I have just been reading Ezekiel 22 and realised that there truly is nothing new under the sun. The Old Testament is full of examples of prophets and priests, spiritual leaders who see ministry as a means to enrich themselves.
13 “‘I will surely strike my hands together at the unjust gain you have made and at the blood you have shed in your midst. 14 Will your courage endure or your hands be strong in the day I deal with you? I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it. 15 I will disperse you among the nations and scatter you through the countries; and I will put an end to your uncleanness. 16 When you have been defiled in the eyes of the nations, you will know that I am the Lord.’”
17 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 18 “Son of man, the people of Israel have become dross to me; all of them are the copper, tin, iron and lead left inside a furnace. They are but the dross of silver. 19 Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Because you have all become dross, I will gather you into Jerusalem. 20 As silver, copper, iron, lead and tin are gathered into a furnace to be melted with a fiery blast, so will I gather you in my anger and my wrath and put you inside the city and melt you. 21 I will gather you and I will blow on you with my fiery wrath, and you will be melted inside her. 22 As silver is melted in a furnace, so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the Lord have poured out my wrath on you.’”
23 Again the word of the Lord came to me: 24 “Son of man, say to the land, ‘You are a land that has not been cleansed or rained on in the day of wrath.’ 25 There is a conspiracy of her princes within her like a roaring lion tearing its prey; they devour people, take treasures and precious things and make many widows within her. 26 Her priests do violence to my law and profane my holy things; they do not distinguish between the holy and the common; they teach that there is no difference between the unclean and the clean; and they shut their eyes to the keeping of my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. 27 Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain. 28 Her prophets whitewash these deeds for them by false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says’—when the Lord has not spoken. 29 The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice.
30 “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one. 31 So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”
The spiritual leaders and “prophets” lived only to make a profit!
- they plotted against god’s people
- they seized treasures and extorted wealth
- they violated God’s laws
- they defiled God’s temple and His holiness
- to them the things of God were no more important than any other daily task
- they did not teach God’s people the difference between right and wrong
- they disregarded God’s Sabbaths
- they tore God’s people apart (as wolves do to their victims), destroying lives for profit
- the prophets described false visions and spoke false messages which they claimed were from God when he had in fact not spoken one word to them.
- they repaired the broken down walls of righteousness with whitewash
As a result of their unholy and unjust actions God looked in vain for anyone who would rebuild again the wall of righteousness. The “wall of righteousness” is a metaphor that speaks of the protection that comes when we worship God and uphold his laws in spirit and in truth. Proverbs 14:34 states “34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” Just as walls protected medieval cities, so too God says that his righteousness, holiness and laws bring protection to the people of God. The metaphor used in this story is very powerful when we consider the matter more closely. These false spiritual leaders who see ministry as a business, and who fleece the flock to enrich themselves are accused by God of “repairing the walls with whitewash”. Whitewash represents falsehood. So what is the falsehood described here? It is false visions delivered by lying prophets. If a wall is damaged, one can attempt to repair the cracked wall with thick applications of whitewash. Suddenly the wall is once again looking as good as new and it seems that the wall has been repaired. But this is an illusion. The wall has in fact not been repaired; it has not even been patched up. It’s appearance is deceptive because it hides a hidden danger. Any pressure applied to the whitewashed wall will destroy the wall and those who rely on the wall for protection will be caught out when their protective “wall” is suddenly destroyed.
This passage should be seen as a serious warning to Christians who are seduced by the cult of personality and the deception of wealth in contemporary Christianity today. The true gospel of the Kingdom of God has been subverted and is today no more than big business for professing spiritual leaders who have no interest in the things of God and who draw men to themselves or to their synthetic version of the gospel, and then only to fleece the flock for financial gain. These men call evil good and good evil. They teach followers of Christ to become followers of men, and that it is good to lust for earthly wealth. They claim that as Christians we can have the best of both worlds; the riches and splendour of this world, as well eternal life. But Jesus spells it out in Matthew 16 …
23 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.
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
Anyone who believes this doctrine of demons simply has not read the Bible. Beware too the personality driven church which glorifies men and worships them as idols. God is a jealous God and will not share His glory with anyone.
Jesus puts this matter into its proper perspective in Matthew 23:
23 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,
2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:
3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,
6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.
13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!
17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?
20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.
21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.
22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,
30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
As always, Jesus uncovers the real issues:
- false religious leaders prevent people from entering the Kingdom of Heaven (because they preach a false gospel).
- they too will not enter the Kingdom of God (because they are preoccupied with external religious activity and not worshipping God in spirit and in truth).
- they pretend to be holy (with a great display of pomp, splendour and self aggrandisement).
- they are very busy and go to great lengths to make one convert; but they are not truly being converted into God’s kingdom; they are simply becoming members of the religious club because secretly they want their new “converts” to conform to their false gospel and their interpretation of the Gospel.
- they are accused of being blind guides (who lead the blind).
- they boast about the fact that they tithe but neglect the more important things – justice and mercy.
- they polish the outside of the cup (here we have another reference to whitewashing the wall).
- they seem to be very impressive from the outside, like beautiful mausoleums, but inside the impressive mausoleum is a heap of dead men’s bones, foulness and corruption.
- the appearance of godliness and saintliness hides corrupt hearts and selfish motives.
- they even build monuments to themselves and to others in their club. They affirm and endorse those who affirm and endorse them, and in so doing they perpetuate and consolidate their deception.
- they are hypocrites because they claim that they would never act as other ungodly men have.
- they destroy the true prophets, wise men and inspired writers sent by God.
- they love to be acclaimed by men but instead, they are accumulating judgement for themselves.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. When we minister in the fear of man we fall into a trap because the fear of man will most certainly compromise our ministry in one way or another. On the other hand, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. When we minister in God’s name, we will have the boldness to speak only what he speaks, teach only what he teaches, and prophecy only what the Lord has indeed said to his prophets. We will then not fall foul of the temptation to tell our followers only what they want to hear, seeking to please men and not a Holy God.
According to 2 Timothy, the last days will be characterised by sinfulness:
3 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as their’s also was.
10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Is it just me or does this sound like the “prophets” who proclaim health wealth and prosperity to the church; who teach that greed is good; that the love of this world and Mammon is good?
The profile of false teachers looks something like this:
- they love themselves and teach others to do the same.
- the are covetous, boastful, blasphemers, proud, unholy.
- they despise those who are good.
- they love pleasure more than God.
- they have a form of godliness but deny the power of the gospel and the message they preach.
- they are ever learning but never come to the truth.
- they teach personal development, self-gratification rather than persecution for the faith; according to them God exists to bless us.
According to this passage of scripture things are only going to get worse in the church. It’s time for discerning believers to start swimming upstream because surely these are all signs that our Redeemer is about to return. Remember too that God’s judgement begins in the house of God.
Here are eight symptoms of false teaching in the church today:
1. There is an undeniable zeal in some teachers of error–their “earnestness” makes many people think they must be right.
2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge–many think that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe to listen to.
3. There is a general tendency to completely free and independent thinking today–many like to prove their independence of judgment by believing the newest ideas, which are nothing but novelties.
4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear kind, loving, and open-minded–many seem half-ashamed to say that anybody can be wrong or is a false teacher.
5. There is always a portion of half-truth taught by modern false teachers–they are always using scriptural words and phrases, but with unscriptural meaning.
6. There is a public craving for a more sensational and entertaining worship–people are impatient with the more inward and invisible work of God within the hearts of men.
7. There is a superficial readiness all around to believe anyone who talks cleverly, lovingly and earnestly, forgetting that Satan often masquerades himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
8. There is a wide-spread ignorance among professing Christians–every heretic who speaks well is surely believed, and anyone who doubts him is called narrow-minded and unloving.
All these are especially symptoms of our times. I challenge any honest and observant person to deny them. These tend to make the assaults of false doctrine today especially dangerous and make it even more important to say loudly, “Do not be carried away with strange doctrine!”
Here is an example of how Christianity has transitioned from the love of God to the love of self – the ultimate form of idolatry. Courtesy of Victoria Osteen of Lakewood Church.