Acts 16:4-5

Acts 16:4-5…”As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.” The churches grew in both quality and quantity of disciples as a result of submitting to their leaders. When godly and wise leadership are in place at the local church level, spiritual growth happens by God’s grace.

Two potential reasons you may not be growing spiritually:

1) Your pastors/elders are not wise/godly men in accordance with the qualifications laid out in scripture (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1). Be very careful in choosing a church, because false teachers are not easily recognizable. False teachers will produce false converts, and false converts are like a little bit of yeast in the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:7-12). Also, if the spiritual health of your church is a secondary interest of your pastors/elders, its time to find another church.

2) You are not submitting to the authority of your church leaders. So, are you obeying your elders/pastors as described in the verses above? One way to do this is to join a church. How are the elders/pastors to know who they are leading unless there are clearly people who are willing to submit to their authority in a covenant community with each other? This is part of being a disciple, and is part of God’s blueprint for the church.

Acts 15:41

Acts 15:41…”He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” Paul took Silas, and went around building up the brothers and sisters in the faith at these churches. So, what did that look like? It certainly included preaching the gospel to them, but also likely involved some practical exhortation to holy living as well. This should be the goal of every Christian. Is this something you think about? What are you doing to spiritually strengthen the other members of your church? This is not difficult, but does require a willingness to give up your time. This is the beauty of the vision God has for His people. A variegated group of people, united by one common goal and interest: glorifying Him, through love for and submission to His Son, as well as a concern for the spiritual well-being of His people. Do you have an interest in the spiritual well-being of the members of your church? According to Jesus (John 13:35), this is a great litmus-test question to see if you are one of the elect:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Acts 14:22

Acts 14:22…”‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.” Paul and Barnabus were preaching the gospel and encouraging the believers in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch (South Galatia then, Turkey today). For prosperity gospel teachers/preachers here again is a portion of scripture exposing their heretical view that suffering is not for the Christian. According to the bible, not only are we guaranteed to suffer in this life (1 Peter 1:6-7), it MUST happen for us to enter the kingdom of God. This is how the Lord tests our faith, and according to James 1:2-4, it’s how he makes us more like Christ. Flee from any teacher who is telling you that suffering should not be part of this life for the Christian. Just because they weave in some scripture to their messages doesn’t mean they are safe to follow. Their gospel is fool’s gold, and the false hope they peddle includes perfect health and abundant wealth in this life. Our real treasure if we’re saved is Christ, and we look forward to being with Him forever in heaven.

Acts 13:36-37

Acts 13:36-37…”Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.” Paul preached the gospel in Antioch. In these verses, he points out one particular difference between all of us and Christ; that our bodies decay after we die, but Christ’s body did not. He is the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead, and if we’re His followers we will receive new, redeemed bodies in heaven. Our heavenly bodies will never decay, and will be without sickness and sin. In this life though, our bodies are moving toward death as we age as a result of the fall of man. We know this from Romans 5:12..”Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.”

Jonathan Edwards contemplated life from the perspective of his death quite often. Here are two of his resolutions:

1) Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

2) Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

This may sound quite morbid to American ears, unaccustomed as we are to ponder death regularly. But, considering one’s death is wonderfully clarifying. It puts trivialities into perspective, along with our fears and foolish idolatries. It clarifies what’s truly important.

Acts 12:23

Acts 12:23…”Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” Many leaders, celebrities, and sports stars claim and receive Divine honors, but it was far more horrible impiety in Herod, who knew the word and character of God. For him to accept such idolatrous honors without rebuking the blasphemy was unacceptable. God is very jealous for his own honor, so let Herod be an example for us not to follow in this case.

Acts 11:22-23

Acts 11:22-23…”News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” Those that believed were convinced of the truth of the gospel, and it brought about a changed life. They turned from a careless, carnal way of living, to live a holy, heaven-leaning, spiritual life. They turned from worshiping God in show and ceremony, to worship him in Spirit and in truth. They turned from themselves to Jesus, and submitted their lives to Him as Lord. This is what true conversion looks like. Someone who is actually converted will go from being a spiritual corpse, to having spiritual life. Unfortunately, this has been cheapened in our day, and reduced to merely praying the sinner’s prayer or walking down the aisle during an altar call, and no evident change is either encouraged or required prior to baptism. The result is false conversions, which produce Christians who look/sound/act/live no differently than non-Christians. However, in these verses, and throughout scripture, we see that true conversions produce spiritual fruit.

Matthew 13:18-2318 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Acts 11:2-3

Acts 11:2-3…”So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” At this point in the church, there was confusion regarding to whom God granted forgiveness. This has been a controversial, but central question throughout church history: Who is saved? Peter corrects the confusion, and addresses the question directly. According to scripture, those who repent from their sins, believe in Christ, and product fruit in keeping with repentance will receive eternal life. Nothing more is needed, but many have taught that there are additional requirements. These false teachers are misunderstanding and abusing scripture, and should be identified and avoided by believers. The bible is filled with warnings about false teachers, and here is a helpful outline:

1. The warning against false teachers

Christ then said, “Beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15). For every true prophet calling people to the narrow way, are a multiplicity of false prophets calling people to the broad way that leads to destruction. Christ’s warning [about false teachers] was not new. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 documents the presence of false teaching during the days of Moses. In Isaiah 30:9-14 chronicles its existence in the kingdom of Judah. There are many warnings about false teachers in Scripture.1. 2 John 7–John said, “Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”

Romans 16:17-18–Paul said, “I beseech you, brethren, mark them who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ but their own body, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the innocent.” They are dangerous because they claim to be from God and to speak God’s Word.

Jeremiah 5:31–God said, “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and my people love to have it so.”

Jeremiah 14:14–God said, “The prophets prophesy lies in my name. I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke unto them; they prophesy unto you a false vision.”

2. The description of false teachers

False teachers are dangerous because their deception is damning. And it comes from that most damning deceiver of all, Satan, who disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Some false teachers are heretics–those who openly reject the Word of God and teach contrary to it. Others are apostates–those who once followed the faith but have since turned away. Then there are deceivers who pretend to still believe the truth. They want to look like orthodox fundamental evangelical Christians, but they are liars.

3. The revelation of false teachers

In Matthew 7:16 Jesus says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” It’s not what they say but what you see in their lives that matters. A false teacher cannot produce good fruit because evil cannot produce good (v. 17).

False teachers will produce evil fruit, but they will try to cloak it. Inevitably they hide their bad fruit under ecclesiastical garb or isolate it from accountability. People can’t get near enough to them to see the reality of their lives. Some of them hide their evil fruit under a holy vocabulary or an association with fruitful Christians. Some of them cover their evil fruit with biblical knowledge. But they can’t hide it from everyone all the time. If you closely examine a false teacher, you will see his evil fruit.

CONCLUSION

How can we be alert to the infiltration of false teachers? Ask yourself these questions about the Bible teachers you encounter.

A. How Is the Teacher Using Scripture?

Is there error in his understanding of Scripture? Is his interpretation sound? Is it biblical? Is it legitimate? Don’t look at his personality. Don’t look at the religious trappings. Don’t only look only at his associations, although that will tell you something if those associations are negative. Listen to what he says. Do what 1 John 4:1 says: test him to see if he’s from God. What is his approach to Scripture? Is he teaching things that go beyond Scripture? Is he saying things that sound good but you can’t find verses to support it?

B. What Is the Teacher’s Goal?

Does he have a spiritual goal? Is his primary desire in life to produce people who consummately love God? Or is he characterized by self-love, self-aggrandizement, possessiveness, and materialism? What is his objective? Is it love for God and for everyone else? Is his objective holiness, a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith without hypocrisy?

C. What Is the Teacher’s Motive?

Does he demonstrate a selfless motive? Can you see humility, meekness, and selflessness in his life? Or does it appear that while he’s helping others he is also becoming quite wealthy? Is he self-indulgent at the expense of the people he is supposed to be ministering to?

D. What Is the Teacher’s Effect?

Do his followers clearly understand the gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they understand the proper use of the law? Check his doctrine, check his goal, check his motive, and check his followers. As you do, you’ll sense the need for urgency in dealing with false teachers

Acts 10:43

Acts 10:43…”All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Faith has reference to a testimony, and the Christian faith is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, on the testimony given by them. What must be believed is that we are all accountable to Christ as our Judge; so every one must seek his favor, and to have him as our Lord. If we believe in him, we will be justified by him as our righteousness. The forgiveness of sins lays a foundation for joy, because we don’t need anything else. If sin is pardoned, all is well, and will end well forever.

Acts 10:34

Acts 10:34…”Then Peter began to speak: ‘I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.'” Acceptance cannot be obtained on any other ground than that of the covenant of mercy, through the atonement of Christ. Wherever true repentance and faith in Christ is found, God will accept it without regard for denomination, race, gender, age, or past.

Psalm 51:17

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

The fear of God and works of righteousness are the substance of saving faith, and the effects of His Holy Spirit within someone. Though good works are not the cause of a Christian’s acceptance, they show it; and whatever may be lacking in faith, will increase by the One who has initiated it.

Isaiah 42:3

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

Acts 9:35

Acts 9:35…”All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.” Christ chose patients whose diseases were incurable in the course of nature, to show the desperation of fallen mankind. Aeneas had been paralyzed for eight years. Similarly, when we were without strength, as this poor man, he sent his word to heal us. Peter does not pretend to heal by any power of his own, but directs Aeneas to look up to Christ for help. The power and mercy God demonstrated through restoring His fallen creation (Aeneas) was used to turn hearts toward Him as we read in verse 35. This was only a temporary restoration though, as Aeneas, like all those the Lord heals, eventually died a physical death. However, when Christ returns, there will be an eternally permanent restoration of all creation, where there is no longer any disease or death.