One of the most staggering achievements of Judas Iscariot is that he spent three years looking like a genuine disciple of Christ. Of course, Jesus knew all along that Judas was an imposter (John 6:70). But the rest of the disciples were completely oblivious to the infiltrator in their midst.
Two millennia later, not much has changed. Phony Christians mingle among God’s people with minimal suspicion. Scripture repeatedly reminds us that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15), goats among the sheep (Matthew 25:32), and apostates who sneak into the church (Jude 4). Churches always have people among them who affirm Christ verbally, but deny Him by their works (Matthew 7:16-20), unrepentant sin (1 John 3:8), and lack of love for their brethren (1 John 3:10).
You may claim to know Christ, but how can you be sure that Christ won’t say that He “never knew you” (Matthew 7:23)? You may claim to have faith in Christ, but how do you know it isn’t the false faith James warns about (James 2:18–26)? That’s why Scripture declares: “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
John MacArthur recognizes the pastoral importance of acknowledging false Christians in the church, and maintaining a constant evangelistic posture towards them. His sermon, “A Warning to Pretenders” does just that.
A greater concern than Christians who aren’t what they ought to be is people who aren’t even Christians who are in the church. It’s overwhelming to think about going to hell from Grace Community Church. This is not a good place to go to hell from because to whom much is given, much is required. . . . Far worse eternal punishment falls to the one who has heard the truth and rejected it. And if you’ve been in this church any length of time, you should have really heard it. And the more you have heard it, the more responsible you have become.
In “A Warning to Pretenders,” John expounds Hebrews 5:11–6:8—a passage that features one of the most startling warnings in all of Scripture.
In the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the power of the ages to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4–6)
There’s a lot of conjecture in the church today over what those three verses mean and who they apply to. “A Warning to Pretenders” is a message that brings much-needed clarity to the confusion, and sobriety to our own self-examination. And it’s best to hear that now while we remain on this side of God’s judgment.