I often refer to the prophecy Peter issued regarding the future of the church, and the false teachers who will come. Peter said of these false teachers,
“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” (2 Peter 2:3).
Making merchandise of “you” means “us.”
I often use the KJV for this verse instead of the usual ESV because it is descriptive in a vivid way. The merchandising of Christianity is a heinous sin that is growing terribly in these last days. The word for exploit in the Greek is emporeuomai, meaning, “I travel as a merchant, engage in trade, I traffic in, make gain or business of.” It is where we get our English word emporium, which means mall or marketplace.
I mentioned this prophecy again, in a recent essay about Joel Osteen’s “Your Best Life Now: The Board Game.” False teachers and false preachers will try to merchandise Christianity by trading on Christ’s name for personal gain, and they will try to make merchandise out of the very sheep.
I was listening to a great sermon this week called “Beware of False Prophets.” In that sermon I learned about the Didache and about the term Christemporos. Here is a quote from that sermon:
In the year 100, the year of our Lord a 100 A.D. we have the earliest of the Christian writings that we know about and it’s called the Didachē. And by the year 100 the church had been formed and it was beginning to try to help itself to, to stay away from false prophets, and so in the Didachē there’s a section where the church instructed itself as to how to deal with false prophets. It uses a term to describe them and the term I think is interesting it’s Christemporos, and that Greek word means Christ merchants, Christ merchants. They used Christ, they trade in Christ, they sell Christ for personal gain, they pad their pockets, they build their empires. They are the, they are the happy Holy Spirit healers and they are the positive thinkers and they are the people who just wind up on the gravy train end of it, sucking it all up, the Christ merchants. And I’m telling you there are so many people in the world today and even in our own country who are using Jesus Christ as a product to pad their pockets, it’s unbelievable, unbelievable. And every area from books to music to preaching in churches and television and radio it’s on and on ad infinitum ad nauseam.
Christ peddler. Of course, you recognize the ’emporos’ part of the term, like emporium, it means “a merchant using a particular venue to trade.” Of course that venue is Christ. How blasphemous, horrible, and sickening.
The first recorded Christ-monger, or one who trades on the name of Christ for personal gain or other vain reasons is found in Acts 8: Simon the Magician. He tried to buy the Holy Spirit.
Using Jesus Christ to pad their pockets…can there be a worse blasphemy? To market and trade on the name of Jesus for money? To extract money from people, especially the poor and the vulnerable and the sick, so you can own a gold commode? Justin Peters is a pastor specializing in discernment teachings, and at the Strange Fire conference in October Pastor Peters played a clip of one recent prosperity preacher preying specifically on widows. The preacher said something like this ‘You’re poor, you’re widowed, not knowing where your next dollar is coming from. So send in your seed money and watch it grow…”
Pastor Peters gently reminded us all of how Jesus feels about preying on the vulnerable.
“You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” (Exodus 22:22-24)
“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)
In general, Pastor Peters teaches constantly that there are attempts to redefine biblical Christianity by teaching dangerous doctrines designed to distort the Gospel and to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor, the desperate, the sick, and the widows. Since Simon the Magician existed in the early days of the church, unscrupulous people have tried to gain from Christianity. This sickness and blasphemy has been with us since the beginning.
Today, we have celebrity pastors flogging their book from the pulpit, preaching gimmicks on tv, merchandising the latest fad, and making merchandise out of the sheep, even extracting a widow’s last dollar or preying on the crippled and sick for cash.
Please be aware of the merchandising of Christ and the emporium of Christianity, and keep things pure. Our treasure IS Christ, and our inheritance IS His glory, and it is the privilege of being with Him forever. What a treasure He is. Watch your money and your motivations for spending and for giving, spend and give in His name and for His glory. Greedy wolves try to trade on His name, but don’t be a part of it.