by Paul Benson
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:14
Here is something that is extremely hard for many to grasp, and most would consider it quite an outrageous statement: There can be great benefit received from false doctrine and false prophesy!
Yes, you heard me correctly. Gross error in preaching and teaching can be very helpful to strengthen the Body of Christ. In fact, without exposure to such the Christian cannot develop and mature properly! Stymied by these strange words? Please, unfurrow your brow, and allow me to explain.
Lets touch upon what I see as a very important understanding which has almost completely disappeared from modern American Christianity.
For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 1Corinthians 11:19
The Ministry Of Correction
The reason most cannot fathom what possible benefit could come from someone speaking falsely to God’s people is because we have been steeped in the tradition of a one-man-pulpit for so long we have lost touch with the corrective function of eldership; and the discernment building that comes from witnessing corrective ministry in action. That is what Paul was alluding to in this verse above.
That when someone speaks to the Body of Christ in error, and then an elder(s) speaks a word of correction, it gives the rest of us a chance to see error trumped by truth, and also to see the fruit of Spirit-led words contrasted against words that are of the flesh (or possibly satanic). By this the Christian learns to discern those who are approved by God, and those who are not. Great benefit comes from listening to the poison of error nullified by the antidote of truth.
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety. ~Solomon son of David
An open pulpit is a must for many reasons, and YES it will be misused on occasion. But any proclamation of falsehood, IF countered by a subsequent patient and loving correction, helps build discernment in the congregation and it is a very necessary part of Christian growth. But sadly few churches have an open pulpit so the people are robbed of this vital (and biblical) function of the ministry. This needs to change!
For most Christians this discernment building function of a proper expression of Christian assembly is something they seldom (or quite likely never) have experienced. The ‘program’ format of most church assembly is so tightly controlled that the Holy Spirit is not welcome to interrupt it; let alone anyone with a claim God was moving upon him to speak a word in his behalf to that group! But what do the Scriptures teach about this matter?
Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. 30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. 31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. 33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 1Corinthians 14:29
This is a passage many misunderstand (or is ignored all together by Cessationists). Truly anointed preaching / teaching is a form of prophetic utterance. The reference to prophesy in the Bible does not always speak of the foretelling of the gift of prophesy, but at times is dealing with what many would call anointed speaking. Since one who is speaking under the anointing of the Spirit is speaking forth from God, it is proper to include that oration in what is referred to as prophetic. I believe that is what Paul was referring to in this passage.
SERIOUS FOOD 4 THOUGHT!: Notice Paul was instructing them that there should be multiple speakers in the assemblies of the early Church; and that a judgment should be given as to the correctness of what was spoken!
And also a possibility that God may interrupt a speaker to add a confirming word from another speaker! What would most preachers today do if someone interrupted them in the middle of a ‘sermon’ to obey Jesus and speak what he had just moved upon them to share, or if someone stood and critiqued the weekly message ‘Pastor’ had just given? They (and Jesus) would most likely be shown the door! You know it as well as I do!
The one-man-pulpit not only robs the assembly of the safeguard of multiple witness (in the multitude of counselors there is safety), unfortunately it also isolates the pastor/priest/prophet/guru himself from the corrective apparatus of an open pulpit. And more often than not that correction is desperately needed!
It is because of the strict control and rigid format of most church ‘services’ that most Christians have never learned to recognize the prompting of the Holy Ghost, or to move in response to that prompting. They just sit in the pew week after week and stagnate; never expressing any working function as a member of the Body of Christ (other than singing, clapping, sitting through a sermon, and opening their wallet when requested).
But every member of a Body has a function! Do you know what yours is? Are you moving in it in a fruitful manner? That is the reason you are here on Earth as a Christian in case you don’t know. You have a role and a function to fulfill as a member of the Body of Christ. Let’s git ‘er dun!
I like to use this example: IF you took your hand and tucked it into your pocket and left it there for ten years, never using that arm, what would that arm look like at the end of those ten years? It would be withered and atrophied. A pathetic sight for sure. Sadly most of the Body of Christ fits that description!
This is why a home Church or cell group is usually always a healthier environment as far as growing in discernment, and learning to function in your calling in Christ. I honestly believe that no matter what kind of assembly we belong to we should demand an open pulpit; and if that demand is not met we should find a different assembly. Period! No, on second thought, let’s make that a BIG FAT PERIOD!
Though indeed when people are granted a greater opportunity to speak it will certainly lead to missteps by fledglings, and words of error by those filled with error; but it also affords the vital function, and discernment building quality, of words of correction spoken in love, meekness, and humility. This greatly helps the Body to learn to recognize the difference between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. That is the point the writer was trying to get a cross in this our opening verse:
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:14
Just like muscles, discernment needs exercise to grow and become strong. And we need to fellowship in an environment that actually exercises our spiritual senses, not one which smothers the fire of the Holy Ghost with a wet blanket of dead religiosity and lifeless programs. But even a very lively service can be totally void of the presence of Christ (and sadly most are)! Today’s believers seem to have lost the ability to distinguish between activity and anointing. There is much discernment needed in this area as well.
[SIDE NOTE: In a very real way I see online discussion forums in this same light: as a discernment building exercise. People who read the back and forth discussion (or all too often contention) learn discernment as they see words of life contrasted against words of the flesh. When I post to comment sections or discussion forums my thoughts are far more focused upon those others who will read my words (and the accountability associated with that) than what effect I am having upon the person I am having the discussion with!
Although some are better at putting on a front than others, in the long run the fleshly side of error will usually manifest in one form or another. And as people learn to connect the fruits of the flesh to words of error, and the fruits of the Spirit to words of life a great benefit comes their way which will assist them in staying on the path of truth. Again, a one-man-pulpit does not provide this contrast and robs the assembly of having their discernment exercised in this manner.]
Of course there has to be wisdom followed in an open pulpit setting or error, foolishness, or simply just a very chatty person can dominate the meetings. And sometimes elders may need to take a person aside and inform them they are not moving in accord with the Holy Spirit. But to so tightly control the assemblies that only a designated speaker is allowed to speak is usurping a position that belongs to the Lord. Only he is the Head of the Body. Eldership is merely grown up sheep looking out for the rest of the flock. It is not a position of dominion.
MORE SERIOUS FOOD 4 THOUGHT:
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. John 10:16
ONE Fold and ONE Shepherd! My oh my, have we lost touch with that concept! I personally think men have a lot of nerve to refer to themselves as the ‘shepherd of their flock’! The pastor-rule or clergy-over-laity model was never ordained of God. It is an invention of man’s prideful need to dominate and control. It needs to cease!
Although there is certainly oversight and authority expressed in the Body of Christ as the anointing of the Spirit works through mature believers to guide and safeguard the less mature; the word shepherd is never used once in the KJV New Testament in regard to elders of the flock! And the word pastor only occurs one time in a hyphenated form (pastors-teachers); which is in itself also a reference to eldership, and not a position of dominion.
Although there are certain words (bishop etc.) which may or may not express some shepherding qualities, the word Shepherd is only used in regard to the Lord Jesus himself (Heb. 13:20, 1Peter 2:25, 1Peter 5:4). There is a very good reason for this. He alone is the Shepherd of the flock! ONE SHEPHERD! The sheep are HIS, and his alone. I think today’s believers could really stand to do some contemplating on John chapter 10!
The Other Extreme
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20
There is of course an opposite extreme to the rigid and stifling control we see in so many fellowships. I am referring to the groups, churches, and even entire movements who exercise no discernment at all, and gladly receive whatever wind of doctrine or bizarre manifestations that come along.
I have been in meetings where foolishness and outright heresy were allowed to run rampant like an undisciplined child full of sugar. Meetings where new-agers and *N.A.R. deceivers were free to spread their deception, false signs, and lying wonders; and it was all welcomed with open arms. Few in this day seem to realize that to depart from the truth is to depart from Christ (as shown clearly in the verses quoted above)!
*[WARNING! The New Apostolic Reformation / Seven Mountains Mandate / Dominionism movement is rife with the error of false teachers / prophets; as well as the manifestation of seducing spirits masquerading as the Holy Spirit. Many sincere people are caught up in this deception and cannot see it is leading them to the global religion which will follow the evil one. The path the Cotton Candy Prophets are following is the road to Rome! BEWARE THE N.A.R.! ]
There has to be a strong representation of eldership in a group to speak out the truth necessary to triumph over error or much damage results. I have seen somewhat healthy and stable fellowships transformed into a circus of error and a carnival of confusion by lowering their guard and allowing in the current wave of counterfeit revival that has swept this nation in the last couple of decades.
The Dangers of Debate
In this discussion on deriving benefit from seeing falsehood corrected we would be negligent if we did not include a warning of the danger of administering correction in a prideful or ungodly manner.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-20
In this list of sins (of which most believers sadly could not even define them all) which will keep a person out of God’s eternal kingdom, if not repented of and turned from, we see the word ‘variance’. Not a word we would frequently use today, but if this word is describing a sin that can damn a soul it’s probably a good idea to know what it means. Don’t you agree? The exact same Greek word was translated in this next verse as debate.
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers… Romans 1:29
Lets take a look at the definition of that word translated as variance and also debate.
Strong’s Definitions G2054
Of uncertain affinity; a quarrel, that is, (by implication) wrangling: – contention, debate, strife, variance.
Total KJV occurrences: 9
So we see this grave danger of being shut out of God’s Kingdom is concerning a quarrelsome behavior described as wrangling, contention, debate, strife, and variance. Although some seem to really enjoy the stimulus of a rousing debate, it is a fleshly stimulus. God’s Word presents it as a defilement; and behavior to be shunned by the follower of Christ. Ministering words of truth as correction through a prideful contentious spirit will make you just as wrong as the person you are correcting! We need to understand what a great defilement to our heart that is in the eyes of our Lord.
If I am in verbal discussion (or correspondence) with someone, and a contentious spirit begins to manifest, I will *normally end that discussion pronto. I’m outta here! You can even say you ‘won’ the discussion; I don’t care! I have (hopefully) learned to avoid defiling myself by quarreling with someone instead of just speaking the truth in love as we are called to.
*There may be times the Lord would have you get fired up and maintain a strong line of rebuke to a person, but if you are doing it under your own steam (i.e. a contentious quarrelsome spirit), and not at the leading of the Holy Spirit you might as well turn your rebuke upon your own self, because you are certainly needing it! We need to recognize contention as the fruit of a prideful heart.
Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom. Proverbs 13:10
Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. Psalms 138:6
A sad reality is the multitudes fully steeped in a religious pride (pride of position, pride of scholarship, pride of opinion etc.) who have no idea how far they really are from God. God does not draw near the proud of heart. He distances himself from them (until the day of Judgment that is. OUCH!).
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. James 3:14-17
We must always labor to maintain a walk before the Lord, and a manner of ministry to others, that evidences a heart of meekness and humility. Whether it is speaking in the congregation, speaking correction to the deceived, posting to comment sections or discussion forum, or even just conversing with friends or family we must always maintain a carefulness in our manner. A prideful contentious attitude should be just as abhorrent to us as lustful or violent behavior.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion I think we can now agree there can be great benefit derived from false teaching and false prophesy; IF it is corrected in a truthful and godly manner before those who are seeking to learn what is right and wrong concerning the Christian faith.
I hope you have found this article somewhat thought provoking. It is my firm belief the modern Church is quite out of sync with God’s Word and his ways; and we desperately need to return to a Biblical expression of the Christian faith; and of our assembling together as believers. In a recent article I spoke on a similar vein but with the focus upon what Jesus said about how the Church should be structured. You can find that writing at this link
May the blessing of the Lord be upon those all with a love for his truth;
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