13 December 2010

A Thought Prompted by John 10:8-13

by Phil Johnson

oo many Christians think the biggest threat to the spiritual well-being of Christ's true flock today are outspoken atheists; people who lobby against prayer and other expressions of faith in public venues; overtly anti-Christian celebrities; or non-Christian religions like Islam, Buddhism, Sikkhism, and whatever it is that Deepak Chopra teaches.

Those aren't the most immediate threat to the true flock of God. The greater threat is posed by false teachers who infiltrate the fold by illegitimate means. Some of the most thoroughly wicked people in the universe seem nice (they often are nice, by human standards). They look good. They sound religious. But under that impressive-looking sheepskin they are false prophets, or thieves, robbers, and wolves.

False teachers may range from devious false messiahs to naive but self-commissioned teachers. They might be as overtly, obviously wicked as Fred Phelps or as benign-sounding and likable as Norman Vincent Peale. Either way, they represent a serious threat to the sheep. They climb over the walls into the sheepfold, acting as if they belong there. Once inside, they steal, kill, and destroy virtually unchallenged.

The evangelical community today is full of spiritual thieves, robbers, and wolves in sheep's clothing. Stay vigilant.

Phil's signature


Adelaide Dupont said...

Thank you.

Soon as I saw the title of this blog, I wondered, "Does this mean his soul is on fire for God and Jesus?"

Yes, false teachers and false teaching are a problem for us all!

Mark Lussier said...

I was an apprentice wolf in sheep's clothing and attended Rhema Bible Training Center from 1986-1988. When I left Oklahoma to bring to 'Word of Faith' to the 'vast spiritual wasteland' of New England, a close personal friend became the Dean of Rhema in Singapore. I was introduced to the Doctrines of Grace and by the mercy of Almighty God have become Reformed in my theology and am a bold witness to the Gospel.

Word Faith type thinking is everywhere, but many sincere believers don't recognize its subtle deception, because it sounds so good and right. One of the clearest indicators to help discern the error is this: Is it God centered, or is it man centered?

Halcyon said...

God hates positive thinkers. 8^D

Darren said...


Frank Turk said...

I think this post is better than most people will understand.

Phil said this:

Some of the most thoroughly wicked people in the universe seem nice (they often are nice, by human standards). They look good. They sound religious. But under that impressive-looking sheepskin they are false prophets, or thieves, robbers, and wolves.

If we can grasp what Phil means here by "good", "nice", and "religious", and then admit to ourselves that this "impressive-looking sheepskin" (note: there's a double meaning in there someplace ...) is actually deceiving us, we will have had a very big day, spiritually and sanctification-wise.

Just sayin'.

donsands said...

I love John chapter 10. What a portion of inspired truth written down for us by John, the beloved of Jesus.

It is deep t ponder of who the hired hand is. We know the wolves, but what is the identity of the hired hand?

A hired hand is in it for the $$$ perhaps. True under-shepherds are going to protect the sheep, because they love the Great Shepherd, and they love the sheep. And since they love the Lord, then they love His truth, and rejoice in the truth, the whole truth.

Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Many of the sheep will resent you deeply for revealing false teachers for what they truly are.

Don't be surprised by it.

David said...

This was me for so many years. Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus that He has saved me.

Adam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

When I read Psalm 119 - I wonder how it is that I can tolerate myself not being set against clearly false teaching within the Body of Christ. For example: 103,104 - "How sweet are Thy words to my taste!....Therefore I hate every false way." or 127,128 - "...I love Thy commandments above gold....therefore....I hate every false way."

If I am passionately for something of such great value, as articulated in the Psalm, i.e. God & His Word - shouldn't I be just as passionately against a contrary supplanting value/teaching as if that were the truth? When I read this Psalm I get an incredible range of conviction and emotion and most of the time, when I think about our "Christian" culture, I just cringe.

If we are careful to first point out the false teaching - and how it is contrary to truth - and then give warning to false teachers, privately, hoping for their repentance and then making that known in the public arena - then we must proceed to warning the sheep about specific false teachers. No? Otherwise, are we passively giving our "amen" for them to the sheep? [Unless we're attending "bubble" church or conference, i.e. I/we live in our own little bubble, don't bother me/us]. One of the main problems we are currently facing is the dilemma of "correct" teachers rubbing shoulders with apostates as if that is okay. What is with that? Or good teachers books being on the shelf alongside heretical books and my wondering if I really am or really am NOT supporting my local "Christian" bookstore? We need your continuing help, Phil, along with those you touch. Great post!!!

j.s.kern said...

If the church you attend is successful in worldly terms and is nationally prominent, there is a wooly wolf somewhere in it...the Gospel is not meant to be popular and the Elect are few in number.

Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets. -Luke 6:26

I live in NZ and I've heard good things about John MacArthur...noam sayin?

Steve Scott said...

If you read John 9 and 10 together, setting aside the chapter division, you have Jesus teaching this right after the blind man is put out by the religious leaders. It flows fairly well. They were threatening communal isolation to anybody who believed in Jesus, then they kept their word.

If your religious leaders have a problem with your true faith, watch out.

Steve Scott said...

...then if they get offended when you try to teach them something, double watch out.

Protoprotestant said...

Spot on.

Listening to most Evangelicals, they think the big threat is Obama or Pelosi...or Bin Laden.

No, the greater threat comes from Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Chuck Colson and Pat Robertson.

Rob said...

This is right on and really spoke to a lot of what I encounter with some of my relatives: "benign-sounding and likable" sounds like so much of the teachers/teaching style that some of my methodist family members are so drawn too: great music, nice people, but a shallow and/or absent genuine gospel message.

The hard part for me is knowing how to reach people like this, who are so swept into these teachers/denominations that to them there's nothing wrong. And I know there are resources for ministering to Catholics and Mormons, but are there resources for ministering to nominal Christian family relations?

Bobby Grow said...

Good point, Steve Scott.

Thomas Louw said...

The saddest thing is when true Christians are sucked in by false preachers and declare open war against you when they are shown the false believes.
Many times it is more of a struggle to convince a believer than an unbeliever that someone is false.

Anonymous said...

As having been a part of a church plant that turned emergent, I feel the sting to this very day for all those who have been misled by the life-coach that we brought in.

Almost every day memories come back to me of this "loving" man who we wrongly placed as a pastor. His true "love" showed when I left the "church" and after multiple of his servants (not God's) attempted to bring me back and I refused he emailed me that I was the type of person Jesus hated - a modern day Judas . . . screams of love, doesn't it.

The sad part, a few months later he had an affair. Then we come to find out that it wasn't his first.

The only good - he was ousted as pastor and the two "elders" who hid the affair for months were ousted too.

The wolves in sheepskin are the biggest threat, so AMEN to your words Phil.

BTW: Looking forward to hearing you speak at the 2011 Shepherd's Conference. The last two years (since I started going) have been pheonominal, in-spite of the bathroom incident after your Keynote of vulgarity from the pulpit. But, as a conference of church leaders in western Christianity, it is another example of a wolf in the flock!

Bike Bubba said...

I'm with Frank here; there is something significant that the wolves are often hiding under a sheepskin. Not that those are the only wolves, but how many people have we seen use their diplomas, accreditations, and such as cover for the fact they're not teaching the Gospel?

Sir Brass said...

j.s., I thought the dividing line wasn't popularity or bank account but what is being taught and exhorted.

So, just because John MacArthur has a large church and is popular, therefore he must be a wolf in sheep's clothing?

That's getting things 180 degrees backwards and totally incorrect. Yeah I [i]knowwhatyousayin[/i], and it [i][b]stinks[/b][/i].

Please check yourself, j.s., before you start slandering godly shepherds in the church.

Chris said...

I tried explaining this concept to my 7 year old the other day. He said that "bad people" should easily be recognizable because they look bad. His thinking alarmed me and I had to teach him a lesson on deception teaching him that men who kidnap kids are often nice ad bring gifts. The thought is horrifying.

j.s.kern said...

Sir Brass,

No, it is pretty much popularity and bank account. Interesting that you can't see that.

Who did I slander again? I called attention to someone who is getting dangerously famous and whose church is making a lot of money. Sounded more like a warning than slander, to me.

And, btw, how much does it cost to put on the Shepherd's Conference and how much to attend?

Camel, meet needle. Oh my.

Douglas Kofi Adu-Boahen said...


Nice try but no cigar. Unless - like in the case of the prosperity preachers - you can prove that Dr MacArthur is actually making a profit from GTY or from the Shepherd's Conference, as a journalism major, may I be the first to warn you that you are treading the line called slander.

By the way, Peter preached and 3000 were born again that day. You wanna call him evil as well? Context, dear friend, context...

j.s.kern said...

Douglas Kofi,

Warn me about slander? lol! You haven't got a clue what "slander" means. My comments were in writing. Perhaps you meant "libel"? And, if so, it'd be interested to see what damages had resulted from my accusation of his "getting dangerously famous".

The "danger” I referred to is spiritual. John MacArthur is getting “dangerously famous” in the sense of the verse I cited (Luke 6:26). As to the danger he’s in from riches, well, read the 3 versions of the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13, Mark 4 & Luke 8).

But again, I said his “church is making a lot of money”—check out his flashy website where you’ll see Dr MacArthur sells Bibles with his name on them, etc. He also speaks all around the country and on TV (for free? I doubt it). The more well-known and well-liked he becomes, the more money his ministry will make. That’s a fact…and something he, personally, should beware; his personal wealth notwithstanding.

As to my comment regarding the Shepherd’s conference, I wasn’t implying that he made money from it, but bemoaning the fact that so much money was being wasted on it—by the organisers and attendees! I think Christians should do better with their money; haven’t they heard of the internet?

As to Peter preaching and converting 3000; read the whole Chapter, particularly the part about all those in the Church having “all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” Then YOU can put my words in context.

I suggest you read my posts again very carefully, rather than just leap to defending someone you like against perceived wrongs by threatening (veiled) me with legal action. Your name suggests you were born outside the States, but your post is 100% Yankee bilge. must try harder...

Steve Scott said...

Protoprotestant wrote:

"No, the greater threat comes from Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Chuck Colson and Pat Robertson."

I think more to the point - for a large portion of readers of this blog - is that false teachers can and will arise at Grace Community, Redeemer Presbyterian and Bethlehem Baptist, and come from Masters, Westminster and Dallas. Nobody is immune, not even the apostle Paul's personal disciples. False teachers can be "yes men" in even the best of places, accumulating all the right doctrines, then using their affirmation as leaders to start their evil deeds once people trust them.

Anonymous said...


Come on. Guys who attack MacArthur on issues of materialism simply are disconnected from reality and have absolutely NO idea what's going on at Grace.

Ignore them.

Kern is probably Andrew C. Bain using a pseudonym.

j.s.kern said...

Menoknight--Is that how you inform people you deem ignorant, tell everyone not to talk to them? That's an interesting tactic; as interesting as your definition of "attack". Read Steve Scott's comment above yours: "No one is immune". Or are you saying that John MacArthur is?

Oh, well, you won't feed the "trolls", so I can't expect you to answer that question here (Why? Because you deem the readers of this blog unable to determine for themselves which comments are worthy of their consideration and which ones aren't? Fair enough. Will you answer me by email? (jazkern@hotmail.com). Let me know what's going on behind the scenes "at Grace". All I see is a ministry with excellent doctrine turning into a typical American money machine. What am I missing? What's with the shop? The deal with the publishers of the ESV? He even managed to get a plug in for them during the interview at the Shepherd's Confab. All a bit worrying, really. But, if you can put me some knowlege on that score, I'll stand corrected--and will be mighty relieved.

Oh, btw, I'm not a sock--I've been blogging at jskern.blogspot.com since 2003. Just came across Pyromaniacs a few weeks ago, liked what I saw & read, for the most part. Happily following the clear trail to Grace (I'd heard of John MacArthur about a year ago), I saw a few worrying signs over there and decided to bring my concerns here because of the topic of this blogpost...that’s all.

So, don’t be such an apparatchik already! Christ commands you to feed trolls--providing you feed them with Truth…I’ll be watching my inbox.