Are You Following a Person? (Are You Pursuing a Preacher, Prophet, Pastor, or Priest?)

Are You Following a Person?

Are You Following a Person?

Are You Pursuing a Preacher, Prophet, Pastor, or Priest?

Richard Hollerman

It is characteristic of the human race to want to place oneself under a human leader, preacher, priest, or prophet. This is the way it has been throughout history, at least from the time of Nimrod, a “mighty one on the earth” (Genesis 10:8). There is something in man that craves for human leadership and the exaltation of another person.

It may be a popular preacher or a self-proclaimed prophet. It may be a beloved pastor or perhaps a priest over a church. It may be anyone who claims to speak for God and even give special messages for God. This person may allege that God has spoken to him (or her)—either audibly or in his heart. Then, this preacher or prophet claims to have “a special word” for you—or even the whole world! Whatever the situation, we ask this pointed question: Are you willing to take the word of this person and follow it instead of submitting yourself to the revealed and written Word of Almighty God?

Down through the ages, we know that certain men (or women) have arisen who promise salvation to those who follow them. It may be worded differently, but in some way these “leaders” assure their followers that if they follow this particular leader, then eternal salvation will be theirs. Most people seem to be oblivious to the stark reality that if the leader happens to be wrong, then the follower will also be wrong! As Jesus wisely warned, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And of a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14). Not only will a blind guide fall into a “spiritual” pit, sadly, he will also guide his followers into a pit!

Hasn’t it occurred to these people that all of such preachers and teachers can’t be right? If Joseph Smith was right, then Charles Russell wasn’t. If Billy Graham was right, then Muhammad wasn’t. If Jim Jones was right, then Martin Luther wasn’t. This is true of all of these people.  Admittedly, some leaders may think that others are wrong but don’t attach eternal saving significance to this fact. But let’s realize that everyone can’t be right. And if such people as Augustine, Mary Baker Eddy, or Ellen G. White were right, then all others would be wrong. And this wrongness will be apparent throughout the endless ages of eternity!

A Few of the Religious Leaders

Consider some of the spiritual and moral leaders down through the centuries that have collected a following of gullible souls who have followed them, regardless of where the leader takes them! Can we see how dangerous this is? How serious it is that we would place our body and soul into the hands of a spiritual leader! This is only safe if the leader happens to be Jesus Christ!

Notice a few of these spiritual or religious leaders:

Buddha (563? to 483? BC) was an Indian mystic who promoted spiritual enlightenment that releases a devotee from desire, suffering, and rebirth through reincarnation. There are at least 535 billions of Buddhists today—the followers of Buddah!

Muhammad (570-632 AD) was a prophet from Mecca in Arabia who produced the Qur’an and whose followers conquered large portions of North Africa, Southern Europe, Arabia, and the Middle East. The power of the sword was welded so successfully that at least 1.5 billion people are in the clutches of Islam!

Joseph Smith (1805 to 1844) was a self-proclaimed prophet from New York who produced the Book of Mormon and led many followers by convincing them that he had seen visions. Promoting the false idea that faithful Mormons will become “gods” or “goddesses” in the next life, they have led millions of people astray!

Martin Luther (1583-1546) was a German monk who began the Reformation and produced numerous books that eventuated in the Lutheran Church of today, with many millions of adherents! “Justification by faith alone” was his rallying cry!

John Calvin (1509-1564), born in France, but lived later in Switzerland, this renowned teacher wrote voluminously and began the theological system known today as Calvinism.

John Wesley (1703-1791) was a British preacher and author who wrote numerous theological and practical books and taught widely with his system being called Wesleyism today.

Billy Graham (1918-2018) was the popular American evangelist who spoke to millions via radio as well as in person through dozens of “Crusades” in the world. He became the chief preacher for countless people and wrote dozens of popular books.

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) denounced popular Protestantism and Catholicism while creating his own cult, the so-called Jehovah’s Witness organization, that taught multitudes religious lies. He led many astray through his writings and through those of his successors.

Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy (1821-1910), the originator of so-called “Christian Science” and the cult, “Church of Christ, Scientist,” began a group that denies the reality of sin, the inspiration of the Bible, the need for an atonement, and numerous other basic Biblical teachings.

Ellen G. White (1827-1915) began the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Totally overthrowing Biblical teaching about female leadership, she became the head of a full-sized denomination through her false prophecies. Numerous false doctrines have been promoted by her organization.

Jim Jones (1931-1978) became obsessed with his own importance and came to reject the authority of Scripture, choosing to exalt himself as authority over his deceived followers. Eventually he led over 900 of them to a mass suicide in Guyana, South America.

Many Other Human Leaders

What we find to be amazing is not only that these male and female leaders claimed their own importance and served as prophets, priests, preachers, and teachers. but that numerous people chose to follow them! Were there no Biblically-literate people around to examine and reject some of the things taught by these leaders? We know that there might be a big difference between the heresy taught by some of the leaders as compared to that of others. But who among us would want to consume only a few spoons-full of poison in a glass of fruit juice?

It would seem that if there were any possibility at all that a given religious leader might be proclaiming lies that would condemn a person to eternity without God, that a prospective follower would want to examine the person and his teachings with great thoroughness. Paul told Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching” (1 Timothy 4:16a). Likewise, a devotee of these men should want to pay “close attention” to them and their life as well as their teaching. But, sadly, it would seem that people are so gullible that they just accept these preachers and self-proclaimed prophets without much examination.

Would it not be logical that a person should want to study a man or woman out if they were to claim that they actually are spokesmen or spokeswomen for God! If there were even a one percent possibility that John Doe or Mary Smith was a liar, deceiver, and false, surely a person should think, study, and proceed with great caution. As Proverbs 27:12 tells us: “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naïve proceed and pay the penalty.” The prudent person or the spiritually-discerning person will surely want to discover what he is getting into and what the leader says and how he or she lives!

God Issues Warnings

Since this subject is so serious, with eternal consequences, our gracious and truth-loving God gave us several warnings to consider. Please don’t overlook this matter for it is of utmost seriousness! If a person is wrong about who Jesus is, what He has done, who God is, how to be saved from sin, what God requires of us, and many other basic teachings of Scripture, then he is totally wrong! And if one is wrong, he won’t see God or be in His presence for all eternity. Instead, he will be cast off, away from God and His bountiful salvation. There won’t be any “second chances” to “get it right”! If we miss out on salvation here and now, we won’t have any more opportunities throughout eternity! And eternity is endless!

Of course, God recognizes this and issues many different cautions. We read: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). We know of people all around us and we know of many family members who are lost, but they think they are saved! Thus, their way of life and their worldview and their conceived way of salvation “seems right” to them. But, in reality, this is the “way of death”!

The Lord Jesus declared, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). He also said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to the, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (7:21-23).

Notice that these preachers or teachers will claim to have prophesied in the name of Jesus, they said that they cast out demons in the name of Jesus, and they claimed to perform many miracles in the name of Jesus (v. 22). This sounds like various religious leaders in our day, doesn’t it! But Jesus will tell them on the Day of Judgment that He never really “knew” them. Friends, there are many people out there who profess to be preachers, teachers, priests, or prophets—but they don’t really know Jesus and He doesn’t know them!

Latter, in Matthew, Jesus warned, “See to it that no one misleads you” (Matthew 24:4). He said that “many” people would “mislead many” (v. 5). He continued, “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” (v. 11). Then He said, “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (v. 24). With all of these warnings uttered by our Lord, can you see that it is very important that we keep from being deceived by false teachers of all sorts?

There are other warnings in the Gospels but let’s go to the book of Acts. For example, when Paul spoke to the elders of Ephesus, he said, “I know that after by departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30). If this was a threat to the disciples in Ephesus, it would be today as well.

When Paul wrote to the Romans, he issued this command: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (16:17-18). Do you suppose that there might be people with “smooth and flattering” speech who “deceive” professing Christians today?

We might be familiar with the apostle’s warnings to Timothy, for the sake of the saints: “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). He goes on to say, “. . . by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (v. 2). This shows that many today will follow preachers and teachers who represent deceitful spirits and who proclaim doctrines of demons. Let us beware! Second Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, and 1, 2, and 3 John also provide instruction in dealing with false teachers and prophets. Virtually every New Testament book gives warnings not to follow anyone other than God or Christ Jesus.

We also read in 2 Peter 2:1: “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you. . . .” In the final chapter of this book, we read, “Be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness” (3:17). This shows that “false teachers” will be found in among those in NT assemblies, and we have a danger of being “carried away” by the “error of unprincipled men” and thus fall.

Why do you think that so many commands and principles relate to false teachers, false prophets, and compromisers? It is because we all are prone to be deceived by others, especially if they have a semblance of truth and sound somewhat spiritual. But beware! Satan uses men and women who sound “spiritual” but they lead others astray.

The Message to Us

Now that we have noted some of the teachers and self-proclaimed prophets in the past and examined some of the leading warnings in Scripture on the dangers of being led astray by this teaching, what does this say to us? What shall we think and what can we do?

As the warning passages say, we should know God and His truth well enough to defend the truth against all kinds of error. Further, we should be courageous in our defense of the gospel and the truths of God’s Word. As Paul says, “I am appointed for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16b). And as Jude writes, “Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (v. 3). When we “defend” the gospel and “contend for the faith” we are showing devotion to God and a commitment to His inspired, authoritative, sufficient Word! We are not being unkind, hypocritical, or mean. We are loyal to the true and living God and His inspired Word!

When we remember that we only have one single opportunity to live and submit to the truth of God, it becomes all-important for us to believe, hold fast to, and share the truth of God with as many as possible. Also we will immediately discover that almost everyone is oblivious to the doom that awaits them—unless they choose to believe and love the truth! If we really love the truth, let us hold to it and share it with all who will listen or read.

People will be lost or saved, depending on their response to God in His Word. They will be eternally blessed in God’s presence or they will be in eternal anguish if they choose to turn away from the truth and, rather, embrace the lie of Satan. What will it be for you and me? How will we respond now? How will we turn toward or turn away from the truths of Scripture? Jesus said, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). Will we love that Word, believe the Word, and teach it to others? Or will we despise that Word, distort it, pervert it, and follow a substitute for the truth? (See 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.)

Now is the time to openly hold to the truth of God and reject all error. Let us be followers of Jesus the Son of God and turn away from all counterfeits. Only in this way will be assured of having a part in God’s Kingdom!

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