By Mark Swarbrick
As someone who had dealt with numerous cults, I can tell you that there is one thing that all cultists say when you point out the false teachings or bad fruit of their prophet. It is this: “Touch not God’s anointed! God will kill you for coming against his prophet!” That is an actual quote of a follower of the Jimmy Swaggart Cult. Wanting someone injured or killed by God is not something that comes from the Spirit of Jesus, but comes from the spirit of Satan. Jesus said the devil is the one who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy.”
Let’s take a close look at that passage of Old Testament Scripture from whence comes this statement, “touch not God’s anointed.” Does it really mean that you cannot question the doctrine of anyone who claims to be a prophet?
Psalms 105:15: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” If you read the entire Psalm you see that this is referring to the nation of Israel when they sojourned in the wilderness during the Exodus. “Touch Not,” in this context, means not to lay hands on Israel with intention of violence, injury, or to cause harm. This was in reference to how God fought for Israel against heathen nations that intended to harm Israel, a nation of prophets. The Psalmist is praising God for how he defended Israel in those early days. He speaks of how God “rebuked kings on their account, saying, “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!” So you see, this has nothing to do with forbidding discernment of false teachers today.
The other reference is about David not killing King Saul, the king which God had appointed. When the wicked King Saul was trying to murder David, there were several times when David could have easily killed Saul. One of these times David and Abishai snuck into Saul’s camp and while David stood over Saul, who was sound asleep, Abishai said, “please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear.” David’s response was this:
“But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the LORD’s anointed and be guiltless?” (1 Samuel 26:9)
The context is clearly in reference to refusing to murder the king. These Scriptures have nothing to do with saying or writing anything against someone’s teaching or behavior. In fact David did speak against Saul’s behavior, both to his mean and to Saul himself. Consequently this verse does not in any way forbid exposing the false doctrines of people who call themselves prophets.
Thou Shalt Not Judge
Another dodge used by cultist to try to evade critical examination of their teachings is to claim that Christians are never to judge. Cult leaders want to circumvent critical thinking in order to prevent their falsehoods from being put to the test. They do this by twisting the New Testament teaching concerning Christians using sound judgment. Whenever you point out to a cultist the biblical inconsistencies in their religious leader’s life or doctrine, you receive a programmed response which they have been conditioned and indoctrinated to use. You will be told that Christians should not judge others. Here is a typical example: “God is the only Judge…All denominations, such as Church of God, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Catholic, etc. are all nothing but man made. SBN is critical of most denominations as I think the Lord Himself is. Denominations are sending people to HELL every day. Denominations mean NOTHING.” Note the incongruity of that statement. Christians cannot judge, only God can, yet in the same sentence he himself passes judgment on all denominations of Christianity and admits that SBN (Swaggart’s TV network) does the same. Here are some more examples:
- “You are wrong about Jimmy Swaggart I do not appreciate you talking about him like a dog or do you also forget about what Christ says in Matthew 7:7, “Judge not or you will be judged.”
- “This website is a smear job! You’re a freaking loon! That is all.”
- “Be very careful about judging anyone, I’m sure that you know the pertinent Scriptures.”
The “judge not that ye be not judged” Scripture (Matthew 7:1), when read in context, does not mean that you shouldn’t be on guard against false teachers, for that would contradict the Scripture’s command to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. Rather it means to not judge hypocritically, pridefully, blindly, condescendingly or spitefully. Jesus, in John 7:24 tell us that we are in fact called to judge, but to “judge with right judgment.” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:3, “Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?”
The Abundance of Grace
We find that Jesus was extraordinarily merciful with sinners. The woman caught in adultery, without even asking for forgiveness or mercy, is told, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
The woman at the well, who had married and divorced five husbands and was then living with a man is treated with mercy and kindness by Jesus as he offers her “living water.” The paralytic who was lowered down through the ceiling for healing was told, “Your sins are forgiven” and that, before he had even uttered a word.
Then there was the woman of ill repute who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair. Of her, Jesus said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.” The criminal executed on a cross next to Jesus, who had admitted he was so bad that he deserved to die, was told by Jesus, “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Clearly Jesus abounds with mercy and grace for the humble and meek.
The Goodness and the Severity of God
But for religious leaders who thought they were something special, who didn’t operate in love, who taught false doctrines, who behaved as though God’s laws of fidelity only apply to others, who were greedy and money-hungry, for them it was another story.
“He is especially hard on those who follow their own twisted sexual desire, and who despise authority. These people are proud and arrogant…” (2 Peter 2:10)
For these Jesus’ response was different:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites…You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?” (Matthew 23:23,33,34)
Let us not forget, there are some things that Jesus hates. To wit, in Revelation 2:6 Jesus says to the Church at Ephesus: “But you have this to your credit: You hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Was not Jesus himself judging when he called the Pharisees snakes? Was he being unchristian? Was Jesus being unkind? The modern cultist would say so, for they condemn as unchristian any type of common-sense analysis of their strange doctrines and evil practices. They quickly object that Jesus said not to judge.
Of course, we are supposed to judge who is a false teacher and what is false doctrine. Why would Jesus tell us how to discern the difference between false teachers and true teachers if we are not to judge between the two?
You have to wonder about those who have this mindset. Do they even know Jesus? Have they even read what He did and said to the false teachers of his day? Have they not learned the importance our Lord attaches to correct doctrine? The real Jesus is not a namby-pamby push-over. Notice how many times the Scripture records that the disciples “were afraid to ask him.” He could be severe. Jesus didn’t tolerate fools. The Lamb of God is also The Lion from the Tribe of Judah.
The Pharisees didn’t like being called out by Jesus any more than cultists like it today. They wanted to kill him for it, just as cultists today call down their imaginary God-will-get-you death sentence upon anyone who contradicts their false teachings. But Jesus’ severe reaction to false teachers is an example set by the Good Shepherd. We must heed it.
When Jesus made a whip and lashed out at people, turned their tables over and chased them out of the temple, he demonstrated the importance God places upon things being done correctly in the house of God. Jesus hated God’s temple being turned into a marketplace, just as surely as he hates the Swaggarts getting rich off of selling their personal brand of Christianity.
Mark Them Which Cause Divisions
Jesus communicated that he deeply cares that correct doctrine is taught in His church. We know the apostles got the Lord’s message about this loud and clear, for we find them writing things such as are found in 1 John 4:1, where we are adjured to “test the spirits.” 1 Co 14:29 says the church should “judge when the prophets speak.” Luke, in chapter one and verse three, tells us that he had been “investigating everything carefully from the beginning.” Acts 17:11 says that the “The Bereans were more noble minded because they were examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” All through the New Testament, Christians are instructed to think, investigate and judge all matters carefully and critically. New Testament Christians are never ever told to accept blindly something any so-called prophet says. The church as a whole is given the power and authority to use their God-given discernment.
Ephesians 5:11 says, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness but instead even expose them.” In Romans 16:17, Paul commands, “Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them.” It says to “mark them.” The word used in the original Greek is scopio, which means: “To scope out, to take aim at, to consider, to watch.”
And mark them they did. They named names. In 2 Timothy 4:14-16 the Apostle Paul says “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil.” In Gal 2:11 Paul says “when Peter came to Antioch I withstood him to his face because he was to be blamed.” In 2 Tim 4:10 Paul says, “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me…” 1 Tim 1:19-20 Paul says “…some…concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” In 2 Tim 2:17 Paul says, “Among them are Armenaeus and Phileitus, men who have gone astray from the truth.” In 3 John 1:9 the Apostle John reports, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us.”
The reason we find the apostles writing to the Church and naming names is to warn the church about these men. It wasn’t enough just to point out false teachings. The false teachers themselves were “marked” so that the Church would be cautioned concerning them. No doubt the followers of divisive people such as Diotrephes complained that the Apostle John was judging and wasn’t being loving and forgiving. The cultic tactic of screaming, “don’t judge!” is a trick of Satan as old as the Bible.
The apostles didn’t just ignore false teachers and hope they went away. They marked them. According to Irenaeus, his teacher Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John, told the following story: The Apostle John, the apostle of love, had entered a public bath-house in Ephesus to bathe, as was the custom of the day. Then he saw that the heretic Cerinthus was there. Cerinthus was a gnostic Christian, a popular false teacher with a large following. John the Apostle rushed out of the bath-house exclaiming, “Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down, because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is inside!” John was making a dramatic public statement that Christians should steer clear of a false teacher such as Cerinthus. The apostles of our Lord took false teachers very seriously. So should we