For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
It is a fact of history that pretenders appeared who claimed to be sent by God for the deliverance of the Jews, and practically usurped to themselves the position of the Christ. But all this belongs to far-distant ages. In a larger application of our Lord's idea, the world has seen many other false Christs down even to our own time, for whoever or whatever assumes to do the work of Christ or claims his honours is a false Christ. Let us look at some of these usurpers.
I. THE PRIEST. Men who come between us and God, so that we are shut off from the privileges of religion, excepting as we submit to their authority, are false Christs. Priests who offer to intercede with peculiar efficacy, claim to sacrifice on the behalf of others, and assert that they are the channels of sacramental grace, take on themselves functions which rightly belong to Christ. At the head of this great assumption is the pope; but the humblest minister who would have us look for salvation through his mystic grace shares in the same offence. In fairness it should be seen that Romanist priests and their imitators do not claim to set aside the work and honour of Jesus Christ, but merely to administer his grace. Yet practically their functions are substituted for Christ's, and the people are induced to look to them instead of going to Christ, the one High Priest, and to God, as themselves kings and priests.
II. THE CREED. Theologians only profess to interpret the mind and will of Christ. Nevertheless, the scholasticism of the Church has led to the exaltation of doctrinal statements into the place which of right belongs to Christ himself. Thus it was once a popular presentation of the gospel to describe it as a group of saving truths which a person was to believe. The great thing was for him to see the way of salvation clearly. The whole idea of salvation by orthodoxy was the substitution of dogma for Christ. It taught that men are saved by believing a Creed; but the New Testament teaches that salvation is dependent on faith in Christ alone.
III. THE CHURCH. This is an institution founded by Christ himself. It is his own body, the body of which he is the Head. But there is a great perversion when the body is put in the place of the Head, and is thought to perform its functions. The Churchly notion of religion is that men are saved through their connection with the Church. It is true that all Christians maintain that salvation is in and through Christ alone. There is no formal and confessed substitution of the Church for Christ. But the perversion is not the less real in practice. As a fact, multitudes of people are led to think much more of their inclusion in the Church than of their being in Christ. The assertion that there is no salvation outside the Church is soon twisted into the idea that there is salvation for all in the Church, and that membership therein is the primary condition of salvation. Against these and all other substitutes for Christ we have to be on our guard, that we may look alone to the living personal Saviour for grace and life. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.