Tom and Dick Fisher discuss, "Is it possible for the elect to be deceived?"
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. We’re glad you could be here. In today’s program, Tom continues his discussion on Apostasy in the Church, with special guest Richard Fisher of Personal Freedom Outreach. Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC Executive Director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Our topic for today is Apostasy. Actually, this is the second part of an interview with Dick Fisher—G. Richard Fisher—who’s a retired pastor but definitely one of the contributing writers to Personal Freedom Outreach Quarterly Journal. And, as I said, our topic has been Apostasy. We gave some definitions, but, Dick what I’d like to do is go back over—just give our listeners a better understanding of apostasy and what the problem is with regard to the church in our day.
Dick: Well, it goes back to a question that I’ve been asked: “Can a believer become an apostate?” You know, it goes back to that, and we know that apostasy, biblically defined, is that word meaning departure, departure from the faith, departure from the Bible, departure from the apostle’s doctrine, departing from the correct belief. And Paul often emphasizes “the faith,” which is that body of beliefs that we have, and we can kind of document that pattern of belief from the early church right on until today. We might call it orthodoxy. But it’s a departure from all of that.
But going back to believers being deceived, you know, we have a sin nature, right? And it’s stubborn. It’s independent. And if we get away from the Bible, and we get away from accountability, and we get away from the right kind of people and get under the wrong kind of teaching, yes, believers can be deceived to the point where they go into apostasy. Apostasy by a professed believer may indicate they’re not a believer at all, as 1 John says, “They went out from us because they were really not of us,” right?
Dick: And only God, I think, can ultimately judge someone’s soul. But we still have a responsibility to refute their teaching. That’s what Matthew 18 is all about. If someone comes into the church and they’re teaching contrary, and they’re, you know, sinning against the body in that way, they’re to be approached. Then, if there’s no repentance and coming into agreement with the Scriptures, then you move on to two or three more, and then you move on to the church—they may have to be “excommunicated,” we say, or “disfellowshiped,” or however we want to put it. But we can’t allow this kind of thing to keep coming into the church and take over the church.
Dick: Unfortunately, it will, and it does. I remember years ago we had to face a rabid King James-Only person who began to spread this in the church, and, again, it was rabid, it was evil, and every…they were concluding that everybody in the church was of Satan and of the Antichrist because they weren’t using the KJV. And even our missionaries—they said we ought to cut these people off because they’re not using the English Bible. I can’t imagine going into a foreign culture with an English Bible. I don’t know how that’s going to work at all.
Dick: But, yes, true believers can be deceived. We had an awful time after we excommunicated…about eight families. We had an awful time getting people back in line understanding even the proper doctrine of the Scripture, but fortunately, the Lord blessed and we were able to overcome that. What a lesson it was for us!
Tom: Right. And here’s the way the delusion (chuckling) sometimes comes along. It’s a wrong understanding or a misunderstanding of what the Scriptures actually teach. For example, I’ve had people tell me, based on, you know, I quoted in our last program Matthew:24:24 that if possible even the elect could be deceived. And I’ve had people say, “You see, Tom, if it’s possible, and it’s not possible because we’re believers and we can’t be deceived.”
And I said, “Wait a minute! Let’s just pull back and look at the scripture.” You go back to verse 4 when Jesus was asked in Matthew 24 what would be the “sign of your coming?” He’s speaking to His disciples. Wouldn’t you say that would be the elect? Okay? And speaking to them, He says, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Well, if they couldn’t be deceived, why did Jesus even tell them that?
And then we have, as we mentioned also in our last program, all of the epistles—they’re correcting issues either that some of the believers were into already or there was the potential for them to buy into false teachings, false doctrines, and so on.
So, the issue—you know, one of the issues that you mentioned—yeah, we don’t know who is an apostate except by what they’re teaching and whether they, you know, or were never a believer and are teaching false doctrine, and so on, the question is what are they professing? What are they teaching? Is it contrary to the essential doctrines of the faith? Or is somebody who’s just—because they’re not reading the Bible, as we mentioned earlier; they’re just following along with something somebody else is teaching, and they think that sounds good but they’re not comparing it with the Scriptures.
So, to me, not only in terms of what somebody’s teaching and preaching and promoting can we discern from the Scriptures whether they have left the faith (I’m not saying losing your salvation. I’m just saying left the doctrines of the faith) and unwittingly have bought into false teachings, false doctrines, and so on.
Dick: Yeah, I think that can happen, and it does happen.
Dick: The other thing, too, is people are so taken nowadays by anybody that comes along and, you know, we’re so into such mysticism and mystical thinking that if they come along and say they’ve discovered secrets, and they’ve discovered mysteries, people just seem to be taken by that. And I would say if somebody comes along and tells you they’ve found the secret that nobody else has, or, you know, they’ve got some kind of mystery they’ve uncovered—you…just run! Just run! That’s what you need to do.
Tom: Well, you know, a scripture that just keeps running across my head, especially having been dealing with these kinds of things for, you know, a little bit more than three decades, but I think about the verse: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.”
Tom: And when somebody comes along with a higher, more significant—at least in their own mind—more powerful way of God speaking, and how He’s speaking to us, then “Oh, wait a minute! I don’t have to go to these words on these pages,” you know, “I can get it from the so-called new prophet, or a guy who’s talking to God on a daily basis.” That stuff is just really…that’s rank apostasy.
Dick: You know another thing that’s a little bit deceiving is often you hear, “Well, you know, I know they have a lot wrong with them, and they’re teaching a lot of wrong things, but basically they’re preaching Jesus anyway. They have their core—their core doctrines are right, so it kind of doesn’t matter, as long as their core is right, and they’re orthodox, so they believe in the…they preach the deity of Christ and the Trinity—they believe in the Trinity, so their core is right.”
But, you know, if you go back to the Pharisees, they had an orthodox core, but they had covered it with so much garbage, you could never get to the core—you could never really see the core, understand the core, because they covered it up with traditions. And I think that’s what’s happening. It’s a manipulative tactic to say, “Oh, we preach Jesus, and we preach the new birth,” but there’s so much garbage piled on top of it that people, if, in fact, they are saved, what are they saved to? So, that’s another thing that I think, you know, is used as a kind of a tool for some of these false teachers.
Tom: Right. And we don’t have to go back to…Dick, we don’t have to go back to the Pharisees, but we could go back to what we have in common. We were formerly Roman Catholics, right?
Tom: So there you have, certainly, I’m not one to say that underneath all the rituals and liturgies and all of that you will find a gospel—a gospel of salvation—because they have an erroneous gospel, but nevertheless, for most people who aren’t discerning—they say, “Well, wait a minute! They love Jesus. We love Jesus.” But we know the Jesus of Roman Catholicism is not the Jesus of the Bible.
Dick: Yeah, and if people happen to get saved, I think it’s in spite of the Church. It’s not because of the Church because they don’t really preach the gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. They just do not do that. They never did it all the time I was in the Roman Catholic faith, and I don’t know if they’ve done it since.
Dick: Again, in spite of, maybe, but not because of.
Tom: And people who would say, “Well, wait a minute. I know some Catholics, and I know they love Jesus.” Well, let’s just take something—a few things that would mitigate against them having a gospel of salvation. Number one, let’s just look at it visually. You go into a Catholic Church, and you see Jesus still hanging on the cross.
Tom: Well, “a” Jesus, not the biblical Jesus. So what is that saying? That’s saying that He did not pay the full penalty for a person’s sin.
Tom: So that’s why we have, you know, the Church has the dogma of Purgatory. I mean, Jesus is our purgatory—He purged your sins and mine, right?
Dick: That’s right.
Tom: And everybody else’s who have come to Him by faith. Faith alone. That’s the only way you can do it.
Dick: Right, right. Yeah, and, I mean, this thing of idolatry, ascribing to a human the attributes of God—when you pray to a saint, which I did for many years, you’re attributing omniscience to them, you’re attributing omnipotence to them, it’s just…it’s awful, yet people do it, but…you know, it goes back to what should people do, you know? What’s the answer here? I think the answer is you’ve got to know your Bible, you’ve got to know the apostle’s doctrine, you’ve got to know the flow of doctrine in history, you’ve got to know the authors that you’re reading. Because just because a person publishes a book doesn’t mean they know anything. Anything can get published today. It’s about money, it’s about profit, it’s about marketing. So you need to know the people you associate with because Proverbs says, “He that walks with wise men will be wise.” So you’ve got to walk with wise authors as well, you know, and authors that are trustworthy in Scripture.
Dick: Go to an apologetics conference when and where you can. They’re—you know, Benny Hinn can draw in 50,000 people, and an apologetics conference get a few hundred, so… There’s such an imbalance…and you know what? Don’t believe everything on the Internet.
Dick: You know, avoid the guys who say that have discovered mysteries and secrets and keys that nobody else has ever seen before.
Tom: You know, Dick, for some—especially a young believer—it many seem like you’re laying out something that’s “Oh, wow!” you know, “I’ve really got to get into this stuff. I really, you know, this is like academic,” and all of that. Folks! It’s not. What I preach and teach is familiarity. You need to discipline yourself. I need to discipline myself, and so does Dick, to get into the Scriptures every day. To become more and more familiar with what they say.
Now, look, it isn’t an academic or a scholarly pursuit. What it is, is getting to know Jesus and growing in maturity with regard to your personal relationship with Him.
Dick: And that’s exciting…
Tom: It really is!
Dick: It’s exciting and it’s life changing. I can understand why people don’t get a thrill in reading the Scriptures. It’s because they’re told that, like in the…some of the extremist Charismatics, right?...the Bible’s the “old Word.” It’s the musty, dead word. You need a “now” Word!. The Bible to me is a “Now Word,” and it’s exciting to discover things and research things, and…but these so-called “now Words” that are given by these self-proclaimed apostles are contradictory, they’re really just out of their own imaginations, out of their own, you know, heart.
Tom: Right. And the person can’t know that unless they’re familiar with the Scriptures. You can’t even have a red flag come up.
Now, again, just to reinforce what you said, Dick, my approach is familiarity. You read it and you read it and you read it. And you read it and you read it and you read it. And you say, “Oh, Tom, that’s starting to sound boring.” No! It’s not boring, because Scripture interprets Scripture. I mean, the more I read through the Scriptures, the more excited I get about it, because I’m growing in my understanding. And it’s a direct relationship with the Lord. I’m not having somebody, you know, I don’t have to go to this guy, or that guy, or whatever, you know, we talked about in our last program about spoon feeding. No! This is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As a believer, I’m indwelt with the Holy Spirit to give me understanding.
Now, you know, the Holy Spirit can do anything He wants, but He doesn’t work out of a vacuum, as far as I know. In other words, He brings scriptures that I’ve read to mind when I’m reading other scriptures to help me understand them.
Tom: And, as you say, it can’t get more exciting than that.
Dick: Right, and there’s certainly an intellectual component to it, but what you’re describing is what I would call more of a dynamic understanding of the Bible, a dynamic reading of the Bible, where you have those “Eureka” moments, where, you know, “Wow!! I see this for the first time where I’ve never seen this before. And this is exciting!” The dynamic reading of Scripture where the Holy Spirit is really involved—it changes you. It’s life-changing, and very dramatic in your experience, so—yeah, experience goes along with it, but it’s founded in—not in some transitory thing that some televangelist guy can give you but in God’s Word.
I mean, this where God speaks. This is where God meets us. And yet we’re running after others…
Tom: Right. And the thing is, it’s not just exciting. It’s enabling me to discern. And, you know, I just did an article called “The Demise of Discernment.” Well, how could that come about? It’s because somebody—a believer—you know, I’m talking about a true believer, okay? This person is not equipping themselves to discern, and as I said, yeah, I’m not against a scholarly approach to it, and so on, but for most of us, it’s just a matter of being familiar and understanding what the Word of God says so that when I do hear these guys who are influencing multi-millions throughout the world with their bogus ideas, their false teachings, their erroneous doctrines…
Now, Dick, I want…this brings us back to apostasy. This is how we fall into, we become vulnerable to apostasy. But where is apostasy going? In my understanding, it’s for the development, the building, of the religion of the Antichrist.
Tom: You know, I mean, it’s not like, well, let me say it this way: We can go back to where this began. To me, it began in Genesis:3:1, with the adversary, Satan, speaking to Eve: “Yea, hath God said…?” I mean it’s all an attack on God’s credibility, on what He said, whether it was true or not, getting Eve to vacillate, move back and forth, and even throwing some things out there that she would be attracted to—well, it began, as I said, in Genesis, but we find that throughout—throughout the history of the world. This is Satan’s game plan—to undermine the Word of God, to destroy it, to…if he could…which he can’t, but still, you can set it up and lie about it, and set it up in so many ways—denigrate it in so many ways—that, well, we are where we are today: “But it’s out of the Bible!”
You said it, “Oh it’s kind of that moldy book…full of old traditions and stuff like that. I want something new. I want the new thing.”
Dick: Yeah. Well, the Bible is new (laughing). People don’t realize that it’s new every morning, you know, like God’s mercy. But, yeah, also, I just wanted to make a little nuance here. When we talk about apostasy, we’ve said that that means really “to depart,” to depart from the Word, and to depart from the apostle’s doctrine, but the word “heresy” is nuanced a little differently. The word, hairesis —it means to “choose away—to choose away and choose something else.” So it puts the emphasis on that, that a person chooses to move away from the truth and they—they choose something that’s false, and again, just a little bit of a nuance, but I thought I’d mention that.
Tom: Yeah, no, that’s important. You know, as I said, we could even talk about apostasy where it’s used in 2 Thessalonians, I think it’s chapter 2—I can’t remember exactly what verse where it talks about, you know, in the Greek apostasia, which is a departure, and some people believe that’s the Rapture of the church. What’s your take on that?
Dick: I’ve read all sides of it. I haven’t really…I have to say I can’t…my salvation doesn’t depend upon it, but it’s tempting. I’ve read that view, the departure takes place, it’s a departure of the church. It’s a very tempting view. I don’t know…. I haven’t really come down on that firmly, but I like the idea.
Tom: Well, we know two things: we know definitely there will be a Rapture of the church, a departure from this earth…
Tom: And we also know—I can’t remember exactly where, but where that word is used again, it’s regarding how the people reacted to the teaching of Moses, and it was a departure from the faith. So either way, it’s something very important for us as believers.
Dick: Again, context is so important…
Dick: ...in any interpretation, it’s important, you know? And some of those false teachers today are saying, “You’ve got to bypass the mind, you’ve got to bypass the mind,” but what comes to my mind is that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, as well as strength, so, I don’t know how you could bypass the mind and be in a mindless state. That sounds more like something that comes out of Buddhism or something, you know.
Tom: Yeah, Dick, we’ve got about, I think 5 or 6 minutes left in our program. I want to read a scripture to you, and I want you to expound on it. Because I know there are people out there saying, “Oh, man, these guys are just…you know, they’re rattling their sabers and they’re getting people excited for whatever reason,” but, you know, one of my heroes of the New Testament is the Apostle Paul. I know people have trouble with him, but I don’t know why—he was inspired of the Lord. Anyway, Paul is meeting with the Ephesian elders—this is Acts:20:27-31. He says, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood…[wow! You know, I just get so moved just reading that phrase]. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Therefore, watch and remember, that by the space of three years, I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Wow! Is he giving us an understanding here that apostasy is going to come into the church? That it’s going to affect the Ephesian believers, who are, you know, sheep that the elders have to minister to?
Dick: You can’t take it any other way. They’re told, really, to guard, to attend to, to take care of, not only themselves but the entire flock, and that’s repeated in 1 Peter 5, where, you know, they’re to give real attention to the flock of God and the spiritual wellbeing of the flock of God, and they’re called “overseers,” which means to look after, really, to look over, to look after, to care for, and the word “overseer” just emphasizes the responsibility of leadership to really look after others, and you can’t stand by and let them be fed poison, or you can’t stand by and let them be fed something that’s going to malnourish them. They were to be, it says, “shepherds,” right? Which is in the present tense. It means that it’s something they’re constantly doing, that they’re working on this, keeping their guard up and knowing that there’s going to be these wolves that will come in. Peter says they’ll come in “privily,” or they’ll kind of worm their way in, they’ll come in secretly. All of a sudden they’re there and corrupting the church. This is what happens—it is happening. I mean, again, the sewage that’s spilling out of the TV into living rooms of people all over the country, and their children are exposed to this, as well, you know?
Tom: Yeah, but Dick, what really stuns me, every time I read this—well, first of all, going back to these who are coming into the church, “speaking perverse things.” Why? “…to draw away people disciples after them.”
But then for Paul to say, “I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears,” I’m thinking, “Wait a minute! Paul, you didn’t have TBN! You didn’t have, you know, Charisma magazine. You didn’t have all of these things that are flooding the church today!”
And, you know, I can speak for myself—am I warning the church, every one, night and day with tears? No. I mean, I fall so far short that…but still, that’s what we’re called to do. That’s what you’ve been doing, and the other writers of Personal Freedom Outreach, but we’ve got to keep doing it, right, Dick?
Dick: Exactly. There’s… yeah, exactly, because it seems like it’s getting worse and not better. Sometimes you feel like you’re making no impression at all, but you know, occasionally you hear of someone who has been helped or kind of shepherded out of confusion and out of darkness of the cults, and it really makes it worthwhile.
Again, nobody’s going to win them all, but even a few, it’s worth it.
Tom: Well, that’s what enables me to sleep at night. Well, first of all, we’re not the Holy Spirit, okay? So this is God’s work. We’re just, again, His clay pots, you know—His vessels. But still, it’s a rescue operation. Anybody who thinks…who has a concern for this, a heart for this, listen, don’t stop praying. Absolutely, don’t stop praying. On the one hand. On the other hand, it is a rescue operation for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. That’s who God will privilege us to minister to, and so on.
And, you know, the marching orders—we’ve got about a minute left in the program…
But folks, if you want to know the marching orders, you need to turn to 2 Timothy:2:24-26: How a…because we’re talking about in the church…how you minister to another brother or sister who’s been taken captive by these things. It’s going to be the work of the Holy Spirit to bring them out, but you can use, in meekness and humility, you can be used of the Lord to that end. That’s all we can do, right, Dick?
Dick: Exactly. You pray like everything depends on God, you work like everything depends on you. So, that combination of responsibility and accountability and work and investing…it’s exciting, and it’s… I say it’s fun. I don’t say that tritely. Other times it’s brutal, but a lot of times there’s great satisfaction.
Tom: Amen. Amen. Knowing that the Lord is using you in any situation, any condition, wow! That’s like a taste of heaven.
Hey, Dick, thanks a lot for being with me. We’re going to do this again, hopefully in the near future.
Dick: Okay! I appreciate it.
Tom: God bless you, Brother!
Dick: Right. God bless. Bye!
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7, with T.A. McMahon. Dick Fisher’s book The Confusing World of Benny Hinn is available through The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708; call us at 800-937-6638; or visit our website at www.thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we encourage you to search the Scriptures 24/7.