How to Deal with False Teachers
There are any number of opinions when it comes to naming the names of those who teach falsely or shining a light on their false doctrine. The pastors and people protesting for more tolerance in the church today often stick to some of these common sentiments regarding telling it like it is:
- “Naming names is controversial. Just speak the truth and if some teachers fit the profile then so be it.”
- “It’s not our place to judge. Let’s just love everyone and let God decide.”
- “Working together across any kind of doctrinal lines can still mutually benefit our organization or church.”
- “Don’t preach what you are against. Preach what you are for!”
All well-intentioned reasons that protect reputations, bank accounts, and to be honest, allow for lazy pastors to preach easy, and live easy. If you avoid controversy and please everyone in ministry, life in the church is incredibly easy – and superficial.
The truth is, it’s hard work to preach accurately and refute error as the Bible commands. Furthermore, it’s unpopular – and that’s hard to face for pastors trying to fill the seats and “grow” their church on a more palatable message. Truth can cost pastor’s their people, and cost obedient people their family and friends.
As always, there is no sacrifice considered too great when it comes to submitting ourselves to what the Bible says.
Here are three biblical ways that Christian pastors and their people should be dealing with false teachers:
- Call Them Out by Name in Public
False teachers are trying to go unnoticed (2 Peter 2:1-3), sneaking around the church looking to infiltrate our ranks. When we avoid our duty in the name of tolerance we’re leading sheep to the slaughter. It’s no secret that the Apostle Paul called out Hymenaeus, Philetus, and Alexander for defecting from the true faith and teaching falsely (1 Timothy 1:18-20; 2 Timothy 2:15-18). We must be clear about who is not within the parameters of orthodox teaching (Ephesians 5:11).
It doesn’t have to every Sunday, every sermon, all the time, but a pastor should be regularly identifying false teachers and their false doctrines as is necessary. This doesn’t necessarily mean a full sermon on divergent doctrines or blasting Joel Osteen’s latest book instead of preaching from the Bible. It could just be a sentence like, “Prosperity preacher ‘so and so’ may tell you giving him money will get you healed, but we serve a sovereign God who heals as He wills. Trust Him!” Then move on with your preaching.
What’s a good way to decide when you need to speak up? Some basic rules could be: 1) When your sermon text calls for it (if you’re verse-by-verse preaching). 2) When a church down the street has a signs and wonders conference and you need to protect your flock from wandering (this just happened in my neck of the woods last month). 3) When a public incident calls for clarity. 4) When you believe it is necessary to educate your church members and leaders on false teachings in the church today. Men like Justin Peters have entire seminars meant to equip churches with this type of knowledge.
There could be more to this but all in all, a biblical church can easily expect to hear truth taught, and error refuted at least once every few weeks, if not more (that’s a mere suggestion). Sheep need protection. The shepherds that Christ has called into His service must keep the wolves on the radar.
Mark them, keep your scope on them, don’t let one member of the flock be taken captive by their ravenous greed and exploitation.
Romans 16:17-18 – Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
- Avoid Them Completely, Show No Hospitality
Unless a false teacher is showing up at your church or home to repent publically, show them the door. John was so serious about protecting the people of God that he wrote,
“Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting, for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” (2 John 9-11).
No Christmas dinner, no stage-sharing, no missions work, no rescuing orphans together. It doesn’t matter how nice they are, how many people fill the stadium for the conference, or how much money is on the line. No true believer or pastor should be partnering with a false teacher who is teaching a false gospel. This is hardly comparable to when John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul share a platform, yet disagree on infant baptism. This is dividing over the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As John Calvin put it, “It is indeed an impious and sacrilegious attempt to divide those who agree in the truth of Christ: but yet it is a shameful sophistry to defend, under the pretext of peace and unity, a union in lies and impious doctrines.”
- Undermine Their Ministry to Save Lost Sheep
Obviously God is sovereign in salvation. Yet, He uses obedient human vessels to carry out His life-saving work. There are brothers and sisters who have not yet come to saving faith who are caught in the trap of these deceivers. If faithful Christians don’t use the wisdom, truth, and mainstream tools that are at their disposal, they’re missing out on a great opportunity to put a 2017 spin on Jude’s instructions:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh (Jude 20-23).
Pastors and Christians can use websites, social media, blogs, radio, television, books, YouTube, and more to bombard the world with truth. False teachers can be put on blast, proven wrong, and caught in lies. Prayerfully the elect will be brought to saving faith because they hear or read the truth. God controls the timing of when lost sheep turn to Him, but we must be faithful at all times in our part.
May our efforts in snatching them out of the burning flames of deceit mirror the passion with which Spurgeon fulfilled his ministry:
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
[Contributed by Costi Hinn]