Hosea 4:15 Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth.
This was written during the time that Israel and eventually Judah went into apostasy in the Old Testament. The two nations had separated and, as the Lord has revealed in His word, Israel – the northern nation – turned to idolatry immediately when Jeroboam set up golden calves for them to worship. However, we can learn some principles here, which are upheld by New Testament teaching as well.
God does not want people who are idolaters to swear by His name nor to gather with His true believers. This is referring not to profanity, but rather to those pretending that they are God-fearing and using the talk of Jehovah-worshippers, when in fact they worship devils and have committed spiritual whoredom.
Jesus said in Matthew 15:8-9, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me…
This plays itself out in many ways in our day. We hear many politicians trying to “talk religion” to get the vote of Christians. Mormons try to claim they are part of “the Lord’s church” when in fact they believe heresies and blasphemous things about God and their own destiny. Also, there is no such thing as a “Christian pagan” as some try to claim. If you are this kind of person – one who professes with your mouth to worship the God of the Bible but your heart is far from God and His truth – you need to stop claiming the name of Jesus Christ and stay away from His church. OR, you need repent and forsake these ungodly things and worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24) – His truth, not your own idea of it. (John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.) God actually doesn’t want you mouthing His words and covenants pretending to be what you are not. He doesn’t want you joining with His children pretending that you worship Him as they do, when your heart is far from Him.
Psalms 50:16-23 But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.
Shame on the churches who think they are doing God a service by drawing these people into the fellowship of the saints. Making the church “seeker friendly” has never been God’s intent. If there is not a difference between the righteous and the unrighteous, what would cause the unrighteous to desire salvation?
Ezekiel 44:23 And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.
What I have quoted so far is primarily in the context of the Old Testament Jewish believers, but there are examples of this in the New Testament as well. In Acts 16:16-18 we read, And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. (Obviously Paul did not believe there was such a thing as a “Christian pagan” or “Christian witch”!)
Here we see that Paul was patient for many days. Why this was, we are not told clearly but, after some time the Apostle Paul became grieved by this damsel possessed with a devil who was giving them “free publicity”. What she was declaring was the truth, was it not? They were servants of God and they were showing the way of salvation. But, there is one main problem and quite possibly a second.
1) She was a known soothsayer – a servant of Satan. She obviously did not hear their message and repent and believe. So, although it was not in the assembly of the saints per se, allowing her to continue to follow them and declare who they were was making an association that became quite inappropriate. …for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14
2) It is quite possible that she was disrupting their efforts. This is quite common practice for devils and evil spirits. Our families have seen and heard this in action on more than one occasion. If the devil cannot stop the preaching of the word, he will try to interrupt it or cause distractions. Just one example: A friend of my family’s attended some meetings where pastors were gathered for the sake of edifying one another. One man at the meetings was handing out dream catchers (for those who don’t know, these are talismans from American Indian spiritism – they are tools of medicine men and have a very real demonic aspect to them.) Our friend, being from the western region of the U.S. where there is sometimes more awareness of these things, was shocked by this and by the fact that some pastors were accepting them and no one was stopping the man. Then he observed that during the meetings this same man became a serious disruption during the preaching. Whenever there was an important point being made this man would begin to scream “Amen” till the words of the speaker were lost, both because of the noise and because of the “show”. By the end of the meetings, he’d gathered a little crowd of followers who thought he was very “spiritual” and great.
The leaders of this meeting had the opportunity to stop this situation early – especially since it was in the assembly of believers. By letting the situation go without stopping it, it would have been hard to expose him as a tare at the end without “uprooting” a lot a people who had thought he was “very zealous”. (Matt. 13:29) Had the leaders had the sense to stop him early it would not have come to this point.
This brings us to one of the important reasons that God does not want these people in His church. Romans 16:17-18 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
We who are Christ’s are commanded to mark and avoid these people. They cause divisions and offences contrary to sound doctrine. But, the reason is – “For” signifies the reason – they serve not the Lord Jesus and they deceive the hearts of the simple with their good words and fair speeches! Remember? We are talking about people who draw nigh to God with their mouth and who speak His covenants but their heart is far from Him! If we tolerate these people in the fellowship of the saints, they will deceive the hearts of the simple.
Now, it is not possible to prevent unbelievers come into the assembly of the believers sometimes. For this reason the Lord tells us through Paul, If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. 1 Corinthians 14:23-25
The point here is that if an unbeliever comes in and hears tongues being spoken they will be confused and think the believers are crazy. But, if they hear the word of prophecy – the preaching of the word – they will be convinced of his need of salvation. How many unsaved people have “gone to church” and decided that the preacher knew all about them and was “preaching right at” them? This is the power of prophesy that Paul is talking about. It is the power of the Holy Spirit to bring words through the preacher’s mouth that directly apply to that individual that needs to believe or become more learned in the truth! And this even though the speaker himself does not know the exact need!
But, this is quite different from a person who comes into the assembly of the believer with the desire to deceive the saints with their “good, godly Christian” words.
Titus 1:10-11 and 16 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake…16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
In 2 Timothy 3:1-4 we’re given a long list of people who are “all kinds of wicked”, so to speak. Then in verse 5 it continues, Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. From. Such. Turn. Away! Why? verse 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, They are creeps who will lead people astray – here silly women, and in Romans 16 the simple.
The Lord tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
So are there people whom God does not want in His church? Yes. Those who come in to destroy, to disrupt, to deceive and to lead astray. Those who mouth words of apparent righteousness, but their hearts are far from God. Those who profess to know Him, but in works they deny him and they are abominable. Those who call themselves “Christians” but are living boldly in sin.
It is not just the pastor’s and leading elders’ job to protect the assembly of believers from these things. Romans 16 is addressed to all the brethren of the church in Rome. First Corinthians is addressed to the church at Corinth. And, in 1 Corinthians 5 we see that this is our responsibility in our individual lives and homes as well as the responsibility of the leaders of the local church.
By the way, I would like to submit to you that God is not impressed with the ideology that says that “The truth is the truth no matter whose mouth we find it in.” Christians will quote abominable people (Mark Twain, Kahlil Gibron, Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc.) and then make this claim. Based upon the passage above in Psalm 50, I think it’s safe to say that God most certainly does not agree with this line of reasoning! The Lord Almighty says that the wicked have no business declaring His covenants. I hardly think He wants His saints quoting those who hate Him and His word. “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” This is not a small matter and we all need to be more cautious about our sources of “truth” on spiritual subjects!