The author is against all sin. I agree totally with Paul.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Romans 6:15 ESV
Recently, it caught my attention when a couple of people who have said it before, mentioned false Christians again. In both situations, they were indicating that a false believer is one who claims to believe but is not serious about their faith and can be recognized by their actions and inactions. This is how many describe a false believer:
They say they believe, but their lifestyle does not look Christian, their speech does not sound Christian, they may or may not go to church, I do not think they read the Bible, I see outward sin in their life.
The usual cure prescribed for the false Christian by those who point them out is works of the flesh. If the person stopped doing the wrong things and started doing the right thing more often, then they would be a genuine believer. While we should always do the next right thing, this resembles the Old Covenant – do good and be blessed, do bad and be cursed. Often the cure sounds a lot like what the Galatians were told they had to do to be saved in addition to believing, by those who wanted them to keep them under the penalty of the law of Moses.
They may also add the false believer in their eyes needs to repent. For many the word “repent” means to be sorrowful, turning from sin, crying out to God and asking for forgiveness. But the word repent in the Bible means to change your mind. Even God repented – Exodus 32:14. When Jesus said, repent or perish or repent and believe, he was saying change your mind and believe the gospel. Stop the unbelief and believe. Technically this is a turn from sin, the sin of unbelief which is the only unforgivable sin.
There is no two ways about it, to state that someone is not a genuine Christian is to state that they are an unbeliever even though they claim to believe. We are saying they are committing the only unforgivable sin. They have the spirit of the anti-christ, do not believe Jesus is who he claimed to be and do not believe the gospel.
What about those who claim to believe and live an unruly undisciplined life with obvious outward sins?
Did Paul point them out and say they were false believers? No. He tells us "do not regard them as enemies, unbelievers, but warn them as brothers." Even if their lives appear so bad, unruly, undisciplined with outward acts of sin that we are to have nothing to do with them for a time.
As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. 2 Thess 3:13-15 ESV
Note: This study is not meant to offend, but it will be very hard for some and very liberating for others. If it offends you, I hope you will hear me out before you jump to a conclusion and stop reading. If after you are done reading this study, you think I am in error, point it out below or by contacting me directly.
Who is in Error – The Judged or those Judging
I know for certain that the error here is not in the believer that does not model the perfect outward image if there is such a thing. The error is with the person judging and fostering doubt in another. When we call into question the genuineness of another person who states they believe and have accepted Jesus as savior, we really doubt Jesus own words in John 3:16 and numerous other verses. This is exactly what Satan wants us to do.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
If you make a promise to someone, the burden of keeping that promise is upon you, not the person you made the promise too. What can the receiver do, other than trust you will keep your promise. If you do not keep it, then you are a liar. There is no exception, the burden is always on the one making the promise, in this case, God. Thankfully the one making the promise cannot lie and is faithful even when we are not.
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 2 Tim 2:13 ESV
We are to trust and believe, have faith in what our Savior says, not question it. To do otherwise is to call God a liar. Jesus tells us mustard seed sized faith will work. When we question the faith of another, we reverse the order and place the burden on the believer. “If you do not believe enough and show it by your actions, you are not saved.” We have transferred our faith to ourselves and our actions taking upon us a burden that is not ours. We have placed faith in our faith in error when we question the level of our belief, or another’s when our faith should simply be in God’s promise.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30 ESV
Those who question the faith of others not only foster doubt in others, they foster doubt in themselves and those around them about God’s clear promise in his word, instead of just believing God’s word. Satan’s started and continues by creating doubt.
“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Gen 3:1 ESV
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” Gen 3:4 ESV
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. Matt 13:19 ESV
If we would simply believe Jesus clear words and stop doubting, satan could not negatively impact our lives.
The truth is everyone has doubts at times. Let me ask you, what is believing enough? What is having enough faith? How do you know you believe enough? The Apostles had doubts over and over again, does that mean they were not genuine? The Apostles were not even sure they would not betray Jesus, as we will read in a minute.
When you have had doubts in your life, don’t you think that would be when satan would use your weak moment to try and increase your doubts, maybe using others in an attempt to get you to turn from God or hinder your actions for God? What would you want other Christians to do when you have doubts and imperfect actions, call into question your faith or build you up and assure you of the truth of God’s word? Would it not be better to remind others that the burden of our salvation is on God and his promise, not us and our failures.
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thess 5:9-11
Could it be that many that claim to believe and shy away from church barely understand grace, still seeing themselves as filthy sinners, still expecting punishment and not the righteousness of God in Christ, Satan has completely hindered them from doing God’s work, but they do believe. Doubts promote the fear of punishment, and we judge others when we feel judged by God.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18 ESV
Much of the problem stems from a misunderstanding of James, “faith without works is dead.” Some forget that James cannot be contradicting the great number of verses that state salvation has nothing to do with works. Therefore, they misunderstand what James is saying. It is clear the works James is talking about, Jesus describes:
Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:29 ESV Read Study
While some may be building on the foundation of Jesus with works that will not withstand fire, dead works, Paul tells us they still will be saved.
If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Cor 3:15 ESV
If You Believe You Are Saved
We all know that there are a great number of verses that in essence say we are saved by grace through faith and not by works. It is very clear in the Bible that if you believe you are saved. (Read study: If you believe you are saved.) Yet, many call into question the faith of others for various reasons instead of simply believing God’s word. I know for certain it is the enemy, not God, that wants people to doubt this clear truth presented in an abundance of scriptures. The biggest lie that Satan pushes is doubt about God’s word, especially salvation. His goal is to enlist as many believers into doubt as possible and to get them to promote doubt, unbelief, and division in the church.
A primary way to do this is to get us to judge the faith of others by appearance because they do not look as we believe they should. Or better yet, they do not look like we do. If we feel burdened by our own works to look a certain way, thinking God will not accept us if we do not, we tend to judge others who do not look like we do, even though in the dark we can still see our own imperfections. If we only look a certain way when man is around and drop the perfect image when we are alone, then we are living under the fear of man, not God as we openly judge the faith of others by. This is what the Pharisee’s did.
Judging others in this way is born from self-righteousness. It is the same thing the lost do, to justify themselves and their actions. To justify why they do not need God. It is a self-defense mechanism inbred in us from the fall by fear. Adam was the first one to do it when he judged Eve and God, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
Once a Christian comprehends they are NOT being judged by God, they are not under law but grace, righteous in Christ, they will stop judging others. But until then, they will tend to fall back on the ways of the fallen flesh. If we are judging others in the manner I am addressing, then sin still has dominion over us in our thoughts, just like it did for Adam when he was the first to judge. Like many in the early church, many today do not fully understand grace and His righteousness, being unskilled in the word of righteousness, they have not fully submitted to God’s righteousness.
for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. Heb 5:13 ESV
For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Rom 6:14 ESV
For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Rom 10:2-4 ESV
God teaches us by example in the New Covenant. He forgave us first and asked us to forgive others. Jesus came not to judge. Grace and truth came by Jesus. The fallen nature we inherited from Adam has no problem judging. We inherently know how to judge others. Jesus did not come to model judgment; he modeled grace. Grace and love is what we are called to walk in. It takes the Holy Spirit to teach us to show grace.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 ESV
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation 2 Cor 5:19 ESV
Let’s look at scripture to see if we can identify a false believer.
1) Judas – Jesus betrayer – He probably would not have matched the description of a false believer we see above. If you remember, when Jesus said one at the table would betray him, the Apostles asked: “is it I, Lord?” They did not point at Judas and say “it must be him” so it was not obvious by appearance to even those who were close to Judas.
And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” Matt 26:22 ESV
Judas probably looked like a genuine follower of Christ, but in his heart, no man could see, something else was going on. Can you imagine the willful deceit that was going on below the surface in Judas’s life? He would show up and act like a follower of Jesus and then meet with the enemy. If you believe someone you know is a not a genuine believer, do you think this is what they are doing? Do you think they are trying to lead others away from a saving knowledge of Christ?
Not long ago, I shared the gospel with a man who was an unbeliever. He told me that he taught Sunday school for eight years and never believed. He finally stopped going to church. I doubt that you would have been able to identify this man. Sadly, there are people who work in the church for a paycheck and do not believe, but you would never be able to pick them out of the crowd if you are looking for outward sinful behavior.
Many who are genuine false believers like this man, do everything they can to look like a believer when they are in the midst of their deception. They are very concerned with their outward appearance because they do not want to be found out. They are committing willful deceit. Even Satan can masquerade as an angel of light to deceive. The goal of a counterfeit is to look like the real thing.
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 2 Cor 11:14 ESV
A true unbeliever would be against Christ, anti-christ like Judas, immersed among Christians, they would try and hide it. The way to do that is to act outwardly Christian. Those who infiltrated the Galatians and added works to the gospel message looked like genuine believers but were in reality counterfits.
It is interesting that the other Apostles would ask Jesus, “is it I, Lord?” Do you think they had doubts and questioned their faith at times? Do you think they talked amongst themselves and questioned the faith of the others? Or do you think they knew that if their faith wavered at times the faith of others must too? We should encourage each other’s trust and faith in God’s word and not encourage doubt.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thess 5:11 ESV
2) Peter – When Peter denied Jesus three times, Peter could have easily been called a false believer by the other Apostles, not a real Christian. Can you imagine if you heard your Pastor deny Jesus three separate times with cursing and swearing?
Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know the man!" And immediately a rooster crowed. Matt 26:74 NAS
If you heard a professing Christian do this, would you think they were a genuine believer? But later we learn the truth about Peter. Jesus did not abandon Peter in his weakness, but some of the other believers may have temporarily. Do you think Peter corrected his error by doing good works to prove he was genuine?
3) The Early Church – We know from Paul’s writings that there were members of the early church who were: not above reproach, men with more than one wife, not sober-minded, not self-controlled, less than respectable, not hospitable, not able to teach, drunkards, violent, quarrelsome, lovers of money, unable to manage their own household well and unable to properly raise their children to list just some of the flaws Paul indicates were present in the early church members. I wrote a study on these early church members entitled "Is There Such Thing as a Violent Christian Drunkard?" HERE.
Here is more indication of this truth in Corinthians who were acting as people of the flesh in jealousy and strife, yet no mention that they were not real believers.
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 1 Cor 3:1-3 ESV
We do not see anywhere that Paul calls them false believers, just struggling believers.
Some of the early church members had a habit of not attending church, missing out on the fellowship that encourages, stirs up love and good works
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb 10:24-25 ESV
I do not read anywhere where this automatically made them a false believer. That said, it is true that believers who neglect fellowship are making themselves more susceptible to the enemy’s attack, the lone sheep away from the flock and the wolf. I know from experience that going to church benefits us by encouraging and building up our faith. We all have issues and need each other’s compassion, grace, and mercy, not judgment.
Now I am all for studying the Word of God, especially the New Covenant and I believe all Christians will benefit tremendously in many ways by reading the Bible. But we know that no one in the early church read the Bible, at least the part that matters the most for Christians. This is because the New Testament had not been written yet. There were no gospels or writings of Paul to read. So to suggest that not reading the Bible makes a person an unbeliever and anti-christ, is absurd. If you do not read the Word for yourself, you only hurt yourself and leave yourself open for false teachers like those who polluted the church of the Galatians by teaching that God demanded works and the law as a requirement for salvation in addition to believing the gospel.
Do any of the people you may think of are not genuine Christians have any of the flawed characteristics of those in the early church?
4) The Pharisees – Outwardly these men looked like they were in close contact with God. They obeyed the laws, ceremonies, attended all the temple services, tithed and more. Those looking from the outside thought they were right with God, but they were not. They were always judging others while hiding their own deepest flaws. They were very concerned with what man thought about their appearance.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 ESV
Jesus was angry with the Pharisees for leading people away from salvation, away from the Messiah and salvation by grace. They were called false teachers and false prophets, steeped in the spirit of the anti-christ.
Definition: antichrist, either one who puts himself in the place of, or the enemy (opponent) of the Messiah.
They denied Jesus was God and had him crucified for claiming to be God. They railed at anyone who heeded Jesus call to repent, change your mind and believe the gospel. These men were self-righteous, putting their righteousness in place of God’s, denying the righteousness that comes from God alone.
For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Rom 10:3 ESV
They would not repent of their dead works, self-righteousness – Heb 6:1 - that could not save them and embrace the righteousness that only comes by faith from God. They led others to follow them.
Christianity is the only belief that is salvation by God’s grace through faith alone. Every other belief is based on getting what is deserved based on works, trusting their own righteousness, and judging others see as less righteous than themselves.
5) I could go on and on about believers who did not look the part at times. Abraham, David, Noah to name a few. I do not always look the part, and if you caught me on a bad day, you might question if I was a genuine believer if exterior appearance is your determining factor.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7 ESV
You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. John 8:15 ESV
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24 ESV
Some were even judging if Paul was genuine or not in this next verse. He had to defend his ministry. This verse has a great message.
Look at what is before your eyes. If anyone is confident that he is Christ’s, let him remind himself that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 2 Cor 10:7 ESV
In Matthew 7, Jesus is talking to the Pharisee’s. The self-righteous, specifically the Pharisee’s, were the only ones called hypocrites in the New Testament. Believers were never given this title. Read HERE and HERE for evidence of this. Jesus tells them to not judge incorrectly or unjustly as they had been doing for so long. They would compare themselves to others they saw worse than themselves and judge themselves okay with God. He tells them to look at themselves first and correct their situation before judging others. Jesus warns that God will judge them by the same measure they use to judge others, grace or law, we each choose. The only way to correct their situation would be to repent, change their mind and believe the gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone. Then they could look around at other Jews and tell them self-righteous would not cut it. They need to humble themselves under Christ; they need God’s grace to be saved.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matt 7:1-5 ESV
For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13 ESV
6) If you are sincerely concerned about a persons salvation. There is one test that the Apostles offer to find out if they are a genuine believer. It is a very simple test but the Bible tells us it is foolproof. I believe we should trust what God's word states in this area instead of trying to quantify belief in a person. If a person can say Jesus is Lord, they are a genuine believer.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already 1 John 4:1-3
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.1 Cor 12:3 ESV
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 1 John 4:15 ESV
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.1 John 2:22-23
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Rom 10:9 ESV
7) According to the Bible, a prophet or teacher will be known by their fruits. This is not talking about the fruit of the spirit – love, peace, joy, etc. Those are the fruits of the Spirit. I know this because the vast majority of believers in the early church would not qualify to be leaders because they displayed just the opposite of peace, love, and joy; yet Paul never called them false believers.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matt 7:15-20 ESV
These verses in Matthew are often used to scare a believer by those who preach grace plus works. But they are talking about false teachers not struggling believers. The fruit cannot be our good works and law keeping because verse 18 states: "A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit" If it were talking about the sins of believers, then no believer would be a healthy tree because every believer still sins at times. It is talking about teachers who have the fruit of new believers verses the fruit of more unbelievers. A false teacher will only produce the bad fruit of unbelief in the gospel, never the good fruit of new believers in the gospel. The tree that will be thrown in the fire is the false unbelieving teachers and prophets.
Fruit falls from a tree, and the fruit here is other people the believer comes in contact with in their life. I had a good friend who was a very bold witness for Christ but far from the perfect outward image. If you are one to judge by appearance, you would say that he was not a genuine Christian. He lived with his girlfriend, smoked regularly, did not have a regular job and swore daily. Fred spoke to many people about their need for Jesus and God’s word. He never backed down in the face of tremendous persecution he often encountered. At his funeral service, it was standing room only, eighty percent of the people spoke and basically said this: “When I first met Fred I hated what he had to say, but now I read God’s word and have placed my faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” In the middle of all of these people, God spoke to me clearly and said: “This is Fred’s fruit.” These people who believed were Fred’s fruit. Even though Fred’s life looked like a false believer by the standard of some, his fruit proved otherwise. I know few that have directly led more people to Christ through one on one encounters.
There were many more who came to Christ by Fred that were not at that service, including Tommy. Tommy was a tough street thug forced into AA by the courts. He did not want to be there. That is where he met Fred. Tommy had many encounters with Fred over many months and every time Fred mentioned Jesus, Tommy's blood would boil. It got to the point where Tommy threatened Fred with cussing, swearing and physical violence if he did not stop telling him about Jesus. Fred never backed down and one day not long after, Tommy walked out of a Circle K store and saw the church across the street Fred had mentioned. God drew Tommy into that church that day when no one was looking to see what it was all about. That very day Tommy gave his life to Jesus and is now an associate pastor at the Rock church in San Diego, one of the fastest growing churchs in the area that does amazing work.
In conclusion, simply believe God’s word and encourage and build up others who say they believe too. Keep the heavy burden on God where it belongs. My experience is that Christians, even those who lack in appearance, are looking for a way out of sin and not into it.
For further study and support of this study read some of the following.
If You Believe You Have Been Saved
Jesus Did Not Die to See If We Can Qualify
I AM THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN CHRIST,
A Christians Sins are NOT Counted Against Them,
Christians Have Diplomatic Immunity
Is There Such Thing as a Violent Christian Drunkard?
What is the One Unforgivable Sin?
God Said a Believer Can Never be Considered Unholy
I Am Holy, I Am Sanctified, I Am Perfected
Believers are Never Called Sinners in the New Testament
Sin Does Not Make a Christian a Hypocrite
Faith Without Works is Dead
More New Covenant Studies HERE