It’s interesting to me that in a cancel culture world, the very biblical idea of calling out false teachers is either being recklessly applied or being ignored altogether.
On one end of the spectrum, we have pastors who want to keep their ministry and preaching positive and encouraging. They want to inspire and uplift people. They don’t want to unnecessarily offend anyone. They want their language and demeanor to be charitable and kind.
I would agree with the values those pastors hold to. During my time in pastoral ministry, I have returned over and over again to Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:24 and following where he says “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”
Not quarrelsome. Kind. Patient. Gentle. Gracious. Those are not words that go along with identifying false teachers.
But then I remember that the same man who wrote those words to Timothy also said to the Galatian believers “If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:9). That doesn’t sound particularly kind or gentle or patient.
Peter and Jude go a step further. Peter calls false teachers, among other things, “irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant… blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions… (with) eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!… These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.” (see 2 Peter 2:12–17). Jude calls false teachers “hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12-13).
So which is it? Kind and gracious? Or a full scale broadside against error and false teaching?
I don’t have it all figured out. But I do have some thoughts.
First, I think we should pay attention to the fact that Jesus warned us not to let our guard down. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15–16). When we see someone who purports to be a spiritual leader but whose followers have a track record of envy, strife, bitterness, immorality, sensuality, confusion, spiritual instability and compromise, we should not only beware the false prophets who have led them astray, but we should call them out.
We should also note that Jesus reserved His harshest criticism and His strongest rebukes for religious leaders who were self-righteous legalists. Read Matthew 23. He had much to say to the Scribes and Pharisees who were hell bent on destroying Him and His ministry. Likewise, Paul’s strong words in Galatians 1 were aimed at religious people who distorted or added to the gospel. We can have theological disagreements with our brothers and sisters in Christ about all kinds of issues without resorting to calling them heretics or false teachers. But when someone is messing with the gospel, we need to call them out.
Finally, John makes it clear in 1 John that someone who doesn’t have a right understanding of who Jesus is or who refuses to obey His word needs to be admonished and rebuked. “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22–23). And “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected” (1 Jn 2:4–5).
When someone wants to water down the deity of Christ or add to the gospel, the Bible is clear. We are to stand firm and to call them out. No wavering. No waffling. You don’t have to be unkind or ungracious. But you need to be certain and steady. False teachers and false teaching have no place in the life of the church.
Once again, we’re back to the need to be full of both grace and truth, like Jesus modeled for us (John 1:14). Let’s be careful not to destroy or harm a brother or sister who doesn’t interpret a passage the same way you do. But when it comes to fundamental biblical truths like the purity of gospel or the glory of Christ, let’s be equally ready to stand strong and firm on the truth of God’s word.
I’ve shared this quote with you before, but it’s worth repeating. It’s from A.W. Tozer who said “Great saints have always been dogmatic. We need right now a return to a gentle dogmatism that smiles while it stands stubborn and firm on the Word of God that liveth and abideth forever.”
Amen to that.
LEARN THE SIX DAYS OF CREATION
|Our elementary aged kids have been meeting on Thursdays this month for Kids Connect, learning about how God made the heavens and the earth. They’ll be meeting again tomorrow night. If your kids have not been able to attend before now, you’re still welcome to bring them tomorrow. It’s not too late!|
WOMEN’S SPRING GATHERING – APR 25
| And don’t forget. We’ve set aside this coming Monday night for the ladies. |
If you have any questions about the evening, contact Jen Gurney at email@example.com.
baby & CHILD DEDICATION – mAY 8
If you have a child who you would like to dedicate to the Lord, Mother’s Day is the day we’ll be doing that in our worship service.
NEW MEMBER CLass – may 14
|If you’ve been visiting Redeemer for a while and have wondered about becoming a member of our church family, we’d love to connect with you about church membership. Here are the details about our upcoming membership class.|
Men, the Friday morning Gun Lap group will be starting up again soon. We’ll be going through another book from Robert Wolgemuth called Lies Men Believe.
Contact Jim McMurry with any questions about the group. All men are welcome!
|You’ve no doubt heard of the wildly popular book called How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. In His Farewell Discourse, Jesus makes it clear to His disciples that abiding in Him and being known as His disciple will not help you become admired or well-liked. In fact, just the opposite is true, as we’ll see in our ongoing study of John’s gospel on Sunday.|
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!