The term “false prophet” has been grossly overused and ill-placed. It is used by most as a pronouncement against anyone who has a different doctrine or sometimes an erroneous doctrine. Seldom is it used in the context of a prophet? Even so, it is also misused to label someone who gives an incorrect prophetic word. None of these things constitute a “false prophet.”
To put it simply, a false prophet is one who is a prophet that misuses his/her calling to promote oneself instead of Jesus. Such a person uses his gifting for personal gain or harm of another instead of in submission to the Lord that gift is designed to glorify. Nine times out of ten, a person being hailed a false prophet is not such a person. More times than not, they are not even a prophet, much less a false one.
Fear is usually the root of such proclamations.
People are afraid of being misled or deceived. Scripture says that the Holy Spirit leads us in all truth. If He is leading us then we can perceive what is true and we have no reason to fear deception. It is easier to be deceived when you fear deception than when you rest in the truth free from fear. Scriptures tell us that the sheep know Shepard’s voice. If we are close to Jesus, we know His voice and can recognize His voice in others. Moreover, we can discern when something is false. We do not need to fear the false.
Bank tellers are trained to identify a false bill. They handle the real so much that they can often detect the false. If a counterfeit bill comes through they don’t need to fearfully denounce a bill that comes through that’s been torn or water-damaged or anything else. They know what the reality is and know how to discard the counterfeit.
Similarly, when we feed on the real, we do not need to fear being taken in by a counterfeit. We do not need to be spiritual head hunters the rid the world of imperfect ministers. The elders and leaders in the local church can take care of harmful situations that arise. Each Christian is responsible to fill up on the truth of the Word of God and to know His voice for themselves so that they are not taken in by every wind of doctrine that comes along. The leadership of the Church is to equip the people for this very thing.
We need to understand the real criteria for accepting something as true.
People often respond that they were raised to believe such and such. Or they prefer to believe such and such. Or some say they have always been taught a particular truth claim. These are not proper criteria for knowing what is true. One can be raised to believe something all their life and a person comes along and tells them the Bible says differently. The tendency is to reject the new and cling to what you have always been taught.
The way to establish if a truth claim is legitimate is to read the Scriptures for yourself and see if that is indeed what the Scriptures says: what the Bible says is what is true no matter what belief you held previously. We need to be willing to relinquish false beliefs in light of the truth and dispense with an ideology of truth is based on anything other than the Word of God. Granted if we look at the Scriptures with our preconceived ideas of what is true we can not see the reality that is before us. We need to ask God to help us see what is really there.
It is very important to check things with Scripture and to not just take someone’s word for it no matter who it was that presented something as true. We need to not be dependent on another to tell us what to believe. We need to know the truth for ourselves and be grounded in Him so that when we hear something we haven’t considered before our Spirit can rejoice in this or give us warning to be wary of it.
One may object and say many have different interpretations of the Word and thus we cannot establish truth this way. One can use the Word and try and say that miracles ceased with the 12 apostles and another can use the same Word and show that miracles and the gifts of the spirit continue to this day. How can one then know which is true? Truth is still there in the Word even though the Church is divided on some of these things. Our divisions are usually not because of a lack of clarity of Scripture, but the blindness of the reader to the truth. More and more the Church is coming closer to a unified understanding of the Scriptures.
Denominational lines are being crossed and are falling down and bare-bones Christianity is resulting.
The Holy Spirit is moving in every stream and denomination. Historical records are being unearthed showing that every denomination has experienced the same gifts of the Spirit and the same revivals. Christians are being reminded of our shared heritage of the faith and God is showing up in ways people don’t believe in despite their unbelief.
Every single person who preaches or teaches will make mistakes. They will get it wrong. Their doctrine will not be perfect. They will disappoint. God is the only person that will not disappoint. We need to be God-focused. We need to know His Word and His voice, but have mercy on our knowledge in part and in harmless mistakes. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Even when we encounter a situation that is harmful and the person needs some restoration we need to have an attitude of compassion and respect and honor that does not speak judgmentally against the person. God is a God of restoration and He can do an awesome job. Our job is to forgive.
There will be a day when the Church will not be tossed to and fro by every wind and doctrine.
This will not happen by denouncing everything one doesn’t understand as a false teaching or false prophet. It is going to happen by a return to the love of Christ that drives out all fear. Even now the Church is in the transition from division to unity, from many denominations to a single-family. God is rising up a generation that will move in one accord to see the Kingdom of God established on the earth in preparation for the return of our King.