David Cox – Marks of a False Prophet
David Cox – Marks of a Biblical Church (Read this first before reading this present page)
David Cox – Marks of a unbiblical Church?
David Cox – Before you Join a Church
Whereas a good church is a pretty focused thing, a bad or unbiblical church can take many different forms. Because of this we need to divide our study into areas. First of all, we need to separate what would be a “church” from a sects, cult, or false religion. Although really there is not much difference between them, I would consider a “church” that would identify itself with solid biblical doctrine something different from a cult. Some “Fundamental” or “Baptist” churches would officially hold to correct or biblical doctrine, but actually practice or secretly believe in unbiblical things. There may also be some groups that would do things as a biblical church would do them, but they hold tightly to some doctrine that is not biblical. Usually these groups always have some defective concept concerning salvation. So these characteristics are a composite of a whole bunch of bad and erroneous churches, sects, abusive churches, groups, etc.
The list of marks of a bad church on this page therefore should be understand as a bad church can have this or that characteristic or mark, but it is defined as bad by any one, and not necessarily by all. Also let me add that some good churches are good on most things, and they may fall into one or more of these marks of a bad church. I do not pretend to know all churches, all situations, and how a person should act or the decision a person should take in such cases. I think soul searching your own heart in order to find what God wants you to do is most important in any situation, and it is essential in these cases. See my thoughts on Getting out of a Bad Church.
Perhaps I should comment on the idea of an “abusive church”. An abusive church is a church that perhaps has orthodox doctrine but has practices and conduct that is not biblical, un-Christlike. Most commonly abusive churches are seen by their refusal to believe in and practiceChristian liberty. In order for these people to control the brethren in a way that is advantageous for them, they also use unscriptural church discipline. By this I mean that they use tactics like public shame over issues that they do not have strong scriptural basis for, and they do it in an unscriptural way.
Let me digress with an example. For example, a pastor says that his members have to attend ALL church functions, and can only miss if they ask their pastor for permission first, and he grants it. A valid reason is that you are sick and dying in a hospital. Family reunions out of town, visiting another church, etc. are all invalid. The person ignores this imposed asking-permission structure, so the pastor now publicly says embarrassing things about the family, revealing private matters or joking in such a way as to cause the family shame, embarrassment, or discomfort on some level. Perhaps he removes the man from the deacon board suddenly, or removes either husband or wife from responsibilities or service in the church, because the pastor “has doubts”. The point is to use press to cause wayward members to tow the line. This psychological pressure is what makes them abusive. (Here I would exclude members who are serving, but the pastor or leadership removes them because of serious problems, such as marital separation, infidelity, or drinking/drug/sex problems. Also doctrinal heresy that comes to light would be a legitimate reason for removal.)
Let’s just define these for clarity. A church has to at least have a clear, scriptural plan of salvation. If the group, church, or principal leaders have doctrinal error on the doctrine of salvation, then it is a false religion. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, etc. are all false religions because they either do not believe in Jesus Christ as the unique and singular savior of souls, or because they add works to salvation. That correct, orthodox view of salvation has to be a key principle focus of the church to even begin to consider it as a good church.
Moreover there are churches that seem to have “lost their way” as far as the spiritual fight we are in, and they have taken the Don Quixote position of attacking windmills instead of the enemy. There is a saying that is an excellent guide here. “Major on majors, and minor on minors.” Salvation, holiness, evangelism, service, these types of things are majors. A church that minors on things that are not really very important, but they make them important because of some driving obsession with proving their point on minor matters is simply a bad church. At times this becomes difficult to discern the line. I believe it is very, or rather extremely important to stress the authority of God’s word, and to uphold and defend the inspiration of Scriptures. In my book, churches that think that holding up a KJV Bible answers all of that is just off base. Why? Because issues of importance WILL ALWAYS WITHOUT EXCEPTION HAVE A FOUNDATION IN SCRIPTURES, EXPOSITING KEY VERSES.
In this KJV only controversy, I fail to read in anybody’s writings what Scripture in my KJV Bible (yes I use only a KJV in English, and RV60 in Spanish) where it says, “Thus saith the Lord, thou shalt only use the KJV.” I read the preface to the reader from the translators, and they clearly refused a “reinspiration” of their work as being the end all of English Bible translations. They mention specifically that their work will need revision in the future. I never see Paul, Peter, John, nor Moses even hinting that they may have errors in their writings and work. My KJV Bible does not even hint at a “Majority Manuscript.”
Moreover I also see distinct cultic tendency in squashing the liberty of the believer on matters that the Bible has not clearly taken a position. What is not clearly dictated in Scripture, be extremely careful, cautious, and respect other good Christian men’s differing views.
Technically a heresy is a schism, or a movement to divide the brethren on the basis of a difference in doctrine or practice. The Scriptures do preach separation and holy (be ye separate) as an essential element in biblical Christianity. But here we must clarify that a heresy in terms of God is a doctrine that is just wrong, or if not wrong, is not clear, and then it is pressed as a litmus test of orthodoxy. The Judaizers from Jerusalem tried to use the Apostles’ credentials (“we have their approval and seal of orthodoxy”) which the Roman Catholic church and others now try to mimic. I see the KJV movement setting a KJV only position as the end all litmus test of orthodoxy, but Branch Davidians held the same position, and they are flaky to no end. In reality, wherever the current KJV movement has come from, it has to contend with old, deep roots in the Seventh Day Adventist Cult that has preached this very same doctrine for 100 years. Many cults preach the same KJV only position, and it has not protected them at all from error. I would also note that the NIV version has a specific lightness in attitude towards inspiration and translating the exact words of the original texts, so this lightness or sloppiness attracts many churches and people who are likewise not wanting exactness and fidelity to God’s Word in their religion. This means that the non-KJV people are not necessarily right or good people either. My point is that we have to stick to what God says and allows us, and when God is silent on an issue, we cannot be absolute and unyielding. We have to say what God says, take God’s position on all subjects, and be content to be quiet on what God hasn’t clearly revealed. Which Bible translation is absolute is an issue which I do not find settled in Scripture “absolutely” as some would have us believe. Go into any other culture, country, and language in the world that doesn’t speak English, and the whole issue becomes a non-issue.
Remember that the aspects that I will deal with below are not a check list that a church has to comply with all of them or even most of them in order to be “bad” or “unbiblical.” If a church has even a few, or just one which is really glaring, it is a bad church.
Let’s tackle this mark with some caution. First of all, the general nature of the local church is such that most local churches are going to have some unsaved people in the services. The parable of the wheat and the tares teaches us that we are not to try to separate who is truly saved from who is not, with the purpose being to separate them out of the church just because.
So if every church has unsaved people in it, what is this mark about? This mark is more about attitude and caution in how the church runs their affairs. True that we all have unsaved in our services, but there is a big difference between this and having these unsaved in the pulpit teaching and preaching, or having them in front directing, or having them on boards governing, or serving.
When I consider this mark, I think of a church’s view towards salvation, and its expectation from its members, and extremely high expectations from its leaders and presiding, visible ministers.
How to Discern this Mark: First of all, a good church “pushes” salvation constantly. Their view of salvation is more a change of character based in a personal relationship with Christ, than saying some magic words. They have a very keen perception of repentance in salvation that means people must give up their sins. Holiness comes in after being saved to carry on the same task of giving up your sins. This comes across first and foremost in the pulpit and Sunday School classrooms. Secondly this comes across in the shock over sin, and the peer pressure from the members when someone lives in public, open sin. The other members do not accept it, do not take it as “normal”. They are concerned about it, and pray for the person, and let it be known that they do not agree with such a living in open sin. (Sin is like leaven, if you do not oppose it for all you are worth, then it will extend itself to all the church, and become overwhelming.)
Next the church officially deals with sin. This means that the pastor or church leaders initiate a dealing with the sin. This should be first counseling sessions with the person, and if that person does not show honest effort at changing his life (repentance), then the church as a whole comes into view as official discipline operation whereby that person is treated as a pagan and unbeliever, not as a brother in Christ.
Here also we should see some kind of distinction between regular weekly visitors and members whereby the members are required to live good lives. By “good lives” I mean lives where they reject and fight against sin in their own life when God shows them their sins through His Word. There should be apparatus in place and functioning that filters the unrepentant from official membership, as well as removing official members if they begin to live a life of open sin without remorse, repentance, nor effort at correction.
In addition we should see an honest effort at really preventing unrepentant or hypocritical people from entering the pulpit, the Sunday School classroom, the presiding positions (praise, singing, etc), from working with or in the choirs, nurseries, etc. All people who have positions should have a standard of ethics which clearly is rejecting sin, repenting, and abandoning sin. We all have sins, and many are unknown to us. But when God reveals these to us, a good Christian has to respond, and his response is extreme efforts at rejecting and abandoning that sin. This mark has to be visible and pervasive through the church for the church to be good. Even a few examples of unrepentant sin will contaminate the entire church ruining its effect and power for God.
Beyond that, this same shock and rejection is applied to public figures, movements, and groups outside the church in the form of separation from them because of their sin, and lack of repentance.
All good churches live by the good book (Bible). Any church that abandons God’s word on a matter or deemphasizes God’s word simply is not a good church. Man continues to invent many new fabrications and imaginations against the “thus saith the Lord” of the Bible. One of the key elements of this mark is that of supplanting the Scriptures as the authority and design of God for something else. Many times this done by boasting loudly that they are biblical, and then twisting Scripture to meet what they want anyway.
How to Discern this Mark: This is very difficult to do, but basically a person has to understand the Scriptures in order to discern when people twist Scripture or seek some other authority. I think that historically the other authorities which have commonly crept in are the following:
A Pope or Authoritative Super Christian – I think that many bad churches grow around the cultic personality of one of its leaders or founders. Roman Catholicism has a long line of these “popes” as they call them, and brag about this line going back to the days of the Apostles, and they make Peter the first Pope. A question here is that where in the Bible does this genealogy type thing come from? We see it in the Bible in the case of the Messiah, but never do we see it anywhere else. In fact, every old church that can trace its existence back hundreds of years are all rotten spiritually. Why is the tracing a good thing then? There are protestants that want to do the same thing, most notoriously the Baptist Bride group, which think that tracing a line (the Trail of Blood) gives them something of legitimacy today. If this line was traced back from their church one generation back until Jesus’ day, it still would not mean that in the 40 years between the previous generation to them, they could not have gone off the deep end.
We also see regular cult groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Judge Rutherford), Mormons (Joseph Smith), and Seventh Day Advents (Ellen White) centering their authority on somebody else’s supposed spirituality. Just because you are the son or daughter of a great man of God does not mean anything. The sons of Eli were greatly corrupt even though they came from a man of God. The sons of King David likewise did not all turn out as spiritual as their father.
Mystic (Secret) Knowledge and Extra-Biblical Revelation – Another common practice is to claim a higher spiritual knowledge the rest of Christianity, and this many times comes through what they describe as divine revelations. Joseph Smith supposedly had these revelations and they say that true biblical Christianity was lost from the Apostolic age until Joseph Smith. The words of Jesus that His kingdom (in the church) will stand and the gates of hell will not prevail against it comes to mind. So Satan won the war for 1800 years according to the Mormons until Joseph Smith comes along? Likewise Smith’s dislike for the concept of hell now clarified that all believers since Adam and Eve were mistaken about God’s punishing people eternally until Smith clarifies this? Ellen White of the Seventh Day Adventist group also is promoted as a modern prophet giving new revelation from God. Excuse me, but according to Scripture, where do we see women prophets teaching men? This is exactly the opposite of what the Bible declares as biblical (1 Tim 2:11-12).
There is a rampant movement underneath the changes within churches of our days to “return to apostolic Christianity”. This is usually taking some particular aspect of apostolic Christianity and making it a major issue, even though the group twists the doctrine or practice from the Apostolic example in order to make it distinctive of their group. The Seventh Day Adventist group makes Saturday the accepted day of worship instead of Sunday, even though clearly the NT Church in Acts met on Sunday not Saturday. In the time after Jesus’ resurrection, the Sunday was when Thomas wasn’t present (but all the rest were) and they were in a worship service and Jesus appeared to them. Why would Jesus appear at a worship service on a non-standard, non-commanded worship day?
The issue here is that the group proclaims they, and they alone are “biblical” because they practice X practice, or because they believe in X doctrine. To discern between truth and error, between a good church and a bad church, we have to understand that there are many things that make a church a “good church”. Equally a church may have many good elements down exactly as they did in the NT, but several prominent bad elements would still make it a spiritually dangerous place to be.
A good rule of thumb here is not to worry about what you don’t know yet, just make sure that you obey everything God has already shown you, and that you are studying to grow and understand more. I won’t take the space and time to elaborate on this, but the idea of secret spiritual knowledge is one of the Mystic Religions which pretends to hold truth hostage by those who have discovered it. This means they control everything or they won’t allow you access to truth. This is not biblical friend, and what is biblical is that truth is open and public, freely given without charge whatsoever. Schools, book writers, and a host of others want to make merchandise of the truth, which is simply the mark of a false prophet, of heresy, and of domineering “brethren” (if they are even saved) which are far from the NT example of Christ.
Every doctrine and teaching that is necessary for us to be saved and live in obedience to God is open, public, and free. What God has not shown us is because it is not needful, or necessary for us to know it yet.
Tradition, habit, practicality, and popularity – Another common authority used today instead of Scriptures is tradition, that is what we have always done. Another is objections to making changes because the status quo is better. Don’t rock the boat. Another one here is whatever works well is used as an authority. If something works, don’t change it. Another would be what is popular. Rick Warren is an example of the latter making
Let’s start this point off by saying that God has established a way of teaching spiritual truth. You or I may not particularly like the way God has given us to achieve spiritual growth, but nonetheless that is the way, and the only way to really have success in communicating the truths of God to others. This method which God has established hinges on two key points, first of all there is teaching and preaching. This is standing before a group and reading and then explaining the very words of God. Some people do this very well. But the second point is where we separate the men from the boys. God’s second point is that these who preach and teach must live a godly Christian life in front of those who receive the teaching. This means social settings and non-pulpit, non-classroom settings where we see the life of these people with their wife, with their kids, in meals, in dealing with discipline, with charity, with their own problems and problems of others where they personally sacrifice money, time, effort, etc. This is what validates for others that they want to be like what these preachers preach to them.
This is the glaring problem with Christian education (Bible Institutes and Christian Bible Colleges and Universities) on all levels today. We have a system that is unbiblical. We get the classroom teaching without the close-up examination of the teachers’ personal and spiritual lives. This makes the teaching hollow, false, hypocritical. We do not see and validate their lives with their teachings.
This is the same problem with denominational structure systems. The very topmost leaders are several layers away from the “man in the pew.” The very topmost denominational leaders who decide what doctrine everybody will have, what conduct and practices are biblical or unbiblical, and what is what in general, is usually several states away, and we see them close-up an personal either never, or in a teaching-preaching session where they are giving doctrine, and we cannot validate their message against what we see in their personal life against the life of Christ, our supreme example. This is why many denominations are trying to get a board of directors that are all known pastors. It provides the validity we all seek in at least a muted way.
Only Local Leadership
God’s perfect plan is that each group of believers are autonomous, with the men of God leading, directly and ministering in teaching and preaching be local. I cannot emphasize this enough. All religious groups that grow to any size break down anything good they may bring to the situation because they start a multi-locality group, where control is seized on distant groups by spiritual leaders living in other places. This was how the Roman Catholic church began when the bishops (probably good men) wanted to control more than they physically could. They set up straw men to do their bidding in places they did not want to move their families there to live and work. This presents a breech where the false prophet enters into the local church.
Study Paul’s missionary work, and you will find that Paul had no real “authority” in the Corinthian church to command, control, decide, or anything. They went so far as to make Paul have to write them and ask for permission before he could come and preach. Paul started that church remember. This only serves to emphasize the biblical principle of autonomy. Paul rebuked them for a lot of stuff. Turn to 1 Corinthians 1 and put a marker there and turn to the end of 2 Corinthians, and you will see that God moved Paul to write more to this church to straighten them out than to any other NT church. But in all of this, Paul never once hinted that their concept of autonomy over their own church was wrong. Paul submitted his exhortations to this very structure and for Paul it was inconvenient, but still Paul submitted himself to it, and worked around it to give them the message of God.
Double Standards in Leadership
When we study cults, false religions, and abusive churches, one of the glaring elements that seem to repeat itself endlessly is this matter of a double standards among the leaders of the church. The famous passage, “touch not mine anointed” (1 Chronicles 16:22; Psa 105:15). The correct understanding of these passages is that when the prophets preach the word of God, and it makes you uncomfortable and uneasy, then you are not to attack the person of these men. God in no way is saying that when a preacher, pastor, or spiritual leader is living an ungodly life, that we are not to speak up and object strongly to this ungodly example. The understanding and teaching in the majority of churches today is “God will chastise his own servants and ministers, so I as a church member have nothing to do with that.”
My question is then, why did God advise the churches in general about the false prophets, and exhort them to separate from them? The level of treatment of false doctrine, hypocritical conduct, and spiritual abuse in the ministry is the level of a church, and the normal members of that church are the ones who should be vigilant and then take proper actions if needed. There can be no “authority” over the local church except God Himself. Likewise within the local church, there is no authority over the pastor, because he is the “pastor” which governs (has authority over) or “rules” the church as a father does his family (1 Timothy 3:4-5). So the point hinges on things as God presents them to us. Paul taught the members to recognize and reject false prophets, abusive ministers, and hypocritical leaders.
You cannot do this if the leader is not local. Even Paul and his band of missionaries had to live among these churches for a while so that they would know their lifestyles. A good example of this is the Thessalonians church. Their situation was that some taught on the prompt return of our Lord, and these people took it to heart, sold their possessions and houses, and went out on a hill to wait on his return. When they got hungry, they asked for their brethren that didn’t do that to give them food, and God corrects this erroneous conduct through Paul. But notice how this has to work.
1 Thess 4:11 “to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”
2 Thess 3:11 “For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 … we command… that with quietness they work”
1 Thess 1:5 “For our gospel came not unto you in word only; but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.”
2 Thess 3:7 “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.”
Paul lived what he preached among these Thessalonian Christians. This gave his message the power of the Holy Spirit which was how and why they benefited from Paul’s teaching and preaching. This rule or principle of theoretical given in a container of practical is as valid and powerful today as in Paul’ day, and most good colleges and universities have abandoned all theory to put their students “out in the field” to validate the theory with actual visual observation of the principle in action.
I would also add we see no formal schools, institutes, colleges, or universities nor anything close to that in the New Testament. The only thing anywhere close was the disciples living day by day in the present of Christ. That was a method used by God, but is impossible to repeat as Christ did because we have no Messiah amongst us. Simply put, it only works to that extremity when the teacher is Jesus Christ. The disciples gave up their daily life, gave up their vocational professions (their work), and moved in with Christ. That is the methodology of teaching today (we move to the school to live there), and it doesn’t work very well. We get an overdose of theory, almost nil in practical observation, and the result is an egotistical, haughty, puffed up expert who has no practical side to his life at all. He is a hypocrite cautiously making sure nobody sees his sinful side (thus hiding his personal life and family life from his ministry, and thus being a false prophet in principle no matter what he teaches.
Accessibility to the personal life of the pastor is what this is all about. The pastor concept has at its foundation a person who sacrifices and endures hardship of living in the fields with the sheep in order to take care of them. Many pastors coming out of seminaries don’t have this sacrificial element in their mindset. They seek soft, comfortable positions where the sheep can take care of them instead of they take care of the sheep. Oh sure they preach the services, but they have no burning desire to tackle the spiritual problems of their charge, and buy a book of sermons to preach through each year, and carry on a life of luxury and seeking to please their passions (sports, hobbies, and non-ministry related things).
Women in Leadership
I have to deal with this aspect because it has become excessive in some corners of Christianity. If we are obligated to follow the Bible’s commands, then one clear indication of a bad church is that it goes directly “in your face” against Bible commands. When we deal with hypocritical pastors, we cannot forget the women pastors.
1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife,
Paul gives the requirements for a bishop after explaining what a woman’s spiritual goals should be. In the transition verses between the two, Paul clearly prohibits ALL WOMEN from taking a position of spiritual authority in the church or the things of God. (Here I am being generous to the women, because Paul’s teaching is that the woman is not to be over the man in anything, work, politics, etc.) The phrase “husband of one wife” is really mistranslated here. There is no such word for husband or wife in the Bible, either in the Old Testament nor in the New Testament. The word in both Hebrew and Greek is simply “man” and “woman”. In Greek there are two terms for man “ander” which means male, masculine, and “anthropos” which means something like human, a person. Anthropology comes from this last word and means the study of humanity.
Paul chose the word ander, which means the requirement for pastor is that he has to be masculine, and married to a feminine person. No women pastors are God’s will. No homosexual or lesbian pastors are allowed in God’s scheme of things.
I have read dozens of arguments against this interpretation, but the bottom line is this. If you take the words of Scripture at face value, and they make perfect sense, why seek any other interpretation or sense? There is no problem in this passage that would warrant that we need to take them any other way other than what is their face value. Those who destroy all sense in this passage in other to allow women pastors, or women over the male church members in any way, do so because the teaching is not what they want to accept. That is a spiritual problem on their part, but the Bible stands on its declarations, and we cannot change these things at will, without warrant, without anything more than, “I don’t want to accept that.”
Therefore my only conclusion in this matter has to be that I see every single church that has a woman pastor, a woman in any authority or presiding position (such as female song-leaders) as being a bad church which rejects the authority of God’s word when it suits them. There may be reasons why churches do this, but they all boil down to the men not wanting to get involved in the ministry. If the entire group is female, fine, let them have a spiritual woman over them. Most good churches have women’s groups that do exactly that. But laziness in the men to do what is necessary to have a church means the church is a bad church.
hides financial income and outgo, deals dishonestly promising and then not fulfilling their promises.
Here the list would seem to be endless as to what pastors and churches have come up with the manipulate people so that they are under their control, especially so that they cannot leave, or so that they cannot complain or cause discontent. I have to go through some of them so that you can get a general idea of what I am talking about here.
For example, some churches immediately put new visitors into ministry positions in their first weeks of attending their church. Perhaps there is a great need, but in any case, we are specifically prohibited from putting novices into ministry in 1 Timothy 3:6-7 and 1 Timothy 5:22 “lay hands suddenly on no man”, and I think God’s point in these passages is that we are to take a slow route of using people in the ministry. Slow means knowing well what the character and moral fiber of a person is before allowing them to minister. Nobody can discern this in a matter of a few months of causal involvement after services, much less a few weeks. The idea of these bad churches is to obligate the person so that they are refusing or failing in their “obligation to the Lord” if they want to leave the church. This is a nice psychological trap, but in the end any obligations is in the church and not in new people who have just come in.
Lack of Christian Liberty
Another aspect of this same issue is the lack of any real concept and practice of Christian liberty among its membership. Study the biblical principle of Christian liberty (2 Cor 3:17 “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty“; 1 Cor 8; 1 Cor 10:29; ). You will find that where God’s Spirit and working exists, there is always liberty. This liberty is freedom from slavery to other people and systems, and freedom to serve God as one sees fit. This is the very foundation of Christian service.
Study the false prophets in New Testament times and you will always find control freaks, supposedly Christian, godly leaders who are seeking to control their brethren.
Galatians 2:3-4 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: 4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
Galatians 5:13-16 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
2 Peter 2:19-22 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. 20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
This liberty that we have from God to serve God should not be a means to do evil, but should be used to free us to better serve God, with our hearts seeking new forms and activities to really honor God and accomplish His will.
1 Peter 2:16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
Let me digress here on this point a bit. Control over the lives of other Christians is exactly the point of these false prophets. That being the case, every Christian needs to understand that God has not structured the Christian life with popes of any kind. A pope is a papa, a daddy that tells you everything you have to do, how to do it, etc. It causes me great grief of heart to see fundamental Baptists having to run to their pastor or spiritual leader to ask permission to buy a car, or with whom they will marry, or permission for a business activity. These things are not for pastors to decide. They are for you to decide. It is fine to ask counsel, because in the multitude of counsel there is wisdom. But many have the attitude that they do not want to think or figure things out, so they ask their pastor to decide for them. This is where a good pastor refuses to answer, and a false prophet will step in and very willingly begin a relationship of slavery over that foolish Christian.
I need to extend this a bit into the office and function of pastor. The local church is like a sheepfold, whereby a man is pastoring these people, which is spiritual caretaking. This spiritual caretaking must be protecting the liberty of the sheep without placing them under the slavery of the pastor. The relationship HAS TO BE one of honor, love, and tender care. The sheep follow the pastor because he takes care of them and keeps them free. Men drive cattle and pigs and other livestock. But pastors lead sheep. That means they trust the pastor, and go where he goes because of the proven trust and wisdom of the minister. Study Ezekiel 34 carefully. It is a rebuke by God to the pastors of Israel. The picture given is one of supposed pastors who overstep their limits, and take advantage of the flock they tend, and treat them with cruelty and brutality. They scare the sheep by brutal actions and words that scatter the sheep instead of gathering the sheep. When the pastor loves and cares tenderly for people, this gathers, and is the exact opposite of the scattering action.
Frightened sheep do not do their “thing.” Their thing is twofold, they produce milk and wool, and they reproduce themselves. Shepherds reproduce shepherds, and sheep reproduce sheep. Spiritually church members should be producing spiritual fruit pleasant in the sight of God. THEY (the sheep) SHOULD BE REPRODUCING through evangelism. Evangelism is like an apple. It has the small seed of the gospel buried in the middle of a sweet desirable fruit. The spiritual fruit that is character transformation into the image of Christ, pure godly morality, is what should surround every presentation of the gospel. People stop and listen because of who and what you are as much as wanting to save their souls from perdition.
Another area where this control and manipulation craziness is apparent is in exiting the church or group. All cults want to make it difficult for a person to leave them. I have talked with Disciples of Christ followers that have told me that they cannot move to another city without first getting permission from them, so that they find a Disciples of Christ church in that city for them to transfer their membership to first. In other words, they control their lives down to extreme details. I have read in several different cultic groups where permission from the pastor or leader is essential before contracting marriage. Some even go so far as to pressure or force some members into divorce when they are not thinking about that at all, because the spouse is outside the group, and is pressing a concept reality into the member.
sheep stealing, bribery, another gospel, empire building.