Judge the Prophets by God’s Word

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Meditation for Trinity 8

+  Matthew 7:15-23  +

For our brief meditation this morning, we will consider the words of Jesus in the Gospel, the words with which He drew to a close His Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus addressed these words to all of His disciples at that time, all of His followers. And that’s important.

So when He says, “Beware of false prophets,” He is speaking to all Christians.  But, doctrine is for pastors to decide, right?  Seminary professors?  Synods?  You haven’t been trained at seminaries, after all.  It’s true, you haven’t been trained at seminaries, nor have you been called to preach the Word.  But you have been given the Word of Christ—the Word that is like fire, and like a hammer.  You have not been given the Word to proclaim it as a prophet.  But you have been given the Word to know and to believe, and to use in order to do what Jesus tells you to do in the Gospel—to beware of false prophets.  To judge the doctrine of those who come to you in the name of God.

Sometimes Christians would like to throw up their hands in defeat and say, “God’s Word is too hard to understand! Why study it?” Or, “I know enough already! I don’t need to study it!”  My friends, if you care at all about Jesus, if you love Him, if you believe in Him, then you cannot take that attitude.  All you have in this life is His Word, and as the Psalm says, God has exalted above all things His name and His Word. 

You do not know God apart from His Word.  You may think you do, as many people in the world think they know God.  And whatever they think about God, whatever they imagine He is like, whatever they have heard repeated often enough, that becomes doctrine for them.  And they seek out a church, not one that proclaims the clear Word of God from the Scriptures, but a church that teaches in conformity with their ideas about God, a preacher who preaches what their itching ears want to hear.

You do not know God apart from His Word. Apart from His Word you might think you’re a pretty good person. But the hammer and fire of His Word reveals nothing but sin in you.  Apart from His Word, you might think your works will get you to heaven, or that your sins are so bad that you must certainly end up in hell.  But the hammer and fire of God’s Word reveals only one way to be justified before a holy God: not by works, but by faith alone in Jesus Christ.

This justification is the work of the Triune God: our Savior-God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

The fire of God’s Word reveals the grace of God the Father who loved the world and gave His Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 

The fire of God’s Word reveals the work of the Son of God on your behalf, the work of bearing the sins of the world, the work of redeeming mankind from the condemnation of sin by His holy, precious blood, and of earning for all people a righteous verdict in God’s courtroom.

The fire of God’s Word reveals that the Spirit of God is the One who works through the Word to convict condemned sinners of their sin and bring them to trust in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  Whoever believes in the Son of God is freely justified before God.  Whoever does not believe, says Jesus, stands condemned already.

This is the simple truth of the Gospel, and Jesus calls upon you today in the Gospel to judge every prophet or preacher who comes to you, including me, by that Word of God.

Do you expect there to be peace in the Church and harmony among all who come to preach in the name of Christ?  Jesus says, no, there will not be peace on this earth.  There will be a continual presence of true prophets and false prophets.  And they will all look the same to you, Jesus says.  They will all come dressed like sheep, like true believers in Jesus who wear the name of God.  And they will all sound awfully similar.  They will all quote from Scripture.  They will all claim to teach in the name of God.  They will all call upon Jesus as Lord, and claim to preach in His name.  They may claim great glory for themselves.  But in the end, Jesus knows the truth.  Jesus knows those who believe in Him, those who have faith, and those who don’t.  Some will hear the terrible sentence on the last day, I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

But where does that leave you?  You cannot see hearts like Jesus can.  Where does it leave you?  How will you know of whom to beware and whom to trust and what you should believe so that you can stand before God with confidence?

You cannot stand before God relying on popes or councils or pastors or synods.  All you have is God’s Word.  And it is enough, because Jesus says it is enough.  God’s Word in the hands of a child is just as powerful as God’s Word in the hands of the greatest preacher. You have all been given God’s Word to hear, to learn, to study, and to believe.  That faith is your shield against all the fiery darts of Satan.  And that Word is your sword, your only weapon to fight him off as he seeks to lead you astray with his lies and deception.  It is a powerful weapon.

If you have neglected the hearing, learning and studying of God’s Word, then today God calls on you to repent and to receive His forgiveness as you look to Christ for mercy.  He is the Throne of Grace and will never turn anyone away who looks to Him.  And if you look to Him for forgiveness, then look to Him also to strengthen you through His Word and to prepare you for every battle and for every affliction.  He is the faithful Shepherd, and He will never abandon His flock. Amen.

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