- Luke 21:5-11
- 2Timothy 3:1-9
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,
A friend of mine, then a new Christian, returned from morning worship where the sermon was about false prophets. He settled for a cup of coffee with his wife when the doorbell rang. His visitors asked if he would want to know more about the end times. Of course, he was interested, especially him being new to the faith, wanting to know about the return of Christ. But just to be sure, he asked them if they believe that Jesus Christ is God, the eternal Son of the Father who came into the world to atone for the sins of the lost. They said they believed Christ was a mighty prophet but that they do not believe that He was God. That alarmed my friend, who asked them to leave.
Joining his wife for the coffee, she asked what the visitors were on about. He replied, “I suppose we’re certainly living in last days; the false prophet is already knocking on my door!”
The purpose of this sermon today is to help you understand the danger of people, theologians and ministers, who present a new form of reformation, downgrading the authority of the Scriptures.
Open rebellion against God, his Son and the Bible
False religion is known by its message: the message is the words of man. As such, they are just like the false prophets of the Old Testament.
The coming of a radical reformation
When you hear someone saying, “We should give Jesus a demotion. It is no longer credible to think of Jesus as divine. Jesus’ divinity goes together with the old theistic way of thinking about God”, you know you have to do with a false prophet.
These are the words of Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar who wrote “The Coming Radical Reformation”. The goal of the Jesus Seminar was to review each of the sayings and deeds attributed to Jesus in the gospels and determine which are authentic. Here are a few of 21 theses by Funk:
- The God of the metaphysical age is dead. There is not a personal god out there external to human beings and the material world.
- The doctrine of the atonement—the claim that God killed his own son in order to satisfy his thirst for satisfaction—is sub-rational and sub-ethical. This monstrous doctrine is the stepchild of a primitive sacrificial system.
- The resurrection of Jesus did not involve the resuscitation of a corpse. Jesus did not rise from the dead, except perhaps in some metaphorical sense.
- The Bible does not contain fixed, objective standards of behaviour that should govern human behaviour for all time. This includes the ten commandments as well as the admonitions of Jesus.
One of the members of the Jesus Seminar, bishop Selby Spong joins in by stating,
“The Bible has lost every major battle it has ever fought. The Bible was quoted to defend slavery and the Bible lost. The Bible was quoted to keep women silent, and the Bible lost. And the Bible is being quoted to deny homosexuals their equal rights, and the Bible will lose.”
About the Bible he further says,
“I could not believe that anyone who has read this book would be so foolish as to proclaim that the Bible in every literal word was the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God.”
About the cross of Christ, he says,
“The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.”
A fellow of the Jesus Seminar, Dr Francis MacNab, was an ordained minister of the Uniting Church at the time when he said: “The old faith is in large sections unbelievable. We want to make the new faith more believable, realistic and helpful in terms of the way people live.” So, he launched a $120,000 advertising campaign to propagate the new faith, and declared: “The Ten Commandments, [is] one of the most negative documents ever written.” He described Moses as a mass murderer, Abraham as concocted and Jesus as a Jewish peasant who is certainly not God. The Uniting Church strangely did not discipline MacNab because no formal complaint had been received; so, he remained minister till 2016 when he retired. Dr MacNab became a member of the Order of Australia for his contributions to psychotherapy and religion.
Statements like these are not only shocking but also blasphemous. Although it promised something new, a coming radical reformation, it presented nothing more than another idea. It outright rejects the authority of the Bible.
A church-like movement
It is sometimes a bit harder to see the false prophet when it does not come so direct and upfront like the Jesus Seminar. When a movement comes to you and says they are really set against stale traditional churches, with its absolute structure, style of worship and time-frozen culture where there are no personal relationships and a genuine expression of warm Christian care—or the word might be “authentic”—you would find it hard to disagree with them. But it is sometimes just here where you need to ask about their strategies to change things.
Another new thing on the religious scene is the Emergent church. It is sometimes hard to distinguish between this and another, the Emerging church.
Most of its members are unsatisfied with what they term “organised religion” and the “institutional” church and are trying to reinvent the church from within. Biblical models for church discipline, church government, the sacraments, and church offices are being ignored which as a consequence allows for ongoing, unrepentant sin to exist within the church. There is more often than not a blatant absence of the sacraments, which they describe as hangovers from the Roman Catholic Church.
Because those in the emergent church movement are so heavily influenced by post-modernism, theologians of the Emergent church sometimes fail to nail down exclusive truth. In some churches the inerrancy of the Word of God, the Bible, is not upheld. The Emerging Church is a place where people have felt the freedom to explore questions and experiment with new forms of lifestyle and corporate practice. The term “seeker-sensitive” can be applied to the emergent church, purely because absolute truth can offend people: you cannot proclaim the truths of the Scripture as absolute truth, because it will offend those who do not know the background—they will just walk out again.
Emerging Church members believe it is first of all necessary to establish relationships with people, going where they are, meeting them on their level, and only later presenting doctrinal truths after they have become part of their lives. But the problem is that the gospel becomes stripped of the necessity of a Savior because it frequently fails to define sin, repentance, confession, church discipline, and fruits showing regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
The single greatest concern is their attitude towards doctrine. They don’t believe that truth itself is an objective propositional thing that has a yes and a no. Nothing is ever either/or, good or bad, right or wrong, ugly or beautiful. It’s all vague.
Brian McLaren, one of the people associated with the Emergent Church writes,
“The church latched on to that old doctrine of original sin like a dog to a stick, and before you knew it, the whole gospel got twisted around it. Instead of being God’s big message of saving love for the whole world, the gospel became a little bit of secret information on how to solve the pesky legal problem of original sin.”
Once again we have poor and low esteem of the Bible as authoritative Word of God.
A brand-new reformation like the world has not seen
When people come to you with an earnest desire to see the Kingdom of God grow to be seen in all human institutions; when they say that prayer is an effective weapon and strategy to achieve this goal; when they say we need to become more proactive in marches against abortion and other moral issues; things get all the harder to know if there might be some false prophet lurking behind the good sounding words and intentions.
New Apostolic Reformation
Leaders in the NAR believe that God has restored the offices of apostle and prophet, along with the others mentioned in Ephesians 4. But the main offices are the apostles and the prophets.
Leaders teach that the proper church government—headed by living apostles and prophets has been restored. Both prophets and apostles in the NAR movement can give new divine revelation. They receive new revelation and instruct their followers on how to properly respond to the new revelation. What is interesting is that NAR prophets are not expected to be 100% accurate in their predictions. They still can be considered legitimate prophets even when they make errors!
The task of the apostles and prophets is to implement dominion of the earth. This is a redefined gospel in contrast to the gospel of salvation from sin. Angus Buchan (known for his book “Faith Like Potatoes”) regularly attract hundreds of thousands of people to his rallies, with the main drive to recapture the political and social institutions into the kingdom of Christ. His meetings consist more of binding demons, pronouncing curses, and the like—but of the old-time revival preaching, where people are called to repentance to Christ, not much happens.
Because the apostles and prophets claim that it is God’s desire for the church to take dominion of the earth in preparation for His return. This task will be accomplished with the help of miraculous powers wielded by the under the leadership of apostles and prophets. They propagate a “seven mountain mandate”: taking control of the seven most institutions in society—government, media, family, business/finance, education, church/religion, and arts/entertainment.
This is not much different from the worldview of the Roman Church, with the Pope as the sole representative of Christ; the only difference being that apostles and prophets are in control. Islam califs have the same thing in mind: sharia law must rule every aspect of life. If the NAR has this in mind it is surely a very dangerous pathway.
The Biblical understanding has never been that the church should take the place of governments, and never for governments to rule over the church.
Once this is achieved before Christ returns, God will transfer control of the world’s wealth from the hands of the wicked to the hands of the NAR apostles. The church will then have the financial resources it will need to establish God’s earthly kingdom.
The apostles, the prophets and their followers will develop vast supernatural powers and will perform miracles that will surpass those performed by the biblical apostles and prophets and even those performed by Jesus during his earthly ministry. These miracles will include healing every single person inside hospitals and mental institutions simply by laying their hands on the buildings and having command of the laws of nature, including gravity. People who continue to receive the new revelation given by the apostles and prophets will gain more and more supernatural powers until they eventually become “manifest sons of God.”
The NAR movement has its own global television network, called GOD TV which broadcasts to more than 200 nations. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN)— the world’s largest religious television network — regularly features the teachings of NAR apostles and prophets.
And you may ask: what’s false about it? One short answer: the low value they put on the authority of the Scriptures. To succeed, the NAR needs to rely on revelations—something which is an addition to the Word of God, even if the prophets are sometimes wrong. People are not saved from sin through miracles, but by the power of the Gospel through the Holy Spirit.
It is further not for the church to take over governments and financial institutions.
The big problem is: who gives these apostles and prophets authority? Are they elected or self-appointed? Are they under any form of accountability? Can they be disciplined? Can they be opposed? Or will it just be another form of the papal system?
If this is the case, run for your life.
Run to Christ, run to the Word, run for the grace of Christ who saves. Run the race till the end, even in the face of oppression. That’s the calling of the Gospel.
Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 7 April 2019