Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why we name false teachers

Christians are called to love one another. However foremost and primarily we are called to live in truth and protect the truth. So many times John rejoices over the new Christians walking in the truth, in 1 John, 2 John, 3 John... Do not mix up loving the brethren with remaining silent when false teaching comes for the sake of peace. If you love them you will speak up.

The Word is a precious gift, bought with the blood of our own Savior so that it could be inspired by the Spirit to men whom God loves so dearly. It is God's own revelation of Himself to us for Godly living and proper worship. 2 Timothy 4:2 tells us to --

"preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction."

I submit to you that the Word is out of season at this present time. It is very hard today to cut through the accumulated baggage that is American Christianity. There are fads, books, ridiculous doctrines, liberalism, and attacks on the very foundations of the most basic truths of the faith. Under most attack today are the notions of hell as a place for eternal punishment of the unrighteous, that Jesus died for sins and rose again on the third day, and that Jesus is the only way to heaven. One out of season approach to the Word that particularly grieves me is when people say "take God out of the box" we have put Him in and they stay away from conviction of their convictions. No, God is not in a box, He is infinite. But He purposely revealed  Himself in the 66 books of the bible and that is the God He wants us to know at this time. He didn't make Himself uninterpretable and He didn't make Himself unclear in that revelation. There is more to God, but for now, we work with what we have, and that is the God in the bible. Which ironically often comes in a box.

Paul warned that a major end times sign is that they will not endure sound doctrine. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires:" (2 Timothy 4:3).  It doesn't say that they will not endure doctrine, but sound doctrine. The Greek word "sound" in the part of the verse 'sound doctrine' means healthy, pure, well as in not-sick. It means as opposed to a debilitating sickness. And that is what unsound doctrine is, sickness.

It reminds me of the verse in 2 Timothy 2:17. Paul urged the workers in the faith to remain strong, refuting the words of false teachers such as Hymenaeus and Philetus, and Paul said something interesting here. He said that their teachings will spread like gangrene. The Greek word used here gangraina means gangrene, just as we know it today. A cankerous, spreading, oozing sore sickness. The US National Library of Medicine defines gangrene as "the death of tissue in part of the body." The church is the body of Christ. Does that resonate with you, or what?

Paul is saying that false teachings kill off parts of  the body in oozing, putrid, destructive manner. Worse, the method of death of this tissue is defined as happening "when a body part loses its blood supply." Jesus paid for the body with His blood so when we are cut off from the blood of Jesus by false teachings we are in very severe danger! That is what false teaching does, causes destruction to a part of the Body. The Holy Spirit was so apt in using gangrene as a metaphor! How wonderful He is!

So how do doctors treat gangrene? If it is caught before the infection goes too far, it is removed through a medical term called debridement, a medical word meaning the precise removal in an exact surgical procedure excising just the infected tissue. (I don't want to get carried away with stretching metaphors too widely, but the body of the church is called the Bride...) However, if gangrene is left untreated for too long, a larger part of the body may need to be amputated. Finally, if left untreated for too, too long, the whole organism dies.

As far as the Word goes, I submit to you that failure to correct false teaching in firm manner over the last few decades has led us to the very brink of this apostate time, when Jesus said asked if, when He returns in His second coming, will He find faith upon the earth? (Luke 18:8.) One can almost imagine the gangrenous, disgusting thing that religion will have become by then, left untreated. And the pure parts that are left will have been amputated do deeply there may only be one finger or one toe remaining in light and in truth. Sorry for the gross images, but Paul started it!

So what are we to do when coming across a false teaching? Now I admit it is easier to point to a false teaching when finding a false teaching like Jentezen Franklin or Joel Osteen, or Beth Moore or Billy Graham because they are far away and we can simply turn the channel, walk by their table at the book store without purchasing, or say no to taking up their simulcast. But what happens when the false teaching comes to your church and you have to endure it week after week? Now there is a problem and I tell you up front is the hardest thing in the world to handle. Many, many people won't, can't, or don't. And that is why we are in this apostate situation. Brothers and Sisters, you have to point it out!

But before you do, make sure that you have prayed, loved, walked, studied, waited, watched, and prayed some more. Then and only then when the Spirit assures you the time is right, go public. Be ready for blowback of satanic proportions!

People will question your authority to point out a false teaching, especially if your pastor is promoting it. This is very good, we should be questioned when we say a church leader or pastor is promoting a false teaching. (That is why you have to be very sure that the Spirit led you to the right conclusion). Read these following verses but be sure to read them in the context of the chapters later so you have a thorough understanding of the mandate and burden to publicly exhort against a false teaching.

1 Timothy 5:20: Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.

Titus 1:13: This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith

Titus 2:15: These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

But am I sure we are to do this to a brother? Yes. When Peter went off the rails in Antioch, Paul opposed Peter to his face. "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned." (Galatians 2:11-14). What? Wasn't Peter saved? Not condemned? Well John 3:18 says we condemn ourselves by what we believe and Peter had condemned himself by accepting a false teaching. It also could mean that the Gentile believers at Antioch were condemning Peter already. There was a ruckus and it was known that a division was happening in the church there because of the divisive nature of the Judaizers' false teaching.

It was particularly hard because the co-pastor at Antioch, Barnabas, Paul's beloved Barnabas! was now also being carried away too. Gangrene spreads, and Paul must have been grieved to see he was losing Barnabas to the hypocrisy dividing the church there. Peter was the most highly thought of in all of Christendom. But that didn't stop Paul, because Jesus is even higher than that and it is His name we defend. He got to the point in Gal 2:14 where when he "saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel." Paul waded in, knowing that the truth was more important than keeping peace. He opposed Peter to his face. The Spirit saw fit to include that in the record so we must use that as a pattern for today. When public sin against the Gospel encroaches on the church, there must be immediate and unequivocal church discipline to rectify it. Otherwise when we preach holiness and purity but don't get rid of unholiness and impurity, we destroy our own credibility.

Now to the other point. Many people say not to name names. However, throughout the New Testament, we are told who was sinning and why. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, Saducees, Scribes and Herodians. (Matthew 16:6-12 and Matthew 23:15). Paul rebuked Peter in Gal 2. Paul dealt with Hymenaeus, Philetus (1 Tim 1:20), and Demas (2 Tim 4:9-10). Peter dealt with Simon the Sorcerer and Ananaias/Sapphira (though these last two were not false teachers bringing false doctrine, but liars bringing hypocrisy to the tithe or grieving the Spirit). Names were named.

We know the names of the false doctrines too, not just the people perpretrating them. There were the  Judaizers/Legalists, (Acts 15:1), Gnosticism (1 Timothy 6:20-21, and likely was what Paul was dealing with in 1 Cor 8),  Asceticism (Colossians 2:18-23), Antinomianism (2 Timothy 3:2-9). There are other false doctrines, but suffice to say, why do we know the names of these false doctrines now? Names were named.

Most of these false doctrines are still around today, and indeed it is a blessing that they were named, so we can identify them and combat them in same manner as the forefathers of the faith did.

I have tried to show you that false doctrines and teachings are a gangrenous cancer that must be opposed and excised. It is uncomfortable to do this and it seems excessive to name names. But let me put it to you this way. Knowing now that false teaching kills the body, let us think of false teaching as a runaway train hurtling toward your town and potentially crashing into the houses and businesses lining the track.

The first thing to decide is, IS there a runaway train, and is it on our track? Have we heard the report correctly? Paul saw that they were not straighforward, and to me this means he had examined the issue up close and had proof. It doesn't say "Paul heard..." or, "Paul wondered..."If it is a true report of a runaway train, would you stand by and say nothing? Would you say, "Well, the people in the houses are asleep, they will get mad at me if I call them at this hour. I better stay quiet for the sake of peace." Of course not! But that is what people expect us to do when we spot a false teaching.

Secondly, do you make the call to the house owners in the path of destruction and say this:

"Get out! there is a runaway train coming!"
"Where is it?"
"I can't tell you that."
Well, from what direction is it coming?"
"I can't tell you that either."
"What is the name of the train? Which train?"
"Sorry, I can't tell you."
"What time will it get here?"
"I can't tell you that as well."
"Why can't you tell me the specifics???"
"Because I don't want to offend the train."

What good is sounding the alarm if you won't go into specifics? Failure to be specific on behalf of not wanting to cause trouble for the perpetrators of false teaching is actually saying you prefer to besmirch the name of Jesus because you don't want to offend satan!

It is not easy to do this though. It is not easy to discern false teaching, it takes prayer and study. It is not easy to stand up to the spiritual leaders and say they are wrong. It is not easy to maintain your convictions in the face of blowback. They will make you quail and they will make you doubt.

But look at our gracious God:

Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 1:7). He was true to Jeremiah and He will be with you as well,

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20). We are to go forth teaching and protecting the sound doctrines of the Gospel in the disciples and He will be with us to the end.

7 comments:

  1. Speaking of false teachers, have you seen the latest "Love gift" ploy from Jim Bakker? A 7 year supply of emergency food for $3,000. I find it interesting that he chose 7 years...he might as well have called it tribulation emergency food! http://jimbakkershow.com/lovegifts/time-of-trouble.html

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  2. Hi Lydia,

    I have not seen that but it is a good example of preying on people in Jesus' name for filthy lucre. The Church will not go thru the Tribulation, and anyway, the point of the Tribulation is judgment and that means destruction of every thing, large or small. Christians who are saved during that time will be a foremost example of *really* leaning on Jesus in faith for their sustenance!

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  3. People would certainly want to know about gangrene in their body, but isn't it interesting how much vilification you receive when you warn about gangrene in the body of Christ?

    Great post. Without naming names, no one be alerted to the wolves because they wouldn't know who the wolves are.

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  4. Hi Glenn,

    Thank you for the compliment...yes, it is much easier to point to the messenger than it is to point to a false teaching. The Lord has been ministering mightily to me on the privilege and the grave responsibility in obeying Him to protect the Gospel and to contend for the faith. He is faithful and His witness is true! I am in agonies over my situation but am daily being blessed by His presence and Him leading me. May His name be glorified in all and through all.

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  5. Another great post! It is very unfortunate that in our current church culture so many use the scripture "judge not lest ye be judged" when someone speaks out about confronting false doctrine/false teaching. That scripture is completely out of context in this situation; and I really appreciated that you reminded us that even the Apostles had to be humble enough to realize when they got off track in their teaching.

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  6. Hi nothingnewunderthesun,

    Welcome, glad you found me. There are some cliches in American Christian culture that are used in these situations, but are used in an unexamined way. Matthew 7's 'judge not' is one of those. The verse goes on to say that before you judge, make sure you're not being hypocritical, check yourself and *then* take the speck out of your brother's eyes. We are called to judge, test, contend, discern and the NT uses many other terms throughout the NT for us to be alert and aware. We're to check for good fruits or bad fruits, exhort and rebuke, and more.

    The Matthew verse is a good warning to us for the *process* of judging, making sure we're not a bigger hypocrite than our brother and not to do it lightly. And I personally beleive we are not to judge salvation or motivations, Jesus will do that at the Bema Seat for believers and at the Great White Throne judgment of unbelievers.

    "Touch not God's anointed" is another one that is trotted out when discerning Christians attempt to point to doctrinal issues or name a false teacher. As if leaders can claim a special authority to remain above accountability. The verse comes from 1 Chron 16:22 in reference to the kings and Psalm 105:15 in reference to the prophets. The word 'touch' in both cases actually means 'so no physical harm to'. It was a Godly edict not to hurt, maim, or kill His anointed in war situations or other circumstances. You can read about it more here

    http://www.letusreason.org/Pent47.htm
    http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Anointed/anointed.html

    If that statement were to be followed in the way that critics intend, meaning, 'criticize not God's anointed' then it would have almost immediately been violated when Nathan rebuked David, God's anointed. David did not claim special immunity to criticism and accepted the rebuke. It would also have been violated when Paul rebuked Peter, and Peter could simply have said "Paul! God said touch not My anointed!' but Peter didn't, he accepted the rebuke.

    We're not to go around rebuking at the drop of a hat. Matthew 7 does apply, which shows us a process we're to go through before we embark on a contention for the faith with a brother. In my opinion so does 2 Corinthians 13:5 (Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith).

    But if you exhort against false doctrine any time, you will invariably get the Matthew 7 or the 1 Chron thrown back at you. Be ready.

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  7. Thank you for the awesome reply! You have great wisdom and use discernment. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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