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Should We Pray For The Wolf?
See also Identifying False Teachers.
IN AN EFFORT TO DEFEND Chuck Smith, Justin T. Alfred, (former pastor of a Calvary Chapel in Colorado Springs, Colorado) wrote several letters (letters on file). In one fairly lengthy letter he specifically attempted to deal with Chuck Smith's false doctrine. A brief letter was sent back to Mr. Alfred commenting on just a few points. The letter ended with this paragraph.
Finally, I will not pray for you Mr. Alfred. You are leading many to damnation. By your statement in regards to Catholics alone, you prove yourself to be one who teaches a broad way (Matthew 7:13-14). You are an enemy of the Truth (Christ, John 14:6) in disguise. Jesus called men like you dogs, swine, and snakes (Matthew 7:6; 23:33). I have decided to take on the same perspective and to pray just as David prayed (Psalm 58:6a).
Most people would consider such a response quite unlike our Lord Jesus Christ. They cannot believe that Christ would respond in such a way. Yet, those who are of this persuasion fail to acknowledge the very words of Christ Himself (our example to follow) who said to the false teachers of His day, "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33). Jesus also declared to these men, "...you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." Such is the case, we contend, with the men we expose (Ephesians 5:11).
Should we pray for such men (wolves in sheep's clothing, like in Matthew 7:15)? Should we pray for men who lead hundreds and thousands and sometimes millions of people to the fires of eternal torment where their worm will not die, "and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:48)?
At first glance, it might appear that we should.
You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemy, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:43-44).
But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28)
When we consider Stephen's prayer, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." (Acts 7:60), we might further be persuaded that we should pray for the well-being of false teachers, especially when we note that Saul (a Pharisee, a false teacher, Philippians 3:5) was one of those present at Stephen's death (Acts 7:58; 8:1).
Furthermore, 1 Timothy 2:1 would seem to remove all doubt that we should pray that God might grant repentance to these wolves.
Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men,
If only the above Scriptures were cited, it might be easy to persuade the simple that we should always pray for people, even false teachers. But, the above is not the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27) on this subject. The context of Matthew 5:43-44 and Luke 6:27-28 is a personal offense (Matthew 5:38-42; Luke 6:29-31). False teaching goes way beyond any kind of evil that might be afflicted upon one's person. False teaching is a direct offense against God. It is a direct offense and a dreadful woeful damning matter against His people. False teaching is a blow against the Truth. It's a blow against Christ (John 14:6).
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 exemplifies that there is a "time for every purpose under heaven", even "A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;" and "A time to love, and a time to hate;" (Ecclesiastes 3:5,8). We should indeed pray "for all men" (1 Timothy 2:1). But, there is also a time when we would not pray for someone.
If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (1 John 5:16)
Here is one example where we are not instructed to pray for someone. It is sin that is so bad it leads to death, and John refuses to tell us to pray for such a person if they commit this sin. What sin is so evil that it is "unto death" (more literally in the Greek, "sin unto death")? We find "sin unto death" in Hebrews 10:26.
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
A willful turning of one's life over to sin after coming to Christ (Hebrews 10:29) and taking on His name, is "sin unto death". Why? Because "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26). They can never be forgiven. Their sin is unto eternal death (Revelation 21:8). In other words, this person, by willfully turning back to a life of sin, has scorned the one and only sacrifice by which he might be saved (Hebrews 10:29). God's judgment is merciless to such a person (Hebrews 10:26-31).
Three times Jeremiah is specifically instructed NOT to pray for the Israelites.
Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you. (Jeremiah 7:16)
So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; (Jeremiah 11:14)
Then the Lord said to me, 'Do not pray for this people, for their good. (Jeremiah 14:11)
Why did the Lord tell Jeremiah not to pray for them? Because God had determined destruction upon them!
Then the Lord said to me, "Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth. And it shall be, if they say to you, 'Where should we go?' then you shall tell them, 'Thus says the Lord: Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity. And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction,' says the Lord: 'the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.' (Jeremiah 15:1-3)
In like manner, has God determined destruction upon false teachers? Yes! Speaking of false teachers, who "secretly bring in destructive heresies", Peter proclaims,
By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. (2 Peter 2:3)
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation. (Jude 4)
In Jude 13 the Lord calls them "wandering stars" and explains that the blackness of darkness (i.e. hell, Matthew 22:13) is reserved forever for them. Has God determined destruction upon them? Indeed He has! Note also 1 Peter 2:8, speaking in the context of the "builders" (i.e. those who are the false spiritual leaders), the Lord declares,
They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
So, does this mean that it is impossible for a false teacher to ever repent and be saved? Yes! Note further what 2 Peter says about false teachers.
But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, (2 Peter 2:12-13a)
The Lord says that false teachers are like "brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed." In other words, God has made false teachers for the express purpose of destroying them forever. As the above says, "they will utterly perish", and they "will receive the wages of unrighteousness." The wages of unrighteousness is the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). False teachers are beyond hope. In fact, note Jude 11. It says of them that they have "perished [past tense] in the rebellion of Korah."
The false teachers of Jesus' day (the Pharisees) who blasphemed the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:22-32) were in a similar plight. For what they had done, they could never be forgiven (Matthew 12:32). They had seen the undeniable work of God (the miracles), yet they called this work of the Holy Spirit Satanic due to their wicked opposition against Christ. They knew He was from God (note what Nicodemus, a Pharisee, tells Jesus in John 3:2), but lied against this knowledge to their own destruction.
Some may argue against the above by contending that Paul was a false teacher, and yet he was saved. Indeed, Paul was a false teacher, but not the same kind described in 2 Peter 2:1-22. His opposition to the truth was in ignorance and unbelief (1 Timothy 1:12-13). It took a radical miracle to get him to repent (Acts 22:1-11), but once he received "the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 2:20), he never turned from it (2 Peter 2:21). Such is not the case described in 2 Peter 2 concerning the wolves that Peter warns us about. These men have the truth, but turn away from it (please see 2 Peter 2:20-22)!
Are all who are caught up in lies and deceit beyond hope? No. Note what Jude says,
And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. (NKJV-following the majority of Greek manuscripts, Jude 22-23)
Jude calls us to make "a distinction", to use discernment. He says this in the context of the beloved (Jude 20). While we contend for the faith (Jude 3), we are to have compassion (Jude 22) on one another (Colossians 3:12-14) and contend in love (Galatians5:13-15). But, at the same time we are to discern (making a distinction, verse 22) those who may have been caught up by error and need to be saved from it ("save with fear, pulling them out of the fire", Jude 23).
Job's friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar) are examples of this sort. They were propagating false doctrine to Job (e.g. Job 13:4) as they attempted to confront Job on, what they perceived to be, his sin (e.g. Job 22:5). They argued that Job was reaping what he had sown, because God punishes the wicked in this life and rewards the righteous (e.g. Job 4:7). Job contended his suffering was not because of his sin, and that God does not always punish the wicked and reward the righteous in this life (e.g. Job 21:7-13).
These friends of Job spoke falsely about God, and were caught in deceit. In fact, God was angry with them, and they were in serious trouble before Him. Therefore, the Lord says to Eliphaz the Temanite,
My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. (Job 42:7-8)
Job rightly prayed for these men who had spoken falsely about God, and the Lord received Job's prayer (Job 42:9-10). Thus, there is a time to pray for those caught in error.
Exemplified in Ephesians 4:14, it is quite possible that a believer might be swayed into error and thus propagate the error himself. But, this is a serious matter nonetheless (2 Peter 3:17). James 5:19-20 describes a person who "wanders" from the truth. In other words, they are no longer in the truth (John 14:6), and thus, no longer wise (as Job's friends were). Note in James that it says their soul is being saved "from death" (hell! Revelation 21:8) when they are brought back to the truth (James 5:19-20).
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
Therefore, there are those who might be caught in error, but are not "false teachers," that is, of the sort mentioned in 2 Peter 2:1f (for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved, 2 Peter 2:17).
But what about the false teachers (2 Peter 2:1f)? What about these men who lead hundreds, thousands, and sometimes millions to the second death (2 Peter 2:2, "many will follow"; Revelation 20:14-15; 22:15)? Do we pray for them? The instruction Paul gives in Galatians1:8-9 (for those who preach any other gospel) is that we let them go to hell.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8, repeated in verse 9)
Characteristic of a righteous man is that a reprobate is despised in his eyes (Psalm 15:4), and he hates those who hate the Lord (Psalm 139:19-22). At the appropriate time, the godly pray for vengeance.
For example, Zechariah (the son of Jehoiada, the priest) prayed for God's vengeance when he was being murdered by King Joash. King Joash had been given the truth for many years by Zechariah's father, and Joash had followed this truth until the death of Jehoiada. But, after the death of Jehoiada, Joash turned away from the holy commandment delivered to him, and turned to idolatry (2 Chronicles 24:17-18). When Zechariah rebuked Joash, Joash killed him. Thus, Zechariah rightly prayed as he died, "The Lord look on it, and repay!" (2 Chronicles 24:22).
Similarly, Paul rightly prayed against Alexander the coppersmith who did Paul "much harm" and "greatly resisted" the truth ("our words", 2 Timothy 4:14-15). Paul prayed, "May the Lord repay him according to his works."
It is an amazing reality that the Scriptures are so abundant with this kind of mentality (and praying), but the "Christian" world knows little to nothing of either its existence or application (this is the result of the scratching of the wolves, 2 Timothy 4:3). Jesus spoke of this cry for vengeance by the righteous in Luke 18:1-8. John records it in Revelation 6:9-10. Nehemiah prays it in Nehemiah 4:4-5. David prays it in Psalm 35:1-8; 59:5,11-13; 68:1-2; 109:1-20; 140:8-11; 141:5,10. In Psalm 69:22-28, David prays that his adversaries would go to hell!
Add iniquity to their iniquity, and let them not come into Your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. (Psalm 69:27-28)
Likewise, in Psalm 55:12-15 David recalls a man who "walked to the house of God" with him (verses 12-14), but is now his enemy. In other words, he was a man in the truth, but has now turned away and become an enemy of the truth and thus an enemy of David. What is David's prayer for men like this?
Let death seize them; let them go down alive into hell, for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them. (Psalm 55:15)
Likewise, in Psalm 58:3-11 David describes the eternal doom that is upon those whose lies are like the poison of a snake, and he prays, "Break their teeth in their mouth, O God!" (Psalm 58:6).
This should be our prayer against the men of our day who are leading others to perdition. It is extremely wicked to divert people away from the narrow way and onto the broad way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24).
So, what about Mr. Justin T. Alfred (the pastor we mentioned at the beginning of this article)? He is a false teacher (2 Peter 2:1-2). He is leading hundreds of people (he pastors a church of about 300) to eternal torments. He follows and supports the teaching of a wolf (Chuck Smith, who is leading untold thousands to hell). In properly understanding the serious evil of a pastor who has been trained (brought up) by a wolf, Jesus' words are apropos.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)