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True and false prophets
July 31, 2019
I thought this newsletter would be fun. It is also applicable in a lot of church experience today. I would say these words from the second-century work, _Shepherd (or Pastor) of Hermas_ apply to more than prophets. In fact, they apply to all representatives of the Lord as to whether they can be trusted. Perhaps these words are just a less succinct version of James 3:13-17 or even Matthew 7:15-20.
The Shepherd of Hermas was regarded as Scripture by some early Christians because of the possibility that Hermas was a companion of the apostle Paul (Rom. 16:14). Eventually, though, it did not make it into the canon.
Prophets are mentioned often in the early days of the Church. This is not the only early advice on separating true prophets from false ones.
"How then, sir," I asked, "will a man know which of them is the prophet and which the false prophet?"
"I will tell you," says [the Angel of Repentance], "about both the prophets, and then you can try the true and the false prophet according to my directions. Try the man who has the Divine Spirit by his life. First, he who has the Divine Spirit proceeding from above is meek, peaceful, humble, and refrains from all iniquity and the vain desire of this world. He contents himself with fewer wants than those of other men, and when asked makes no reply. Nor does he speak privately, nor when someone wishes the Spirit to speak does the Holy Spirit speak, but he speaks only when God wishes him to speak. When, then, a man having the Divine Spirit comes into an assembly of righteous men who have faith in the Divine Spirit, and this assembly of men offers up prayers to God, then the ange of the prophetic Spirit, who is destined for him, fills the man. The man, being filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks to the multitude as the Lord wishes. Thus, then, will the Spirit of Divinity become manifest. Whatever power comes from the Spirit of Divinity belongs to the Lord.
... "Hear then," says he, "in regard to the spirit which is earthly, empty, powerless, and foolish. First, the man who seems to have the Spirit exalts himself, wishes to have the first seat, is bold and impudent, talkative, and lives in the midst of many luxuries and many other delusions, and takes rewards for his prophecy. If he does not receive rewards, he does not prophesy. Can, then, the Divine Spirit take rewards and prophesy? It is not possible that the prophet of God should do this, but the prophets of this character are possessed by an earthly spirit. Then it never approaches an assembly of righteous men, but shuns them. It associates with doubters and the vain. It prophesies to them in a corner and deceives them, speaking to them according to their desires, mere empty words, for they are empty to whom it gives its answers.
" ...This, then, is the mode of life of both prophets. Try by his deeds and his lef the man who says he is inspired. As for you, trust the Spirit which comes from God and has power, but the spirit which is earthly and empty do not trust at all, for there is no power in it. It comes from the devil."
Shepherd of Hermas. c. 160-170. Commandment Eleventh.
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