Aug 27 10

The Devil Is in the Details


Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (Matthew 7:22)

To me, Matthew 7:22 is one of the most remarkable verses in scripture. We have learned in our study of Matthew 7:21-23 there is a solemn warning concerning self examination so that we are not self deceived thinking we know Christ when we actually do not. In preaching on this subject, I have made a general application of this passage to all Christians, which is certainly proper since the Bible clearly states that each believer should apply tests to his profession of faith to see if it is real. The apostle John teaches this in 1 John as he gives three tests that can be applied. There is a doctrinal test—what do you believe concerning the doctrines of the Bible; there is a moral test—do you respond in obedience to the commands of Christ; and finally a social test—what is your relationship to others as commanded by Christ; in other words, do you love your neighbor as yourself?

Although it is proper to apply Matthew 7:21-23 to every Christian, we must not forget these verses link directly to the preceding ones concerning false prophets. What makes verse 22 so remarkable is the lack of denial by Christ that these false prophets have actually cast out devils and done many amazing works. Here is where we find the devil in the details. Satan is able to transform himself into an angel of light and his ministers often appear to be preachers of truth (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Many people are deceived by false preachers because they falsely assume all spiritual activity within churches is Holy Spirit activity. This is terribly untrue. Much of what goes on in charismatic churches and others is not the work of the Holy Spirit. If you attend a church where the Bible gets little play, you can be sure the Holy Spirit is not there. God works through the Word, and where there is spiritual activity without it, the devil is at play not God.

It is further remarkable that God does at times use false prophets for His purposes. This seems like an incredible statement, but nonetheless it is true. It certainly does not make the false prophet personally acceptable to God, but we must never forget nothing takes place in God’s universe that He does not control. In the Old Testament, the prophet Balaam spoke truth, but according to the New Testament he loved “the wages of unrighteousness” (2 Pet. 2:15, Jude 11, Rev. 2:14). Caiaphas the wicked high priest charged Jesus with blasphemy (Matt. 26:65), but also spoke truly, albeit in ignorance of the import of his own words, when he said that Jesus would die for the nation of Israel as well as Gentiles throughout the world. This prophecy was not his own but was given by God (John 11:49-52).

Surely, no greater evidence can be given that prophecies and miraculous works are not the final indicators of true belief. Signs and wonders and gifts and healings are not the ways we find assurance of salvation. The devil can do spectacular things. Jesus gave us the means—we must do the will of the Father (v. 21). Purity of a regenerated heart which produces continued obedience to Christ is the foundation of assurance. Are you really a child of God? Good trees do not bear evil fruit! (Matt. 7:18)

Pastor V. Mark Smith