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Exposing the Accuser of the Brethren
An insidious evil, this fault-finding, critical spirit masquerades as discernment and infiltrates a church with a motive to destroy individuals, their ministries, and church unity.

More churches have been destroyed by the accuser of the brethren and its fault-finding than from either immorality or misuse of church funds.

If our thoughts are other than faith working through love, we need to be aware that we may be under spiritual attack.

So prevalent is this influence in our society that fault-finding has been elevated to virtue status! The Lord has promised, however, that in His house accusing one another will be replaced with prayer, and fault-finding with a love that covers a multitude of sins.

In an attempt to hinder, if not altogether halt the next move of God, Satan has sent forth an army of fault-finding demons against the Church. The purpose of this assault is to entice the Body of Christ away from the perfection of Jesus and onto the imperfection of one another.

This enemy is assigned to attack relationships on all levels. It attacks families, churches and inter-church associations, seeking to bring irreparable schisms into our unity. Masquerading as discernment, this spirit will slip into our opinions of other people, leaving us critical and judgmental. Consequently, we all need to evaluate our attitude toward others. If our thoughts are other than faith working through love, we need to be aware that we may be under spiritual attack.

This fault-finding demon will incite individuals to spend weeks unearthing old faults or sins in their minister or church. The people who are held captive by this deceitful spirit become "crusaders," irreconcilable enemies of their former assemblies. In most cases, the things they deem wrong or lacking are the very areas in which the Lord seeks to position them for intercession. What might otherwise be an opportunity for spiritual growth and meeting a need, becomes an occasion of stumbling and withdrawal. In truth, their criticisms are a smoke screen for a prayerless heart and an unwillingness to serve.

It is of some consolation that Christ Himself could not satisfy the "standards" of this spirit …

Discovering the imperfections of a pastor or a church is by no means a sign of spirituality. We could do that even before we were Christians. What we do with what we see, however, is the measure of Christ-like maturity.

Remember, when Jesus saw the condition of mankind, He died to take away their sins. He did not just judge them.

No one is exempt

It is of some consolation that Christ Himself could not satisfy the "standards" of this spirit when it spoke through the Pharisees. No matter what Jesus did, the Pharisees found fault with Him.

If you personally have not consulted with and listened to the individual of whom you are critical, how can you be sure that you are not fulfilling the role of the accuser of the brethren? Even the "law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him" (John 7:51).

This enemy seeks to discredit the minister so it can discredit his message. I have personally listened to scores of pastors from many denominational backgrounds. When this demon attacked their congregations, it was almost always just prior to, or immediately after, a significant breakthrough. The unchallenged assault of this demon always stopped the forward progress of their church.

When this spirit infiltrates an individual's mind, its accusations come with such venom and "authority" even those who "know better" are seduced and then silenced by its influence. We are indifferent to the fact Jesus is praying for His body to become one. Beguiled by this demon, we circulate his accusations through a church-body or city, stimulating suspicion and fear among the people. We allow devastation to wrack the targeted ministry, while discouragement blankets and seeks to destroy the pastor and his family.

Nearly every pastor reading this has faced the assault of this enemy at one time or another. Each has known the depression of trying to track down this accusing spirit as it whispers its gossip through the local church. Trusted friends seem distant, established relationships shaken, and the vision and purpose of the church swallowed up in strife and inaction.

This enemy is not limited to attacks on local churches, however. Its attacks are also citywide and national. Major publishers have made millions of dollars selling defaming books which are hardly more credible than gossip columns in the tabloids.

Yes, there was sin, even serious sin, in a few of the ministries, but there are biblical ways to bring correction, ways which lead to restoration and not destruction! Leaders have boldly spoken against other church leaders; cassette tapes critical of various ministries circulate like poison through the bloodstream of the Body of Christ—and how the Saviour's Church gluttonously eats it up!

This demon incited believers to attack other Christians. To mask the diabolical nature of its activity, the fault-finder usually garbs its criticisms in religious clothing. Under the pretense of protecting the sheep from a "gnat sized" error in doctrine, it forces the flock to swallow a "camel sized" error of loveless correction. Attempting to correct violations of Scripture, the very methods they employ are a violation of Scripture.

Where is the "spirit of gentleness" of which Paul speaks in Galatians 6:1? Where is the humility, the "looking to yourselves, lest you too be tempted?" Where is the motive to "restore such a one?" In most cases, the person supposedly in "error" is not even contacted until after his alleged mistakes are spread throughout the Church, mailed on a tape, or published in a book. Brethren, the spirit behind such accusations must be discerned, for its motive is not to restore and heal, but to destroy!

The pure example

The Church needs correction, but the ministry of reproof must be patterned after Christ and not the accuser of the brethren. When Jesus corrected the churches in Asia (see Revelation 2-3), He sandwiched His rebuke between praise and promises. He reassured the churches that the voice about to expose their sin was the very voice which inspired their virtue. After encouraging them, He then brought correction.

… the enemy must draw his accusations from hell. If we have repented of our sins, no record of them … exists in heaven.

Even when a church was deep in error, as was the case with two of the seven churches, Christ still offered grace for change. How patient was Jesus? He even gave "Jezebel time to repent" (Revelation 2:20-21)! After He admonished a church, His last words were not condemning, but promising. Is this not His way with each of us? Even in the most serious corrections, the voice of Jesus is always the embodiment of "grace and truth" (John 1:14). Remember, if the word of rebuke or correction does not offer grace for restoration, it is not the voice of Jesus.

The enemy's weapons

To find an indictment against us, it is important to note, the enemy must draw his accusations from hell. If we have repented of our sins, no record of them nor of our mistakes exists in heaven. As it is written, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies … " (Romans 8:33). Jesus is not condemning us, but rather is at God's right hand interceding on our behalf.

There are, however, weapons in the hand of the fault-finder demon.

First Weapon

The first is our actual sin. When we fail to repent during the conviction of the Holy Spirit, this spirit enters seeking to use our sins to condemn us. The way to defeat the enemy on this level is to simply repent of that particular sin.

Satan seeks not only to accuse us as individuals, but to infiltrate our thought life, introducing criticisms and condemnation against others as well. Instead of praying for one another, we react in the flesh against offences. Our unchrist-like reactions then become an open door for the fault-finder spirit to enter our soul.

Therefore, we cast down the accuser of the brethren by learning to pray for one another instead of preying on one another.

We must learn to forgive instinctively. If one has repented of his sins, we must exercise the same spirit of forgiveness and "forgetfulness" that exists in heaven. Our victory is established as we emulate the role of Jesus. Like a lamb, Christ died for sinners; like a priest, He intercedes.

Second Weapon

The second weapon this demon uses against us as individuals is our mistakes and poor decisions. Each of us has an inherent propensity toward ignorance. One does not have to read far into the accounts of any of the saints to discover God did not call them because of their wisdom. In truth, we all have made mistakes. Hopefully, we have learned from them. This fault-finding demon, however, takes our past mistakes and displays them before our heart, criticizing our efforts to do God's will, thus keeping us in bondage to the past.

The truth is, the person who is trapped by the fault finder is the one who is deceived and dangerous.

When this spirit uses us against one another, it first provokes us to jealousy or fear. Often we feel threatened by another person's success. We seek to justify ourselves by magnifying the faults in others. And, it is often with those who are most similar to us, our peers in spiritual stature, that the temptation to find fault is heightened. The more our jealousy grows, the more this demon manipulates our thoughts until nothing about the individual or his church seems right. In the final stage we become "crusaders" against him. No defence he offers will satisfy. We are convinced he is deceived and dangerous; it is up to us to warn others. The truth is, the person who is trapped by the fault finder is the one who is deceived and dangerous.

Those who walk according to the flesh will always find occasion to persecute those walking in the Spirit. Christ's disciples will be persecuted, but this author can find no biblical authorization for Christians to persecute others. Persecution is a deed of the flesh. Sadly, often leaders who have fallen from the intensity of their first love become the fiercest persecutors of others who are moving in the Holy Spirit.

Also, those from the group which God used last, are usually first to persecute the next move of the Spirit. Having fallen from the humility and prayer of their founding fathers into pride and mere administration, their position before men is threatened. As Paul aptly stated, "But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh, persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also" (Galatians 4:29).

If one of us stumbles, without condoning hypocrisy, we must be quick to cover him.

To combat this enemy in the Church, we must create an atmosphere of grace. Like the Father who has given us life, we must seek to cause all things to work together for good. If one of us stumbles, without condoning hypocrisy, we must be quick to cover him. As it is written, "None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the Lord" (Leviticus 18:6). We are family, begotten from one Father. "Their nakedness you shall not uncover, for their nakedness is yours" (Leviticus 18:10). We are members of one another (see Ephesians 4:25). It is unlawful to uncover another's mistake publicly; love covers a multitude of sins.

Third Weapon

The accuser uses yet another weapon, and uses it astutely. There is a time in our walk with God when, to increase fruitfulness, the Father prunes us back. This is a season of preparation where God's purpose is to lead His servants into new power in ministry. This process, however, requires new levels of surrender as well as a new experience of crucifixion. It is often a time of humiliation and testing, of emptiness and seeming ineffectiveness as God expands our dependency upon Him. It can be a fearful time when our need is exposed in stark visibility.

The fault-finder spirit … finds in the person's vulnerability [an] opportunity to crush him/her.

Unfortunately, this transparency is apparent not only to the man or woman of God; it frequently occurs before the Church, and before principalities and powers. The fault-finder spirit, and those who have come to think as it thinks, find in the person's vulnerability their opportunity to crush him/her. Time and again, during this incubation of dying to self, individuals who might otherwise have emerged with the clarity and power of prophetic vision, are beaten down and abandoned by those who should have prayed them through to resurrection.

The fault-finders and gossips are already planted in the Church—perhaps you are such a one! When the living God has your pastor in His hands; when He is shaping future leaders of your community by making them more deeply dependent, do you criticize their apparent lack of anointing? Although they did not abandon you during your time of need, do you abandon them now when they need your prayers—when your faith might be the very encouragement they need to fully yield to the cross?

Those who are sympathetic to the accuser of the brethren fulfill the verse which reads, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will be gathered" (Luke 17:37, literal). Vultures never feed on what is alive—only on what is dead. They seek for what is dying; they are attracted to death.

"These are the grumblers, finding fault … the ones who cause divisions" (Jude 16-19). Eventually the fault-finders depart. Behind them lies their former church in strife and division, a pastor greatly discouraged, and a demon spirit collecting his reward. In time, God begins to prune their new pastor and, once again, the fault-finder spirit manifests itself, strategically positioned to destroy another church.

Today God is seeking to raise up His servants with increased power and authority. In the pruning stage of their growth, will we water their dryness with prayer or will we be vultures drawn to devour their dying flesh?

How to correct error

When the accuser comes, he brings distorted facts and condemnation. Satan never offers hope nor extends grace for repentance. Those who are trapped by this spirit never research the virtues of the organization or person they are attacking. Their goal is not to heal but to harm.

To be effective against us, these demons must find opportunity in our carnal nature. Indeed, our unrepentant thoughts toward jealousy, pride and fleshly criticism give these demons a "lumber yard" of material with which to erect walls between members of the Body of Christ, and bring disharmony and strife into the Church.

True correction will proceed with reverence, not revenge. Indeed, are not those whom we seek to correct Christ's servants? Are they not His possession? Is it possible the works of which we are jealous and thus critical, might be the very works of Christ? Let us ask ourselves: why has God chosen us to bring His rebuke? Are we walking in Christ's pattern? Jesus, the great Lion of Judah, was declared worthy to bring forth judgment because He was in His nature a lamb slain for humanity's sin. If we are not willing to die for men, we have no right to judge them.

Those who seek to justify leaving a church must not do so simply through finding fault. Rather, they should openly communicate with the ministerial team. Their attitude should be one of prayer and love, leaving a blessing for what they gained by their time spent in that church. If there has indeed been sin in the ministry, they should contact the church authorities in the city and leave the situation with them.

… fleshly criticism must be replaced with prayer …

Additionally, local ministers should be in communication with one another, never basing their opinion of another church or leader on the testimony of one who has just left it. If people join your congregation and bring with them a root of bitterness against their former assembly, that root will spring up in your church and many will be defiled. Therefore, no matter how much you need new members, never build your congregation with individuals who are unreconciled to their former fellowship.

With the same zeal that the critical seek to unearth sin, those who will conquer this enemy must zealously know God's heart and His calling for each church. Indeed, the Lord's work to us is that fleshly criticism must be replaced with prayer, and fault-finding with a covering love. Where there is error, we must go with a motive to restore. Where there are wrong doctrines, let us maintain a gentle spirit correcting those in opposition.

Francis Frangipane, author and conference speaker, is director of Advancing Church Ministries and senior pastor of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His books, published by Arrow Publications, include The Three Battlegrounds. His website is

Originally published in Spread the Fire, June 1997. This article is adapted from the booklet Exposing the Accuser of the Brethren and is under copyright of Arrow Publications.




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