By John C. Carpenter
Violence, or force, is another characteristic found in false Christian leaders. In the twentieth century, this violence is rarely physical, but is often economic, social [peer pressure], or political in nature, and usually involves manipulation, public intimidation, criticism, angry argument, harassment, rejection, and peer pressure. The purpose of this violence is to force others to be subject to their doctrine, beliefs, needs, and desires, and is used to establish and maintain authority, position, and control. The violence is always politically and financially self-serving. The Lord said, And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Mat 11:12). At first glance, it may appear that the Lord is talking about true believers who "take" or enter the kingdom of God by being assertive or aggressive in their faith or actions. This is not what I believe is being taught here. The violence referred to here is not the energetic "diligent seeking" that God does want us to have towards Him (Heb 11:6), but a use of power in an attempt to force someone to do or believe what these false ministers want, even though it may be counter to what God is doing. The kingdom here, I believe, does not refer to the actual kingdom of Heaven that true believers shall inherit, but to "religious" [and secular] kingdoms that men seek and want to be an important part of. The context of this discussion about violence begins when Christ says Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest (Mat 9:37-38), then gave instructions (Mat 10:5-15) to his twelve disciples whom He had just sent forth (Mat 10:5). Immediately the Lord said to His disciples [and us], Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Mat 10:16). What does "wolves" in this verse refer to? The Lord told us in the next verse saying, But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; (Mat 10:17). These wolves are men, specifically false prophets. We know they are false prophets because Christ said, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Mat 7:15). However, Christ instructed us how to respond to these men saying, And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Mat 10:28). Here Christ implies that these men may give us reason to fear them, and we should ask why that would be the case. The reason is these men may be violent. This violence is political, interpersonal, or social, and not necessarily physical, although in Christ's case the violence was physical and led to his death. Then Jesus began to talk about John the Baptist (Mat 11:7), whom He described as more than a prophet (Mat 11:9) and of whom He said, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist... (Mat 11:11). Then Christ immediately said, And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force (Mat 11:12). Four verses later, Christ gave an unusual parable in which He described "this generation." He said, But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children (Mat 11:16-19). Lastly, Christ said just a few verses later,At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise [worldly wisdom] and prudent [perceptive, manipulative], and hast revealed them unto babes [innocent] (Mat 11:25). What does Christ's mention of laborers (Mat 9:37-38), His sending the twelve disciples (Mat 10:5), His warning to His disciples [and us] about wolves (Mat 10:16), His discussion of the greatness of John the Baptist (Mat 11:7-11), the discussion of the violent taking the kingdom by force (Mat 11:12), His description of this generation (Mat 11:16-19), and His mention of the wise and prudent (Mat 11:25) all have to do with one another? I believe in these verses the Lord is showing us a major difference between two types of servants - the meek, gentle, submissive servant, like John the Baptist, and the "violent" servant who uses force and intimidation to attempt to get his way. Christ said that of those men born among women, there was not a "greater" than John the Baptist. John the Baptist was considered great by Jesus, not because he was violent and used force to get his way, but because John was a meek and submissive servant before God and men. Christ defined greatness when He said, But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant (Mat 23:11), and But many that are first [place self most important] shall be last [least important to God]; and the last shall be first (Mat 19:30). Like Christ, John the Baptist was submissive and wanted to serve rather than be served. John was not arrogant, self-serving, demanding, controlling, manipulative, nor did he use force to try to get his way or will. If you will be great with God, you must be small, meek, gentle, humble, and submissive to God and men. Christ told us, Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth"(Mat 5:5). I believe these meek individuals are the babes [a child] Christ later referred to (Mat 11:25). On the contrary, there are violent individuals who attempt to force their will on others. Christ described these individuals, saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented (Mat 11:17). They wanted and expected individuals to dance when they played music, and mourn when they complained. John the Baptist was not eating nor drinking, but they were critical of him saying, He hath a devil(John 11:18). John was just doing what God the Father wanted him to be doing at that time - fasting. Christ was eating and drinking, but they were also critical of Him saying, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners (Mat 11:19). Neither John nor Christ was doing what these men wanted and expected, and they were angry about it. These forceful are the wise [fleshly, worldly knowledge and ability] and prudent [perceptive, got all the answers] (Mat 11:25) individuals who have wisdom that descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish (James 3:15). This violence by church leaders is often manifested through control. Christ said, But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes [rulers] of the Gentiles exercise dominion [control, subjugate] over them, and they that are great [mighty] exercise authority upon them (Mat 20:25). We must remember there are wise, prudent, worldly, sensual, controlling and devilish individuals and church leaders who use force or violence to promote themselves and attempt to get what they want. They are not seeking nor are they interested in God's will, but are self-seeking and self-pleasing. Their violence should be a sign that they are false, for the tree is known by his fruit (Mat 12:33).
Another characteristic of false Christian leaders is that they are always watching for opportunities to falsely accuse God's true servants. After Christ entered a synagogue, the Pharisees and church leaders watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him"(Mark 3:2). Angry that Christ did not keep the Jewish law of washing his hands before eating, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him (Luke 11:53-54). The elders, chief priests, and scribes led Christ to Pilate And they began to accuse him [Christ], saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King (Luke 23:2). The apostle Paul was accused [by Jewish leaders] of questions of their law (Acts 23:29), and later defending himself, said I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews [and their leaders] (Acts 26:2). Scripture further tells us, Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him [Christ] unto them (Luke 22:3-4). False church leaders not only falsely accuse, but often commune with those who hate and are resisting God. If you are falsely accused by church leaders, do not be discouraged, for Christ told us The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).
The answer to the question "what motivates false church leaders?" is simple - spiritual blindness, lack of understanding and truth, and greed for gain. Scripture tells us His [God's false] watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter (Isa 56:10-11). In the city of Philippi, the apostle Paul encountered a damsel possessed with a spirit of divination who brought her masters much gain [profit] by soothsaying (Acts 16:16). The apostle Peter spoke about false prophets and teachers saying, through covetousness [using fraud to fulfill an excessive desire for wealth] shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not (2 Pet 2:3), and 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 (2 Pet 2:10). Joel and Abiah, two sons of Samuel, walked not in his [Samuel's] ways, but turned aside after lucre [dishonest profit and gain], and took bribes, and perverted judgment (1 Sam 8:3). Peter exhorted the elders of Israel to 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 [predisposed] mind[willingness] (1 Pet 5:2).
When talking about the end of the world and His return, Jesus Christ warned us to stay spiritually awake and alert, saying, Lest coming suddenly he [Christ] find you sleeping [spiritually resting, or asleep]. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch [keep awake, be vigilant] (Mark 13:36-37). Not only are we to be alert, but we are warned that following those that are spiritually asleep or blind will damn us. Christ clearly warned us if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch (Mat 15:14). Scripture tells us we are deceived because we are simple [unsuspecting] (Rom 16:18). The question is, "how do we know what is true and what is false?" This is a very difficult question to answer, but let me give you the answers I believe the Lord has given me. First, the apostle John gave us very good advice, saying, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [examine, approve] the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth [listens to, understands, and agrees about worldly things with] them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (1 John 4:1-6). The apostle made it clear that believers should not believe [have faith in, trust] every spirit [individual]. John is referring to the spirits of individuals here, and not to evil spirits, because he mentions prophets (1 John 4:1), they (1 John 4:5), whosoever (1 John 5:1), and individuals who hate their brothers (1 John 4:20). To "confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" is to deny Christ. I believe that "confession" here is more than simply saying you believe in Christ, or saying that Christ is Lord in your life. It involves doing Christ's will and giving up your own. Christ told us Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Mat 7:21). The Lord also told us But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven (Mat 10:33). The word "deny" means to refuse and reject, to contradict or resist. The Lord elsewhere spoke to this concept saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me (Mat 15:8). It is possible, I believe, to confess Christ verbally, but resist or contradict His will for your life, and still miss the Kingdom. To hear a servant of God verbally confess that they know Christ is not enough. You must also see him or her doing God's will. In the contemporary Christian church, many false ministers are confessing Christ verbally, but denying Him in their actions. John's instruction to test men is verified by the Lord, who said unto the angel of the church of Ephesus, I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried [scrutinized, examined] them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars (Rev 2:2). Second, as Paul instructed Timothy, we should give attendance to reading [the Scriptures], to exhortation [comforting, consoling others], to doctrine" [information, instruction, learning] (1 Tim 4:13). Specifically, Paul instructed us to Be not carried about with divers [various] and strange [foreign, untruthful] doctrines (Heb 13:9). Third, we should learn and know the scriptures so that we do not live in error. The Lord said, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God (Mat 22:29). We should search the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11), because thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Tim 3:15). Fourth, we should examine ourselves to verify that we are truly willing to do the will of God. Scripture instructs us, If any man will do his [God's] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17). Although Christ is speaking in context about knowing whether what He said and did came from His father, if we truly want to know and do God's will, we shall know what things are from God the Father and what things are not. Fifth, we are instructed That we henceforth be no more children [simple minded, immature], 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 (Eph 4:14). Sixth, we should Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates (2 Cor 13:5). Seventh, we should identify and avoid those that we know or suspect are false. Scripture warns us Now I beseech you, brethren, mark [take aim at, identify] them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Rom 16:17). Eighth, we should warn, and then reject, heretics. Scripture warns us, But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretic [one who is guilty of promoting division or separation from a church or doctrine] after the first and second admonition [rebuke, warning] reject (Titus 3:9-10). Ninth, we should make a distinct effort to understand the truth, which only God can reveal to us. We should Study [make an effort, endeavor] to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth [the truth that God is showing you] (2 Tim 2:15). Tenth, we should not respond to worldly, vain, and deceitful philosophy. Paul said, Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Col 2:8). Eleventh, we should abandon the natural [physical] man and ask for the Holy Spirit and for the gift of spiritual discernment. Christ told us how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13) Paul told us But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14), and therefore, we should by reason of use [practice] have our senses exercised [trained] to discern both good and evil(Heb 5:14). Twelfth, and last, we should examine individuals for worldliness. Christ told us, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16).
The Lord God said to the prophet Ezekiel, If when he seeth the sword come upon the land, he blow the trumpet, and warn the people; Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him. But he that taketh warning shall deliver his soul (Ezek 33:3-5). God has not called me specifically and solely to be a watchman, but He has called me in this issue of the HERALD to warn you. There is no shame in being deceived. From time to time, we are all deceived. Paul told this to Titus, saying, For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another (Titus 3:3). Paul's reference here is to the time before he was saved, but the implication remains that we should search for the truth and not remain deceived. Being deceived, or suspecting such, yet allowing oneself to remain deceived, is not only shameful and dangerous, but damnable. Being subjected to false prophets is a temptation to depart from true faith. But there is hope. When talking about false prophets (2 Pet 2:1), the Holy Spirit through Peter said, The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished (2 Pet 2:9). If you are truly God's, God will deliver you from false prophets, and deliver false prophets to judgment. After criticizing the Pharisees for being thieves and hirelings, Christ's words should be comforting to the true believer. He said, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me [and not Pharisees, and not false ministers]: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man [any false minister] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man [any false minister] is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand (John 10:27-29). If you are one of the Lord's sheep, no man will be able, through worldly wisdom or ability, subtlety, or deception to pluck you out of God's hand or draw you away from God, for With him [God] is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his (Job 12:16). Christ told us Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men (Mat 4:19), and My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27). We are instructed to follow Christ. We should follow men only when they lead us to Christ. In an interesting short story, Elisha said, And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria. And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see (2 Ki 6:19-20). Elisha was a true servant of God who knew the man [the Lord] that we seek. Elisha asked men to follow him only to the extent that he was leading the men to God. A true minister of God will always "bring you to the man you seek." If any servant of God tries to lead you anywhere else [to himself, religion, the organized church, or any other gospel], do not follow him. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel (1 Cor 4:14-15). Paul wrote the Corinthian believers to warn them that they had many manipulative, deceiving, selfish, violent teachers, but had few individuals who would lovingly tell the truth, who would protect and nurture them, as a father would do his children. As Paul, I write not these things to shame you, but to warn you that many false prophets have risen and are deceiving many. Let us all pray for one another, and unto God the Father, who knows how to deliver the godly from the temptations of false ministers (2 Pet 2:9).  AMEN.
                                                           A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
"But God commendeth his
love toward us,
in that, while
we were yet
sinners, Christ
died for us"
(Rom 5:8)

Subject-Verse Index

The believer is beloved (Colossians 3:12)
The believer is able (John 15:5)
The believer is full of purpose (Ephesians 2:10)
The believer is justified (Romans 5:1)
The believer is forgiven (1 John 2:12)
The believer is anointed (1 John 2:27)
The believer is loved (1 John 4:10)
The believer is complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)
The believer is redeemed (Revelation 5:9)
The believer is clean (John 15:3)
The believer is free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)
The believer is called (1 Corinthians 7:17)
The believer is righteous ( 2 Corinthians 5:21)
The believer is blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
The believer is God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
The believer has direct access to God (Ephesians 2:18)
The believer is capable (Philippians 4:13)
The believer is victorious through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57)
The believer has God's Holy Spirit dwelling within him (1 Corinthians 3:16)
The believer is sanctified (! Corinthians 6:11)
The believer has overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:13)
The believer is led by Christ to victory (2 Corinthians 2:14)