Lord, that is to say, he must not rule the flock with violence and harshness, but he must be humble. Jesus said: “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35 – NKJV); thus, the Lord does not condemn those who want to be first or great among His people, but at the same time He tells them what they must do in order to be first, that is, they must be last of all and servants of all. However, many pastors want to be served, but they refuse to serve; they want to be first and great by walking according to the stubbornness of their heart, refusing to humble themselves and to serve the flock of God; how can such people think they are great? Of course, they may be considered great by people who are arrogant like them, but certainly they are not considered great by those sheep who are meek and God-fearing, and who are still waiting for their pastor – who does not care about them and acts out of self-interest – to take care of them.
Someone will say: ‘Could you tell me what the work of a pastor consist of?’ Well, his work consists in feeding the sheep of the Lord, in protecting them from the savage wolves, in strengthening the weak sheep, in healing the sick sheep, in binding up the broken, in seeking the lost sheep, in rebuking those who need to be rebuked. If a pastor takes heed to himself and to the flock of the Lord, when the Lord appears, he will receive glory and honor from Him.
Someone will say then: ‘What will happen to those pastors who act out of self-interest, who lord it over the sheep of the Lord, who do not take heed to themselves nor to the Church of God?’ God will cut them to pieces, that’s what will happen to those pastors who have fed themselves rather than the Church of God.
Here is what God said about these pastors through the prophet Ezekiel: “Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:2-5).
Jesus Christ spoke of the hireling, who is the one who keeps watch over the sheep only for money. Here is what He said: “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (John 10:12-13 – NKJV). The difference between the shepherd and the hireling is that the former shepherds the sheep and takes care of them willingly and wholeheartedly and he does not act out of self-interest but he fears God, knowing that on that day he will have to give account to the Lord of every sheep which was entrusted to him; whereas the latter keeps watch over the sheep only for a wages, but he does not care about the sheep. Unlike the shepherd, he takes no interest in the sheep, and when the savage wolf comes he does not fight against the wolf to put it to flight rather he leaves the sheep and flees, so the wolf can kill, devour, and scatter the sheep.
Here is what God said about the shepherds who lived in the days of the prophet Isaiah: “His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yes, they are greedy dogs which never have enough. And they are shepherds who cannot understand; they all look to their own way, everyone for his own gain, from his own territory. ‘Come’ one says, ‘ I will bring wine, and we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; tomorrow will be as today, and much more abundant” (Isaiah 56:10-12 – NKJV). Here is how the Scripture describes all the pastors who do not care about the sheep of the Lord; they are blind, thus they are unable to recognize good and evil and to lead the church in the paths of righteousness; they are ignorant, thus they are without spiritual understanding because they refuse to heed the Wisdom of God and to follow His advices; they are like dumb dogs which are unable to bark, which love to slumber, therefore they do not watch over the sheep because when they see the danger they do not bark. What is the use of a watchdog which does not bark? The evil workers comes in among the sheep to introduce their false doctrines and to draw away the sheep of the Lord after themselves, but these pastors are sleeping, they are very busy looking for their own gain.
These people do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, “and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:18 – NKJV); the sheep which were entrusted to them are scattered, they fall prey to the false prophets and the false teachers, who catch the sheep for their pastor is sleeping. Jeremiah said: “For the shepherds have become dull-hearted, and have not sought the Lord; therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered” (Jeremiah 10:21 – NKJV), and again: “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness” (Jeremiah 12:10). What happened in Israel in the days of the prophets, is happening today; there are many pastors who destroy the sheep of God, because they are greedy for money; these pastors loses the sheep because they want to be rich and famous; they curse and cast out those sheep who put nothing or little in their insatiable belly; they resort to every kind of deception to achieve their evil aims.
If the sheep of the Lord do not pursue holiness, these pastors do not care about it at all; these pastors are not grieved when they see the corruption and the worldliness spreading among the flock of the Lord; they are not grieved when they see the sheep going astray on the mountains of unfaithfulness, and they do not have compassion on those sheep which are weak and downhearted because they are merciless; they do not defend the truth because they do not love it; they do not take heed to themselves, and if the name of God and the doctrine of God are blasphemed because of their frequent scandals they do not care about it at all because they have become famous and – according to their opinion – they can take the liberty of causing offenses because they will always find many naive believers who are willing to follow them and to support them; they are adulterers (or fornicators or even homosexuals), they are lovers of money, they play the fool in the presence of all, they amuse themselves in vanities, they are friends of adulterers and of thieves and they take pleasure in walking with them; the commandments of God and the fear of God are not before their eyes, but behind their back; they are haughty and unable to humble themselves, “yet they lean on the Lord, and say: Is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us” (Micah 3:11 – NKJV), but God says: “Woe to them!” (Jude 11 – NKJV).
A teacher is one who teaches the Word of God, he is able to teach it accurately because the Lord has given him the ability to teach.
Besides being an apostle, Paul was also a teacher; for he said to Timothy: “To which [the Gospel] I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles” (2 Timothy 1:11 – NKJV). Reading the epistles of Paul, we can see what he taught everywhere in every church; a teacher must teach the same things Paul taught.
Paul, a teacher of the Gentiles, wrote to the saints of Colosse: “Him [Christ] we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28 – NKJV). From these words we learn that a teacher teaches the saints, according to the wisdom given to him, so that he may present them perfect in Christ. Is it not true that also the ministry of teacher is given by Christ for the perfecting of the saints?
Paul stayed in Corinth “a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:11 – NKJV); in Ephesus for three years he did not cease to warn each one of the saints with tears, and when he spoke to the elders of the Church of Ephesus he said to them: “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27 – NKJV). This is what a teacher does where God opens a door to him; he stays in that place to teach the saints the whole counsel of God
The teaching of a teacher is elementary (milk) when it is delivered to the newborn babes in Christ; while it is perfect (solid food) when it is delivered to those who are of full age; in both cases, the teaching is sound and profitable.
Besides Paul, there were other teachers in his days, some of them are mentioned by Luke when he says: “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Acts 13:1).
Nowadays, in the midst of the Church of God, the term teacher (or ‘doctor’ – the IBRV reads ‘dottore’ that is, ‘doctor’ instead of ‘teacher’) is used many times improperly toward some who don’t have the ministry of teacher. According to the Scripture a teacher (or a ‘doctor’) is not a man who have studied some foreign languages nor a man who teaches Greek, or Hebrew or Aramaic; of course, according to those who are outside such a man may be considered a teacher, but according to those who are inside a teacher is one who teaches the Word of God. Paul was a Jew and he knew well the Greek language, but when he came in Greece he did not begin to teach the Hebrew language (his own tongue) to the believers who were Greek, but he taught them the Word of God. Why do I say this? Because some believers think that a teacher is one who has a good knowledge of Greek, and of Hebrew and teaches them; of course, the knowledge of the ancient Greek language and of the Hebrew language is useful, but it doesn’t make anyone a teacher. For instance, those people who have translated the Holy Scripture know both the ancient Greek language and the Hebrew language because they have studied them (we thank God for what they did, because by their work we can read the Word of God in our tongue), but I want to make it clear that if one of those who have translated the Holy Writings into Italian (or into English) is not able to teach the doctrines of the Word of God to the saints, he is not a teacher.
Even the fact that a believer has obtained a degree or several degrees (no matter what kind of degree), and that he is able to speak about God with eloquence, does not mean that he is a teacher. To be a teacher he must be able to teach the Word of God: he has a doctor’s decree which was conferred on him by the University, but he does not have the ministry of teacher which is conferred by the Lord
Now I want to speak to you about the false teachers who are among the people of God, reminding you of what the apostle Peter wrote in his second epistle about the false teachers and commenting on his words briefly. Peter said: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [Greek: Tartarus], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:1-22)
In ancient times there were also false prophets among the people of Israel, who prophesied out of their own heart, following their own spirit; that is what the Scripture teaches. Now, Peter said that just as there were false prophets among the people, so there will be false teachers among us, yes, among us, because he said: “There shall be false teachers among you” (2 Peter 2:1). Therefore pay much attention to the words of Peter, so that you may recognize these impostors when they come to you.
The false teachers are as crafty as foxes and by their craftiness they introduce strange and perverse doctrines into the church; “They trust in empty words and speak lies … They hatch vipers’ eggs … he who eats of their eggs dies” (Isaiah 59:4,5 – NKJV), says the prophet Isaiah, and in fact those who have accepted the destructive heresies taught by the false teachers have wandered away from the truth. The false teachers have denied the Lord who bought them, which means that they once believed in the Lord but afterward they forsook Him.
These deceitful workers take pleasure in saying things they ought not to say; they are sensual persons, and those who are enticed by their sensuality follow them and imitate their ways, and because of these false teachers the way of truth is blasphemed by those who are outside. Why do unbelievers blaspheme the way of truth? Because these deceivers, who claim that they are in the truth and on the way of righteousness, are worse than unbelievers who do not know the Lord! False teachers are lovers of money, and they exploit those believers who are sincere and naive, who do not have enough discernment, extorting money from them by their smooth but at the same time deceitful words, that they may live a lavish lifestyle. The pretexts used by these false teachers to snatch money from the hands of believers are various; know this, that they do not say to you: ‘Give us your money because we want to buy some luxurious cars, we want to build some pleasant palaces, and we want to amuse ourselves in vanities’, rather they say to you: ‘Give us your offerings for the work of the Lord and God will bless the work of your hands, your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine’, these are words which the bondservants of Mammon know very well and recite well before the crowds of people who go to listen to their empty speeches. Judas Iscariot was one of the apostles of the Lord, and when Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard and anointed the feet of Jesus, he said: “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5 – NKJV). As you can see, Judas said that the fragrant oil could have been sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor, therefore he said something which was not wrong in itself. However, he did not say those words “because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6 – NIV). The false teachers speak like Judas Iscariot, for they say that they want to help the poor, they want to spread the word of the Lord and exhort people to give them some money for these good causes; but at the same time they live in luxurious mansions, they have expensive cars, they wear designer clothes, gold watches; in other words, they live a lavish lifestyle. These people are like Judas, for they are thieves; however they will not go unpunished because God will repay them according to their works in due season.
God did not spare the angels who did not keep their proper domain but left their own abode and committed fornication with the daughters of men, for He sent them to Tartarus [the deepest abyss of Hades] and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved for the judgment of the great day.
God did not spare the world of the ungodly in the days of Noah, for He punished it by bringing in the flood on the world, and He put to death all living things who were on the face of the earth, as it is written: “So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth” (Genesis 7:23 – NKJV), but He saved Noah and seven others, as it is written: “Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive” (Genesis 7:23 – NKJV) and also: “A few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water” (1 Peter 3:20 – NKJV).
God did not spare Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them. All those cities had pride, fulness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did they strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. They had given themselves over to fornication and to sins against nature, and God rained brimstone and fire on those cities, and turned them into ashes, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly. However, in that case also, God manifested His justice, for He did not put to death righteous Lot for that righteous man, dwelling among those perverse people, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.
The above mentioned stories teach us that God loves righteousness and knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, but also that God returns all the wickedness committed by the wicked on their own heads. Know this, that God will judge the unjust, those who live according to the flesh, and those who despise authority; and the false teachers are among these people for they are full of all unrighteousness, they walk according to the fleshly lusts, and despise authority.
These impostors despise and insult the governing authorities, which are appointed by God, such as kings, governors, ministers, judges, public prosecutors; they refuse to honor the governing authorities, while the Scripture commands us to honor them. It is written in the law: “You shall not … curse a ruler of your people” (Exodus 22:28 – NKJV), and Solomon says: “Do not curse the king, even in your thought” (Ecclesiastes 10:20 – NKJV), but these people refuse to keep these commandments because they are haughty. And in addition to this, they speak evil of dignitaries, for they insult the prince of this world and the principalities, and the powers, whereas the angels of God, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord, and this is confirmed by Jude who says: “These dreamers …. Speak evil of dignitaries. Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 8-9 – NKJV). Remember that Jesus Christ called the devil “the prince of this world” (John 14:30 – NIV), and that when Jesus was tempted by the devil, He, who was the Son of God, dared not bring against the devil a reviling accusation, for when the devil tempted Jesus to bow down and to worship him Jesus replied: “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matthew 4:10 – NKJV); he did not say to the devil: ‘Now …. you’ll pay for it!’ or ‘If you do not go away, I will send you to …..’ (these abominable expressions and others, which are very much alike, are uttered against the devil by corrupt and haughty men who preach the Gospel, but the saddest thing is that many believers laugh when they hear them and even say ‘Amen!’). I found it necessary to tell you this so that you may understand that even though Jesus knew how many evil things the devil had done and said till that moment and He knew that He was more powerful than the devil, He did not dare to insult him or ridicule him. Jesus Christ left us an example, but these false teachers refuse to follow His example, because they are haughty, rash, and they give funny and humorous nicknames to the devil to ridicule him. The prophet Zechariah wrote: “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee ….” (Zechariah 3:1-2); which means that God, when He rebuked Satan, said to the devil the same words that Michael the archangel had said to the devil when he disputed about the body of Moses. Therefore, brothers, do not be led away with the error of the wicked. These men, who are disapproved concerning the faith, “speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves” (Jude 10 – NKJV), for some of them are sodomites. “Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28 – NIV); but God does not leave them unpunished in that in this world they receive “in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Romans 1:27 – NIV), and in the world to come God will bring upon them what their conduct deserves.
The false teachers take pleasure in guzzling, which is one of the works of the flesh, for they count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime, they get drunk on aged wines and intoxicating drinks. During the love feasts they give themselves over to guzzling, that’s why Jude says that “these are spots in your love feasts” (Jude 12 – NKJV). Do you know what else they do in the love feasts? They delight in their deceptions. Like the ungodly mockers at feasts, these people like entertaining their hearers with their scurrilous jokes; they have eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, and this is what God says about them: “They are well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife” (Jeremiah 5:8 – NIV).
These false teachers entice those souls who are unstable; Peter calls them “accursed children” (1 Peter 2:14 – NKJV) because they take delight in cursing their neighbour; on that day they will be among those to whom the Lord will say: “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41 – NKJV).
They were on the right way, but they have forsaken it and gone astray; they have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit; they are wells without water and also clouds without water which are carried about by every wind of teaching. ‘What is the use of a well without water to those who are thirsty?’ These people are totally devoid of the wisdom of God, but they are full of the demonic wisdom; they are devoid of the sound doctrine, but they are full of fables and false doctrines, thus they can’t edify those believers who walk in the Spirit and know the voice of the Lord. Notwithstanding this, we must admit that these deceivers have a hold over the crowds; on the other hand Peter said that “when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error” (2 Peter 2:18 – NKJV), therefore, we are not surprised by their ‘success’. Jude said that “they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude 16 – NKJV), which means that they say many untrue things and that they flatter their hearers in order to win their confidence. One of the things these idle talkers do is this: they promise liberty to their followers, for they say that they know how to set people free from all sins and troubles, while they themselves are slaves of corruption because they are again entangled in the pollutions of the world (which they had escaped) and overcome. The latter end is worse for them than the beginning; this is why Jude calls them “late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots” (Jude 12 – NKJV). Brothers, beware of false teachers.
Before I conclude, I want to tell you that Christ has given the above mentioned ministry gifts to men for the perfecting of the saints, that the Church of God may be edified and that there should be no schism in the Church. God, through His ministers, wants us to come to the unity of the faith in Christ Jesus and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with confusing and divisive winds of doctrine, which blow round and about us in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation, which are spewed forth by deceitful men who are experts “in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Ephesians 4:14 – NKJV). In other words, God, wanting all of us to grow in wisdom, in knowledge and grace, in order to deliver us from these deceivers, who are ministers of Satan and transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, has appointed in the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers,
What shall we say then about the presence of the false apostles, the false prophets, and the false teachers among the people of God? Brothers, there must be such people because it is written: “For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Corinthians 11:19 – NKJV). I realize that these words that Paul wrote to the Corinthians are hard, but they are true.
We must admit that many false prophets and false teachers have risen up from among the Church of God over the course of history, and they have secretly brought in many perverse doctrines and have drawn away many disciples after them. However, we must also admit that many believers did not heed to these idle talkers and they stood fast in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and they held fast the sound doctrine taught by our Lord and by the apostles, and they contended earnestly for the faith. Yes, those men of God fought the good fight and did not draw back, but with the weapons of God they fought the good fight till the end of their life, and it is because of the hardships and the many sacrifices of these courageous men of God, whom God raised up, that the Gospel has come to us; and it is because of the faithful work of many Bible translators that the Holy Scriptures have come to us unabridged. Although the devil raised up his wicked ministers, who twisted the Scriptures to their own destruction and to the destruction of many souls, the pure Gospel has come to us and by it we have been saved from our sins.
We, who have believed in the name of the Son of God, praise God because He has made known to us the truth and He makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. To God be the glory now and forever. Amen.