We’ve been examining the reasons why many who come before Jesus who call Him “Lord” on Judgment Day will hear His chilling declaration, “I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
We have concluded that the reason why many will be shocked by Jesus’ declaration to them is that they have been deceived by false prophets into following a false Jesus.
We also have come to the conclusion that the way that we can tell whether we have been misled by a false prophet is by examining both the moral practices and the teachings of those who have been our leaders—to see if they are in accord with Jesus’ Word and the words of His apostles. If those we have followed have led immoral lives, or borne bad fruit, they are very likely false prophets. If their message is not in accord with the words of Jesus or His apostles, then our lives are built on a faulty foundation, a foundation which will crumble come Judgment Day.
We asked what other New Testament teachings—the teachings of Jesus’ authorized apostles—might further clarify Jesus’ warnings in Matthew 7.
Much is said throughout the New Testament concerning false prophets. However, II Corinthians 11 must certainly be considered a central passage.
The Apostle Paul had his hands full when it came to teaching and leading the church at Corinth. Many immoral and unruly people had become a part of the church, and unfortunately, the church had also been tolerant of false apostles who challenged Paul’s authority time and time again.
The great apostle under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit makes reference to them late in His second letter correcting the Corinthians for their numerous errors. In II Corinthians 11:2-4 he writes, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by His craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.”
Obviously, the issue Paul is addressing is that he fears the Corinthians are being led astray—even as Jesus spoke of false prophets who would lead many astray in Matthew 7. He credits the serpent, or Satan himself, with being the originator of these deceptions which would lead people astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
Exactly how these Corinthians are being led astray is also made obvious in verse 4. People were coming in Christ’s name but were preaching “another Jesus whom we have not preached,” the Corinthians were receiving “a different spirit” which they had not received, and/or they were hearing “a different gospel which” they had not previously accepted (II Corinthians 11:4).
Some might think that Paul is commending the Corinthians for receiving such teachings when he says, “You bear this beautifully.” (II Corinthians 11:4b). However, the truth of the matter is, as is borne out by the rest of the passage, that Paul is actually speaking sarcastically. The Corinthians had indeed borne with these false teachings and their teachers “beautifully,” but it was definitely not a good thing. In fact, in verse 6, he defends himself as being “not in the least inferior to the most eminent apostles,” and in verse 13 he calls the teachers of these different Jesus’s and different gospels “false apostles.”
Clearly, the deception Paul speaks of here confirms our conclusions about the one Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7—that there are other false or bogus Jesus’s. However, Paul adds two more important issues to the equation. These false apostles were also teaching “a different gospel” and those who were listening and believing them were “receiving a different spirit” which they had not previously received.
So our suspicion that some kind of false, bogus or different Jesus is involved in the major deception Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount is right on. And two more important matters have raised their ugly heads—different spirits and different gospels.
We can now further conclude that false apostles and false prophets are purveyors of false Jesus’s and false gospels, and they bring “a different spirit” to those who receive their teachings.
It’s a matter of Biblical discernment.
But what exactly is “another Jesus,” “a different spirit” or a “different Gospel?
Whatever they are is crucial—because the Apostle Paul indicates in verse 15, like Jesus, that such teachings will have a damning effect on whoever preaches or receives them.
Next time, we will discuss the matter of just exactly what constitutes “another Jesus.”
–Jim Wallace, Th.M., Dallas Seminary