But seeing how many claimed to be acting in God’s name, I thought I would delve into what the Bible says about those who act in God’s name, whether in truth or in falsehood. First, there is a prohibition against using God’s name falsely. Exodus 20:7 warns us, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This is not just a prohibition against the “GD” word used as a curse, but this also extends to someone acting in God’s name, pretending to serve God when their hearts are far from him. Acting falsely in God’s name has probably been a common problem for all of human history, not just during the Middle Ages. Jeremiah 23:25-27 shows us a rebuke from God to the false prophets who falsely claimed to dream dreams from God: “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.”
Despite the presence of false followers of God, there are also many who come in His Name in truth. Psalm 118:26 gives a blessing to those that come in His name in truth: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Moreover, we are invited to go in His Name to witness, baptize, make disciples, and generally teach others about God’s ways: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20). In Romans 14:1-4, we are warned about judging other fellow Christians and their habits because, unless they are wildly out of whack and living in a way that is outside of the moral limits in scripture, then there are many small things in which God allows us freedom within the individual boundaries that He sets with us in our unique walk with Him. Sometimes, what God has allowed for one is not allowed for another in their walk with God. We have no way of knowing all that God has said or revealed to another individual believer, so we should always use caution in judging others that are walking with Jesus in a way that is different from our walk. I have seen this truth in the various family rules that we follow rigorously based on what God has revealed to us as being important in our walk, yet another Christian family may have very different rules which they follow and which may be perfectly in keeping with Biblical and spiritual principles as God has revealed to them.
There is, however, a time and place for using discernment to determine whether others are really operating in God’s name. In 1 John 4:1, we are admonished, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” For instance, if we have business dealings with someone else that claims to be a Christian but we see various red flags that do not line up with Scripture or behaviors which seem beyond the normal freedoms that God might allow a believer, then we would need to use discernment, be guided by the Holy Spirit, and be very cautious in our dealings with this person. Another situation which may require discernment is when someone is placed in a teaching position or position of authority within the church and we are under their teaching or authority. While we should honor and support our teachers and pastors, etc., they have a higher responsibility to be faithful to Scripture and to the principles of love which we find in our Bible as well as being a good example in their character. Our responsibility to God is higher than our responsibility to these leaders, so if we see something that is way out of whack morally or not backed up by sound Scriptural support, not simply an honest doctrinal difference that is common among many believers, then there may come a time in which we are guided by the Holy Spirit to pull them aside, confront in love and humility, and give them a chance to explain. It may be that we have been deceived by the appearance of impropriety when there is nothing at all amiss. As always, though, we should work out each situation in prayer and guidance by the Holy Spirit so that we do not cause more harm than good.
I pray that you will all walk in close fellowship with Him and will do honor to His Name in all your words and deeds.