God’s Condemnation Of False Preachers
Let us suppose a certain doctor of medicine denies that a certain common infirmity is as severe as medical science generally claims. He conducts seminars in which he ignores the medical procedures followed by other physicians and suggests instead his own regimen for treating its symptoms. To those desiring a medicine for it he peddles a placebo he himself has concocted in the place of that which is prescribed by medical science. Many die as the consequence for following his recommendations.
How will his peers respond? They will accuse him of malpractice, denounce him as a charlatan and huckster, disbar him from their profession, and ascertain that he is punished to the full extent of the law.
Let us now suppose a certain minister of religion denies man’s native sinful state is as severe as God’s Word declares. He conducts preaching services in which he ignores looking to Christ alone for salvation and suggests instead his own regimen of works of righteousness. To those desiring a curative he sells a placebo known as “Another Gospel” some man has concocted in the place of the “Gospel of Christ”. Everyone following his recommendations continues to be dead in trespasses and sins and eventually experiences the “second death”.
How will his peers respond? Most of them will praise him because to condemn him would be to condemn themselves also. Even some who deny his freewillism and profess to believe instead in the gospel of free grace will commend his sincerity and acknowledge him as “our Arminian brother”.
Not this preacher! I accuse him of rank heresy, denounce him as a religious charlatan and huckster and a false preacher lying against God, and disbar him from my spiritual fellowship. I furthermore assert that God never sent him and is against him, and will not use his ministry to the spiritual salvation of anyone, and will in the end condemn him to eternal punishment.
Let me identify clearly the sort of preacher I here denounce. I denounce the preacher who denies Christ’s testimony that man is completely incapable and unwilling to come to Him for salvation (John 5:40; 6:44, 65), averring instead that salvation is in some way attributable to an act of man’s “free will”. I denounce the preacher who denies that “salvation is of Jehovah” from beginning to end and throughout (Jonah 3:9), averring instead that salvation is accomplished through a cooperative effort between God and man (synergism). I denounce the preacher who denies the divine testimony that salvation is by God’s sovereign grace alone through God-given faith alone in God’s Christ alone, and who avers instead that salvation is at least to some degree or in some way a result of man’s works – whether of legalism, baptism, ad infinitum ad nauseam (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-7).
Although many will denounce me for doing so, I am in good company. Paul the apostle calls upon God to anathematize false gospelers (Galatians 1:8f). Jesus the Christ speaks of them when He warns, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. … And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Matthew 7:15-23). And God Almighty warns in our present passage, “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!’ says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: ‘You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1f).
I. What are the marks of these false preachers? In essence, God says, “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them” (v.2). More particularly:
1. They worship a false god (v.13): “They prophesied by Baal” – even though they claim to speak for Jehovah.
2. They preach in the name of God the lying heresies of men (vv.25-27): “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ … Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams [as opposed to God’s revelation] which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.”
3. They speak peace to those who follow their lies (v.17): “They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The LORD has said, “You shall have peace”‘; and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.'”
4. They are abominable to God (vv.11, 14): “For both prophet and priest are profane; yes, in My house I have found their wickedness …. Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery [certainly spiritually, often physically] and walk in lies; they also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah.”
II. What does God say about these false preachers? In essence, God says, “Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings” (v.2). More particularly:
1. God has neither spoken to them nor sent them (v.21): “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.”
2. God is against them (vv.30-32a): “Therefore behold, I am against the prophets … who steal My words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets … who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams … and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness.”
3. God will not profit their ministries (v.32b): “Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all.” THUS SAID JEHOVAH!
4. God will condemn them to everlasting punishment (vv.34, 39f): “And as for the prophet and the priest and the people who say [falsely], ‘The oracle of the LORD!’ I will even punish that man and his house [i.e., all his spiritual kin, all who share in his heresy]. … therefore behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you and forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and will cast you out of My presence. And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.” “Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; in the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them; for I will bring disaster on them, the year of their punishment” (v.12). “Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall” (v.15a). “Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury – a violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly” (vv.19f).
5. God forbids His people to heed them (v.16): “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the [false] prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD.'” “‘So when these people or the prophet or the priest ask you, saying, “What is the oracle of the LORD?” you shall then say to them, “What oracle?” I will even forsake you,’ says the LORD. … ‘for you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God'” (vv.33, 36b).
III. What will God do despite false preachers?
1. God will gather all His elect (v.3): “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.” God has driven sinners from Himself because of their sins (Isaiah 59:2), but will gather His “remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5) through Christ (John 10:16).
2. God will provide His elect with faithful ministers (v.4): “I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking.” Faithful shepherds feed God’s flock by preaching to them Christ, who is all their sustenance (John 21:15-17). Faithful shepherds oversee God’s flock in such as way as to drive fear and dismay from it (Acts 20:28f) and meet all its needs (Ephesians 4:11-16).
3. God will save His elect through Jesus Christ alone (vv.5f): “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.'” Jehovah will not be frustrated by false preachers. Christ shall be victorious over all His foes, including false preachers telling lies in His name. Let us not heed those whom God reprobates. Let us resort to Christ’s ministers.
By D.E. Parks