Malachi 2:1-9 ESV
2 “And now, O priests, this command is for you. 2 If you will not listen, if you will not take it to heart to give honor to my name, says the Lord of hosts, then I will send the curse upon you and I will curse your blessings. Indeed, I have already cursed them, because you do not lay it to heart. 3 Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it.4 So shall you know that I have sent this command to you, that my covenant with Levi may stand, says the Lord of hosts. 5 My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. 7 For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. 8 But you have turned aside from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts, 9 and so I make you despised and abased before all the people, inasmuch as you do not keep my ways but show partiality in your instruction.”
Have you ever been told not to do something because it was dangerous? Every one of us has, right?
I have kids and I try to instruct them on what the Lord wants me to. I tell them to be careful and not get hurt. And even with the music they listen to and the videos they watch on YouTube, I want them to stay safe and listen to good stuff.
The other day my kids were watching a video on YouTube and I overheard some nonsense about doing what is right for yourself over others.
So, I listened in and found out that I didn’t want them watching that video. It would be destructive to their character and that thinking doesn’t glorify God. If I let them continue to listen to it without correcting them then they would not think anything was wrong and then as life goes on they will believe whatever they hear online.
So, I told them not to watch it and why. (It’s so important to explain to your kids why things are wrong and why you’re correcting them.)
Now, if they continuing to watch these videos and then applied the principles they learned in the video to their lives, it would be destructive to themselves and then the kingdom of God. We should suffer for the sake of righteousness and the kingdom of God.
Essentially, the correction I gave them was that I was cursing the false teaching and instructing them in God’s ways.
This is how God teaches us. It’s what he did with Adam and Eve in paradise.
See God here is playing the role of the parent-instructor and teaching his children to obey what he has told them. But, when his children disobey, there are consequences.
Adam and Eve disobeyed God and followed the ways of Satan. God punished them because of their disobedience and placed a curse on them because of what they did.
But notice that he also punishes Satan, not for teaching a false doctrine, but a half truth that deceived Adam and Eve. God curses the three of them, Satan for teaching half-truth and Adam and Eve for following it. They are cursed and cast out of paradise.
I bring this up is because that is exactly what Malachi is doing in this passage to the priests. He is calling them out for the halfhearted message they are preaching and leading people to sin.
Malachi says, on behalf of the Lord, that if the priests do not honor the name of the Lord, like Satan did in paradise, then he will curse them. He is going to cast them out. The text says in verse 3…
When a sacrifice was made to the Lord in the temple, first it would have to be perfect without blemish, then it was cleaned. All the nasty stuff inside, namely its guts, were discarded and thrown out of the camp into the wilderness.
So, God is telling them that they are as good as that waste and will be thrown out for preaching this halfhearted partial message.
In other words, not teaching the whole truth separates you from God.
A true priest, a true messenger of God, stood with fear and respect before the Lord. He followed his ways and, like verse five says, “stood in awe” of God. They were amazed at his presence. When they felt this way about God, they taught the fullness of his message, they wholeheartedly proclaimed the truth.
Malachi speaks on behalf of the Lord when he describes Levi as the model of a true priest.
In paradise when Satan deceived Adam and Eve, he cherry picked what he wanted from God’s truth to fulfill his cause. He used partiality in his instruction and deceived them.
A true messenger of God proclaims the whole truth and leads many to the Lord, away from deception and iniquity. All those who proclaim the glory of God and the truth of the Lord should strive to remain like Levi and not like the halfhearted priests.
Those priests were simply putting out lip service for the people. They only outwardly projected piety and inwardly were ravaging wolves who wanted nothing else but the attention of others. They went through the motions because they thought that is what God wanted, and they did it better than anybody else.
There are preachers today who are like that, following the rules and statutes of God without having a heart conviction to follow him. They are doing it for selfish gain. Malachi says that they…
These preachers, false teachers, cause many to stumble. They are like Satan in the Garden leading people away with deception and half-truths.
Let’s talk about the …
… that are prevalent today. We know what to look out for, those who proclaim that they are pious and special, set apart. Those who seek gain and attention from others selfishly, instead of pleasing God from the heart.
The false teachers literally draw in millions of people and millions of dollars. But they are only pay lip-service to God. They do not whole heartedly proclaim, they only preach a partial message.
I don’t know how people don’t see this. They’re led in with the promise of blessing and prosperity. Millions will throw their money at the false preachers in the hopes that God will bless them with dividends in return.
They fear that they would lose people and money, because they are numbers driven.
But, Remember this…
the church isn’t about numbers, it’s about Christ.
There are a few false teachers I’m going to let you know about that are popular today that are damaging to the Church in more than one way. But these teach what I’m talking about:
1. The Health and Wealth or Prosperity Gospel,
2. Word-of-Faith, and
Now while many of these false teachers teach all three of these heresies, and heresy means they aren’t Christian, they also teach many other dangerous doctrines that if you want to know about it I’ll talk to you afterward.
What makes this heresy is not that it is completely wrong, because many people believe somewhat wrong things and aren’t heretics. But what makes it heresy is that it violates the very core message of Christianity.
Salvation is in Christ alone, by faith alone, for the glory of God alone.
I want to preface this with what Paul says Ephesians 5:11 ESV
Paul makes it clear that we are supposed to, by preaching wholeheartedly and not in partiality, to expose false teachers for preaching a false gospel and a halfhearted message.
Anthony and I wrestled with whether or not to call out false teachers by name. We came to the conclusion based on this and other Scripture that we are called to do so. Just like I would tell my kids to play with or hang out with the wrong people to keep them safe, I want to tell you about three dangerous teachers.
The first false teacher that I want to talk about is Paula White. I’m not going to assault her character, but what she has said publicly and the heretical teaching she prescribes.
Paula White teaches the prosperity gospel and is very popular today in America and across the world. She is listed as the Chair of the Evangelical Advisory Board, assigned by president Trump. And in 2017, she was #3 in the top 50 most powerful people regarding philanthropy and community voices by Orlando Magazine.
You could image with a resume like that that she would have a great audience and that would be correct.
But what is sad is that with that audience she only seeks to teach people about the rich blessing they would receive if they only had faith. The idea behind the prosperity “gospel” is that if you have faith enough to give, God would return to you rich blessing and prosperity. And certainly, the Bible says things like this.
Now, doesn’t that sound great?
But the problem with this is every verse is used out of context and for the wrong reason. This is only half the truth coming from a halfhearted preacher.
Christians aren’t called to give so they can get, ok? That’s selfishness and an idolatry of money.
The only thing Christians should give is their life and allegiance to the Lord and get the blessing of glory through Jesus Christ to spend eternity in the glory of the Father in paradise.
Christianity isn’t about worldly pleasures, it’s about Christ and the sacrifice he made to make you part of his family.
Paula White presents a partial message to her people and she reaps in the benefits. But let me be clear: she is a heretic and not a Christian.
It’s any wonder how the prosperity gospel has gained any traction in a supposed Christian county when the book of Job is in the Bible. Job is a man who suffered tremendously. He lost everything, including his family. Job did nothing to deserve this. He didn’t do anything wrong.
Job was a righteous man in every way, following the statutes of our Lord and what did he get out of it.
He saw the sovereignty and glory of God.
The Lord proclaimed the wondrous works of his might and sovereignty. Job heard of the splendor and majesty of his creation.
Now Job shows us that faith in God does not lead to financial gain in this life but leads to the immediate blessing of being in the presence of the Lord and on into eternity. Job follows the whole truth of Scripture and was blessed with God’s presence.
Now, Paula White isn’t the only false teacher that teaches the prosperity Gospel. They are numerous teachers, and this is what you look out for. If you hear a teacher telling you that you will literally prosper or get money because you are a Christian, then false teaching.
The next false teacher I want to talk about is Kenneth Copeland. Kenneth Copeland teaches that there is something wrong if a Christian doesn’t become rich. He teaches the prosperity gospel but takes it a step further. Kenneth Copeland teaches word-of-faith doctrine. The word-of-faith doctrine teaches that if you have enough faith and proclaim what you want in Jesus name, it will manifest itself to be so. Quite literally, those that follow this believe that they can speak things into existence.
Copeland has said that he is a billionaire. And he is a billionaire not because he has had over a billion dollars go through his ministry, but because he began to confess the “billion-flow.” He states that God told him to confess the “billion-flow” and he would make billions of dollars.
The word-of-faith movement usually goes hand in hand with the prosperity gospel, and for good reason. If people believe that they can speak money into existence, then that’s the religion they want!
That sure sounds like what word of faith teaches: if you ask, you will receive. But what does Jesus really mean here. Well, firstly, Jesus advises against pious lip-service and judgmental attitudes just before this. He condemns a halfhearted preacher, specifically the pharisees.
But what is he really talking about?
AW Pink is a solid biblical teacher from the early 20th century I like to read from. Listen to what he says about this verse, (and I’ve paraphrased the turn of the century British-English for all of our benefit…)
“Ask, and it shall be given you is…[does not mean that you can ask for material blessing with anything you want. Ask and it shall be given to you is about asking God, as a believer and follower of Jesus, for grace and blessing from him spiritually. This is an asking from those in Christ to God who is the supplier of grace. Those who aren’t in Christ are even capable of asking for grace and blessing from God.”
Making sense? Christ says that if you are living a holy life to God as a Christian, you may ask for God to bring the grace of Christ on you. This is people who are already Christians and it doesn’t apply to physical or especially monetary gain.
If your heart is to build God’s kingdom, or family so to speak, then when you pray and ask God for something in relation to that, of course he will give it to you. But the word-of-faith and prosperity teachers aren’t concerned with the kingdom of God in heaven. They’re concerned with building their personal empire here on earth now. Kenneth Copeland could use his billions of dollars to bring great things to the kingdom of God. Yet many of us who claim to be a Christian like he does have never heard of him. Does that sound right?
I want to again say that Copeland isn’t the only person who teachers word-of-faith. There are many teachers out there who do. This is what to look out for:
They teach that as a Christian, you can in faith proclaim things into being with the words you speak. The teaching is that you have creative power just like God. But the problem is that isn’t even remotely true. They take the partial truth and twist it to deceive their audience.
Lastly, I want to talk about Joel Osteen and the heresy of universalism.
Joel Osteen is immensely popular. He has many books published, including Your Best Life Now and he has many celebrity friends including Oprah, who is also not a Christian.
On Oprah’s talk show, he talked about his ministry and his views on church and God.
Now, Osteen starts off good. He starts off with the truth, until he gets asked tough questions, such as “is Jesus the only way to heaven.”
In the interview he is asked “How would you describe God to a non-believer?”
Like I said he starts off good. But he only gives half the truth, like so many false teachings. “God is our creator and our heavenly Father.”
But then he goes on to say that “God is a friend of the non-believer and wants to be there for you as a friend.”
But that’s not what the Bible says. It’s very clear in Colossians that non-believers are not friends of God
Now I see that Osteen doesn’t want to offend anybody, because if I were an unbeliever and heard that Christians believed I was an enemy of God, that would make me not want to be a friend of that God.
The next question Oprah asked Osteen was, “Are there many paths to get to God?”
This is where Osteen goes full universalist. I’ll let his answer describe universalism for you.
He says that Jesus is the only way to God, but states that there are many ways to Jesus.
Joel Osteen has also said on Larry King’s show about who goes to heaven.
Joel replied, “You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know …. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So, I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.”
Joel Osteen seems to not know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ dying for the sins of the Church is. He repeatedly dodges questions and uses circular reasoning, very poorly at that.
Universalism teaches that the sins of humanity were paid in full by Christ and that every single person will be saved. That means Jesus is important because he is the means of salvation, but that every individual finds their own way to God through whatever path they choose.
I wish that were true, but the Bible and the authority of the Lord doesn’t allow for that.
The Bible makes it clear that belief in the resurrection and loyalty to Jesus alone is the way to salvation.
What all these false teachers convey is a partial message that Malachi warns them not to do. The give a halfhearted message and dishonor God and the glory of the truth.
The Bible says …
It also says…
That goes for watching them, too, and reading their books or listening to their sermons and not understanding the message of halfhearted, partial preaching that their father the devil has given them. Don’t follow halfhearted preachers that are partial in their message. There are more out there that are just like Joel Osteen who come off as a great motivational speaker who sounds biblical, but in actuality, they seek personal gain. He isn’t the only universalist.
So, to close the message today, I am going to give you a whole-hearted message of truth and give glory to the Father in heaven.
And to begin the truth, I am going to wholeheartedly proclaim the fullness of the message of salvation in Christ and in him alone. There is no other way.
God loves the world, he made it perfect as his creation, but something happened and now it is broken.
Sin and death have entered the world through us and now we, all of humanity, are stained and broken. We are not perfect and glorious, we are broken and spiritually dead.
We are all inherently sinful and we are not worthy of being with God. We are not righteous, we are not holy, and we need to be remade so that not only are we made fit for God but made into something new altogether.
We need to be made into a new creation in Christ. The only way for this to happen is for the Son to come to the earth and die the death of sin that we all deserve and take the wrath of God.
The only way for sin and death to be conquered is through the death of Christ, taking the full wrath of God on himself so that the Church wouldn’t have to. Contrary to any prosperity teaching, we are in debt to God. Jesus’ death pays in full the debt we owe to him.
God has changed the believer and given them a new heart, one that yearns for him and wants to bring him praise and honor. This is only for the believer, not for the whole world. God does not put his Spirit in every person of the world, but only those who he has called and are saved according to Christ and him alone.
Salvation is wholly the work of God and Jesus is the only way. The message of hope is not about money or fame or health, but Jesus.
You don’t come to faith to get something, you come to faith to get Jesus.