The title of this chapter inherently has its own answer. The subject spells great danger, that of self-delusion to the soul, eternal in its consequences. The Biblical teaching of false profession is not frequently taught in churches. Why is it ignored or neglected? There are several possible reasons that churchgoers and others are not alerted:
1. The subject of making a false profession seems negative, alarming and unwelcome. It is like the doctrine of Hell. If people don’t want to hear it, then some Christian leaders don’t want to teach it. The same could be said for those attributes of God we might not appreciate, such as His wrath, or jealousy, even His holiness. Will ignoring them change the truth?
2. Mass evangelism, “crusades” or even gospel messages and tracts are usually judged by the numbers who respond. Official spokesmen give out statistics. Preachers prolong their appeals. Response is easier if the appeal is simplified. “Come to Jesus, that’s all you need” is a typical plea. Unpleasant aspects are minimized such as sin, the need for repentance and eternal punishment for rejecters. After a response or decision there is often little personal interaction to determine the responder’s real spiritual condition. Such interaction could reveal minimal, if any, conviction of sin or deep desire to follow the Lord. Everything is designed to make it all as painless as possible. That approach to evangelism is called “easy believism.” Is this the way the Lord Jesus, or the apostles, or the prophets preached? Why do we not preach as they did? Why “sugar-coat” the message?
3. Much evangelism today neglects important issues that should be covered. Questions like “who is Jesus?” are not asked. Many workers do not do a thorough job of dealing with inquirers. They are in too big a hurry, anxious to net a prospect as one would catch fish. It is like a doctor making a superficial examination and saying casually, “you are fine.” Would this be assuring in a medical setting?
False profession puts souls in terrible danger. Note the following verses, viewed from differing perspectives:
1. The children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were called “chosen people” (Deuteronomy 7:6; Isaiah 44:1). They were chosen to fulfill God’s purposes. In that they failed. Being chosen was not equivalent to salvation, although they were very confident of their relationship to God (Romans 2:17-29; 3:9). In fact, many were not saved since they were disobedient to God, although trusting in their ritual and ceremony. They felt superior to the Gentiles. Even Judas Iscariot was “chosen” but, according to the Lord, was a “devil” (John 6:70). He was not saved. Warnings of false hopes were often given by the Lord. Here are some verses to consider:
Matthew 7:21-23—Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven. Many will say to me in that day “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and cast out demons in your name and done many wonders in your name?” And then I will declare to them, I never knew you. His listeners had every expectation of entering Heaven and some of them may have had impressive religious credentials. Nevertheless, in the day of judgment the Lord said He would turn them away.
The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. Both good seed and bad seed grow beside one another. This speaks of both saved and unsaved people, including “church members” gathered together in meetings. Sometimes it is difficult to tell them apart until the harvest (Matthew 13:30).
Matthew 13:47-50—77*e kingdom of Heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Here are both tares and bad fish, signifying the unsaved among those professing to be in the kingdom.
2. Many verses show misplaced confidence based on association with the Lord and His people. Such people will be amazed they are refused entry. Here are some examples from Scripture.
Luke 13:23-27—Then one said to Him, Lord are there few who are saved? And He said to them, strive to enter through the narrow gate for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open for us, and He will answer and say to you, I do not know you, where you are from, then you will begin to say, We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets. But He will say, I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.
Jude 4,12-13,19—For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men … These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves; they are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever… These are sensual persons causing divisions, not having the Spirit. Ungodly people can have positions of leadership among Christians but will not have the seal of the indwelling Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).
I have fellowshipped and preached alongside some who have long since departed from the faith. Some did not “abide in the doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9; 2 Peter 2:1). Others left wives and children to live immorally the rest of their lives, breaking all contact with God’s people. To my knowledge they never repented. Therefore, I question whether their profession of faith was ever true. They did not lose their salvation. They never had it, despite any appearance to the contrary. I say this on the basis of such verses as those above, rather than my subjective opinion. It indeed causes me great pain.
3. Other Bible verses call upon professing believers to examine the reality of their profession of faith in Christ. Obviously it is wise to do this. Consider these verses:
2 Corinthians 13:5—Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless indeed you are disqualified.
2 Peter 1:10—Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure for if you do these things you will never stumble.
4. Some Bible verses call special attention to contradictions between a person’s behavior and his profession of faith in Christ. Such contradictions evidence the falseness of an individual’s profession.
1 John 2:4—He who says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in Him. Ask yourself, “Who is a liar here?”
James 2:14—What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can that faith save him? Such a man’s “faith” is not a saving faith.
1 John 2:19—They went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
Before John wrote the above letter, the Lord had illustrated this truth with the story of the wise man who built his house on a rock and the fool who built his house on the sand (Matthew 7:24-27). The fool is one who “hears these words of Mine, and does not do them.” Habitual hearing without obedience to the Lord marks a false profession. Such a profession is fruitless because it is not accompanied by obedience. We are warned that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). The way that “seems right” may be wrong and lead you to Hell. The Lord Jesus taught people that they ought to be terrified of even the possibility of Hell (Luke 12:4-5).
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire,” said the Lord. “Therefore, by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:19-20). This passage opens with a warning about a spiritual way of life which is narrow and only a few find it (v 14). Scripture frequently mentions false religions, false prophets, false apostles, false teachers and false brethren.
False here means not truly of God. Throughout Biblical history many wicked kings, false religious leaders and deceived people considered themselves believers. Though Judas Iscariot was a companion of the Lord Jesus, he was “the son of perdition,” not a child of God. The people of Israel were set apart for God’s purpose that they might be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 49:6). Regrettably, they failed in this mission and degenerated into wickedness (Jeremiah 2:21-22). Their condition became so bad that the Lord said of the people, “Everyone of them is godless and an evildoer” (Isaiah 9:17). In His time here on earth, the Lord said to the religious leaders, “You are of your father the Devil and you want to do the desires of your father” (John 8:44). Those “sons of the kingdom” would be “cast out into the outer darkness” in the final judgment (Matthew 8:12).
How could we doubt, in the light of such verses quoted above, that the Bible teaches many who think of themselves as believers are absolutely deceived? In many instances their profession of faith, or claim to be followers of the Lord, is evidently untrue according to Scripture. False profession definitely is a Biblical teaching. Many church members or baptized people should be warned of their unjustified complacency. “Let no man deceive you with empty words” (Ephesians 5:6).
The following chapter will outline explicitly what the Bible teaches concerning how to be saved. Read it carefully, with Bible in hand.
Study Guide Lesson 2 Is False Profession Possible?
1. What might make you question the truth of the claim by some, “I am a Christian”? Why?
2. What made the Lord Jesus challenge many from among “the chosen people” (the Jews) as to whether they would “enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 7:21-23; 13:38,47-50)? Why were they so confident and how does this apply to church members today?
3. If you were to examine yourself concerning your profession of faith in Christ, what might you discover (2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10)?
4. What are some contradictions between false profession and genuine saving faith indicated in 1 John 2:4; James 2:14; 1 John 2:19?