Good Men and Charlatans Pt 1

Near-universal access to the internet has provided us all with many benefits – and just as many curses. There is one internet experience we all seem to ‘enjoy’ – the scammer.

It may be the email from an African prince offering to share their wealth if you’ll just help them get it out of their country – via your bank account, of course.

Or the pre-recorded phone message from the Tax Office warning you that you “tax number has been suspended and a warrant has been issued for your arrest.”

The internet should make these scams easy to see through, should make it easy to check the legitimacy, but sadly it seems to have made more people vulnerable.

To be sucked in by these scammers, deceivers and charlatans – as serious and tragic as it is – is nowhere near as serious and tragic as being sucked in by religious scammers, deceivers and charlatans.

And unfortunately, the Christian church is rife with them too. They are often immensely popular and influential too.

Jesus was accused of being a charlatan by some of the Jews too, although we know He was anything but that. … Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people” [John 7:12 NLT].

We looked at two types of religious charlatans on Sunday – false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing. I’ve seen both in action, and seen the emotional and relational pain they cause. But more important – and more reprehensible – is the spiritual damage they cause.

No doubt you’ve all heard ‘prophetic words’ from the pulpit, or received ‘a word from the Lord’ from someone who has a ‘prophetic ministry.’ Did you receive it uncritically, did you put it to the test?

There were an abundance of ‘prophets’ who declared that it was the Lord’s will that Donald Trump be re-elected. How many of them have repented and apologised for their mistake? What’s that sound? Crickets!

Most of them go on to the next ‘prophecy’ as if nothing happened. And their faithful followers allow them to continue never once questioning the legitimacy of their claim to have a ‘prophetic voice.’

There is a disturbing passage of Scripture that addresses exactly this in 1Kings 22:1-28. Four hundred prophets declared ‘the Lord’s will’ to King Ahab – all proclaiming unanimously precisely what Ahab wanted to hear.

That’s what false prophets do. They will always tell you what you want to hear. Hence their popularity. It’s why we keep listening to them, and keep supporting their so-called ‘ministry.’

Only one – Micaiah, one amongst four hundred –was willing to speak the truth. Ahab hated him because he told the truth; Micaiah refused to ‘tickle Ahab’s ear’ [see 2Tim 4:3].

If only we would apply Scriptural tests to these prophets. If we did, we would no longer be conned by these charlatans. Simple tests they are too.

  • Are their prophecies specific, not vague nonsense that passes for a Christianised horoscope?
  • Do they have a track record of accuracy?
  • Are they pointing you relentlessly to Christ and the cross, to His sufficiency and your inadequacy?

Read the tests that should be applied in Deut 13:1-9 and Deut 18:20-22. If we demanded our prophets meet these simple standards, most of them wouldn’t survive beyond their next utterance.

Which would be a good thing.

Elijah would never have tolerated these modern prophets. Look what he did with the ones he faced off against in 1Kings 18:17-40. It’s a penalty for a false prophet that we could never apply today. God will deal with them Himself one day. But surely the standard for testing prophecy still applies.

The apostle Peter said “we have the prophetic word made more certain” in New Testament times [see 2Pet 1:19 AMP]. Unfortunately, it seems that we have prophetic words made more vague today, and more subject to failure and correction.

Surely a prophet who has the Holy Spirit indwelling him or her couldn’t make a mistake? How can any prophet claim to speak the word of a God who never makes a mistake when they make such blatant mistakes themselves? Surely something is amiss here?

I won’t say anything about 1Kings 22:22-23, or about Deut 13:3 and what that implies about false prophets. Read it, ponder it – and tremble – for yourself. Nor will I say anything about 2Tim 4:3-4 or Acts 20:29-30. But you really should read these yourself.

It grieves me and angers me to see so many people conned by these charlatans – including some good friends of mine. After all, it’s not as if there are no warnings in Scripture about these frauds.

But I guess, if you stop reading your Bible, or stop believing God’s word is sufficient for you, then you open yourself up to this deception, to these charlatans.

There is, however, one Prophet who has spoken truly, one whose words will never fail. You can find them in the Bible.  

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… [Heb 1:1-2].

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work [2Tim 3:16-17].

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