Almost every town and village in Zambia has countless number of men and women called apostles, pastors, prophets, bishops, men of God, etc. However, in the 21st century the titles of “Prophet” and “Man of God” have become very prominent as men claim spiritual power and demand respect. When you look at biblical teaching concerning these offices or titles one wonders their legitimacy. The practice contradicts the Bible most of the times.
Let us at least acknowledge that the titles “Prophet” and “Man of God” are biblical terms. In the Old Testament, men like Abraham, Moses, Elijah and David who spoke or did exploits in the name of God where commonly recognised as such. In the New Testament, Timothy is referred to as “man of God” (1 Tim. 6:11). This is true of all the other true preachers of the word of God (2 Tim. 3:17). Consequently, there would be nothing wrong to refer to preachers today as men of God. The current practice, however, is so strange that people think negative of every mention of the “man of God.”
This is so because the so-called men of God or prophets have opened themselves up to criticism because of their questionable teachings, lifestyles, and practices. They are careless and often have erroneous views of the word of God. We all need to watch against such men because they can easily come among us masquerading as shepherds and yet inwardly they are evil beasts seeking to devour the Lord’s sheep. Therefore, if we Christians are to be careful with these “men of God” and “prophets” who are mere imposters, we need to follow the example and obey the command of our Lord Jesus in Matthew 7:15–16, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” In this Scripture, the Lord has given us two instructions. First, that we all awaken and be on the lookout so that we may not end up being deceived. Second, that we mark and avoid these wolves by looking at the kind of fruits (characteristics and practices) they produce.
The common marks of the 21st century prophets
As an effort to heed the warning and command of the Lord Jesus as recorded in Matthew 7:15–16, let me point out a few of the most noticeable characteristics and practices of these prophets.
They are wealthy and feared men: The outward marks of modern day prophets are expensive cars, private jets, designer clothes, mansions on earth, and commanding red carpet attention like Hollywood actors. What is worse in Africa is that they even ride on human beings in church while preaching! The levels of security around them seem to suggest that they are among the most endangered species. In fear of extinction, they are heavily guarded and for the most part very unapproachable. Unlike the Lord Jesus Christ who became a man and dwelt amongst us, these men act as though they are gods who must be worshipped.
They perform miracles that do not point people to Christ: This was well illustrated in the case of a pastor in South Africa that taught that believers could draw closer to God through eating “consecrated grass.” On Tuesday January 14 2014, The Zambian Post Newspaper (no longer in operation) published an article which indicated that “Pastor Lesego Daniel, who is based in Garankunwa, north of Pretoria, told dozens of followers to eat grass because it would bring them closer to God.” When Pastor Lesego Daniel instructed a group of his congregants to go out and eat grass, they ran out thoughtlessly with no hesitation as though they had heard from God himself. It seems that prior to his instruction he had done something to his people who appeared either to have been hypnotised or to have been under some magic or demonic influence. While grazing the grass, some appeared to be out of their minds while others seemed to be enjoying eating the grass as though it was bread. This was amazing to the world and yet it did not point the world to God.
What was clearly absent from this experience, however, was the very thing it promised to the members; namely, the nearness to God or Christ. Though the miracle may have filled their bellies with cattle feed, it neither drew them closer to Christ nor made them love him anymore than before. This is what most miracles performed by modern day prophets have in common. They bring glory to the man of God or prophet but leave Jesus Christ in the background. Indeed, they are true gods of men!
3. They are Christianised forms of African exorcists: In typical African contexts (African traditional religion), when a person falls ill, their illness is ascribed to the activity of evil spirits. Although antibiotics may help in alleviating the problem, the authentic answer regularly lies in consulting the witchdoctor. The witchdoctor has spiritual insight into the problem and possesses the power to exorcise the spirits behind the problem. Astonishingly, the modern African prophet, by all appearances, has replaced the witchdoctor. As a result, the afflicted saints neither go to the hospital nor directly to Jesus. Instead, they visit the prophet who delivers them by directly commanding the spirits to flee or via application of holy water, anointed oil, and other concomitants that are said to set them free. One wonders whether such practices are representative of men of God of or gods of men?
4. They are false teachers who live unholy lifestyles: Unlike the prophets of old who were truly holy (2 Pet. 1:21) and neither handled the word of God deceitfully (2 Cor. 4:2) nor peddled it, a lot of modern prophets are false teachers and are unholy in life. Almost every other day you hear about their double standards and falsehoods in their teaching. For example, Pastor Lesego Daniel whom we have already mentioned above, erroneously summoned support from two Scriptures to justify his grass eating theology:
First, he appealed to John 10:27, in which Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Pastor Daniel claimed that in following his directive to eat grass, his congregants were demonstrating that they heard his voice (notice: the pastor’s voice and not Christ’s) and followed what he said. For sure they heard him and did exactly as he said, but they did not hear one single word from Christ. Jesus had never directed his sheep to literary eat grass as a means of drawing closer to him.
Next, he appealed to John 20:30–31, which says, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
Though Pastor Daniel was quick to refer to John 20:30–31 as his hiding place for what would follow, he made things worse for himself. The central purpose of the book of John is engraved in this Scripture (John 20:30–31). John contends that the signs that have been written in this book where meant to reveal the divinity and messiah-ship of Jesus Christ so that people could believe in him and follow him. The miracles in the Bible were neither meant for the amusement of the disciples nor were they an end in themselves. This is contrary to the philosophy and practice of Pastor Lesego Daniel and many other false prophets of our day.
Having pointed out some of the common marks that characterise the 21st Century false prophets, let me point some of the marks of the Bible prophets that contrast them with these false men. These prophets were marked by holiness (1 Pet. 2:1), they spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit, they spoke the truth of God, and they were focused on Christ. When they delivered people, they truly did it in the name of Jesus Christ. This being the case, Christ was always elevated as the true deliverer of his people and not the man of God who was just a channel or medium of blessing. We now move on to Christ’s warning against these false prophets.

The warning to the church against false prophets

Despite the erroneous views of these false prophets, their potential to get followers is very high. They are very deceptive. Therefore, we would do well to heed the warning of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:15–16a, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves….”
To begin with, one way to demonstrate our adherence to the Lord’s warning is to emulate the Berean church (Acts 17:11) who searched the Scriptures to ensure that the things that were taught were the truth. For example, before you can believe and follow Pastor Lesego Daniel’s theology, search the Scriptures for yourself. Did you know that the Bible has a record of a human being eating grass? Yes, the humiliation of King Nebuchadnezzar (when God made him eat grass like a cow)! The mighty conqueror of Judah, the dreamer of dreams, and the great king of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar, was lowered to a beast because of pride. “That very hour the word was fulfilled concerning Nebuchadnezzar; he was driven from men and ate grass like oxen; his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws” (Dan. 4:33).
Nebuchadnezzar adored the beauty of his nation and proudly enjoyed his success (Dan. 4:31–32), but God immediately humbled him by sending him to the backyard of his kingdom to feed on grass and live like a beast for several years. The result of that experience drew Nebuchadnezzar closer to God. It is important to point out that what drew him closer to God was not the eating of grass but the realisation that the God who had humbled him was more powerful than he was. We would have sympathised with Pastor Daniel if he and his followers had come to this conclusion.

Conclusion

It is now in the public domain that wolves (false prophets) masquerading as servants of God have invaded the church in Africa like a swarm of tsetse flies, corrupting and confusing the people with terrible heresies (doctrines of demons). Many of these so-called prophets, in the name of preaching the word of God as well as delivering the people of God from sin, disease and demons, have drawn a myriad of followers to themselves. The unfortunate part is that most of these followers have no idea what the word of God says about these false men of God…who are gods of men.
Take heed to the Lord’s warning (Matt. 7:21) and run, run and run away from them as far as you can. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing and, sooner than you think, they will strike—leaving you in the most deplorable state. They are false teachers and false men of God.
Let me end by saying that not everyone who claims to be a man of God is a true prophet of God. Many are not. We must evaluate everyone according to the Bible (1 Jn. 4:1–3). We must not conclude that one is a prophet from God by their outward appearance. We must test every spirit using the Bible! In short, we must let the Bible be our rule of faith and practice even in the matter of determining who is and who is not a true man of God.