THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH AND THE SPIRIT OF ERROR
As we fast approach the end of this age, the need for the Body of Christ to have discernment has never been greater, for we are told in Scripture that "in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons," (1Tim.4:1). The picture that Jesus painted of the time just before His return, is one where "many will come in Jesus’ [My] Name saying, [quite rightly], ‘I am [Jesus is] the Christ,’ and will mislead many," (Matt.24:5). They are saying the right things yet they still mislead! This is a time which appears to be already upon us.
Jesus also said that it was at the time of tribulation that "many will fall away and will betray one another, and many false prophets will arise and will mislead many," (Matt.24:10&11). Jesus forewarned us that "false Christs and false Prophets would arise and would show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect," (Matt.24:24). Jesus also told us to "Take heed that you be not misled for many will come in My Name saying, ‘The time is at hand,’" (Luke 21:8). Jesus forewarned us that we would hear of "wars and disturbances," but told us, "do not be terrified, for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately," (Luke 21:9). We must, therefore, expect all of this, for when these "things" are seen, which must first "begin to take place," there will be "dismay among nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken." It was then that Jesus told us to "straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." All of these things have to happen before we see "the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory," (Luke 21:8, 21-28). All of this is a contrary picture to the one upheld by those who expect Jesus to return at any moment.
So, Jesus tells us to be aware of the times we are in, exhorting us to "Behold the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they put forth leaves you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognise that the Kingdom of God is near," (Luke 21:29-31). Jesus exhorts us, individually, to be "on the alert" so this day does not come "as a trap," (v.36&34), not speaking of the possible imminent coming of the Lord, but of the difficult times which will accompany the ‘great tribulation’, after which time the ‘wrath of God’ will come upon the world "as a thief".
Jesus, therefore, warns us, "Be on your guard, that your hearts may not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness, and the worries of life... but keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man," (Luke 21:36). Again, some suggest this ‘escape’ refers to being counted worthy to be part of the ‘catching away of the saints and first resurrection’ before the ‘great tribulation’, rather than from the ‘wrath of God’, confusing these two different times.
‘Escape,’ in Greek, is ‘Ekpheugô’ which means ‘to flee out of a place’, and, according to Vines Dictionary of Bible Words, is suggested to be a reference to our escape from "the judgements of God," [which is the ‘wrath of God’]. This refers to Paul’s letter to the Church in Thessalonica, where he says, "While they are saying, ‘Peace and Safety’ then destruction [God’s wrath] will come upon them suddenly... and they shall not escape," (1Thess.5:3). It is at this time, when they will be talking of Peace and Safety, that the beast will be seen as a ‘saviour’ for the world, but it precedes the ‘wrath of God’, not the ‘great tribulation’. This Scripture does not refer to present aspirations for Peace, which already abound with little real fruit. Revelation 6:17 tells us that when this time of God’s judgement comes upon the earth the "kings of the earth" will say "...the great day of their [God the Father, and the Lamb’s] wrath has come and who is able to stand?" [See Luke 21:36 quoted above.]
Seeking the Truth
Correctly placing these prophesied events in their right time-sequence is not easy. From these Scriptures from Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels it can be seen how difficult it can sometimes be to correctly divide Truth. So how is it to be done?
The different beliefs found amongst those who say they belong to Jesus have never been so diversified. Varying beliefs abound amongst those who say they are Christians, and even amongst those who would share a similar testimony of ‘new birth’ and ‘baptism in the Spirit’. Each believes they hold the Truth, yet each holds differing truths. Something is clearly amiss!
The cry of some is that we have to look to the ‘Word’ to ensure we are in the Truth, and that the Bible is the final authority in judging and discerning Truth. Unfortunately this does not help us if we are faced with differing interpretations of just what Scripture says. Who is right?
Some would say that we must get confirmation of what is true from, so called, ‘leaders’, but this does not help us if we are following ‘leaders’ who are giving false teaching!
Peter tells us, "there will... be false teachers amongst you who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them... and because of them the way of Truth would be maligned." Peter tells us that, "in greed they will exploit you with false words," (2Pet.2:1-3). In this end-time hour it is, therefore, essential to know how to discern the Truth.
How Do We Find Truth?
Scripture does tell us the way to find Truth, but amazingly it is a way that is not upheld by many. Jesus explained to His disciples that "The Spirit of Truth... will guide you into ALL Truth," (John 16:13), and would "teach you ALL things," (John 14:25). It is, therefore, essential for each of us to look to the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us to be our personal Teacher, to enable us to discern and understand the written word of Scripture which He brought forth.
When Jesus was raised from the dead He breathed on the disciples saying, "Receive the Holy Spirit," (John 20:22). Luke, telling us of this incident, says that Jesus "opened their minds to understand the Scriptures," (Luke 24:45), for their spiritual understanding could not come other than by the Holy Spirit. This is the same for all believers. Once we forget this, we are liable to be drawn away from the Truth. This has been a failing of the Church since its infancy. Although the written ‘Word’ is a "lamp to our feet and a light to our path," unless the Holy Spirit who brought forth the Scriptures turns on that light it will not be lit. It is not Scripture itself which brings enlightenment but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will, therefore, never contradict Scripture as "ALL Scripture is inspired by God," (2Tim.3:16). This subtle difference is crucial for us to recognise.
The apostle John told the early Church, "It is the last hour and just as you heard that Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen," (1 John 2:18). John explained that these antichrists "went out from us," going out from amongst the Church! (v.19). He then goes on to point to the safeguard we have been given which enables us to be victorious against these wrong spirits. It is the only defence which Scripture points to, but it is all sufficient. It is the "anointing" within (v.20&27).
Greater is He that is in Us
The letters of John are the only Scriptures that actually use the word ‘antichrist’, the title which is commonly used for the "man of sin", (2Thess.2:3). With John’s warning to the Church, is also given the answer as to how we are to combat this wrong spirit.
John tells us, "you have an anointing from the Holy One and you know all things," (v.20). He explains, "the anointing which you received from Him abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you, but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you are to abide in Him," (v.27).
John goes on to tell us that, [individually], we are not to "believe every spirit," but "test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world." John encourages us by stating, "you are from God, little children, and have overcome [these spirits] because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world," (1 John 4:1-4).
Scripture does not tell us to look for a corporate operation of this testing, or even an operation via a, so called, leadership, but tells us this overcoming power belongs to us ALL, and is for each of us to operate in, [individually], for all true believers have the Greater One in them.
This is the marvellous reality of the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus, a covenant promised to Israel of old, which we, the Church, have already come into, and of which Jeremiah prophesied, saying, "they will not teach everyone his fellow citizen and every one his brother saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest," (Heb.8:8-12 and Jer.31:31-34). Thus, we can understand Jesus’ exhortation, "Do not be called Rabbi, [Teacher], for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers," (Matt.23:8).
The Place of Scripture
Paul tells Timothy that "all Scripture is inspired by God, and profitable for teaching, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work," (2Tim.3:16&17). However, we need to realise that "no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation, for no prophecy was made by act of human will, but men, moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God," (2Pet.1:20-21). Peter is emphasising that although the prophetic word, made more certain by their [the apostles] eyewitness testimony, is as "a lamp shining in a dark place." The Holy Spirit needs to be acknowledged as the author of the Scriptures and we are not to interpret the Scripture ourselves, (see 2Pet.1:16-21).
This same understanding is brought forth by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, who explains the New Covenant is "not of the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life," (2Cor.3:6).
This does not mean that the ‘Word’ is not important. The very opposite is the case, for without the "sincere milk of the word" we do not grow and we remain "babes in Christ," (1Cor.3:1-3 and 1Pet.2:2). To stray from the ‘Word’ results in us straying into error, but nevertheless, of itself, and without the revelation of it by the Holy Spirit, we are not able to "abide in the Word" and, therefore, cannot come to "know the Truth," (John 8:31&32).
What about Teachers?
We know from Scripture that Jesus has given ‘gifts’ to the Church, including the ministry of ‘teachers’, amongst others: when Jesus ascended "far above the heavens, He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the Body of Christ," (Eph.4:10-12). Yet, Jesus said, "Call no man Rabbi" [Teacher], (Matt.23:8). These Scriptures seem contradictory unless one understands that when a brother teaches, directly or through books or tapes, what he says is of no use unless the Holy Spirit takes what is said and brings revelation and spiritual understanding to our hearts. We need to understand that the One who reveals Truth, the Teacher, is the Holy Spirit, not any man, even though a man may be used as the channel. We can mentally assimilate what any man teaches, or even what we read in the Bible, but only the Holy Spirit can lead us into all Truth and give spiritual understanding. Whatever we understand with our minds does not, necessarily, mean we spiritually understand it.
Those who have a gifting as a teacher need to beware lest they think their brethren cannot receive spiritual understanding without them. They are, in fact, only passing on ‘revelation’ which they themselves have been given by the Holy Spirit. Once the Holy Spirit is not recognised as essential for bringing forth ‘revelation’ and ‘spiritual understanding’ those who teach can move into false teaching and the area of ‘mental assent.’ Intellectual agreement to what Scripture says is worth little in comparison with having true spiritual understanding.
The Prayers that Paul prayed for the early Church clearly reinforce this fact that the Holy Spirit is our Teacher on an individual personal basis. Paul prayed for the already ‘Spirit filled’ believers in Ephesus, that they might be given "a spirit [inner man] of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him [the Father], that the eyes of [their] hearts might be enlightened," (Eph.1:17&18). Paul prayed for the believers at Philippi that their "love might abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment," to enable them "to approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ," (Phil.1:9-10). For the believers at Colossae Paul asked the Father that they might "be filled with a knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" so they might "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord," (Col.19-12). All of these prayers are asking for an impartation from the Spirit of God, the only source of spiritual wisdom, discernment and understanding.
The Church has been robbed of this personal ‘one to one’ ministry of the Holy Spirit, and in His place men have built their own structures, upholding the doctrines of men proliferated by mental assent, with the unbeknown agreement of the evil one, albeit done in the Name of Jesus and for the Lord. Much is done for the Lord which He has never asked for!
What about Leaders?
Jesus said, "Do not be called leaders, for One is your Leader, even Christ," (Matt.23:10). Having told us, "you are all brothers," (v.8), Jesus explains, "the greatest among you shall be your servant," (v.11). Jesus taught that we were not to have a situation amongst the brethren where we have ‘authority’, one over the other, as all worldly structures do: "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors’. But not so with you", (Luke22:25-26).
Despite Jesus’ teaching, it is commonplace to recognise brothers as ‘leaders’, and denominational structures are based upon authority being exercised one over another, just as one would find in any worldly organisation. These same leaders may see themselves as ‘servant leaders’ but they are still ‘leaders’. It is wrong. So called ‘leaders’ exercise authority over those who they consider have been given into their charge. This is not Scriptural. Although Scripture confirms that there are those "who lead," (Rom.12:8), this is descriptive, not a title. These are ‘lead sheep’ not ‘leaders [noun] of the sheep.’ Although there are those who have been given to the Church, those who minister [serve] as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, these men are still brothers. They should be upholding Jesus over the flock as the "Only Master and Lord," (Jude 1:4), rather than themselves, helping to ensure that only the will of the Father is being fulfilled in each believers life, or in any corporate gathering.
Likewise, there is a ministry of ‘elders’, who "the Holy Spirit has made... overseers [bishops] to shepherd the Church of God," but these are still among the flock: "the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers," (Acts 20:28). Again, this difference may seem subtle, but it is nevertheless a very important distinction to make. Once a minister [a servant], steps out from under the Holy Spirits leading and begins to ‘minister’ [serve] by his own authority, this has to be discerned if one is not to come under ‘control’.
We see, therefore, that each believer has to walk in close fellowship with the Holy Spirit. We cannot rely on a vicarious relationship with the Lord through other men, whether we call them ‘our’ pastor, priest or teacher, or not.
Because so many individual believers are so far from their correct place of "being led by the Spirit of God," the Church is also far from its correct place of having Jesus as its functioning Head. But although this has been a problem within the Church for the past two thousand years we should be encouraged by Jesus’ words, when He said, "I will build My Church, and the gates [strategies] of Hades will not overpower it," (Matt.16:18). The Church will be brought back into her correct relationship with her Head, and it seems that there has been a quiet change taking place in recent years, beginning to bring this about.
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