The title of this article is the question for this issue, submitted by one of our correspondents. It is an important question, for there are always false professors in the best of churches.
First of all, then, let us notice that there are different kinds of false professors:
(1) There is on the one hand the person whose profession is false because its content is false. A person who denies the Trinity or that Jesus is God cannot possibly be making a true profession. Such people, found in the cults, as leaders in the Charismatic movement and in liberal churches, and sometimes, sadly, in evangelical churches, claim to be Christians, but cannot be for they deny the heart of the Christian faith.
(2) There is also the person who professes the truths of Scripture more or less soundly, but who in fact is a hypocrite and unbeliever. Soundness of doctrine, as enormously important as it is, is no guarantee that a person's heart is right with God. It is possible that such a person for a time even lives a life that is outwardly above reproach. In spite of that, his profession is false because his heart is false.
Why are there such persons? The answer is, finally, that consciously or unconsciously, they are Satan's agents in the church and among God's people. They are the people warned against in Jude 4-13. Creeping in unawares they arise "even from among your own selves" (Acts 20:30). They are wolves in sheep's clothing, tares among the wheat, whom Satan plants in order to corrupt and destroy, if possible, God's church and people.
God also has His purpose with them, however, for they are very often the ones who, when they are revealed as false professors, are the immediate cause of the church's development in the truth. Over against their errors and hypocrisy, when it is revealed, the church is forced to set out the truth of Scripture and fight the battle of faith.
What is our calling toward such? In the case of those who profess gross errors, the church's calling is to put them out through church discipline. It may be that some of those who are put out are in fact not false professors, but Christians who have been improperly taught or who have fallen into error. In that case, however, the church must trust that the discipline will be used for their spirit's salvation, as God promises (I Cor. 5:5).
In the second case, that of hypocrites, the church can do nothing except preach the gospel. It is impossible to detect a person as a hypocrite. The fact that he is a hypocrite means that his true face is hidden from us. We must trust, therefore, that though these false professors are agents of Satan whom we cannot detect or find them out, that the gospel itself will do so. I do not mean that the minister must spend all sorts of time and effort suggesting that people are false professors or questioning their professions, but that the gospel, purely preached, will uncover hypocrisy and unbelief in due course - that the hypocritical and hidden false professors will be revealed by the Word of God which is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12-13).
Personally we must, in respect to others, do two things. We must judge a person by their profession and in so doing judge them as charitably as possible in the hope and with the prayer that they are erring brethren, though their profession may not entirely measure up to what it should be. And when we point out or condemn their errors we must do so without making judgment of their hearts, for that belongs to God.
- Volume: 8
- Issue: 4
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address13823 Clear Lake Rd.
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