Many catch a good amount of flack for exposing false teachers by name. I can understand why – there are many things worthy of our attention. We can focus on the wonders of good, pure doctrine, building up our children by teaching them scripture and through intercessory prayer, edifying the church, loving our wives in a manner more consistent with how Christ loved the church, and focusing on preaching the gospel to the unreached.
However, one should note that scripture does not seem to present a dichotomy of hierarchy between what commands we are to carry out. Rather, we are to be found in obedience to all imperatival passages on the basis that we are held captive to Christ. Out of reverence for God, love of Christ, and the transformative work of His Spirit – we obey. This is summed up in the command to love the Lord with all of your being, and loving your neighbor as yourself.
All of these things are defined theologically; one’s hermeneutic is unveiled when they practice what they believe. When one clings to false teaching, the prevalent idol of self-worship attests to the state of their heart and is revealed.
We deal with false teachers as so:
- Avoid them (2 Tim. 3:5; Rom. 16:17-18)
- Test them to ensure they are not false teachers (1 John 4:1-6)
- Rebuke them in the presence of all (1 Tim. 5:20)
- Expose them (Eph. 5:11)
- Not receive them into our house or even greet them (2 John 1:10)
- Judge them with right judgment (John 7:24)
- Correct them and even cast them from the church if they remain unrepentant (Matt. 8:15-20), as their condemnation has already been decided (Jude 1:4)
We are called to do these things because they:
- Are disguised as servants of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13-15)
- Cause divisions and create obstacles to true doctrine and faith (Rom. 16:17-18)
- Preach a different gospel than that which has been handed down from the apostles (Gal. 1:6-9)
- Devote themselves to the teachings of demons (1 Tim. 4:1)
- Pervert the grace of God and deny our Master and Lord, Christ (Jude 1:4)
- They will not spare the flock (Acts 20:29) because they are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15-20)
This dual focus shows that we must be able to test and approve what is good – yet also actively combat heresy. In either case, there must be adequate recognition to what the scriptures actually teach. Generally speaking, there is reluctance to confront poor teaching and a sweeping, biblical illiteracy. In other words, most are not simply willing to confront false teachers, nor are they properly trained to do so.
When people are trained to recognize counterfeit currency, they don’t start with the counterfeits. They start by mastering the aspects of what the genuine production looks like. If they know the true form intimately – a fake can easily be spotted. In this same manner, we ought to know the Word so well, in it’s immediate and corporate context, that when the counterfeit comes up, we can easily spot it.
However, this does not mean we ought to be ignorant to what the counterfeits look like. There is particular benefit in studying the old creeds and early councils. Know the roots of the deceiver so well that you can destroy them. Pull up the tree bearing bad fruit and cast it away to be burned.
Stop, for the sake of the church, feeling that this is unkind. It isn’t nice in the conventional sense. Who cares? We aren’t called to be nice; we’re called to be loving, patient, humble, meek, and a host of other things that have nothing to do with the vague, subjective nature of “niceness”.
If you love God and His church, you must guard it against those who revel in watching it burn. Their appetite for destruction is insatiable. They devour the church by maligning the truth, perverting the gospel, and carrying others away with them to do likewise.
We ought not have anything to do with false teachers. Anything, save calling them out by name and exposing the rotten fruit they bear by proclaiming the full counsel of God’s Word.