MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN THY SIGHT OH LORD MY STRENGH AND MY REDEEMER
"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." (St. Mathew vii. v 15)
There were false prophets in the ancient days, in New Testament times and there are false prophets in today’s world. St. Matthew’s gospel was written in about AD 85, and at that time prophets were still an institution in the Church. They had no fixed abode, and had given up everything to wander throughout the country, bringing to the church a message which they believed to have come directly from God. At their best, the prophets were the inspiration of the Church, as they had abandoned everything to serve God. But the office or position of prophet was very open to abuse depending on the character of each prophet. There were some who used it to gain prestige, to impose on the generosity of the local congregation, and thereby live a life of comfortable and even pampered idleness.
The Didache is the first written work documenting the teachings of Jesus by the Apostles of the Christian Church; it dates back to about AD 100; and its regulations concerning these wandering prophets are very illuminating. A true prophet was to be held in the highest honour; he was to be welcomed; his word must never be disregarded, and his freedom must never be curtailed; but ‘He shall remain one day, and, if necessary, another day also; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet.’ He must never ask for anything but bread. ‘If he asks for money, he is a false prophet.’ Prophets all claim to speak in the Spirit, but there is one acid test: ‘By their characters a true and a false prophet shall be known.’ ‘Every prophet that theacheth the truth, if he do not what he teacheth, is a false prophet. If a prophet, claiming to speak in the Spirit, orders a table and a meal to be set before him, he is a false prophet. Whosever shall say in the Spirit: Give me money or any other things, ye shall not hear him; but if he tell you to give in the matter of others who have need, let no one judge him.’ (Didache, chapters 11-12).
The Jews, the Greeks and the Romans all used the idea that a tree is to be judged by its fruits. ‘Like root, like fruit,’ was the proverb. And so a false prophet was bad fruit that contaminated the whole Church.
The idea of evaluating someone based on their actions is just as valid today as it was back in St. Matthew’s time. For years the idea of a used car salesman conjured up an image of a slick talking salesman who told you that the used car you were looking at was owned by a little old lady, was well maintained and only after you had purchased it did you find out the truth. There may be a superficial resemblance between the shyster car salesman and the true, honest used car salesman but the honest used car salesman told you what you were buying and stood behind what he sold you.
The position of Prophet no longer exists in the Church but some of the duties have been passed onto the Priests, Pastors, Misters, Elders and Bishops of today’s Christian Churches. The false prophet may wear the right clothes and use the right language but the life of the soul can never be sustained with the food which the false prophet offers. The basic fault of a false prophet is self-interest. True shepherds care for the flock more than they care for their own lives; wolves care for nothing but to satisfy their own gluttony and greed. False prophets are in the business of teaching not for what they can give to others, but for what they can get out of teaching for themselves. There are three ways in which teachers can be dominated by self-interest: They may teach solely for gain, they may teach solely for prestige or they may teach solely to transmit their own ideas. Consider the Television Evangelist of today who makes millions of dollars in the name of spreading God’s word and healing the ills of people. And what does it say about a clergyman who molests children and a Church that buries the issue rather than dealing with it in a forth right manner, or a clergyman that steals money from the congregation to whom he has accepted responsibility for the cure of their souls, or the episcopate that defines in its Canons how the Church is to be managed then does whatever is deems expedient for each situation. These kinds of actions are roots that make the Church and the clergy appear to be like a false prophet. It would be nice if false prophets had a big sign on their chest that said in large letters “FALSE PROPHET” or if their eyes glowed red or something. But, of course, it’s not that easy. Jesus gave the world one plan of salvation to build one church, and that is the only church He recognizes. The essential doctrines Jesus and the apostles set forth to establish the church include grace through faith, the Trinity, baptism, the new birth given by the death of our savior on the cross to all that believe, and the teachings of the Old and New Testaments.
Let us pray
O Lord Jesus Christ, thou good shepherd of the sheep, who came to seek and to save that which was lost: We beseech thee to be present in thy power with the Missions of thy Church, especially Grace Anglican Church. Show forth thy compassion to the helpless, enlighten the ignorant, succour those in peril, and bring home the wanderers in safety to thy fold; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
And now unto God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed all might, majesty, power and dominion as is most justly due this day; world without end. AMEN