“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:15-16).
We have this stark warning from Jesus in Scripture, but it is amazing how few of us take heed of this. The word “prophets” sort of throws us off to only suspect people who prophesy, or who lead Churches, or who teach Fellowships. Those ones, we are careful to observe them, and believe we can easily distinguish the false from the genuine. But few are weary of those who do not appear to be in leadership of any kind, but who simply profess to believe in Jesus.
We are far more forgiving of their faults, and their misunderstanding of Scripture. They too are growing in the Faith, like we are. No one is perfect, we say. And the truth is, there is some insincerity in us as well. We can relate to their willfulness, not being wholly submitted to the Spirit ourselves.
It seems like harmless Christianity, until you decide to marry such a person. And unfortunately, too many Believers end up married to ‘Christians’ by name only. Yes, they go to Church. Yes, they speak and pray in tongues. Yes, they even read their Bibles and engage in Ministry. But did we forget the reference to “sheep’s clothing”?
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt 7:22-23).
The truth is, anyone can pretend long enough to be something they are not. That is why Jesus said: “Ye shall know them by their fruits“. Basically, WAIT FOR IT… WAIT FOR IT… WAIT FOR IT. Do not accept someone else’s word that they are Christian. Observe their fruit.
“…he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:15-16).
Mature Christians know true Christians. And immature Christians fall for wolves in sheep’s clothing. They do not know how to wait and discern the fruit that someone is bearing. But those who are mature, have BORNE the fruit, so they can identify and distinguish those who are bearing fruit, from those who are wearing camouflage.
“Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matt 7:16-20).
It is bad enough to be bitten by a wolf, who you thought was a Brother or Sister. But to wake up to the realisation that you married one is quite another nightmare entirely! What doesn’t help is the lack of counsel on how to deal with such a situation.
I am often alarmed when I hear people’s accounts of what their ‘Christian’ spouse is or has been doing. And I tell them, “they are NOT Christian”. But they insist that they are. Because at one time in the past, this person said the sinner’s prayer. And at some point, they were really fervent in the Faith… Or they even pastor a Church!
But look at the fruit, dear Sister or Brother! LOOK AT THE FRUIT! Christians, who are born of the Spirit of God MATURE in righteousness. They do not deteriorate into depravity!
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal 5:19-23).
Sure, anyone can fall. And though the righteous fall seven times, he shall rise again (Prov 24:16). I get it, no one is perfect. But is he or she falling seven times a week? A month? A year? The same sin??? No growth? Come on!!!
Yes, we should encourage one another to grow in the Faith, and not treat people with needless suspicion, but believe with them that they have received this LIFE TRANSFORMING and EMPOWERING Spirit to walk in righteousness. But at some point, you have to call a spade a spade, and a wolf a wolf. This is not being judgmental. It is being discerning. Not just for your sake, but for others who might fall for their deception.
The Bible tells us not to believe every spirit, but to test them against the Spirit of Truth and Love (1 John 4). We are also commanded not to associate with so called ‘Believers’, who live as unbelievers, practicing sexual immorality, debauchery and all sorts (1 Cor 5:9-13). And again: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame” (1 Cor 15:33-34).
So, clearly, we have to be able to judge for ourselves what is right and in keeping with godliness, and not be swayed by people’s best intentions of faith. Because guess what, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Narrow is the way to Heaven, and WIDE is the road to Hell (Matt 7:13-14).
“…why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
It is not all who call Jesus, “Lord, Lord” who are saved and truly know Him (Matt 7:21). It is those who do the will of the Father. So, please, the first step in knowing how to deal with this problem is recognising that THERE IS A PROBLEM. You didn’t marry a Christian, you married a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
It could also be that you are not Christian yourself. Apply the same test of fruit in your life. Are you maturing in love?
Jesus said “every tree that doesn’t bare fruit will be cut down” (Matt 7:19) and again “…if a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6). That is some hard teaching. Contrary to the demonic doctrine of “once saved, always saved”.
“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim 2:19).
Are you still needy for milk, when you should be eating strong meat (Heb 5:12-14)? Are you given to the same sins over and over? Because the Scriptures also tells us that those who are born of God’s Spirit cannot continue in sin (1 John 3:9). So, Paul tells us to do a self-examination, to see if we are really in the Faith (2 Cor 13:5).
The truth is many Christians marry while they are immature in the Faith and are not yet trained in discernment. The pressure to marry is so strong that many are pushed to marry, even by their Pastors, who should know better. Many, even in the same Church are UNEQUALLY YOKED, because while some are genuine but immature, others are pretending deceivers.
People are encouraged to marry for all sorts of reasons, including and unfortunately to build the Church numbers. Never mind if the seats are filled with the living dead! Many are not truly serious about their salvation and that of others, which is why this continues to go on.
And when the shit hits the fan, and it is evident that the wolf is acting up and showing their true colours, the situation is patched up with the false teaching that the misbehaving spouse is just a ‘Believer’ struggling with a ‘besetting’ sin, rather than a thorough appraisal of the bad fruit bearing tree. It is quickly thrown in: “Don’t judge, or else you will be judged!” (Matt 7:1-5). Clearly, Jesus did not mean for us to throw away our discernment, seeing as later He told us (in the same chapter) that we can distinguish true believers by their fruit…
Did Jesus not also say, “do not judge by mere appearance, but JUDGE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT” (John 7:24), meaning we should JUDGE rightly? But when you accept someone’s proclamation of Faith against the evidence of bad fruit and confirm that they are ‘Christian’, you are making a judgment by mere appearance!
“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?” (1 Cor 6:2-3).
The real problem is MANY of those who are leading Churches are the wolves and wolf-breeders themselves… That’s why Churches are filled with immature, disobedient and faithless ‘Christians’. The students are not greater than their teachers (Luke 6:40)! We must be careful therefore to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) and be choosy about whose leadership and training we subject ourselves to (1 Cor 11:1)!
So, you married a wolf… First of all, I’m sorry. It is a devastating realisation. Especially when you love them from your heart, and they are breaking your heart. I am so sorry.
Now, to resolve the issue, there’s only one thing that is important. Are you Christian? Are you Christian for real? Died to self, living for Christ, good fruit-bearing Christian? Are you in the process of dying to self? Maybe you and God are still working on that, and you are drawing closer to Him, maybe as a result of the issues in your marriage?
If you answered “Yes” to being Christian or a sincere follower of Jesus Christ, then the answer to your dilemma is “the Cross”. Jesus commanded us to love one another AS HE LOVED US…(John 13:34-35) That is how we will be distinguished as His followers.
This is how He loved us: while we were yet unworthy, He died for us (Rom 5:8). So, we must do likewise to our unworthy, unChristian spouse. We must lay down our lives for them, that perhaps they can be saved and transformed by our loving witness. Read my post THE MARRIAGE ABCS – V FOR VICTORY IN THE VINE.
The truth is, as long as one of you is Christian in that marriage, there is hope. Even if you married a wolf, God is in control! Love truly conquers all, and if we apply the long-suffering love of God, we’re promised that it will never fail (1 Cor 13:8).
If you have not been able to answer the question, feel uncertain about what you actually believe, or you know for sure that you’re not a lover of God or Christian by anything more than a name and Church association, then it’s a whole different ball game. You are free to walk away. You cannot be constrained by the Law of Love unless you are born of the Spirit of God, which is LOVE.
If you are Christian, by the way, you wouldn’t be rejoicing at that! Because love hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things (1 Cor 13:7). Love is long-suffering and gracious.
However, we know that the carnal mind cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit, nor can it be subjected to it (Rom 8:7-8, 1 Cor 2:14). We can only give what we have, so one cannot and should not expect holiness from unbelievers! Their primary need is salvation, after which they will receive empowerment to walk in the light.
The truth is, if LOVE is in us, our desire will be for our spouse’s salvation. Our concern will be for God’s will (seeing as we have died to self). And we will see our vocation in marriage as a means to minister the Gospel to our spouse. Paul gave counsel for Believers who find themselves married to unbelievers not to seek to depart, but to abide, hoping that perhaps they will be converted by their ministration in the marriage (1 Cor 7:12-14). Read my post THE MARRIAGE ABCS – D FOR DIE DAILY TO SELF.
But get this, if the UNBELIEVER departs (it is an unbeliever that will seek to depart), the BELIEVER is free (1 Cor 7:15)! Because we have been called to peace. Now, you can rejoice! Remember, the Bible says that God won’t give you more than you can take (1 Cor 10:13).
Yes, you messed up. You didn’t wait for the evidence of faith and sincere love before pledging your life to ministry to a wolf (marriage is ministry). But that’s what you did. And through this awful situation, you were pruned, and have grown and have borne fruit in your character. You have learnt to be long-suffering and gracious as God has been with you. You have borne your Cross in marriage. But if you have occasion to be free (by the departure of your unbelieving spouse), use it (1 Cor 7:21).
However, if you are actually both Christians, and your spouse is truly just backsliden (as happens), then with your perseverance and graciousness, you can restore your spouse and your marriage. Whatever the issues in your marriage, if you are both Christians, even if you separate, if you are both still connected to the Vine, you will reconcile…because of the Spirit of Love which binds you. If, therefore, both of you are fighting for your marriage to work and humbling yourselves daily, you will surely overcome the challenges and enjoy a blissful marriage again. So, the commandment for Christians in marriage is always to abide and fight for their marriage, and always work towards reconciliation (1 Cor 7:10-11).
I should point out that there is a difference between a wolf (an unbeliever masking as a believer) and an apostate (a former believer who has forsaken the Faith). It can be hard to tell which is which, but if they are unbelieving, whether they were genuine believers when you got married or were faking it, if such depart, the Believer is free. But in your liberty, do not sin (Gal 5:13, 1 Pet 2:16). Commit your ways to God, and be sure to follow His guidance on any future relationship.
Now, in the case of domestic abuse, I hope no one is under any deception that the person beating his wife (or her husband) is Christian. They are at best apostate and at worst demon-possessed! Neither Paul nor Jesus gave counsel concerning domestic abuse in marriage, but we know that even in the OLD COVENANT, if a master strikes his slave (and you are not a slave!), and the slave is injured, the slave GAINS THEIR FREEDOM on account of the injury (Exo 21:26-27)!
Paul also tells us that if a Believer doesn’t provide for his household, he has denied the Faith and is WORSE than an infidel, that is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8)! It sounds like a hard judgement, but take note of this teaching. It means that basic ‘care’ is a kind of fruit to watch out for to know those who are truly of faith!
How then can a ‘Believer’ be using his wife as a punching bag or sex slave and still claim that he is interested in a marriage; that is LOVING the woman? He has signed your freedom papers and declared that he has forsaken your marriage with his blow. You don’t have to wait for such to leave, you can leave!
Please, if the man is striking you, GAIN YOUR FREEDOM! You were bought at a price, do not be slaves of men (1 Cor 7:23). To abide in such a situation is not being long-suffering, my dear. It is can be very short-suffering and is definitely unwise. This is also not a case of turning the other cheek.
Minimally, separate, pray and get counselling. He also needs counselling and CORRECTIVE DISCIPLINE. And do not be afraid to utilise the arm of the law, because the Law is for the Lawless (1 Tim 1:9)! Such abusers often do not understand nor respond to compassion and grace, seeing it as weakness, but require a firm hand of authority and power to counter their oppressive spirit.
Please, do not return without clear guidance from God and EVIDENCE of repentance. This may take time…this is where you will need to be faithful and long-suffering. You may decide to wait, praying and believing God for their deliverance. But realise and retain the knowledge that you are not at their mercy, but in God’s gracious care! Abide in God and heal.
Also consider the well-being and salvation of your children, if you have any, and also future children if your situation is volatile. Do you want to bring or raise children in an abusive environment? Wisdom is profitable to direct. Please ask God if you lack wisdom concerning your unique situation (Jam 1:5). May He help you and help us all! Amen.
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