Paul gave a warning to the congregation of believers at Corinth, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”. (1 Cor. 10:12).
Sometimes, when we read the writings, or hear the pronunciations, of leaders, we forget that those who have been deceived, as a result of which they become deceivers, can be in positions upon which rests greater responsibility.
They can be the nicest, most sincere, and diligent leaders, not the openly malicious wolves, often imagined.
In 1 Kings, chapter 13 we find the account of a prophet who the Scriptures describe as being “a man of God from Judah to Bethel”, who was there because of “ the word of the LORD” He had been sent by God as a His mouthpiece, to prophesy against Jeroboam, the kin. There could be no doubt about the prophets credentials because His prophecy proved to be true, fulfilled in the way it was spoken. The Lord healed the king’s withered hand through the ministry of this prophet. He was a man whose single mindedness towards God kept him from coveting the honors of this world. Such a man would not likely be deceived. Well! Would he?
Have a read: 1 Kings 13:1-10
How we praise God for such an upright, honourable man!
One of his peers arrives on the scene, a prophet, who came to deceive the faithful prophet with an invitation to do exactly what the Lord had forbidden (1 Kings 13:14-17).
At this point we could be forgiven if we concluded that all was well and the first prophet‘s integrity would hold firm. It didn’t! He believed the older prophet. He was deceived.
Look at how God’s man was deceived! The older prophet said to him, “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, “Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water”(1 Kings 13:18). Then we read these vivid words, “But he lied to him”(18b).
The first prophet, honorable man of God that he was, could have had a banquet with the King, but would rather be faithful to his Lord. Now, we find this very same man , heeding a lying prophet, who gave him a similar invitation, which refuted God’s instructions, by speaking a lie.
After enjoying the repast, he resumed his journey, but not without a reminder of his unfaithfulness. The old prophet now drops a bombshell, “and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, Thus says the LORD, "Because you have disobeyed the command of the LORD, and have not observed the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you, but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, Eat no bread and drink no water; your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.'
There are many questions we could ask about this story. The old prophet proved to be a true prophet, his prophesy proved to be a true word from God, yet he had lied. Whatever the motives, he was used to test the first prophet, who had received a direct word from God. Why did he succumb?
Apparently the old prophet knew what would happen and willingly gave his donkey, a precious possession, to the first prophet.
The first prophet continued on his way and, “………. a lion met him on the way and killed him, and his body was thrown on the road, with the donkey standing beside it; the lion also was standing beside the body....And he (the old prophet) went and found his body thrown on the road with the donkey and the lion standing beside the body; the lion had not eaten the body nor torn the donkey”...” (1 Kings 24, 28).
What is this telling us?
There can be no doubt that there are many leaders today who are knowledgeable, nice, sincere, clean-cut, good orators, rhetoricians of great skill, but how many are really like the old prophet?
How many believers are studying the Scriptures for themselves, hearing the Spirit of God speak through His word, so that they will not be convinced by leaders who speak false words which they claim is what God says?
It’s very easy to point to the obvious cults, which abound. But what of the cults that are forming within mainstream Christianity, who have evangelical statements of doctrine, but revolve around one man, or a small group of men who claim to have the authority of God?
Every word spoken by those entrusted as elders, pastors, or whatever they might be named, MUST be put to the test of Scripture itself, and not what the speaker or writer claims that Scripture says. Leaders need to often remind themselves of Paul's warning to the believers at Corinth , after all they are a part of the congregation, not apart from it.
What is your measure of truth? What a famous author, dead or alive, says? What a great preacher, dead or alive, says? What some, so-called prophet says? What your denominational Confession, or Statement of faith says? Or! Is your measure of truth what God has revealed in His word?
There are no infallible teachers, preachers, elders, and that includes the pope and me! The only sure word of God is what is written in the pages of Scripture!