DISTINGUISHING GENUINE MESSAGES FROM GOD FROM FALSE ONES
By Glenda Ward
A genuine message from God proclaims God’s righteous demands, is in harmony with God’s revelation, and actually comes to pass. Jerusalem recognized many prophets. At times, these prophets contradicted one another. Since false prophets abounded during this time, the people needed a clear view to judge well, to obtain spiritual guidance, understanding, and wisdom in TRUTH. Jeremiah was positive that Babylonian captivity was Judah’s immediate downfall. The nation’s kings had failed to set the right example and lead the people in repentance (Jeremiah 21:1 to 22:30). The spiritual leaders also failed. False prophets were leading the people to destruction. The ones who should have sounded a clear warning had instead produced confusion and chaos in the social, moral, and spiritual realms.
Jeremiah’s reaction as he saw horrible things from the prophets of Jerusalem; he was heartbroken over the prophets’ failure (23:9-15). The people were immoral, dishonest, violent, and hypocritical. Judah’s spiritual leaders had adopted similar lifestyles. Now, God was preparing for a bitter end for them. From the false prophets of Jerusalem, profaneness had gone into all the land. These prophets were causing the people to be without worth, value, and roots. They spoke of a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say to all “No evil shall come upon you” (Jeremiah 23:17).
Jeremiah branded many prophets as false because they spoke of a vision that originated in their own hearts and imagination, NOT from God. Jeremiah warned the people. When we hear contradictory messages from different preachers, teachers, or writers today, which voice we should listen to is not always easy to discern or to know which one is TRUE. Jeremiah gave some clues to help us to know how to determine God’s Truth.
A true prophet’s life will validate what he says. Jeremiah accused the false prophets of being profane (immoral) instead of holy and righteous (Reference 23:11), and liars who supported evildoers in their wickedness (25:14).
- A true prophet will not proclaim false hope (23:16). False messages will lead to “make you vain”. Messages of unfit prophets filled the people with false hopes. These prophets confronted no one with one’s own sinfulness (23:17). A false prophet teaches and preaches that no harm will come to those who do wrong. Such messages condone evil and encourage people in their rebellion against God.
- True prophets have received a divine call from God (23:21). A false prophet’s message still affects people, but the effect can be so much different if the God-called preacher/teacher/prophet has a True close interwoven relationship with God and a direct call for their ministry from Him. A true man of God will reflect his call from God!
In Jeremiah chapters 27 and 28; under God’s instructions, Jeremiah made a yoke and wore it on his shoulders to reinforce God’s message. God had put Judah under Babylon’s yoke. Jeremiah preached that message and continued to wear the yoke to remind all who saw him of his message, from God to the people. The prophet Hananiah however preached an entirely different message. He jumped to the wrong conclusion. (Read Jeremiah 28:6-8). Jeremiah’s response to Hananiah is another clue as to how to determine the True from the false.
- Jeremiah compared what Hananiah said to what previous men of God had said. He laid Hananiah’s message alongside of Scripture to see how it matched up with Bible Scripture.
The New Testament warns against false teachers, and to try the spirits whether they are of God; “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). We are to try or test what we hear and compare it with what Bible Scripture says. If one does not know the Bible well enough to test the teachings they hear, then more consistent Bible Study is needed! God has given pastors and teachers of God’s Word to us. He has given the church family spiritual leaders who have knowledge and experience that we lack. We are to utilize their counsel and bring our questions to those who demonstrate that they know the Word of God in Scripture by their daily living of God’s Word.
- If God says something will or will not happen, it works out that way. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 cautions that even if what is said does come to pass if the messenger is leading people away from God, he is a false prophet.
Two Truths to remember: 1) God’s promises and prophecies are fulfilled on His timetable, not ours. 2) God’s promises are sometimes conditional. To claim promises without meeting those conditions are futile.
Was Hananiah sincere in his message? Listen to what Jeremiah says; Read Jeremiah Chapter 28. In verses 2-4 the lie which Hananiah caused the people to believe; the people believed this could be validated by Scripture in 2 Kings 24:20-25:17. They rebelled against Babylon with great results. Jeremiah prophesied the false prophet’s death. Hananiah’s death came within months and is recorded in Jeremiah 28:17. What Jeremiah said came to pass. What Hananiah said did not. Jeremiah was the True prophet!
CHRISTIAN LIFE NEEDS
A genuine message from God proclaims God’s righteous demands, is in harmony with God’s revelation, and actually comes to pass.
Young Adults – need help to sift through a barrage of religious teachings. They need to develop spiritual and mental discernment.
Midpoint Adults – need to be encouraged to hold to their values in scriptural standards of Truth. They also need to point others to God’s Truth.
Senior Adults – need to reaffirm the biblical foundations on which they have built their beliefs and behavior.
- Center attention on Scripture Reading to see its importance.
- Affirm that false teaching is an ancient and modern phenomenon.
- Comprehend the historical setting of the Scripture being studied.
- Identify characteristics of false prophets and True prophets.
- Discover at least two traits of a True prophet: Truth never contradicts truth. A genuine message from God is in harmony with the Scriptures.
- Criteria for discerning True Messages from God: Proclaims God’s righteous standard; is in harmony with the Scriptures; points people to God; and comes to pass. God’s purpose in our being participants in our local churches is to give us spiritual “elders” to help us when contradictory voices confuse us.
Have you learned to listen for God’s message to you in His Word as it is read and preached? The extent of your obedience measures the reality of your worship!
Glenda Ward is a member of Grand View Baptist Church in McDowell County. She is the mother of five grown children. Glenda is a Christian writer/author of “Something to Think About” – weekly Christian Articles. She writes Church Programs & Bulletins, VBS Material, Christmas and Easter Programs; all material based on the KJV of the Bible. Also testing the field in tributes, individual memorial writings, etc. You can read more good Christian news from Glenda HERE.