Vol. XI — No. 31 August 2, 1970
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 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. For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind; it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
In Christ Jesus, who warns us against all false prophets, Fellow Redeemed:
Athletic contests, battles, wars, political campaigns, business enterprises have been lost, suffered defeat, experienced bankruptcy because the enemy or the opponent or the competitor have been under-estimated, under-rated. Don’t under-estimate your opponent! In time of war, when it’s a matter of life or death, don’t under-estimate the enemy! This is sound advice based on the experience of mankind.
That advice is urgent and most necessary in the spiritual realm. Why? Because of an unspiritual paradox in human nature. Many genuinely concerned parents will guard their children against germs, inoculate them against diseases, sterilize their playthings, compel them to brush their teeth and visit the dentist regularly while at the same time being utterly unconcerned that their children are exposed to false prophets in the persons of Sunday School teachers and are fed subtle lies and half truths in Sunday School literature that is produced by false prophets. Many adults who are extremely careful not to eat or drink foods containing cyclamates, who make faithful use of the soaps, mouthwashes, deodorants, and what have you to prevent bacteria from lodging on their bodies and producing even bad breath or body odor are amazingly unconcerned about spiritual errors propagated daily by hordes of false prophets that have become the dangerous hidden persuaders of our age. Even church people who should be and who claim and maintain that they are concerned about matters spiritual manifest an amazing indifference to the spiritual threat of the false prophet.
Why is there such general and widespread under-estimation of the danger of false prophets even among church people? Because there are precious few in our day who still believe that the Bible is the clear, authoritative Word of God with a message to be believed and received also by modern man. Because Satan has caused so many divisions among professing Christians that most are unable to believe that there is any way possible for man to know just exactly what the Lord would have us believe and how He would have us live. Because the false ecumenical forces that have seized control of most churches have propagandized clergy and laity into believing that sins against the first table of the law, against God and His Word, are actually virtues, that the diverse and conflicting opinions of man are evidence of the working of the Holy Spirit rather than the evil spirit.
Let us beware! In the Gospel for this day Jesus warns, “Beware of false prophets!” In our text the Spirit of God, who always and under all circumstances and in every age teaches all men one and the same truth, caused the Prophet Jeremiah to record the Word of the Lord as follows: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you…” On the basis of this united testimony of the Old and New Testament Scriptures I would plead with you this day—
The Lord says of the false prophets: “They speak a vision of their own hearts, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.” The false prophet brings his own opinion, his own evaluation, his own considered judgment, his private interpretation of some passage of the Bible. It may sound ever so reasonable. The false prophet may be, and usually is, serious, conscientious, well-meaning, but he is undermining the Word of God with his message.
How can man know the truth of God? There are only two possible ways: Either man must gain access to the council chamber of God and so sit in and learn directly what God has to say or he must mark or pay close attention to the Word of the Lord as revealed and recorded by divine inspiration in the Scriptures. “For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word?” No one has, but the false prophet confidently speaks, writes, and acts as though he has a special direct line or privileged access to the counsel chamber of God. “Who hath marked his word, and heard it?” This is the avenue to certainty in the area of religious truth—marking, paying close attention to, perceiving what the Lord has revealed in His written Word. But the false prophet prefers the imaginations of his own heart and therewith undermines the Word of the Lord.
What are some of the techniques of the false prophets? One is the use of selective passages of Scripture to “prove” a point. For example, the difference between Reformed and Lutheran theology in regard to baptism is that the Reformed look upon baptism as a purely symbolic ceremony, picturing the rebirth that the person has previously experienced, whereas Lutheran theology recognizes the symbolism in baptism but teaches that baptism is essentially a means whereby the Holy Spirit works rebirth, creates faith, and thus gives the blessings of salvation. In reading Reformed literature I find that great use is made of the passage of Paul in Romans 6 in which he speaks of being buried with Christ by baptism. Luther used the same passage in the fourth part of his explanation of baptism in which he speaks of what baptism signifies. But Reformed literature passes over the passages which teach that baptism washes away sin, saves, and is a means for “putting on Christ.” When we want to know what the Lord would have us believe concerning baptism, we must study all that He has revealed in His Word concerning baptism, not just selected passages. Selecting some passages and ignoring others that speak of the same subject is a technique of the false prophet.
Another technique of the false prophet is undermining the Word of the Lord through translations. The modern church is extremely active in producing new translations of the Bible into English. Many of them render a distinct service, but Satan also uses the translators, who assure their readers that they have been scientifically objective in their translations, to undermine the Word of the Lord. One of the new versions is “Good News for Modern Man.” My attention has been drawn to the fact that the translators of this version seemed to have had an aversion for the word “blood,” especially in passages which speak of our redemption or of our receiving the blessings of salvation “through the blood of Christ. They prefer the word “death.” Christ died, but in dying He shed His blood. Scripture makes much of this high price of our redemption—that it cost the blood of the Son of God. Enemies of the blood sacrifice of Christ for us have for centuries attacked the vicarious, substitutionary shedding of blood by the Son of God for us as “blood theology,” as something unbecoming God and modern man. This new translation seems to share these feelings and so lends support to this age-old attack upon the very heart of the Gospel.
Another technique of the false prophet is to claim that two conflicting words of God apply to the same situation, and that man must then decide which applies. This was the device used in the Wisconsin Synod some fifteen years ago. In 1955 the convention delegates were told that they must decide whether to apply the “Avoid them” of Romans 16:17 to the Missouri Synod, who had freely and frankly been recognized as causers of divisions and offenses in the church, or whether there was still a “debt of love” that had to be paid in the form of continuing to admonish them within the bonds of fellowship, although they were manifestly disobedient to the Word of the Lord.
Beware of underestimating the enemy, the false prophets!
The Lord said of the false prophets in Jeremiah’s day: “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.” The false prophet always whispers and consoles the wicked that all is well. There is nothing to worry about. The Lord God loves you. Peace lies ahead of you, not judgment. But the Lord says: “Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked.” It fell upon that generation when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, laid the country waste, and carried the nation off into captivity for seventy years. It happened also in the latter days when the nation rejected its Lord, and Jerusalem was again destroyed, this time by the Romans, and the nation was scattered among all the nations of the world. The fate of God’s chosen people, the Jews, is historic evidence that we dare not underestimate the false prophets who speak of peace when they should be warning against the whirlwind of divine wrath.
Think of what is going on in the churches today. One denomination after another is passing resolutions expressing approval of the murder of the unborn through legalized abortions. Voices in the church are approving the Playboy Magazine version of sex, condoning premarital sexual intercourse, the dissolution of marriages contrary to the will of God, and even extra marital relations. The standard that is set up is a humanistic one—that consenting adults can do what seems best for them, provided no one is hurt. That God has anything to say about human conduct is dismissed as unworthy of God and irrelevant for modern man. In the first chapter of Romans the Spirit of God rages against homosexuality on the part of both men and women and labels it as a judgment of God upon them that do evil. But again voices in the church are being heard that give approval to that which God has condemned. All of these official and unofficial voices that give approval to that which God has forbidden are crying “Peace, peace,” when they should be warning against the whirlwind that will strike our nation and society, also the “liberated generation” and those who cry “Peace” in the moment of death, if not before.
Beware of underestimating the enemy, the false prophets!
Let us hear again the Word of the Lord against the prophets in Jeremiah’s day: “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.” No one who deviates from the Word of the Lord does so according to a commission and mandate from the Lord. False prophets are always in rebellion against the Lord. The damage that they do by approving evil is that they prevent men from coming to repentance: “But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.” When a person is assured by his spiritual leaders that wrong is right, how can he repent of the wrong?
We in the CLC are experiencing this frustrating tragedy in our relations with the Wisconsin Synod. The Church of the Lutheran Confession has charged the Wisconsin Synod with error in the matter of the termination of church fellowship. The Wisconsin Synod has denied the charge and challenged us to prove it. For almost ten years we have been frustrated in our efforts to prove our charges because the Wisconsin Synod will not permit us to bring the necessary evidence from their own official convention resolutions and other official documents. That is why our recent convention has said that we will be ready to meet with the representatives of the Wisconsin Synod to prove our charge whenever they are ready to hear it. As long as sin, whether in the area of life or doctrine, is covered up and given official approval, there can be no repentance.
Every false prophet is a danger to our faith in Christ Jesus as our only Savior from sin, death, and Satan. Every false prophet is a threat to the Gospel of full and free salvation through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. The closer a false prophet may be to us through blood relationship, through friendship, or through former associations the more dangerous he may well be because we may not be properly on guard against him. Beware of underestimating the enemy. These warnings against the false prophets were recorded by the Spirit of God out of loving concern for our souls’ salvation. Let us not take them lightly! Let us never make the mistake—which could well be fatal—of underestimating the danger that may come to us from a false prophet.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.