False Prophets and Teachers

Every true prophet of God in the Old Testament was similar to a New Testament evangelist. The genuine prophet drew people back to God and His Word, and this call to righteous living separated him from the false prophet. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God warned His people not to pay attention to false prophets who were speaking words of encouragement to those who despised God (see Jeremiah 23:16-17). God said His prophets would proclaim His words to His people and turn them from their evil ways and their evil deeds (see verse 22).

Those who prophesied lies in God’s name were professing to have received their messages from dreams, but their messages were delusions from their own minds. “‘Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?’ declares the LORD” (verse 28). God had spoken through dreams, but the false prophets’ dreams were like straw that had no nutritional value at all compared to the grain of God’s Word.

Straw is good for bedding livestock, but livestock will die if that is all they are fed. We get our spiritual nutrition from God’s Word. If a prophetic message were to come to your church, it wouldn’t be comforting to those church members who were living in sin. His Word is “like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces” (verse 29). The Spirit of God is not going to lull His people into a spirit of complacency, because judgment begins in the household of God (see 1 Peter 4:17). A prophetic message should motivate people to live righteous lives, not placate them in their sin (see 1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

God is also against those prophets who steal His words from others (see Jeremiah 23:30). It is plagiarism to take what God has given someone else and use it as though it were your own. God is also against “the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The LORD declares’” (verse 31). Saying that your words are directly from the Lord when they aren’t is an offense to God. Manipulating people by claiming a word from the Lord is spiritual abuse. For a man to tell a young lady that God has told him they are supposed to get married is incredibly manipulative. If she wrongly thinks he is a man of God, then to refuse marriage is to refuse God. If God wanted them to get married, why wouldn’t He tell both of them?

False prophets may also try to guide our lives by giving us specific instructions for daily living and decision-making. “God told me that you are supposed to do so and so,” they say. False prophets usurp the role of the Holy Spirit and they function more like a medium rather than as a true prophet. There is only “one mediator between God and mankind, the man Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 2:5). True prophets announce the words of God in such a way that we fall down and worship Him, and then the Holy Spirit guides each of God’s children—not human agents who function like mediums between God and His children.

Dr. Neil

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