Authored By :
Published On :
June 24, 1998
Last Updated :
March 12, 2023
Christian Faith Maligned And Ostracized, Spiritual Warfare And Mental Battleground, Bring Every Thought Into Captivity, Spiritual Conflict: At Home, At Church, In Our Fellowships, Spiritual Attacks From Within, Conflict In The First Century Church, Grace vs Works, Scriptures Regarding False Brethren, They Went Out From Among Us, Backsliders In John Chapter Six, Modern Smooth-Talking False Shepherds, Jesus' Warnings About False Prophets And False Shepherds, Satan Can Use Unyielded Brethren To Achieve His Objectives, Apostle Peter And Judas, How To Deal With Unrepentant Brethren: Shun Them, Cursing And Praying Against Our Enemies, Paul Curses The Evil Sorcerer Elymas, Danger Of Impeding God's Witnesses, Judases Within Our Christian Ranks, Don't Touch God's Anointed, Consequences Of Fighting Against The Lord, God's Rebuke And Chastisements
As our Christian faith is increasingly maligned with each passing year, and as we Christians are ostracized more and more from society due to our faith in Jesus Christ, and as persecution against the Lord's children also intensifies around the world, more and more of the Lord's shepherds will hopefully emphasize the fact that God's children are truly involved in genuine spiritual warfare. As I point out in articles such as "The Battle is Not Yours Alone!", this war is not being fought with nuclear weapons, or with fighter jets, or with missiles, tanks and guns. Rather, it is being waged with words and thoughts. Furthermore, the battleground for this war is not some distant, foreign land. Rather, it is in our very own minds and hearts.
It is for this reason, that in writing to the brethren at the Church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul admonishes us to bring every thought into captivity. In other words, we must control our thoughts, and not allow the enemy -- Satan -- to poison our minds with his lies and doubts, as we see by this verse:
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;"
2 Corinthians 10:5, KJV
While this ongoing spiritual conflict between the children of the Lord and the children of Satan is worldwide in scope, and is often recognizable through real, physical persecution against our Christian brethren in foreign lands, or in more recent years, through legal battles within the United States itself, it is also comprised of many smaller, hidden battles which are being waged on a daily basis in our personal lives, in our families, or else in the group of Christians with whom we fellowship. This may take the form of our congregation at church, or a gathering at home such as a home fellowship or home church, or even online through some form of electronic fellowship -- such as the social networks -- which are many.
While some Christians are quick to recognize when spiritual attacks originate from without, it is those which are born within our own fellowship which can do the most severe and lasting damage. Sadly, sometimes the tools for these attacks can be those very Christians whom we have viewed and trusted as our own dear brethren and fellow laborers in the Lord.
Considering the clear Scriptural precedent, that this occurs should really come as no surprise to us. As I point out in other articles, the First Century Church was plagued with these kinds of problems. Back then, the primary conflict was between the Lord's Disciples who viewed Salvation as a free Gift which was obtained through faith in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ alone, and their legalistic Jewish brethren who tried to place an obstacle in the path of new Believers by insisting that one still had to adhere to the Mosaic Law in order to merit Salvation. This is a topic which I discuss at length in other articles.
In short, these legalists tried to make Salvation a matter of both Grace and good works through the observance of the Mosaic Law, as if to suggest that the Blood of Jesus Christ was not a sufficient ransom price to cover the debt for our sins, and thus purchase for us Forgiveness, Redemption and Salvation. Of course, as many modern Christians realize, this doctrine of mixing Grace with works was quite clearly contrary to the Original Teaching which the Lord imparted to the Twelve Apostles, as well as to the Apostle Paul. It is no wonder then that the Apostle Paul was forced to dedicate so much of his Epistles to exposing this treacherous false doctrine. His thoughts are summed up quite well in the following verse:
"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Romans 11:6, KJV
As Paul clearly informs us, either we are saved by the Grace of God through Jesus Christ alone, or else we are saved by our own good works. This difference of opinion in the First Century Church became so severe, that the Apostles had to begin issuing warnings to their flocks to beware of these false brethren who had come in to spy out their liberty, and to draw away converts from the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These sober warnings are easily recognizable in such verses as the following:
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."
Romans 16:17, KJV
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him . . . For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15, KJV
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
Galatians 1:6-9, KJV
"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 2:4, KJV
"Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision."
Philippians 3:2, KJV
"If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself."
1 Timothy 6:3-5, KJV
"Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake."
Titus 1:9-11, KJV
"But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself."
Titus 3:9-11, KJV
"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us."
1 John 2:19, KJV
"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds."
2 John 1:7-11, KJV
As we have already seen, these deceptive, false brethren to whom the Apostles were referring, were the Jewish disciples who were still under the Mosaic Law. Even though they claimed to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for the sins of the world, they later left the fold of the First Century Church; which according to the Apostle John, simply proves that they were never really true disciples to begin with. As you may recall, Jesus likewise experienced the very same thing with some of His followers, as we see by these verses that are found in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John:
"I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?"
John 6:48-67, KJV
Moving up to our present day, just as the legalistic Jews who still observed the laws regarding circumcision endeavored to defeat the First Century Church from within, today, that old serpent Satan continues to use the very same tactics in order to try to divide and defeat God's children. Many fellowships and flocks have already been infiltrated by pastors, priests, ministers and shepherds who boast of impressive credentials, but whose doctrine consists of damnable heresies. Through their smooth talk and debonaire style, they have been given charge of, and spiritual authority over, many of the Lord's children. I am reminded of the following verse from the Book of Psalms where King David acknowledges the craftiness of his enemies:
"The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords."
Psalm 55:21, KJV
While these people claim to be Christians who trust solely in the Blood of Jesus Christ for their Salvation, once they slyly con their way into the sheepfolds of the Lord, little by little they begin to poison their flocks with a twisted version of the truth. Just like the unbelieving Jews of old, they "offend" the brethren by placing doctrinal stumbling blocks before them, which eventually cause some of them to completely fall away from the truth. As I point out in the article "Have You Read the New Scriptures Yet?", slowly but surely, these wolves in sheep's clothing replace the true Spirit-filled Word of God with the spiritless doctrines and traditions of men. What some of these subtle leaders teach from their pulpits is nothing short of candy-coated poison! The Prophet Isaiah issued the following sobering warning regarding such workers of darkness:
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
Isaiah 5:20, KJV
Jesus was fully aware of the false shepherds and the false prophets which would enter the flocks once He had returned to Heaven. That is why, prior to His departure, He left His Disciples with some very sound advice. Some of that wise counsel is found in the following verses:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
Matthew 7:15-20, KJV
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber . . . And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers . . . All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them . . . The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy . . . But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep."
John 10:1, 5, 8, 10b, 12-13, KJV
It is important that we recognize that it is not only the leader of a church or fellowship whom Satan can use in order to achieve his objectives. That serpent can just as easily use a rebellious brother or sister who is not fully yielded to the Lord's Spirit. While I do not believe that Satan can totally possess such people, even the Scriptures inform us that it is within his power to temporarily use them, until they once again submit themselves to the Lord. Consider the following verses which clearly support this possibility:
"But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
Matthew 16:23, KJV
"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
Luke 22:31-32, KJV
"And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly."
John 13:27, KJV
Thus we see through the examples of Peter and Judas that when one is not completely yielded to the Lord due to pride, stubbornness, or some other sin of the mind or heart, he or she can indeed become a pawn of Satan, either knowingly, or unknowingly. I also discuss this topic in articles such as "Are You Clean Every Whit?".
If your church or fellowship does become the object of such a severe attack, exactly how should it be dealt with? Again, a full answer is to be found in the Word of God. Thank the Lord that we don't have to try to reason these things out in our own minds, or with our own human wisdom. All we have to do is turn to the Lord's wonderful counsel in order to find what we are supposed to do. Thank the Lord for those men who faithfully wrote down the Lord's teachings, as well as their own experiences during the development of the Early Church. So what do the Scriptures advise us to do concerning those brethren who simply refuse to yield themselves to the Lord after several admonitions?
If you recall the verses that we examined earlier concerning false brethren and troublemakers, they included some rather strong phrases such as the following:
1. avoid them
2. let him be accursed
3. from such withdraw thyself
4. A man that is an heretick . . . reject
5. receive him not into your house
6. neither bid him God speed
The following verses also inform us to treat an unrepentant person as a heathen man, to let them be accursed, and to rebuke them sharply:
"Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican."
Matthew 18:15-17, KJV
"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha."
1 Corinthians 16:22, KJV
Note: [anathema = accursed]
"This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;"
Titus 1:13, KJV
Thus, collectively-speaking, Jesus and the Apostles John and Paul provide us with the following counsel regarding how to deal with unrepentant brethren:
1. avoid them
2. let him be accursed
3. from such withdraw thyself
4. A man that is an heretick . . . reject
5. receive him not into your house
6. neither bid him God speed
7. let [him] . . . be an an heathen man
8. rebuke them sharply
Thus we see that if an individual is rejecting the doctrine of Jesus Christ, or acting in an unchristian manner, if he refuses to repent and make amends, he is to be shunned after several admonitions. Some time ago while I was counseling a certain person, I mentioned to him that there are times when instead of praying for certain people, we may need to start praying against them. As I recall, this person was a little surprised and taken back by my counsel. However, we know for a fact that on certain occasions, the Disciples did in fact pray against -- or even curse -- their unbelieving enemies. For example, in the Book of Acts, we find the Apostle Paul cursing the evil sorcerer Elymas with blindness, as we see by this group of verses:
"And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord."
Acts 13:6-12, KJV
Now, obviously, many people are aware of the fact that Jesus instructed His followers to love our enemies, and to pray for those who despitefully use us. Yet here we clearly see Paul cursing a man with blindness. Was Paul out of the Spirit when He did this? Was he not manifesting the love of God towards this man? Obviously, chastisement is precisely what this man needed to put the fear of God into him! As I have pointed out many times before, there is always a balance to be found in the Scriptures, but we will never find it if we just hastily take one verse and make a doctrine out of it. Thus, we need to remember that Jesus also said the following:
"He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."
Matthew 12:30, KJV
This is precisely what Elymas -- the evil sorcerer and Jewish false prophet -- was doing. Not only was he not believing in the Lord himself, but much worse than this, he was doing his best to prevent this hungry deputy from believing in Jesus as well. This is one kind of situation which God will simply not tolerate!
When someone attempts to prohibit a Christian from witnessing to others, he had better watch out; because the Lord may very well stop him in his tracks; just as the Apostle Paul did in the case of the sorcerer Elymas. It would appear that winning this deputy to the Lord must have been a very important part of God's Work and overall plan at that time. Perhaps this man went on to win his entire town to the Lord. Another thing you need to realize is that Paul received the power to strike the sorcerer with blindness from God Himself; so obviously, he was in the Lord's Will when he cursed Elymas. It should be clear then that it is very dangerous business to impede God's children from carrying out their evangelical work, or to stand in their way! Jesus Himself highlights this same point when He says such things as the following:
"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matthew 18:6, KJV
"The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born."
Mark 14:21, KJV
Think about it. Judas Iscariot was one of the very Twelve. He knew Jesus personally and lived with Him for some three years. He heard the truth straight from the Master's own mouth. Yet look what Jesus said of him. As we know, while Judas didn't literally have a millstone placed around his neck, he did go and hang himself after realizing the error of his ways, as we see by the following verses:
"Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself."
Matthew 27:3-5, KJV
"Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out."
Acts 1:18, KJV
Just as Judas betrayed his Master, sometimes our very own brothers and sisters in the Lord can become more of a hinderance than a blessing when they are not fully yielded to God's Spirit. While in their state of delusion, they may actually be fooled into believing that they are doing good and working for the Lord by stirring up trouble within the fellowship. The truth of the matter is that they are doing the exact opposite. Not only are they fighting against us, but as we have already seen, they are fighting against the Lord Himself. This is why we also find verses such as the following in the Bible where we are specifically warned to not touch God's anointed servants:
"Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm."
1 Chronicles 16:22, KJV
"Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm."
Psalm 105:15, KJV
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Matthew 25:40, KJV
"For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye."
Zechariah 2:8, KJV
While the last verse is actually referring to Israel, it can also be applied to any true Believer and servant of the Lord. So in truth, when our Christian brethren turn against us, and purposely hinder God's Work and fight against us, they aren't just betraying us, they are really betraying the Lord Himself. Unless they desist in their foolish behavior, they may have to face some very serious consequences, and they won't like it! As I point out in articles such as "Beholding the Evil and the Good", our Heavenly Father can be a very firm, but very loving Disciplinarian. As we read in the Scriptures:
"Open rebuke is better than secret love."
Proverbs 27:5, KJV
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons . . . Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed."
Hebrews 12:5-8, 11-13, KJV
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God . . . For our God is a consuming fire."
Hebrews 10:31, 12:29, KJV
Please go to part two for the continuation of this series.
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