2 TIMOTHY 2:17-18
"Their teaching will spread like gangrene.
Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth.
They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some."
'False teaching'—How to Biblically define it
As mentioned in
of this series, it's crucial that every Christian have a clear understanding of how to identify both "false teaching" and
the "false teachers" who propagate spiritually destructive messages.
That's because failure to do so will have eternally disastrous consequences.
It's also important that we not misidentify someone who isn't a false teacher, and that we know
exactly how God wants us to proceed with those who actually are false teachers.
This article concludes this series.
Please click here for part 1 of this series.
What if the false teacher still seems to be living a 'good' life?
One thing I've noticed is that sometimes
church leaders try to add more conditions to what would qualify a person as a "false teacher."
For example—in order to be "disfellowshipped" (i.e., "disassociated from")—not only must a false
teacher's doctrine be Biblically wrong, his life must be immoral as well.
In other words, if he's "just a false teacher"—but still in other areas seems to be moral and
church-devoted—he's to be associated with as any other brother or sister in Christ (they ignore the fact that
teaching false doctrine is plainly NOT "living a good moral life.")
Nothing could be further from the truth.
A quick example. You may recall (see example #6 above) that Paul spoke
of men who were teaching that the
"resurrection had already come" (like men who teach the 70 AD doctrine—see 2 Timothy 2:17-18; 1 Corinthians 15:20-33).
The question could be asked: "What SPECIFICALLY did the Holy Spirit condemn about these false teachers?"
That they "no longer had faith in Jesus?"
That they "weren't submitting to Him as Lord in their daily living?"
That they "weren't going to church?"
That they "weren't convicted about the church?"
That they were "causing division" by their teaching? That they were "not living a moral life in addition to
their false teaching?" Etc, etc.
No. While some of these matters could plainly also require a tough love approach,
this is NOT what the Holy Spirit specifically mentioned as problematic in point #6 above (and other Biblical instances).
Paul simply condemned the false doctrine itself—nothing more and nothing less.
This is very, very important to understand in our "unity in diversity" slanted religious world.
Pure doctrine really is a salvation issue with God—not just living a moral life.
(By the way, false prophets of the Old Testament were condemned based ONLY on their
teaching—nothing more and nothing less.
See Deut 18:19-22—chilling words to those who take lightly the teachings of false prophets!)
By the way, a case could certainly be made that false teachers are also immoral.
They are deceiving others, lying (to themselves and to others), misleading Christians, badly abusing the words of God, etc.
These are certainly "moral issues."
And "how sincere a false teacher is" is not of consequence.
See again Deut 18:19-22: false teachers were condemned based on the misleading effects of their false message alone,
whether or not they were sincere about what they believed. Indeed, many false teachers are very sincere, for they
long ago came to believe a lie (2 Thess 2:11).
False teachers must be warned before being "disfellowshipped"
If you'll take another look at the above 6 examples of Biblical disassociation, and compare that
with your other Biblical studies, I believe you'll agree that sufficient warning is certainly
necessary before disfellowshipping a brother (see especially examples #1 through #4).
Many people never take the time to refute, prove false, and then inform the false teacher—so as
to make him aware of his dangerous condition and give him time to repent. Instead, they simply start giving
him "the left hand of fellowship," or "cold shoulder."
In so doing, they are also in violation of the will of God. I believe many Christians react this way
because they haven't taken the time to gain proper Biblical knowledge. Therefore,
anything disagreeing with their "traditional thinking" they oppose. But lacking logical Biblical backing
or adequate knowledge for their opposition, all they can do is simply distance themselves from
the "doctrinally-incorrect" brother. Sometimes his congregation is actually removed from church directories
with no proper Biblical procedure having ever taken place.
I believe people will be held accountable for these actions, which are FAR too common these days.
Of course, appropriate representatives (e.g., church leaders, if applicable) should be involved
in the refuting of false doctrine and warning false teachers.
Also, in the spirit of Biblical teachings on so-called "tough love," I believe at least two clear warnings should
be delivered to false teachers, with reasonable time for repentance.
However, time is also of the essence;
if a false teacher is firmly entrenched in his teaching (which is very common), it is irresponsible
and naive for church leaders to allow him more time to infect others with his teaching.
What if the false teacher doesn't teach his doctrine from the pulpit?
Suppose a false teacher spreads his doctrine privately, but not by the pulpit.
Is he still to be considered a "false teacher?"
If you'll look closely at the examples of false teaching in the Bible, the mode of the false teaching
is never mentioned. For example, the Bible never suggests false teaching must be in front of a congregation
or it doesn't qualify. Indeed, the Bible commands the
older women to teach the younger women.
This would be an impossible command if they were not permitted to do it privately. We also know that
private teaching was an important part of the transmission of the gospel to the lost.
Obviously, the same applies to false teaching. Any teaching that is false is "false teaching."
It can be done publicly from the pulpit. It can be done in a private study. It can be done by sending
emails. It can be done by posting pages to the web. If "teaching" can be done using a certain
approach, that teaching can also be "false teaching."
The Bible clearly says the false teachers would "secretly introduce destructive heresies" (2 Pet 2:1).
It is naive to believe that unless a false doctrine is promoted from the pulpit, that the teacher involved
is not a false teacher.
Remember too that Jesus said that people speak from the "overflow of their hearts"— meaning,
in part, that a person who
truly believes something will also eventually share it. After all, that's how we came to know what
they believed in the first place.
Never forgetting Who we're trying to please...
Our goal, obviously, is to please our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in all we do.
It's ridiculous to call Jesus "Lord" and then fail to do what He says when the going gets
a little uncomfortable. That's not true faith.
So, when it comes to the "fellowship" issue, we neither want to not associate with those who
should be considered
faithful brothers—nor should we associate those God would want us to "disassociate from."
Neither scenario is obeying the Lord's will. We should never forget that in our zeal to show
"love" to a false teacher, we also need to be showing "love" to our Lord.
And how is that done?
By obeying His commands and following His intended guidelines—and those of the Holy Spirit He endorsed (John 14:15).
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