I am amazed when I hear the hypocrisy from fellow believers in Christ Jesus who refer to some ministers as being “self-proclaimed”. Yes, the devil has false ministers to replicate those stated in Ephesians 4:11. However, that is no excuse. The hypocrisy is that the “self-proclaimed…” prefix is oftentimes added to the apostles and prophets more than the evangelists, pastors and teachers. In fact, I have never heard someone call a person a self-proclaimed pastor, even though there are many. A part of the façade is that the last three types of ministers can attend a seminary and their completion of the degree program seemingly adds to their credibility. Anyone who reads this, if you disagree with what I am saying, please provide the Scripture where the Lords says that any of His ministers must attend a manmade institution in order to serve Him and His people. Yet, I am not saying there is no place for seminaries. Many people have degrees from seminaries and ordination certificates from churches, but they are not ministers of Christ because He Lord did not call or appoint them. There are many ministers of the gospel, or in some cases a gospel, but they are not ministers of Christ because He did not ordain them (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). One of the hallmarks of the ministry gifts in Ephesians 4:11 is that Christ has to call, appoint, commission, and send them. Even for the pastors, seminaries do not produce them, the Lord does. Like the Lord said, ‘…I will give you pastors according to Mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.’ ~ Jeremiah 3:15 (KJV) Many “pastors” do not have a shepherd’s heart, especially the Good Shepherd’s heart, which is one of the indicators that the Lord did not call them to that position, assuming He called them at all. For the sake of brevity, even though I don’t think this will be brief, see Ezekiel chapter 34 where the Lord used His prophet to speak out against “heavy shepherding”.
We know the sin of Jeroboam was leading Israel into idolatry. But he also transgressed against God by appointing people to the priesthood who were not Levites (1 Kings 12:26-31). Similarly, seminaries and churches appoint people to ministerial positions the Lord did not call them to, either to that position or at all. Seminaries can help people masquerade as one of the Lord’s evangelists, pastors, or teachers, but not so much for the apostles and prophets. For example, a seminary graduate professing to be an apostle cannot substantiate his or her apostleship with a Ph.D. A degree is not the same as God-given authority, especially that commensurate with apostleship. When Paul defended his apostleship, he did not do so with his educational background, but rather, via his sufferings for Christ and the gospel (2 Corinthians 11).
Similarly, going to a seminary, or even a school of the prophets, will not make someone a prophet, not even someone with the gift of prophecy. Again, only the Lord can ordain a minister. While the Lord is not against having a formal education, to include in Biblical studies, we should not make seminary or even a church ordination as a sign of the Lord’s “seal of approval”. Please keep the following in mind regarding some of the Lord’s chosen vessels:
- Moses tried to turn down the Lord’s commission, in part because he said he was not eloquent and was slow of speech (Exodus 4:10). Yet the Lord still used him as a judge and a prophet.
- When the apostles were taken to the Sanhedrin, they were viewed as ignorant and unlearned (Acts 4:13), even though Peter gave an impassioned speech because he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8). The Lord used the foolish thing to confound the wise.
- The apostle Paul, a Pharisee who studied under the well-respected doctor of the Law, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), was certainly not uneducated. Yet people said, “…his letters, …are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:10 (KJV) Paul did not come across as a minister whose speech had been refined in a seminary. In fact, if one were to consider his studies under Gamaliel as being in a seminary, keep in mind that after the Lord called Paul to serve Him, Paul left Israel and went to Arabia where he was taught the gospel by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1). I submit to you that some ministers, who have a legitimate calling from the Lord, presumptuously went to a seminary. They assumed that was a part of the Lord’s process for them, but it simply delayed their trip to “Arabia” for the lessons the Lord wants to use to equip them. For some ministers of the Lord, seminary training is not a part of the Lord’s developmental process for them. In other cases, the Lord may want them to experience “Arabia” before a seminary…
I am not here to bash seminaries so let me get back to how I started, which is the hypocrisy in Christianity of labeling some ministers as being “self-proclaimed”. When the Lord called Moses, Samuel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah to serve Him, it was a very private matter. In the case of Samuel, Eli was in the vicinity, and he knew the Lord was going to speak to Samuel, yet he was oblivious to what the Lord had said to Samuel (1 Samuel 3). Eli had to ask the young man about what had transpired. Let that be the eraser to obliterate the false doctrine that the Lord will tell your “pastor” about your calling before He tells you. In addition, please note, the Scripture does not tell us if the Lord called or commissioned Samuel as a prophet that night. On the contrary, the Scripture says, “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his Words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.” ~ 1 Samuel 3:19-20 (KJV) Yet, I would not be surprised if people doubted that Samuel was truly a prophet… Sadly, I have seen people refer to prophets, and those with the gift of prophecy, as being clairvoyant when their predictions come to pass, simply because they will come up with every and any excuse not to believe. It is reminiscent of the Pharisees who tried to tarnish Jesus’ name and ministry by attributing a work of the Holy Spirit to the devil (Matthew 12:22-37). They had no desire for the truth.
I contrast Samuel’s calling with Jeremiah’s, which was again a private matter, one that is not as easily verifiable as producing a seminary degree or church ordination certificate. Jeremiah said, “Then the Word of the Lord came unto me, saying, ‘Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.’” ~ Jeremiah 4-5 (KJV) Please note, it was the Lord who ordained him as a prophet. The Lord ordains, which is oftentimes a very private event, and people later confirm it, which may or may not be very public. Some would doubt a prophetic call like Jeremiah’s because they did not witness it. We know that Jeremiah is a well-respected prophet today, but that was not always the case when he was alive. We now know the Lord called Jeremiah, and he had prophecies that came to pass, such as the death of the false prophet Hananiah (Jeremiah 28). However, even Jeremiah was accused of being a self-proclaimed prophet (Jeremiah 29:27).
Woefully, many doubters would still doubt, which could cause you to doubt your calling from the Lord, even if they were to hear it from the Lord for themselves. That kind of doubt is demonic. I say that because the devil knew who Jesus was, yet, he tried to temp the Lord by saying, ‘If thou be the Son of God’ (Luke 4:3, 4:9). Do not let doubters cause you to doubt your calling from the Lord, and don’t spend too much time trying to prove anything to them. People recognized John as a prophet, yet they still doubted Jesus’ identity, even after the prophet proclaimed twice that Jesus was the ‘Lamb of God’ (John 1:29, 1:36). And if that was not confirmation enough, “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and he [John] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I AM well pleased.’” ~ Matthew 3:16-17 (KJV) Yet, despite such overt proclamations, people still doubted who Jesus was. Lest not forget the following when members of the priesthood tried to discredit the Lord, but He was not quick to try to defend Himself, and His Sonship:
“And the high priest arose, and said unto Him, ‘Answerest Thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee?’ But Jesus held His peace, and the high priest answered and said unto Him, ‘I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God.’
Jesus saith unto him, ‘Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.’
Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, ‘He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy. What think ye?’ They answered and said, ‘He is guilty of death.’” ~ Matthew 26:62-66 (KJV)
Let me start with the not so obvious regarding how hypocrites will inevitably expose themselves, especially while trying to expose (discredit) you. The high priest was not after the truth, but rather, he was looking to condemn Jesus. Consequently, in his desperation to disprove Jesus, he transgressed against the following Law of God:
“And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes.” ~ Leviticus 21:10 (KJV)
Jesus did not even brother pointing out Caiaphas’ errant actions. The Lord did not waste His time on someone who refused to believe, especially based on the overwhelming fruit (evidence) from the Lord’s character and ministry. There is one instance in the Bible where I heard the frustration in the Lord’s voice as He tried to get through people’s hardened heart, even though He also stated the reason why they could not see, hear, or perceive Who was in their presence.
“Jesus said unto them, ‘If God were your Father, ye would love Me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do ye not understand My speech? Even because ye cannot hear My Word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.’” ~ John 8:42-44 (KJV)
As a minister of Christ, learn from Him and recognize when it is basically pointless to try to defend your calling from the Lord. Some people will not believe simply because they refuse to. Don’t take the devil’s bait by trying to prove people wrong, which was something the Lord was painfully aware of during this, His final moments:
“And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads, and saying, ‘Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save Thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.’
Likewise also the chief priests mocking Him, with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him: for He said, ‘I AM the Son of God.’” ~ Matthew 27:39-43 (KJV)
Jesus came to sacrifice Himself for our sins so it would have been very counterproductive to come down from the cross. In addition, some of the people who made those comments still refused to believe in Jesus after He rose from the dead.
Jesus did not go around telling everyone that He was the Messiah, but there were times when He did. One such example is a woman of faith, someone who did the work of an evangelist by telling people about Christ. It also serves as an example of how you may get more respect from nonbelievers, and even away from churches, than you may receive in the church. The person I am referring to in this example is the Samaritan woman at the well, one who clearly stated that Jews did not associate with Samaritans (John 4:9). Yet, unlike so many other people during that time, she at least discerned that Jesus was a prophet (John 4:19). It mirrors what happened with Elisha and the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:9). A part of why some people use their titles is because others cannot discern it. Unfortunately, when the person uses the title, he or she is oftentimes labeled as being a “self-proclaimed…” Well guess what? After the Samaritan discerned that Jesus was a prophet, He basically let her know He was the Prophet Moses wrote of when God said, ‘I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My Words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him.’ ~ Deuteronomy 18:18 (KJV) Jesus told the Samaritan that He was the Messiah. But rather than saying He was “self-proclaimed Messiah”, she left her water pot to go and tell the villagers that she had an encounter with the Christ. By the way, the villagers did not ask to see the certificate that she had been ordained as an evangelist. When you have encounters with others who cannot perceive your calling, or even worse, oppose it, remember, “…the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:14 (KJV) Some of you can attest to this because the members of your church have been silent regarding your calling, but you have been getting a lot of attention from members of the kingdom of darkness.
As previously mentioned, do not think that if you were one of the ministers in the Bible that people would respect you more. If you are an apostle, research how things ended for the eleven remaining initial apostles after Judas’s death. Also, examine Paul’s sufferings for his faith in Christ Jesus as outlined in 2 Corinthians 11, and how his life ended. If you are a prophet, examine the lives and challenges of the Biblical prophets, such as the following examples:
- Ezekiel: The Lord let him know the people would not listen to him, even though they would know a prophet had been among them (Ezekiel 2:5). The Lord later said, ‘Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with My Words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto Me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.’ ~ Ezekiel 3:4-7 (KJV) Keep in mind that the Lord may give you assignments where the people won’t receive you or your message from Him, but that will testify against them when the Lord renders judgment.
- Jeremiah: I do not like the terms Biblical scholars use to classify individuals as being “major” or “minor” prophets. It has contributed to numerous abuses by people who refer to themselves as being “major” or “master” prophets… But one of the so-called major prophets of the Bible is Jeremiah, a prophet who was heavily persecuted and oftentimes imprisoned. If the Israelites had listened to him, they would not have spent 70 years in captivity. So again, do not consider it strange when people do not listen to the Word of the Lord you may have to proclaim, or if they describe you as a “self-proclaimed prophet”. Please pay attention to the angst Jeremiah suffered as a part of his prophetic ministry:
‘O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived; Thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the Word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more in His name. But His Word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, ‘Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.’ But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.’ ~ Jeremiah 20:7-11 (KJV) If the only thing that stood out to you was about the Word of the Lord being like fire shut up in his bones, I recommend that you remove the lens of the sermons you have heard on that section and focus on the persecution he endured. In modern terms, Jeremiah had haters.
- Moses: Before the Lord used him to part the Red Sea, look at how many times Moses appeared before the pharaoh to implore him to let the Lord’s people go. Despite the signs and wonders, the pharaoh still had a hardened heart.
- Other Prophets: “And theLord hath sent unto you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.” ~ Jeremiah 25:4 (KJV) That statement, or a derivative thereof, is repeated at least 6 times as a reminder that people have a history of disregarding the Lord’s messengers. In addition, Jesus said, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ ~ Matthew 23:37 (KJV) People are still stoning the Lord’s messengers, but usually with words, such as, “You are a self-proclaimed…”
One of the many reasons some people struggle with identifying their calling from the Lord is that they cannot recognize the calling from the Lord in others. Some have had encounters with the Lord, like Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3), Paul on his way to Damascus (Acts 9), or Ezekiel’s vision of the Lord (Ezekiel 1), yet they are still clueless about their calling from the Lord. Sometimes that struggle is because of a minister who went to a seminary. The minister can tell them about hermeneutics and what the Words of the Bible mean in the original languages, yet cannot help others identify their calling. That is in part because they do not believe in Biblically sound supernatural experiences, and even some of the ministerial positions outlined in Ephesians 4:11. There are times when people profess their calling simply because others cannot discern the obvious. Hence the dilemma of potentially not being taken seriously when you don’t use a title, or being doubted and thereby interrogated when you use one. It is a good thing the Ninevites were discerning or they would have perished. Jonah did not go through Nineveh claiming to be a prophet, even though he was, and neither did he use the Lord’s name in his proclamation. Yet, the Ninevites took the appropriate actions when Jonah went through the city crying out, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.’ ~ Jonah 3:4 (KJV) Do not succumb to the pitfall of labeling ministers as being “self-proclaimed” instead of testing the spirit behind a person (1 John 4:1, Matthew 7:15-16, etc.). By the way, why do you doubt the person’s calling but you have no issues reaching out to that individual to intercede to the Lord for you? Could it be because the Lord said, ‘But if they be prophets, and if the Word of the Lord be with them, let them now make intercession to the Lord of hosts…’ (Jeremiah 27:18 KJV)? Sometimes people do things and the servant of the Lord can hear that ripping sound when they expose themselves, like Caiaphas did.
If you believe or know you have a calling from the Lord, you may not receive confirmation like how Elijah placed his mantle over Elisha, after the Lord had told him to appoint Elisha as a prophet (1 Kings 19:15-21). I included the latter part of that statement because some people have been mislead into thinking they are something they are not… On the other hand, some have been called but not yet appointed. Lest not forget that Jesus said, ‘For many are called, but few are chosen.’ ~ Matthew 22:14 (KJV) Some of the Lord’s anointed become like king Saul, someone the Lord later rejected (1 Samuel 15:23, 15:26, 16:1). Having a calling from the Lord is great, but lest not forget the following potential pitfalls:
- “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.” ~ 2 Peter 2:15 (KJV)
- “Woe unto them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.” ~ Jude 11 (KJV)
Cain killed his brother Abel, which is what some professing believers are doing to their brothers and sisters in Christ who have a legitimate title from the Lord, but are being dubbed as being “self-proclaimed”.
As I begin to close, sometimes the Lord will use people to confirm your calling from Him, despite their unbelief and/or reluctance. For example:
- I had an encounter with a mother who did not believe in modern day prophets. Well, she received a prophecy regarding her then unborn son. But despite her unbelief, she and her husband named their son after a prophet, which is in line with the prophecy they had received. I was concerned for the young man because of his parents’ unbelief, but his name serves as a reminder that the Lord is in full control. The Lord can do things because or in spite of you. In addition, as many can attest, even though He cannot lie, it is oh so true when Jesus said, ‘A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.’ ~ Mark 6:4 (KJV)
- I went to a church where I believed it was the Lord’s will for the pastor to mentor me. But I ended up like David, who had to leave king Saul’s “mentorship program” to get raised in the wilderness instead. But the Lord uses everything for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Consequently, the Lord used the experiences to inspire me to write “Raised in the Wilderness: Rogue Reformers, Rallying the Remnant”. David knew the Lord had ordained him as Israel’s next king, yet he was content with humbling himself and serving king Saul without trying to usurp his authority. Just look at how many times David referred to Saul as “The Lord’s anointed”, even though he was anointed too. Tragically, David’s reverence for the king did not stop Saul from trying to persecute and kill David. I know many people can relate to David’s wilderness experience, which was not necessarily sparked by an unwillingness to submit to another person’s authority. You thought the Lord was going to groom you in a church and/or seminary but you got raised in the wilderness instead. Your mentor, or potential mentor, became your persecutor. Anyhow, one of the many ways the Lord confirmed my calling was when the pastor read a certain Scripture, one I had heard many times before, but on that night, as the tears rolled down my cheeks, I knew the Lord was using him to communicate those Words to me. That was not the first time the Lord had confirmed His calling to me, and neither was it the last time. But like the Samaritan and the Shunammite women, some things have to be spiritually discerned. I can imagine the look on my face in another incident when someone publicly called me out in an automotive repair shop. Do not limit the Lord to your church. He knows where you are and how to find you, just like how Elisha was busy working out in his parents’ field.
Sometimes you can tell simply based on how a person communicates which spirit he or she is of, and what his or her calling is. Don’t let an unbeliever, to include an unbelieving believer (Mark 9:24), rob you of your identity in Christ. I mentioned that Jesus would not defend Himself or His Sonship at His “trial” with the high priest. A part of the reason why I was inspired to add Sonship was to warn you against abusing your title and/or chasing a ministerial title. Jesus called his closest disciples, apostles, but then He bestowed a more meaningful title, one He had bestowed on His prophet Abraham, and that is “friend” (John 15:15, James 2:23). While having a title is great, keep in mind that the Lord has many servants but few friends. And please, don’t ever refer to yourself with a title that the Lord did not give you (see Revelation 2:2, 2:20). The Lord will call out his servants who are in hiding, as was the case when Saul at his coronation (1 Samuel 10:20-23), or those who are trying to run from their calling or assignment, like Jonah (Jonah 1). Conversely, the Lord will also identify and deal with those He did not call or send, like Hananiah (Jeremiah 28), or the prophetess Noadiah and the other prophets Nehemiah perceived were not from the Lord (Nehemiah 6). Nehemiah knew, that despite their titles, they were not from the Lord because they tried to intimidate and discourage him from doing the work of the Lord…
Never lose sight of your sonship because “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” ~ Romans 8:14 (KJV) Many apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are on their way to hell (Matthew 7:21-23), but that is not the case for the sons and daughters of the Lord. Let me close with one of the most abused self-proclaimed titles in Christianity, and that is being a “Christian”. Believing in Jesus is only a part of being a Christian. We are told that devils believe there is one God, and tremble (James 2:19), but they are not going to heaven… Jesus did not say we would know people by their titles, but rather, He said we would know them by their fruits. One of the reasons why devils are not going to heaven, and some self-proclaimed Christians, to include ministers, is because Jesus also said, ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments.’ ~ John 14:15 (KJV)
If you are a bona fide minister of Christ, before you spend too much time defending your God-given title and/or authority, never forget that Jesus said, ‘He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me.’ ~ Matthew 10:40 (KJV)
Social Aloe Ministries: “Glorifying God. Exposing the devil.”