Did you know that the Lord curses religious popularity? He does. It is in Luke 6, where Jesus pronounces blessings and woes upon various groups of people. One of them that He pronounces woe upon are popular people and He urges the audience to remember the false prophets of old. Jesus says, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets." (Luke 6:26). Woe is the strongest possible curse. In the Greek, it is a grief or a cursed denunciation upon a person. Coming from the King of the Universe, the curse of popularity bears paying attention to.
Now, on earth, people seek popularity. There is nothing wrong with being a popular person in your job or in your class or in your family. It means you're likable. But used in a religious context, if you are a popular teacher or pastor, watch out!
Barnes Notes explains of the verse: "When all men shall speak well of you - When they shall praise or applaud you. The people of the world will not praise or applaud "my" doctrine; they are "opposed" to it, and therefore, if they speak well of "you" and of "your teachings," it is proof that you do not teach the true doctrine."
Still not convinced? Jesus said in John 15:19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
Matthew Henry commentary explains of the Luke popularity verse: "Woe unto you; that is, it would be a bad sign that you were not faithful to your trust, and to the souls of men, if you preached so as that nobody would be disgusted; for your business is to tell people of their faults, and, if you do that as you ought, you will get that ill will which never speaks well."
Popularity is no guarantee of truth. In one of the Beth Moore exposés I had written, I noted in the comments section, "As to the wide acceptance of teachers, and authors, and others by the majority of mainstream Christianity today, well the first red flag to me is when the world begins to embrace a popular Christian. This is in opposition to what Jesus teaches in John 15:18-19. I'm always skeptical of wildly popular Christian personalities. Being wildly popular these days is almost a sign that falsity exists. People do not stand for sound doctrine, period. "The time will come when they [the people in the church] will not endure [tolerate] sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). If there is a wildly popular, lucrative book, DVD, and speaking tour, sellout crowds, AND it is based on strict truth and nothing but the truth, show it to me and then knock me over with a feather."
Pastor-teacher John MacArthur explains of the Luke verse, "And then the fourth is the curse of popularity. In verse 26, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets." And Scripture is pretty clear what happens to false prophets, and those who join with them and affirm them. Oh, you want everybody to speak well of you, huh? You...you've designed a religion that causes people to speak well of you. That's a sign of being cursed. When everybody likes your approach to religion, you're in serious trouble. When you can invent a kind of religion that offends nobody, that's a serious indicator you're not in the Kingdom."
In late 2010, Christianity Today published a lengthy article about bible teacher Beth Moore. They opened the article saying, "Homespun, savvy, and with a relentless focus on Jesus, Beth Moore has become the most popular Bible teacher in America."
Uh-oh. If I was the most popular bible teacher in America I'd want to get a spiritual check-up, pronto.
Let's take a look at a reverse example of popular bible teachers, Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived a righteous life yet he was hated by all for proclaiming the Truth.
"Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends! I have neither lent nor borrowed, yet everyone curses me." (Jeremiah 15:10).
The more the Word is preached truthfully, the more it will be hated. The more the Word is preached untruthfully, the more it will be loved. Preaching the true message does not attract believers, it convicts them. It rebukes them. It provokes them.Why? "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
That Beth Moore is SO popular is an indicator from the Lord's own word that there is not truth being proclaimed. That's Beth Moore, now on to Billy Graham.
Here is a link to the transcript from the 1997 interview with Robert Schuller with Billy Graham on his view of wider mercy. The Wider Mercy view is the idea that man in his depraved state can find God, do God's will, live a righteous life to please God and then go to heaven when he dies. It is a view in which the Lord is going to include everybody in heaven, no matter if they have called on the name of Jesus to be saved or not. Billy Graham believes in the wider mercy view. I wrote about it three weeks ago, here.
It is a view he has held since at least 1997 and likely since 1960 when Graham wrote about it in his Decisions Magazine. Billy Graham believes that a person never calling on the Lord Jesus Christ and outside the body of Christ will go to heaven because he lived a good life?? That is not what the bible says.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Just in case we think, oh, that must be a fluke, Billy Graham doesn't really believe that people of other faiths will inherit salvation? Right? Right? Well in 2005 he said the same thing on Larry King. It is by faith in Jesus alone that we are saved. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Romans 10:9
Failure to speak of the wrath is to fail to alert people what they are being saved FROM:
"Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." (Romans 5:9)
It is sad that the "greatest evangelist of our time" Mr Graham believes the opposite of the Gospel, believes a different gospel, and thus it means he is false and should not be listened to. But it explains why he is so popular, beloved and famous. Here is a headline from an article from two days ago when Mr Graham turned 93: "Billy Graham, America's most famous preacher, turns 93". Wikipedia states, "Graham's visibility and popularity extended into the secular world. He created his own pavilion for the 1964 New York World's Fair. He appeared as a guest on a 1969 Woody Allen television special, where he joined the comedian in a witty exchange on theological matters. During the Cold War, Graham became the first evangelist of note to speak behind the Iron Curtain, addressing large crowds in countries throughout Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union..."
Wow, a preacher so popular he is confidante to presidents, his fame extends into the secular world, his religious influence penetrates the communist/atheist iron curtain. Really? Not wow, but "Woe!"
It is sad to discover that a favored person whom we study under, read books by, or take courses of, is false. But they are out there, many, and more often that not, a famous person WILL be false- Luke 6:26 says so. The more popular someone is the more likely it is that they will be preaching a false Gospel. It is WOE to be universally liked!
Secular popularity of "Christian evangelicals" and teachers, should make us skeptical, yet Rev. Graham and other popular teachers such as Beth Moore are universally liked. How can this be so, when Jesus said that if they hated Him they will hate them also? In Billy Graham's case, now we know why he is universally liked. He brings a different Gospel.
It's crushing to know that Graham and Moore, and Osteen and Meyer, and so many other popular ones have woe unto them, when all men shall speak well of them. People who love sin hate the messenger who exposes it. If you are not hated, you are not exposing sin. In journalism they say "If you're not drawing flak, you're not over the target." Are you over the target? If you are, there will be turbulence, turmoil, and plenty of shots at you. Billy Graham and Beth Moore are sadly not over the target. But as long as they draw breath we can pray for them that they should see the light, even after so long a time. THAT is the truth of God's mercy!