Have you ever heard someone make that statement when you criticized the character or unbiblical doctrines of a preacher or evangelist? “Well at least God is using him.” It is as if being used by God is all the qualification one needs to also be considered a legitimate minister of the Gospel. This kind of defense is used for pastors, speakers, teachers, authors and musicians. The biblical faithfulness of the individual does not seem to matter. All that matters is whether or not he is being used to “reach people.” The same argument is used in defense of female preachers. “Well, I know Paul said women shouldn’t teach or exercise authority over men, but God is using her.” Again, it doesn’t seem to matter what the Bible says, as long as we can perceive that the person in question is being used in some positive way in people’s lives. There are many problems with this kind of thinking.
1) Used by whom? Who is this minister being used by? God or the devil? What is the criteria for determining this question? Is it not scripture? How do we know if someone is used by God or by the devil if it is not the person’s faithfulness to the scriptures? Many people are used, but by whom? There are true prophets and false prophets. How do we know whether they are prophets sent by God or prophets sent by the devil? Is it not their godly character and their biblically faithful doctrine? The preacher in question may indeed be “reaching” people, but with what and for whom? If he is not preaching the gospel, then he is not “reaching” them with the gospel and is not “reaching” them for Christ. It comes down to the gospel. What is the gospel? You have to know the biblical answer to that question before you determine whether someone is “reaching people for Christ.”
2) God uses evil people, as well as godly people, to accomplish His will, but His using them is not a validation of them. God used Judas to bring about the predestined crucifixion of Christ, but that was no tribute to Judas. It will be of no comfort to Judas on Judgment Day just because he was “used by God.” Saul was used by God, but he was an unbeliever, nonetheless. Pharaoh, Cyrus, Darius, Nebuchadnezzar and many other people were used by God. That doesn’t mean they were godly men. It didn’t mean godly Israelites should have listened to their teachings and entrusted themselves to them. If a modern pastor or evangelist or author claims to be a Christian, starts a church or ministry, and “reaches” many people, that does not signify the person is true or trustworthy. He is to be judged by his godly character and the biblical faithfulness of his teaching. If such persons do not pass these tests, it is irrelevant how many people they are “reaching” and how many books or cd’s they have sold, or blog hits they have received. In this case, they are simply being “used” for evil.
3) We may be deceived about the usefulness of a particular minister. We may think the preacher is being used in a good and positive way and be quite wrong in the matter. We may think he is reaching thousands for Christ, but he may actually be “converting” thousands in a false conversion. How do we know whether the “converts” are truly saved? Usually people turn this question on anyone like myself who dares to question the validity of so many alleged conversions. “Who are you to judge?,” they say angrily. I reply. I cannot judge the veracity of thousands of people who are allegedly converted. But neither can those who pose this objection. If I am unable to judge the genuineness of thousands of so-called converts whom I do not know, then so is everyone else who has no personal knowledge of these people’s lives. If I cannot judge the conversions to be false, then how can others automatically judge them to be true? Why am I forbidden from saying, “These people may not be truly converted,” while others, who are as ignorant of these human hearts as I am, are permitted to say, “These people are definitely converted.”? If I don’t know that they are unconverted, then how do others know so positively that they are converted? Shouldn’t we all withhold judgment in either direction and wait and see how the lives of these alleged converts pan out? Shouldn’t we both say, “I don’t truly know how many people this preacher has reached?” I am not saying we should conclude, with very little knowledge of these people, that they are all unconverted. I am saying that we should not judge them to be truly converted either. We should say “I don’t know.” Consequently, we really don’t know how much the famous evangelist or preacher is being “used by God” for the conversion of thousands. His or her usefulness will have to be determined on other grounds than our uncertain knowledge of the genuineness of the converts.