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Extract from: Stripping the Harlot

Characteristic Four - False Leaders

"Many shepherds have ruined my vineyard" (Jer 12.10).
"Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture" (Jer 23.1).

God's true shepherd is a servant. This is perverted so that instead of serving they dominate. This evil is masked by the ridiculous fiction of "servant leadership". Instead of feeding and equipping, they help themselves. Instead of reminding the flock of God's holy requirements they speak ear-tickling visions of their own imaginations and encourage delusion. Instead of faithfully teaching the Word they proclaim human ideas.

There were three categories of leader in the Old Testament, although we see from 1 Sam 8.5-9 that there should only have been two. Nevertheless, God acceded to their rebellious request for a visible, human king to take His place. The Old Covenant was preparatory in nature, so the full majesty of God's plan of redemption had not been revealed. It was then only revealed in types and shadows (Col 2.17). "The Holy Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (Jn 7.37-39). After the ascension of our Lord, the Holy Spirit was (and is) given to every believer, as that passage in John says, "he who believes in me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water". But under the old dispensation, the Spirit came upon people temporarily as a result of their office, to enable them to fulfil that office. Thus we see the anointing of priests (Lev 8.30) prophets (1 Ki 19.16) and kings (1 Sam 16.13). These were the only categories of people under the Old Covenant to be moved by the Holy Spirit, consequently, they were God's chosen leaders, appointed and anointed to the task. Other people had to rely on these people to hear from God for them; a situation that no longer obtains. The New Testament is different, for we have all received the anointing, the Holy Spirit who abides in us permanently (1 Jn 2.27). We shall pick up on the significance of this later.

These three types of leader were commissioned by God to lead his people. Remember that although the people had the Law, they did not have the Holy Spirit, so they needed direction from those who did. The priests had to teach the Law (Mal 2.7-8), the kings administer the nation according to its precepts (Jer 22.2-5), and the prophets had to remind every one of the Law when they missed it (Hos 6.5; Jer 7.13).

Instead, apart from God's chosen few, they all missed it and malfunctioned. Instead of leading the people into the holiness and righteousness of God, they became perpetrators of spiritual abuse. They abused their positions to benefit themselves and mislead the people. The following table will illustrate the differences between true and false. After that, we will give just a few of the enormous number of Scriptures that illustrate how the leaders failed the people.

Leader False True
Priest Taught human traditions Taught the Law of God
Prophet An amoral encourager; a fortune teller; acceptable Back to God's holy Law; an exhorter; rejected
King A dominator and extortioner A shepherd and judge


"The LORD enters into judgement with the elders and princes of his people; 'it is you who have devoured the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses" (Isa 3.14).

"The ruthless will come to an end, and the scorner will be finished…who cause a person to be indicted by a word…and defraud the one in the right with meaningless arguments" (Isa 29.20-21).

"Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help…but do not look to the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 31.1-2).

"I said, 'they are only the poor, they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the LORD…I will go to the great…for they know the way of the LORD…But they too, with one accord, have broken the yoke" (Jer 5.4-5).

"They are fat, they are sleek; they also excel in deeds of wickedness; they do not plead the cause, the cause of the orphan…and they do not defend the rights of the poor. Shall I not punish these people? An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and my people love it!" (Jer 5.28-31).

"Every one is greedy for gain, and from the prophet to the priest every one deals falsely" (Jer 6.13).

"The prophets are prophesying falsehood in my name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds" (Jer 14.14).

"Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness…who uses his neighbours services without pay" (Jer 22.13). What about all those saints running churches voluntarily while their pastors live in comfort and do minimal work? They urge the people to tithe in order to build the kingdom, but few people recognise whose kingdom is being built! A friend who used to be an elder in one of these structures told me how he would fly back from business meetings and rush to attend elders' meetings without going home to see his wife or eat dinner. To his disgust he found that the pastor complained of tiredness because he had not had his afternoon nap. A pastor with whom I once served (he would have said "under whom") admitted to me openly that he never worked an eight hour day. After taking the children to school he would go home and get back into bed with his wife. Yet he draws an executive salary.

"Please listen, O my lord the king!" (Jer 37.20). King Zedekiah was too scared of the people to do what was right. He listened to Jeremiah, but fear stopped him from doing right. It cost him dearly. Read the whole of chapters 37-39 of Jeremiah to see how fear of man instead of fear of God leads to destruction. A false leader fears the people; God's true servant fears none but God.

"Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions, and they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity" (Lam 2.14).

"Prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration…" (Ezek 13.2).

"O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins" (Ezek 13.4). Compare also v10-17.

"There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst…They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure…Her priests have done violence to my Law; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane...Her princes are like wolves...in order to get dishonest gain"(Ezek 22.25-27),

"You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock…You have not healed the broken…the scattered you have not brought back…but with force and severity you have dominated them" (Ezek 34.3-4).

"Now hear this, heads of the house of Israel, who abhor justice and twist everything that is straight…on account of you Zion will be ploughed as a field; Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins" (Mic 3.9-12).

"I will punish those who leap over the threshold" (Zeph 1.9; refer to 1 Sam 5.5). They were practising heathen superstitions!

We saw in the beginning that God's complaint against Israel was that the nation had played the harlot. In this section we focus specifically on the leaders, for they had to take ultimate responsibility for that harlotry. These were the ones who had been commissioned by God. But the kings acted with cruel injustice, the priests taught their own ideas, and the prophets proclaimed their own vivid imaginations. They were unfaithful to God by not fulfilling the divine commission, and were thus guilty of harlotry. Therefore, judgement fell. We must now look at the New Testament to see if there are any warnings there of the possibility of similar harlotry.

What we must specifically do before we look at the Scriptures is to remind ourselves of what we saw earlier. Only some Old Testament saints were anointed. In the New Testament we are all anointed, all priests (1 Pet 2.9) so there is no human rulership in the Church! See Matt 23.8-12 below. True, there are functions and services to be fulfilled, as Eph 4.11 explains, but not officers and positions, or structures of leaders and subordinates. The elder is a shepherd: a carer, not a ruler. Especially, we no longer need someone to introduce us to God, bring us to God, or bring God to us (Heb 8.10-11). The Lord Jesus Christ imparts the Holy Spirit to us, the Holy Spirit empowers us and teaches us about Christ and unveils the Word to us, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have continual fellowship with us. We do not need a prophet, a priest or a king., for every believer is God's anointed! So in New Testament times, there are additional manifestations of harlotry seen in the desire to dominate like an Old Testament hierarchy. The New Testament warns us about this quite clearly.

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" (Matt 7.15).

"Do not be called Rabbi, for One is your teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father, for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders, for One is your leader, Christ, but the greatest among you shall be your servant, and whoever exalts himself will be humbled" (Matt 23.8-12).

We are clearly warned here not to exalt fellow men into positions of leadership, as teachers, fathers, or leaders. The fact that nearly the whole church does just that is a sign of widespread harlotry.

"Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold" (Matt 24.11-12).

"Those who are recognised as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you" (Mk 10.42-43).

"Savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and from among your own selves men will arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20.29-30).

The Greek "diastrepho", [perverse] means, "distort, twist, change direction".
All believers are members of Christ. We have different functions, but none are superior or leaders. Christ is the Head who directs the whole body (Rom 12.3-8; 1 Cor 12.4-7; Col 2.19).

"Are you not carnal, and are you not walking like mere men? When one says, 'I am of Paul' and another, 'I am of Apollos', are you not men? What then is Apollos and what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed" (1 Cor 3.3-5). "Let no one boast in men" (3.21) Having denominations and human leaders is a sure sign of carnality, no matter how much the Charismata are in operation!

"God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world…To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed…we are the scum of the earth" (1 Cor 4.9-13). Here are some of the signs of a true apostle! Those touted today as apostles would be hard pressed to match this description.

"You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men" (1 Cor 7.23).

"Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ" (2 Cor 11.13). "You bear with anyone if he enslaves you, if he devours you, if he takes advantage of you…Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane!)" (2 Cor 11.20, 23). The Corinthians were deceived enough to accept false apostles, who like wolves devoured the flock and took advantage of them. Paul says it would be insanity to call these men true ministers of the gospel. What were they doing that was so evil? They had convinced the Corinthians that Paul was not a real apostle because he worked for a living, whereas they had given up secular employment to "go full time into the ministry", living off the offerings of the people!

"He gave some…to equip the saints" (Eph 4.11-12) not dominate them.  "Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind"(Col 2.18).

Speaking of elders, Paul says, "if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church?" (1 Tim 3.4). In his home the man is a superintendent or manager. (The Greek "prostenai" [manage] means one who stands in front and leads, a champion or protector). But in the church he must be different; he is to be a carer. The Greek "epimelesetai" [care] occurs only here and in Lk 10.34-35 where the Samaritan and the innkeeper cared for or nursed the wounded man! A man's function at home and his function in church as an elder are two completely different operations. At home he must be a patron, but not in the church. Among the brothers he must be a carer and nurturer. This is the true concept of shepherding.

"The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim 4.1).
"There are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers…who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain" (Tit 1.11).

"Shepherd the flock…not lording it" (1 Pet 5.2-3).

"False prophets arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies…and many will follow their sensuality…and in their greed they will exploit you" (2 Pet 2.1-3).

"Diotrephes, who loves to be first…I will call attention to his deeds. He does not receive the brethren, and he forbids those who desire to do so, and he puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate what is evil" (3 Jn 9-11). Diotrephes has many children alive today!

"I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat thing sacrificed to idols and to commit immorality" (Rev 2.14).

"I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she leads my bondservants astray. I will cast her upon a bed, and those who commit adultery with her, into great tribulation unless they repent" (Rev 2.20-22).

"You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Rev 3.2).

"I know your deeds…I will spew you out of my mouth" (Rev 3.15-16).

"Come out of her, my people, that you may not participate in her sins, and that you may not receive of her plagues" (Rev 18.4).

We can see from the above that the Old Testament saints were not the only ones to have been given an abundance of warnings about false prophets, false apostles, false teachers and false brothers. We have been warned that there will be false ministers in the church, Satan's servants in positions of influence! We are specifically warned also about that false spirit that drives men to seek leadership and domination over others. The true church is a body of brothers. Its one head and leader is Christ and its one teacher is the Holy Spirit. Therefore, institutions where men are leaders and heads, and where men or select councils of men make the decisions and have the authority are manifestations of the harlot. This is because leadership has been taken away from God and placed in the hands of an individual or a small group in each human structure. Conversely, the only decision-maker in the true church is God, who manifests his will to the whole body of believers in that locality. Note Matt 18.17, "tell it to the church" and 1 Cor 5.4, "when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus". Note also Acts 15.22, where James publishes the decree of the first church council. "It seemed good to the apostles, and the elders, with the whole church". We must note from those passages that decisions are not made by councils of elders or synods. They are made by the local believers in plenary session. To restrict decision making to a committee or an individual is to follow the world's pattern. It denies the presence, power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit indwelling every believer. "The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not so among you" (Mk 10.42-43).

Some years ago, Watchman Nee wrote a book entitled Spiritual Authority. The thesis of this book was that authority is delegated by God to his chosen leaders, and that unless one submits to those leaders one is in rebellion. This concept was backed up by numerous Scriptures. The book is perennially popular, but the Bible passages used all come from the Old Testament! For that reason its assertions need debunking. As we have seen, that Mosaic order was a different Covenant, preparatory in nature, whereas the full revelation of God's redemptive activity is found in the New Covenant. Here, authority is different. God the Father has delegated all authority to the Son (Matt 28.18; Jn 5.27; Col 2.10). In turn, The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son to bring that authority to the church (Jn 14.26; 16.13). The whole Body has delegated authority, not just some of us. We constitute a kingdom of priests, an authoritative body (1 Pet 2.9). We all have been given authority over our Satanic enemy (Lk 10.19) and all who believe and receive Christ have been given authority to call ourselves God's people (Jn 1.12). But nowhere in the New Testament has any person or group been delegated as an authority over other believers. Search the Scriptures; you will not find such a thing! Beware of Diotrephes and the followers of the Nicolaitans! All that you will find is that the apostles were given the authority to draw finances from the churches and thus live from the gospel if they so chose (1 Cor 9.4-18; 2 Thess 3.9). They were also given the authority to build up the churches in the faith (2 Cor 10.8; 13.10).

It is worth looking at a paragraph of Paul's writing to see the differences between his apostleship and the self-styled apostles of today. The passage that illuminates us is 1 Thess 2.1-9. The following table clearly shows the difference between truth and error.

Verse  Paul False Leaders
2 He suffered opposition and was mistreated Popular with all except preachers of the truth
3 No error, impurity or deceit There are well documented records of all three
4-6 Pleasing God; not concerned if rejected by men Men-pleasers looking for status and human affirmation
5    Selfless sacrificial service Preaching is a pretext for greed
6 Might have used legitimate apostolic authority to care and nurture Do use self-created and therefore illegitimate authority to dominate
9 Worked to support self and avoid being a burden Insist on others supporting their executive lifestyle


To identify a structure as evil does not mean that every person in that organisation belongs to the harlot. It is a judgement on the structure, not on those within. The fact that God calls people out shows that there are true believers within those false structures. But once we have recognised the character of the harlot and heard the call to flee her clutches, we must act. We cannot remain within her grasp knowing the evil thereof, and expect to remain guiltless and unjudged.

It is now time to examine this question of denominations. As we said earlier, they are manifest breaches of the first commandment, for they are human structures with human heads. Christ is not the head, therefore he has been displaced by another god. This applies whether we are talking about a large, internationally spread organisation, or an independent group. These divisions are sins, expressions of the sinful nature that divide the Body of Christ into factions (1 Cor 1.10-13; Gal 5.20). Some have withdrawn from the larger systems, but have fallen into the same error by forming "independent" denominations. But they still have names, rules for members, organisations, a structure or hierarchy, membership lists, leadership, and bank accounts, all jealously guarded, so they are no different from what they left.

It can be very confusing to look at the plethora of denominations in a town, especially in a fast growing and prosperous suburb. It seems as if God calls more pastors to those areas than he does to the slums on the wrong side of the tracks! But that raises another question. When God supposedly calls pastor number fifteen does that mean that the previous fourteen have been given a divine vote of no confidence? If not, then why are they all not working together for God's one kingdom? It looks instead suspiciously like fifteen human organisations out to make a living, just like the coffee shops and boutiques in the mall. It also raises the question: if Paul wrote a letter to the church in that town, to whom would he address it?

Only when we can meet as brothers, with no other head but Christ and no other organisation but the Holy Spirit can we be free from this sin. Let us be clear on this. To be divided from other Christians is to be motivated by the flesh and controlled by human leaders. To set up other heads is to deny the headship of Christ. It is idolatry. To persist in this when we know it is wrong is to have some other god in place of the one we claim to worship. We have not forsaken all to follow him when we "have a king like all the nations". To prove this point, call on any church leader, on the basis of Scripture, to abandon his position or dissolve his structure and see how willing he is to obey Christ. In the table below you will see some differences between true and false.


  True Church Harlot Spirit
Joining By rebirth Membership application
Headship The Father The father
Allegiance God  Pastor or synod
Requirements Holiness The program
Leaders  Zeal for God Protecting a position
Vision/Loyalty God's Kingdom Church program
Authority Jesus is Lord Elders
Money  God's Ours
Worship Obedient service Ritual
Unity  With all saints With our group
Teacher Holy Spirit Men
Rule book Bible Constitution


False messengers, like Satan, always use Scripture out of context, in order to defend or prove what is contrary to the true meaning of Scripture. This is known popularly as proof-texting. It does not look at the whole argument of the Bible, but isolates a few verses here and there, outside their scope and context, to prove something different. The classic example of someone doing this is Satan, for obviously he is the master of deception. See in Matt 4.6 how he quotes a verse out of context to entice the Lord Jesus into presumptuous sin. There are some examples of Scripture twisting in Appendix C. Also, every preacher who tries to prove that tithing is required today is guilty of the same offence, for there is no way that practice can be continued on this side of the cross. Those who are taught by the Holy Spirit will be able to "rightly divide the Word" (2 Tim 2.15). We must always be on our guard against this sort of manipulation, and if we hold fast to basic and sound Biblical doctrine we will not be led astray. A good knowledge of the Word is essential.

We should note that proof-texters of all hues do not preach the Bible. They misuse the Bible to present their viewpoint. Sound Biblical exposition, as found in the preaching of men like Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones was drenched in Scripture reference. By way of contrast, the false messenger is not interested in showing what the Bible teaches. He has a viewpoint to get across - his own viewpoint - and the Bible is only useful if it can provide a launching pad or a seeming accord to his views. Sound Biblical teaching is not pulpit rhetoric or soapbox tub-thumping. It is reasoned and intellectual (but not highbrow), and full of Scripture. Above all, it conforms to sound doctrine.

We are warned of wolves in sheep's clothing. These are not false religions, for even the youngest disciple knows that they are wrong. These wolves try to look like sheep and try to sound like sheep. They are therefore close imitations of the true, counterfeits, and mixed in among us like tares among the wheat. Look for them in the pulpits and among the leadership of your denomination! They may be billed as pastors, teachers, prophets or even apostles. Follow the example of Rev 2.2. "You put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false". Note that God encourages us to test those who claim to be his representatives! You will normally find that false messengers do not like being put to the test, for obvious reasons. They are more likely to blather on about submission and respect for God's anointed. The true messenger of the gospel does not mind being examined, for like gold, he can pass the test. If any leader will not submit to examination by you, be very suspicious of him. We should of course be suspicious of anyone who is called leader, for that title belongs only to God!

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