By Elizabeth Prata
I’ve been in danger before. I’ve been stalked by a serial rapist. Gypsies surrounded me in Ecuador and and slashed my pants trying to get to my wallet. The Storm of the Century tossed my boat on its side like a matchstick. I’ve been trapped under a raft in white water rapids. I’ve been inches from a lightning strike that fused the sand on the ground into glass next to my feet.
Most of those dangers were unexpected and unknown. I didn’t see them coming. One of them, even though we knew the Storm of the Century was on its way and we prepared, we underestimated its ferocity and battled mightily to keep our boat afloat.
There is one danger I deal with all the time that is known but hidden, expected but cloaked. It is a pervasive danger, and if you’re in Christ, you’re facing it too. It is an evil danger and one that is worse than the physical dangers I’ve already mentioned.
It’s the danger from false believers. Let’s see what Paul said-
Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; (2 Corinthians 11:25-26).
Does it seem strange to you that Paul would include danger from false professors? Gentiles and Jews sought to KILL Paul. Death comes by shipwreck, robbers, and stoning. But that’s not the worst.
The most insidious danger of all were the people who posed as believers and tried to destroy Paul’s ministry. He was daily and nightly concerned with care for the churches he planted, that this sly danger from liars with seared consciences would not snatch away the believers, or pollute them with poisonous doctrines. Barnes’ Notes:
Among false brethren – This was the crowning danger and trial to Paul, as it is to all others. A man can better bear danger by land and water, among robbers and in deserts, than he can bear to have his confidence abused, and to be subjected to the action and the arts of spies upon his conduct. Who these were he has not informed us. He mentions it as the chief trial to which he had been exposed, that he had met those who pretended to be his friends, and who yet had sought every possible opportunity to expose and destroy him. Perhaps he has here a delicate reference to the danger which he apprehended from the false brethren in the church at Corinth.
Danger from false professors abounds to this day.
And then, thirdly, an eternal problem in the divine work among men is treachery within. The treachery that the apostle speaks about, the individuals that he calls false apostles, deceitful workers disguising themselves as apostles of Christ, these are men in the church, not outside of the church. Just as the story of Judas is a message to the church not to those outside the church, so an eternal problem in the divine work among men is treachery from within. S. Lewis Johnson
Is there any worse betrayal than Judas’s? Pretending to believe, while stealing money from the common purse and planning to sell Jesus to the Pharisees? False believers aren’t there because they are making a mistake in doctrine or are just clueless as to the real truth. They are dangerous because they exist to:
- spy on believers
- make us merchandise
- destroy our ministry
- secretly bring in destructive heresies
- lead people astray
- bring us into slavery
- exploit you
- produce constant friction
- talk evil about you
- tie up heavy burdens and lay them on you
Galatians 2:4, 2 Peter 2:3, 2 Corinthians 11:25-26, 2 Peter 2:1, Matthew 24:24, Galatians 5:1, 1 Timothy 6:5, Titus 2:8, Matthew 23:4.
These false believers aren’t innocent. They have an agenda. Paul considered them a most heinous danger. We should too.