Today if you look across the spiritual landscape of the Church, you will find certain individuals who parade themselves as ‘men of God’, (there are females among them) they are in every place and at all levels, some are more visible and controversial than others but they are there, you don’t need to do so much searching to find them.
For this group of people their claims to being ‘men or women of God’ are many and varied, for some it lies in the display of miraculous powers, for others great wealth, material acquisitions, great following and big ‘works’ or even all of the above.
Their words and methods are quite questionable but like many people would say, ‘only God knows who is serving him’ but is this a true assertion? Can we not reasonably put to test those who claim to serve God just like the Church in Ephesus did?
I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. Rev 2:2-3
I think the challenge many people have is that once the name ‘man of God’ is dropped people are held in check, they have no idea of what to expect from a supposed man or woman of God using the name of Jesus Christ and often quoting from the bible.
But there are standards by which to cross check. This is what this post is about, how to reasonable check and protect oneself from aiding or abetting evil or worse being caught up in it either as a victim or a actor.
Let me explain, the phrase man of God is not commonly used in the NT, it is used only about three times, even the expression servant of God is only used only three times too and all by Paul in a private letter to his protégé Timothy, on the other hand the term man of God is used 71 times in the OT, there is a reason for this disparity in usage.
In the OT, God called and sent out his prophets, the only way you could tell which prophet was fake or genuine was by
1. If their prophecies came to pass or not, and or (Deut. 13 & 18)
2. If what they said drew people to the worship of God or not, so expectedly there were quite a number of false and fake prophets who were in business in the OT and this was quite a challenge for the people of God
This is a very simple description of a true or false Prophet from the OT, but this should do for the purpose of this discussion
But in the NT, the picture is quite different, God does not call anyone directly, the only one person who could be directly called a servant of God or was called by God directly was Jesus Christ. Every other person in ministry was called by Jesus and sent by Jesus, of course it is technically correct to say that because they were called by Jesus, then they indirectly were called by God but you will see the reason why I make this distinction soon.
When Jesus called the first apostles, he called them to bear witness of him, to do this they were called to spend time with him before he sent them out to preach.
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve — designating them apostles-that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. Mark 3:13-16
In order to properly witness of him, they had to know him, understand his message, absorb his heart and reflect him in their thoughts, words and actions. They were his witnesses, while this is true for the whole body of Christ, it is even more important for those who minister in His Name.
The first apostles were so successful at this that people recognized that they had been with Jesus
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. Acts 4:13-14
This is why the believers were called Christians or little Christs at Antioch (Acts 14:26)
That man of God you are hailing, does he represent Christ, in his words, motivations or actions?
It was not just the miracles they did, it was who they were that pointed people to Christ, people with dubious spiritual power have always been in existence.
There was a fellow in Samaria, a sorcerer or native doctor called Bar Jesus or Elymas who bewitched the people and claimed that he was the great power of God and the believed him, that is until Philip came on the scene and began to preach Christ and bring deliverance to the people (Acts 8)
The apostles in their writings primarily referred to themselves as the apostles of Christ because they represented him (you will find this about nine times in the NT) and about six times they called themselves servants of Christ.
This is the point, the legitimacy of a ‘man of God’ is tied to his proper representation of Jesus Christ who called and sent him, no one can hide under a dubious or vague man of God claim while misrepresenting Jesus to whom God has committed the task of salvation.
The work of the ministry today is an extension or continuation of the ministry of Jesus and this consists primarily of preparing His people so that the whole body might do the works of Jesus.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Eph 4:7, 11-13
That man of God you are hailing, does he represent Christ, in his words, motivations or actions? Unlike a God who was not seen, Jesus Christ is manifestly revealed to us in the gospels, four books that give us insight into his heart, character, message and motivations, He is not an unknown nebulous figure, he became flesh and blood and we can compare anything and everyone to him. He is the standard man of God template.
Paul the apostle in his writing to the Corinthian Church had cause to make this same arguments, he called the false men of God deceitful workers and false representatives of Jesus Christ, listen to him!
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 2 Cor 11:13-15
These were people in and around the Church, not some peddlers of another god or message, those ones do not pose much of an identification problem. They are in plain sight.
It is a better expression of the word of God in the NT to refer to ministers of the gospel primarily as servants of Jesus Christ, if we do this we can immediately ask, is this one like his master or does he look like another? Jesus said the goal of every servant is to be like his master and of every student like his teacher; the ones who are perfect among them will properly represent their masters or teachers. (Matt. 10:24)
These ‘men of God’ who do they look like? That is the judgment!
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Matt 7:21-23
Many years ago when I read these words of Jesus, I was greatly troubled, how could anyone do miracles, claim the lordship of Jesus and still be rejected of him? Now I understand it clearly, they did not represent him or bear witness of him and as the word declares ‘a false witness speaks lies’ these were false witnesses speaking lies of Jesus and about him and who is the father of lies? you got it! Satan is the father of lies and of all false witnesses.
Here is something from the book of Revelation that I missed for many years until the Holy Spirit brought it to my attention
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, Rev 1:1
The book of Revelation was not a direct download from God to the beloved Apostle John, it was the revelation that God gave to Jesus Christ, who in turn sent to John the Beloved by the hand of an angel.
Why didn’t God give it to John directly? This is because of the reasons mentioned above. Jesus is the head of the Church and the Minister of God to the world.
It is Jesus who decides who among His servants must do what has been revealed to him (Jesus)
Every true minister (and this is also true for every member of the body of Christ) will be judged primarily with respect to his proper representation of Jesus and his faithfulness in carrying out the assignments given to him by the Lord
Every ‘man of God’ that shows no fidelity or resemblance to the Head in thoughts, actions or words has a different master, a different god and a different destination.
It makes no difference the number of miraculous signs, lying wonders, fake, real or imagined testimonies and stupendous wealth he or she may parade, or whether they hide under humanitarian gestures or show extreme generosity.
Be not deceived, it is the generosity of the hunter who loads the trap with bait to entrap prey.
In concluding, we recognize that even the best servants of Christ are men and work in progress. They may slip up atimes but it will never be in a manner that shows such distance in heart, or words from Jesus Christ.
The constant cry of their hearts will be ‘that I may be like him’ to be honest they may not see at once the changes being wrought in them but others will and say that these ones have been with Jesus.