“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mat 7:15). Peter understood Christ as correlating false prophets that were among God’s people with false teachers among us now, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you” (2Pe 2:1). The question is sometimes asked, and I’ve also pondered many times, is if false teachers know they are false teachers. We could ask “Do wolves know they are wolves?” Of course they do! But that’s pushing Christ’s analogy too far. The sheep/wolf analogy is simply warning us about men that seem to be leading us to salvation but actually to destruction.
Christ warned His disciples, “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (Jhn 16:2). This is precisely how the apostle Paul used to be: “And Saul was consenting unto his death” (Act 8:1); “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Act 9:1); “And I persecuted this way unto the death” (Act 22:4); when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them” (Act 26:10). He would later tell Timothy that he was sincerely ignorant at the time, “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1Ti 1:13). Paul considered those persecuting him to be zealous for God as he also had been, “was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day” (Act 22:3); “they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom 10:2); “They zealously affect you,but not well” (Gal 4:17); “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church” (Phl 3:6). But how could anyone truly think they’re doing God service by persecuting others even unto death?
I still remember over 30 years ago in church when I first heard the teaching about God as three persons. It just didn’t sound right but I knew very little at that time and those teaching me knew much more. Therefore, I trusted them that they must be right, and I found ways to explain away any Scriptures that spoke otherwise. This began my downward spiral of trusting men over the Scriptures. And what I experienced over those decades was a hardening of my heart and a warping of my thinking. I taught classes, small groups, main services, and even on television false doctrine while sincerely thinking I was helping people.
Do wolves know they are wolves? Each individual and situation is different. We can’t make a blanket statement that covers everyone and everything. However, the conservative and loving approach is to consider false teachers to be zealous of God in sincere ignorance. This is what Paul did, “zealous toward God, as ye all are this day” (Act 22:3), “they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom 10:2); “They zealously affect you,but not well” (Gal 4:17).
Evil breaths/spirits operate through people to spread false doctrines, while not allowing them to know they’re even being used. It’s through years of compromising the truth of the Scriptures and yielding to sin that people become hardened and insensitive to the point that they can do evil and justify it to themselves as good. And since nobody’s strong enough to overcome evil breaths, the only hope is casting oneself at the mercy of Jesus Christ. He is greater and gives God’s breath.
John said that many false prophets/teachers had gone into the world, “Beloved, believe [trust] not every spirit [breath], but try the spirits [breaths] whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1Jo 4:1). And if God’s breath isn’t in them, then another breath is, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1Jo 4:4). How can we know the breaths of teachers, whether they’re of God or not? It’s if they listen to Christ and His apostles, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit [breath] of truth, and the spirit [breath] of error” (1Jo 4:6). If they won’t listen to them, then they don’t have God’s breath but an evil breath. Certainly some things are hard to understand as Peter even admitted, “in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [twist], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2Pe 3:16). But what Christ and His apostles taught about God is clear, simple, and of utmost importance. If teachers have clever ways of “twisting” or explaining away what they taught, then they’re not of God. Those that handle the Scriptures as such, do so “unto their own destruction” as Peter said.
Do wolves know they are wolves? Not likely. Even many hardened criminals really don’t think they’re bad—they’re full of excuses to justify themselves. False teachers are zealous of God. They labor, study, pray, fast, give, sacrifice, and serve. But it’s only sheep’s clothing. How can we know the breath in them? It’s if they submit to the clear teaching of Christ and His apostles, or if they find ways to explain it away.
Hedge apple trees (Maclura pomifera), in contrast with apple trees, bear fruit that’s unpalatable and useless for food by either people or animals. But consistent with apple trees, the seeds from its fruit produce more of the same kind of trees, “the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself … the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind” (Gen 1:11,12).
Christ warned, “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.” (Mat 7:15-16). As there were false prophets among God’s people, false teachers are the equivalent today, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you” (2Pe 2:1). And Christ wasn’t just teaching us how to identify them, but urging us to identify them. He commended the church at Ephesus for doing so, “thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Rev 2:2).
Concerning the Pharisees, He said, “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Mat 12:33-34). What the fruit is to the tree, the mouth is to the heart. God first created trees whose seeds are from its fruit, then created humans whose words are from their hearts. And as good fruit comes from good trees and corrupt fruit from corrupt trees, so it is with true and false teachers. The seeds from their fruit produces more trees just like them.
Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus the requirements for ordaining bishops, deacons, and elders over churches, “A bishop then must be blameless” (1Ti 3:2), “ordain elders in every city … If any be blameless … For a bishop must be blameless” (Tit 1:5,6,7). To “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (1Ti 5:22), is to give time for men to be proven first before ordaining them, “And let these also first be proved” (1Ti 3:10). All of this was to ensure that “apple trees” were in fact being planted because the same principle is true with hedge apple trees.
Hedge apple trees only plant other hedge apple trees. They’re not going to ordain and place apple trees—men truly leading people to salvation—over churches. They only plant hedge apple trees which, in turn, plant more hedge apple trees. This is why all “Christian” churches over the entire world today are simply a vast forest of hedge apple trees. And anyone within these churches sincerely seeking the truth objectively, questioning from the Scriptures what’s being taught, are kept in check or pressured to leave if not conforming. This ensures entire churches continue to be hedge apple trees on their way to destruction.
Hedge apple trees placed over churches aren’t passive either. It isn’t that they’re just not helping people get saved but that they’re preventing it. They’re not simply neglecting to gather with Christ, but working to scatter from Him, “he that gathereth not with me scattereth” (Mat 12:30; Luk 11:23).
False teachers will never agree with Christ’s claims about God and about Himself any more than a hedge apple tree can grow apples from its branches. Time and again I’ve spoken with Trinitarian “ministers” who deny Christ’s own claim that His Father is the one true God and His God. But when they become irate and contentious, it’s not against my words but against His.
When I was a Trinitarian, there was one minister in particular I was very close with. He was the utmost example of how I wanted to be one day in my walk with God. And over the years we had many, many good times together in study, prayer, small group discussions, co-teaching, home visitations, retreats, and just talking with each other. He always had time for me, and I consistently sensed warmth and care from him. There were a few times, however, when sharing with him in private the truths I was learning from the Scriptures, that I experienced conflict. It bothered me that he not only wasn’t excited about discovering the truth like I was, but was actually resisting it. But I didn’t know then what I know now.
Wolves can’t be known by their lifestyles because their “clothing” is virtually that of sheep. In fact, they’re usually better “sheep” than true sheep! They can be known only by their fruits, just as Jesus said. It’s because they’re all on the same side—in agreement, fellowship, endorsement, and support of each other—that they’re all hedge apple trees. They keep us listening to their sermons, reading their books, and using their study resources because they don’t want us understanding the Scriptures for ourselves and becoming apple trees. After all, if we become apple trees ourselves, we’ll be a threat to their agenda by planting apple trees.
Matthew chapter 6 is the middle chapter and heart of Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and the most definitive teaching in the entire Bible of how to enter His Kingdom and have eternal life. There’s an explicit characteristic distinguishing those on the two different paths in this life, “broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction … narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life” (Mat 7:13, 14). Christ taught us that it’s where our treasure is. What we treasure, value, or hold dear dictates the motives for our actions and ultimately our eternal destiny.
In this crucial passage, He revealed three polar opposite attributes dividing those onto the two paths: (1) whether the motives for our actions are to be seen by people or by God, “before men, to be seen of them … thy Father which seeth in secret” (vs. 1, 4); (2) whether our treasure is upon this earth or in heaven, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth … But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (vs. 19, 20); (3) whether we’re faithfully serving Him as Master or another master, “No man can serve two masters” (v. 24).
Praise from men or from God?
In the first half of Matthew chapter 6, Christ used the examples of giving, praying, and fasting to teach arguably the most fundamental distinction between those on the two paths: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven … That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (vs. 1, 4); “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men … pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (vs. 5, 6); “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast … That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (vs. 16, 18).
What’s our motive for the things we do? We can do much good but with impure motives or intentions in our hearts, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Mat 5:8). God created us with natural and normal desires to receive praise, recognition, approval, honor, acclamation, and applause for the good things we do. It’s not wrong necessarily to receive praise from people for doing these types of things, only if it’s the reason we’re doing them. The motives in our hearts for our actions is a gauge of salvation.
Jesus questioned the corrupt Jewish leaders, “How can ye believe [trust], which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (Jhn 5:44). They wouldn’t put their trust in Him as their Messiah because they would be rejected by their fellow Jewish brethren for doing so. Because they didn’t want to lose the honor and acceptance they were receiving one another, they rejected Jesus instead and lost any honor and acceptance they would have received from God.
Hypocrites are those that pretend or feign serving God; whose actions contradict their public confession. According to what He had said earlier in His sermon “That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (Mat 5:20), Jesus was talking specifically about the scribes and Pharisees in His statements “as the hypocrites do … that they may have glory of men” (6:2), “as the hypocritesare … that they may be seen of men” (6:5), “as the hypocrites … that they may appear unto men” (6:16). In Matthew chapter 23 He exclaimed seven times “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (vs. 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29). And He described their hypocrisy in detail, “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.” (Mat 23:5-7). Hypocrisy consists not only of doing good deeds to be seen by people but also presenting oneself in such a manner as to be viewed by people, treated by people, greeted by people, and called by people in an elevated fashion. These ways of being regarded and treated by others can be summarized in the one word “praise.”
Paul began his letter to the Romans presenting its message as the gospel of Christ: “the gospel of God” (Rom 1:1), “the gospel of his Son” (v. 9), “preach the gospel” (v. 15), “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (v. 16). And a little later he made the statement, “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom 2:29). Circumcision is a sign or token of being in covenant with God and being counted righteous before Him. But the circumcision God recognizes and counts is that of the heart. It’s doing all things with a pure heart—with the motive of receiving praise, not from men but from God.
He also wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels [boule] of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God” (1Co 4:5). The Greek boule appears 11 other times in the New Testament: “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel [boule] of God against themselves” (Luk 7:30); “The same had not consented to the counsel [boule] and deed of them” (Luk 23:51); “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel [boule] and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23); “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel [boule] determined before to be done” (Act 4:28); “And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel [boule] or this work be of men, it will come to nought” (Act 5:38); “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will [boule] of God” (Act 13:36); “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel [boule] of God” (Act 20:27); “And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised [boule] to depart thence also” (Act 27:12); “And the soldiers’ counsel [boule] was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape” (Act 27:42); “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel [boule] of his own will” (Eph 1:11); “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel [boule], confirmed it by an oath” (Heb 6:17).
This word speaks of something decided or determined beforehand that is to be done. It’s the purpose or reason something is done. When Paul said that God “will make manifest the counsels of the hearts,” it is that He will make known openly the purpose or reason we determined in our hearts to do the things we did. But it won’t be “until the Lord come” that He does this. It will be then “shall every man have praise of God” (1Co 4:5). This is also what Peter said, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:7).
Circling back to what Jesus taught in His Sermon, “That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (v. 4), “pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (v. 6), “That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (v. 18). If our motive for the good things we’re doing is to please God and not people, then we won’t be trying to draw attention to ourselves but doing those things in secret without anyone but God knowing what we did. If this characterizes our walk with God the Father, then when His Son Jesus Christ returns and gathers us to Himself we will receive praise, recognition, approval, honor, acclamation, and applause from God. All the good things we did in secret that nobody knew about will finally be disclosed openly for everyone to hear and witness praise being given to us by God Himself.
What is our treasure?
When we hear the word “treasure” we tend to think about a treasure chest full of gold or financial wealth and riches. But its meaning in Christ’s Sermon is that of anything we value or hold dear to ourselves. When He said “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” He wasn’t talking about a wooden chest or a heavenly bank account but referring back to what He had said earlier, “your Father which is in heaven” (v. 1). It’s because our Father is in heaven that our treasure is said to be in heaven.
God told Abram, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen 15:1). He didn’t say that He would just give him a reward but that He is his reward. Both David and Jeremiah would later declare, “The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot” (Psa 16:5), “I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living” (Psa 142:5), “The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lam 3:24).
What’s more valuable than God Himself? What should we cherish more than God Himself who gave us life and gives us eternal life? If He is our treasure, then pleasing Him and being right with Him will be the utmost important endeavor in our lives and the determining factor of which path we’re traveling. This is what Hebrews chapter 11 is all about. All of the “By faith [faithfulness]” statements are examples of men and women from the Scriptures that pleased God by their faithfulness to Him, “But without faith [faithfulness] it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe [trust] that he is, and thathe is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb 11:6). He rewards those that diligently seek to please Him. And what’s their reward? It’s Him! Just prior to this chapter the writer reminded his audience that their treasure is in heaven, “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Heb 10:34).
Where is our treasure?
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven” (Mat 6:1), “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Mat 6:19-20). Treasure upon earth is because people are on earth while treasure in heaven is because God our Father is in heaven. If we’re seeking praise from people, then our treasure is upon earth but if we’re seeking praise from God, then our treasure is in heaven.
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest [phroneo] not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:21-23)
The Greek verb phroneo means “to seek” and “to desire,” or “to focus on” and “to attend to.” Peter was yielding to Satan’s temptation of desiring praise from men. He wanted to look big in the eyes of his fellow disciples by correcting Jesus in front of them. But, of course, it was he that got corrected in front of them and got put in his place.
Paul used this word when writing similarly to the Colossians, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection [phroneo] on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col 3:1-2). Our desire, attention, and focus is to be on “things which are above.” It’s not that we’re to simply be “heavenly minded” in general but specifically focusing on “where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” Everything we do needs to be with conscience toward God—faithful obedience to our Lord who is advocating, interceding, and mediating for us at God’s right hand. We’re shown favor by our Father in heaven when we obey His Son seated at His right hand.
Paul used both the verb phroneo and its corresponding noun phronema when writing this same message to the Romans, “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit [Breath]. For they that are after the flesh do mind [phroneo] the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit [Breath] the things of the Spirit [Breath]. For to be carnally minded [phronema tes sarkos]is death; but to be spiritually minded [phronema tou pneumatos]is life and peace.” (Rom 8:4-6). In both “carnally minded” and “spiritually minded,” the noun phronema is possessive—it’s literally “mind of the flesh” and “mind of the Breath.” He used the exact same statement a little later in the chapter, “And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit [phronema tou pneumatos], because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27), “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom 8:34). Jesus Christ is “he that searcheth the hearts” because He said so Himself, “and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts” (Rev 2:23).
Unpacking all of this; the two converse lifestyles of either walking after the flesh or after the Breath, minding the things of the flesh or the things of the Breath, correspond to our treasure either being upon earth or in heaven. It goes back to what Paul had said earlier in his letter, “whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom 2:29). Since Jesus Christ searches our hearts, He knows the motives of our hearts for the things we do—whether we’re doing things to be seen by people and receive praise from them or to be seen by God in secret and receive praise from Him. He “knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit [phronema tou pneumatos],” or who it is that’s seeking, desiring, and focusing upon the things of the Breath. And it’s those walking after the Breath, minding the things of the Breath that He intercedes on their behalf at the right hand of God.
In His personal messages to the seven churches in Asia, Jesus said “These things saith the Son of God” (Rev 2:18), but also said seven times “the Spirit [Breath] saith” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22). He called Himself “the Breath,” not just once or twice, but seven times! When we confess Him before men, then seated at the Father’s right hand, He confesses us and His Father obliges to breathe His Breath into our hearts. This reciprocity equates to the Son Himself being called the Breath. Since no human has God’s Holy Breath without the Son’s intercession for them at the right hand of God, the Son metaphorically is the Breath. It’s not some third Person but the Person of the Son of God by advocacy, intercession, and mediation.
Our treasure must be in heaven for Christ to intercede on our behalf at the right hand of God, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection [phroneo] on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col 3:1-2). Since He knows our motives for the things we do and that our treasure is in heaven, He intercedes for us before God. Salvation is all about whether or not we’re one of those that the Son is presently and actively interceding for. It’s not about us believing but about Him interceding! The devil’s ministers don’t want us to know that. They want us deceived into thinking we’re saved simply because we believe some facts are true.
Our hearts are where our treasure is
One of the most profound statements in all of Scripture is “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mat 6:21; Luk 12:34). The motives in our hearts correspond to the location of our treasure. Let’s repeat that again. The motives in our hearts correspond to the location of our treasure. If our treasure is on earth, we’ll have impure motives in our hearts for the things we do, but if our treasure is in heaven we’ll have pure motives in our hearts for the things we do. Therefore, for our hearts to be changed, our treasure must first be changed. Living the Christian life is all about keeping our focus on our treasure so that the motives in our hearts for the things we do will be pure.
“O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” (Mat 12:34-35). According to Jesus, nobody has a mixture of part good and part evil in their hearts but everyone has an abundance of one or the other. And the determinant of whether our hearts are good or evil is whether our treasure is good or evil, “the good treasure of the heart” and “the evil treasure”—treasure in heaven or on the earth. There’s no gray area, middle ground, or neutral territory. Either our treasure is in heaven, our hearts are good, and we’ll have eternal life, or our treasure is on earth, our hearts are evil, and we’ll perish.
We can become very skilled at saying all the right things to convince others that our hearts are pure. But giving this false impression goes right back to the underlying problem of seeking praise from people. It’s because we want to look good to people that we train ourselves to speak humbly, graciously, and kindly when we need to. This is what James taught, “For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame;it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (Jas 3:7-8). We train all kinds of animals to do things that aren’t natural to them. The snake charmer trains a cobra to sway and entertain people without biting yet its mouth is still “full of deadly poison.” And it’s similar with the tongue. We can “tame” or subdue our tongues to a certain point but eventually we’ll be in a situation where pressure or urgency will bring out of our mouths what’s truly in our hearts, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
What people say and don’t say identifies the location of their treasure—whether they’re seeking praise from people or from God. When we hear someone say “I don’t care what people think about me,” it means they do care what people think about them which is why they said that. If they really don’t care what people think about them, they wouldn’t have said anything. And why would someone say “God knows my heart” when we already know that? It’s because they’re concerned we think their heart isn’t right that they’re trying to convince us that it is. Our mouths betray our hearts. The main way to discern what’s in someone’s heart, and ultimately what it is they treasure, is by listening to how they talk. Do they say things to justify and defend themselves? Do they say things to make themselves look good or others look bad? Do they complain and talk negatively or are they thankful? Our mouths indicate what’s in our hearts and where our treasure is—seeking praise from people on earth or from God in heaven.
This same convention is what Jesus taught for identifying false ministers or wolves in sheep’s clothing, “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?” (Mat 7:15-16), “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Mat 12:33-34). Trinitarian ministers refusing to agree with the Son of God’s teaching about His Father was the crucible in which I finally concluded that they’re false ministers or wolves in sheep’s clothing. It’s one thing for someone to be ignorant about what Christ taught but these men are highly educated with decades of ministry experience. What comes out of their mouths about God conflicts with what came out of the Son of God’s mouth about God. They’re known by their fruits—their mouths betray their hearts.
Our actions reveal what we treasure
Our actions in certain circumstances divulge what we treasure and therefore what’s in our hearts. James said that God tests our faithfulness to Him, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith [faithfulness] worketh patience” (Jas 1:2-3). He puts us in situations where there’s a distinct conflict of interest and we’re forced to decide one way or the other. What we do when pressured to obey God and suffer consequences or disobey God out of self-preservation, shows where our treasure is and therefore the motives of our hearts. James cited the time when “God did tempt [test] Abraham” (Gen 22:1):
Was not Abraham our father justified by works [ergon], when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith [faithfulness] wrought with his works [ergon], and by works [ergon] was faith [faithfulness] made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (James 2:21-23).
The Greek ergon translated here and in the majority of its 176 occurrences in the New Testament as “works” simply means “actions.” It rarely conveys meritorious actions of trying to earn righteousness before God under the Law of Moses. Only a few contexts impose that meaning while most of the time it’s simply about our everyday actions or the things we do. James was saying that Abraham’s faithfulness to God was tested when he was told to offer his son Isaac. And nobody else was on that mountain to witness what he was about to do, therefore he certainly wasn’t trying to be seen by people but only by God in secret. Of course, he was stopped short of carrying it out because it was only a test but he didn’t know that—he was going to following through with it. His actions, therefore, justified what had been said many years earlier, “Abraham believed [trusted] God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness.” He truly trusted God and it showed by his obedient actions, therefore justifying his righteous standing before Him.
We recognize this basic principle in everyday life. We say things like “Actions speak louder than words,” or “What you’re doing speaks so loudly that I can’t hear a word you’re saying.” Sometimes we’ll hear a sports team “trash talk” before a game but the other team responds with “We’ll do our talking on the field!” This is what James meant, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith [faithfulness], and have not works [ergon]? can faith [faithfulness] save him?” (Jas 2:14). What good is it to say we’re faithful yet we’re unfaithful? It isn’t what we say but what we do that counts, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith [faithfulness], and I have works [ergon]: shew me thy faith [faithfulness] without thy works [ergon], and I will shew thee my faith [faithfulness] by my works [ergon].” (Jas 2:18). If we’re truly being faithful, we don’t need to say anything—our actions speak for themselves.
Peter also said that our faithfulness is tested, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith [faithfulness], being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:6-7). And when we pass the testing of our faithfulness, we will receive praise, honor, and glory from God at Christ’s return.
God tests us regularly to build a case that will be used in the final judgment—either for us or against us. We must learn to appreciate these tests as opportunities to prove our faithfulness to Him and justify our entry into His kingdom. We have no idea the multitudes of situations we’ve been put through in our Christian lives that were orchestrated by God to test our faithfulness to Him. We thought things just happened the way they did or that people acted the way they did for no particular reason. We didn’t know that God was testing our faithfulness to Him.
The sheep and the goats
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 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 25:37-40)
When read in its plain sense, the “sheep and goats” judgment recorded in Matthew 25 sounds like some type of “social gospel”—that entering Christ’s Kingdom depends entirely on feeding and clothing the poor, taking in strangers, and visiting the sick or incarcerated. However, it all comes back to what Christ taught is the determining factor between those that are His and the hypocrites, or the sheep and the goats.
“That thine alms may be in secret [kryptos]: and thy Father which seeth in secret [kryptos] himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4). Those that are His give alms to the poor with conscience toward God the Father—to be seen by Him in secret. This principle is consistent with what He will say to the sheep in the judgment, “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” (Mat 25:40). When the sheep do good deeds in secret toward God, they’re doing those deeds unto Him.
This is also what Paul taught, “In the day when God shall judge the secrets [kryptos] of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Rom 2:16), “But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly [kryptos]; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom 2:29). The “sheep and goats” judgment will be the day when Jesus Christ reveals what was done in secret, “That thine alms may be in secret [kryptos]: and thy Father which seeth in secret [kryptos] himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4). And what was done in secret with conscience toward Him will be rewarded with praise and recognition by Him in that day.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ was teaching God’s righteousness, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mat 6:33). This is why the sheep are called “the righteous” in the judgment, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Mat 25:46). They’re righteous because their treasure was in heaven—they fed, clothed, lodged, and visited people with pure motives toward God to receive praise from Him.
Now, it’s not that the goats never did any of these same things that the sheep did but that their righteous deeds aren’t going to be recognized at the judgment, “But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.” (Eze 18:24). They’re not going to be rewarded for their good deeds because they were rewarded already, “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Mat 6:2, 5, 16). The praise they received from people is the only reward they’ll ever receive.
It’s because the sheep and the goats weren’t aware they were being tested is the reason they’re going to ask Christ “When did we see you…?” God routinely puts us in situations that reveal what’s in our hearts by testing where our treasure is located. He imposes upon us conflicts of interest in which we must either make a sacrifice to remain faithful to Him or be unfaithful to reap a personal benefit.
Abraham’s sacrifice when nobody was watching proved His fear of God and trust in Him. And the same is true with us when we make sacrifices for others expecting and receiving nothing at all in return, “And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” (Luk 6:34-35), “But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” (Luk 14:13-14). This is what distinguishes the sheep from the goats.
No man can serve two masters
It was prophesied in a mystery from the very beginning, even before mankind had been created, that there would be two categories or classifications of people: “And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night” (Gen 1:4-5), “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are yelight in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8), “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1Th 5:5).
These two classes would have one ruler or another over them, “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night:he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.” (Gen 1:16-18).
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declared “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Mat 6:24). Since every person belongs to one category or the other, ruled by one master or the other, then everyone not ruled by the Lord Jesus Christ is ruled by the devil. This is what it all comes down to. If our treasure is pleasing our Father in heaven, we’ll serve and obey His Son with pure hearts and be rewarded with eternal life. However, if our treasure is pleasing people on the earth, we won’t be serving and obeying His Son with pure hearts and we’ll perish.
Pastors of Protestant Trinitarian churches aren’t leading their flocks to eternal life but to destruction. They’re effective at this by teaching their definition of serving the Lord to convince their flocks that they’re serving Him. But their definition is not His. We can only serve Him, His way.
In Luke chapter 16, Jesus taught the parable of the Unjust Steward and concluded it with the same statement He had made in His Sermon on the Mount, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luk 16:13). The word “mammon” is an English transliteration of a noun from Aramaic origin. In the entire New Testament, it’s only used by Jesus and only in His Sermon on the Mount and His parable of the Unjust Steward. Lexicons and theological dictionaries define this word as “money,” “riches,” or “wealth,” but this isn’t how Jesus used it in His parable.
The parable is about a servant that was unfaithful to his master. He was given the responsibility of overseeing his master’s debts and collecting what was owed to him but was unfaithful in this duty by misappropriating the funds to make friends with his master’s debtors. He settled what they owed for pennies on the dollar for his own personal gain and benefit. This is the essential idea of mammon—it’s personal benefit at our mater’s expense.
A similar endeavor is true with Protestant Trinitarian elders, pastors, scholars, and theologians today. Rather than faithfully upholding the standard of righteousness our Lord commanded, they lower His standard by settling His debts for less than what is due. Such doctrines as original sin, a sin nature, sola fide, and once-saved-always-saved, lower the bar of what’s required to enter Christ’s Kingdom. And by keeping their flocks preoccupied with serving religiously—church attendance, a daily Bible reading plan, devotionals, journaling, memorizing verses, small group discussions, prayer groups, serving in positions, missionary trips—they delude them into believing they’re serving the Lord faithfully. They’re serving alright, but not necessarily serving the Lord.
A couple of life examples
My wife and I used to live in a condominium unit near an older Christian couple wanting to sell their unit to my wife’s mother. We had only known them passively for about a year but they were always warm and kind to us and attended a local church regularly. However, when it came to dealing with them over the sale of their property, they turned quite unpleasant very quickly. They pressured us to make an offer which we finally did but about a week after signing the contract and receiving their earnest money, another party made them a better offer. That was when things turned ugly. They began demanding to be released from their contract and for their money to be returned. We eventually did this. What I learned from the experience is that we get a glimpse into people’s hearts when their treasure is in jeopardy. Just start messing with people’s treasure and we’ll see pretty quickly where their hearts are at.
There’s a dear Christian lady my wife and I have known for many years that had a prolonged period where some family members were causing her problems. The times we would get together with her just to visit, she would inevitably bring up the latest things these family members were doing to her. And I never once heard her admit anything she had ever done wrong to them but it was always about what they were doing wrong to her. What she didn’t realize is that the entire situation could very well have been a test from God and she was apparently failing the test. James said, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell [geenna]” (Jas 3:6), “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but isearthly, sensual, devilish.” (Jas 3:14-15). The little tongue in our mouths can lead our entire bodies to geenna or the Lake of Fire. Envying and strife from the tongue is “earthly, sensual, devilish”—it indicates we’re treasuring what’s on the earth, yielding to the flesh, and serving the devil.
Within the heart of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ taught the distinguishing characteristic of those that will enter His Kingdom and have eternal life, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them … That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (vs. 1, 4), “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth … But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (vs. 19, 20), “No man can serve two masters” (v. 24). They do good deeds to be seen by God their Father and therefore to please Him. And because they live to please the Father in heaven, their treasure is said to be in heaven.
There’s nothing more valuable than God Himself. Therefore, there’s no greater endeavor in life than pleasing Him and being right with Him. And the only way we can please the Father and be right with Him is to faithfully serve His Son seated at His right hand. Salvation or eternal life is all about the Son presently and actively interceding for us at the Father’s right hand in heaven.
Hypocrisy is pretending or feigning; it’s acting contradictory to one’s confession. It consists of doing good deeds to be seen by people and presenting oneself in such a way as to be viewed by people, treated by people, greeted by people, and called by people in an elevated manner. The word that best expresses this is “praise.” Hypocrites seek praise from people while genuine servants of the Lord Jesus Christ seek praise from God, “whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom 2:29). The reason treasures are said to be upon the earth or in heaven is because people are upon the earth and God is in heaven. Therefore, the essence of laying up treasures upon the earth or in heaven is whether we’re seeking praise from people or from God.
The motives of our hearts coincide with the location of our treasure, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mat 6:21; Luk 12:34). It’s whether our treasure is in heaven or upon the earth—seeking praise from God or from people—that we’ll have a corresponding abundance of good or evil motives in our hearts for the things we do and say, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” (Mat 12:34-35). Christ’s statement “the good treasure of the heart” is simply an abbreviated form of “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” The only way the abundance of motives in our hearts can be changed is by changing what we treasure.
Our words divulge the motives of our hearts and what it is we treasure. As animals can be trained, we can coach ourselves to speak humbly and graciously to give the impression that we have good motives in our hearts. However, our idle words and small talk betray what we truly treasure.
God routinely tests our faithfulness to Him by putting us in situations with a conflict of interest to observe what we will do when pressured one way or the other. Our actions when tested justify our righteous standing before Him. Therefore, we’ll be judged by our actions, “I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works [ergon]” (Rev 2:23), “the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works [ergon] … and they were judged every man according to their works [ergon]” (Rev 20:12, 13).
Eternal life comes by being counted righteous by God. But to be counted righteous by God we must please God. The only way to please God is to confess His Son as Lord, then obey Him by our actions with the right motives in our hearts—genuinely, not hypocritically. And the determining factor of whether we’re genuine or hypocrites, righteous or unrighteous, sheep or goats, is the location of our treasure. What we treasure, value, or hold dear dictates the motives for our actions and ultimately our eternal destiny. Our trust in God is demonstrated when we’re willing to forego the praise, approval, recognition, and honor we could have received in this life from people in exchange for being criticized, mocked, belittled, and falsely accused instead. God is pleased when we’re willing to be shamed before people for His Son Jesus Christ’s sake—His glory, name, and honor. It’s difficult and discouraging to continue for years and even decades without getting any recognition or praise for the things we’re doing in secret. But Jesus Christ assured us that one day we’ll receive the treasure we’ve been seeking, “and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly” (Mat 6:4, 6, 18).
Why do many ministers discourage us from trying to understand the Bible ourselves? Why do they warn us that we’ll fall into error unless we learn from them and their system of theology? Could it be that the opposite is the case? Could it be that they’re knowingly teaching us error and don’t want us to find the truth by studying on our own?
It was a long and difficult process over the span of 30 years for me to come to the realization about the utter depth and expanse of deception being swayed over people by many and possibly even all Protestant Trinitarian churches today. Why won’t the leaders of these churches agree with what Jesus Christ taught about God and about Himself? How can they disagree with Him yet still be walking with Him, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amo 3:3)? It’s one thing to be ignorant of what Christ taught but quite another to know His teaching but willingly teach something different.
The two litmus tests
Jesus told us two main ways to identify false ministers and false Christians, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Mat 12:30). Whoever is not in agreement with Jesus is against Him, and whoever is not working with Him is working against Him. Now, someone can be sincerely ignorant or confused about what Jesus Christ taught and not be overtly disagreeing with Him. God’s mercy and forgiveness is there when we come to the knowledge of the truth and repent, “Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luk 23:34). However, those that know and understand what Jesus Christ taught but teach something different are against Him and are working against Him.
Jesus Christ’s teaching about God and about Himself is very clear and straightforward. The Son called Himself “the Son of God” and the Father called Him “My Beloved Son.” The Son never called Himself “God” and the Father never called His Son “God.” Furthermore, the Son did call His Father “God” and even called Him “My God.” And neither of them called the Holy Spirit “God.” The Father and the Son aren’t co-equal because the Son said that His Father “doeth the works” (Jhn 14:10), “is greater than I” (Jhn 14:28), “the only true God” (Jhn 17:3), and that His Father is “My God” (Mat 27:46; Jhn 20:17; Rev 3:12). To be with Him, we must be in agreement with what He taught, otherwise we’re against Him.
Jesus told us to keep His commandments and to teach others His commandments to keep: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 5:19); “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mat 28:20); “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jhn 14:15); “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (Jhn 14:21); “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jhn 15:14); “For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus” (1Th 4:2); “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1Jo 2:3); “Blessed are they that do his commandments” (Rev 22:14). To be working with Him for the good of His Kingdom, we must obey His commandments and teach others His commandments.
There are two reliable litmus tests that expose whether someone is with Christ or against Him: (1) Do they agree with His teaching about God and about Himself? (2) Do they teach His commandments to others? Ministers in particular that have been clearly shown the simple and straightforward teaching of Christ about God and about Himself yet stubbornly refuse to submit to Him aren’t with Him—they’re not ministers of God. And when they teach people anything except Christ’s commandments, particularly the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7, they bear the fruit of wolves.
We’ll know them by their fruit
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)
Jesus said that their fruit is how we’ll know them—the only way we’ll know them. We might have known for years and even decades dear Christian ministers and fellow laborers that seemed the model and example of loving, serving, and teaching others. They poured their hearts out in tears and nurtured people almost as if their own children. They’re warm, kind-hearted, loving, and sacrificing. Yet they won’t agree with the clear teaching of Jesus Christ about God and about Himself, and they don’t teach others Christ’s commandments to help them walk in obedience. They’re not with Him and they’re not working with Him. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are extremely good at what they do! Let’s not be naïve in supposing we can spot them—because we can’t. As Jesus said, they can only be known by their fruit.
Jesus told the religious leaders that the words they speak betrays them, “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Mat 12:33-34). Those that are evil cannot speak in agreement with the good things Jesus spoke, and they cannot teach others the commandments He taught. They won’t teach others to obey and submit to Him because they’re working against Him. Wolves don’t teach the flock His commandments because they’re purposely leading them down the broad road of destruction.
Jesus told us to not only hear but also do His commandments, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock … And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand” (Mat 7:24, 26). However, wolves want the sheep to only hear yet think they’re on the narrow road that leads to life. They want them hearing sermons, listening to podcasts, memorizing Bible verses, sticking to a daily Bible reading plan, meeting in small group Bible studies, reading Christian books, and on and on it goes. They love to quote, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom 10:17), because they want them hearing, and hearing, and hearing but not doing.
“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” (2Co 11:14-15). They appear to be ministering righteousness—helping people to be right with God. But they’re not. They’re extremely subtle, cunning, and deceitful.
Which side of the truth are we on?
“Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (Jhn 18:37), “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (Jhn 18:37 NIV). When the truth comes to our knowledge and understanding, we’re forced to take sides. Those that choose the side of the truth listen to Jesus while those against the truth won’t listen to Him.
When we’re on the side of the truth, we’ll have adversaries on the other side, “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” (Phl 1:28-30). The opposite sides of the truth are evidence of salvation and destruction. Having adversaries helps assure us that we’re on the right side of the truth, the side of salvation.
Suffering for His sake comes with the territory—it comes with being on the side of the truth, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Mat 5:11). To affirm and stand for the truth that Jesus Christ taught and suffer the consequences is to suffer for His sake and His glory. When we stand for the truth Jesus taught, His adversaries become ours and God will bless us for it.
When Paul said, “Having the same conflict which ye saw in me,” he certainly didn’t mean that we’ll necessarily be beaten, flogged, stoned, and shipwrecked like he was. He meant that we’ll also experience the same conflict over the truth. We’ll have adversaries using the same kinds of tactics against us that they used against him. The particular conflict the Philippians saw Paul and Silas have is that they were falsely accused before multitudes of people which led to their punishment, “And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.” (Act 16:20-22). The people were told false things about them to stir up animosity, retaliation, and unjust punishment, “But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans” (Act 16:37).
This same conflict had happened to Paul earlier in other regions, “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren” (Act 14:2), “And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead” (Act 14:19). And this same conflict happened later in other regions, “Whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.” (Act 17:7-8), “But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people” (Act 17:13).
When we’re on the side of the truth, we’ll experience the same conflict as Paul. We’ll have adversaries in positions of authority that will stir up people against us. We won’t always know what people are being told about us or why they have suddenly turned against us.
When we’re reproached for Christ’s name and His sake, it’s evidence that God’s breath is in us but not in them, “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified” (1Pe 4:14). These two “parts” or two sides of the truth reveal who belongs to God and who doesn’t.
“For I am not ashamed [epaischynomai] of the gospel of Christ” (Rom 1:16). Paul was not ashamed of the gospel Christ preached. He was not ashamed of Him and His words, “For whosoever shall be ashamed [epaischynomai] of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luk 9:26). Those that teach a different view of God than what Jesus Christ Himself taught should be suspect. If they’re sincerely ignorant by way of having been taught that view by men in seminary, then God will be merciful to them when they come to the knowledge of the truth and repent. However, when they’ve been shown the truth but refuse to change their teaching, they’re bearing the fruit of a wolf. They’re exhibiting the evidence of being ashamed of Him and of His words. Sanctification means “separated” or “set apart,” “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctifiedare all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed [epaischynomai] to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11). Jesus separated His disciples from the rest of the world by the truth He taught them, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (Jhn 17:17). And He that separated them along with them that were separated by Him are “all of one,” they’re in unity and agreement about the truth. For that cause, for the cause of the truth, He’s not ashamed to call them His brethren, “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and tomy God, and your God” (Jhn 20:17). And He’s not ashamed to call us His brethren when we’re not ashamed to call His Father our Father, and His God our God!