Thursday, September 21, 2006

Dealing With False Teachers

“10For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,
11who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain.
12One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons."
13This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith,
14not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.” (Titus 1:10-14; NASB)

It is true that patience must be practiced in persuading people in sound teaching. There are those who are victims, not the perpetrators of false teaching. (2 Timothy 2:24-26) However, those who persist and continue to spread the venom of errant doctrine need to be dealt with more sternly.

False teachers must be confronted and every effort taken to stop the spread of their errant doctrine. In Titus 1:11, Paul stresses that they be “silenced”, which means to “bridle” or “stop up the mouth”. The foolish talk of false teaching must be promptly stopped. The spread of the nonsense of the false teachers was overthrowing or destroying the faith of many, turning them from the foundation of biblical faith. The command given is to “reprove them severely”, with the intent that they would be restored to sound faith. The term “reprove” means to convict or refute even to the point of bringing shame on the person or persons responsible, making them accountable. It also includes using sharpness, being very terse with the intent of being peremptory, giving no room for the perpetrators to plead their cause and show reason for non-compliance. Their error must be exposed with the light of the truth. Persistent error needs to be dealt with harshly in order to contain it from spreading. That may not sound nice, but when you are dealing with false doctrine, swift drastic measures must be taken, as if you were dealing with gangrene in the human body. It is no time to be “nice”. Corrective action is crucial to the very health and survival of the church body!

Like any other sin in the church, those persistent in false teaching must be disciplined, even to the point of removing them from the congregation. In 1 Timothy 1:20, Paul banished Hymenaeus and Alexander from the church, placing them outside the protection and nurture of the congregation, outside of God’s blessing and under Satan’s control in hopes that they would repent and come to the knowledge of the truth. This is the same way that anyone who remains obstinate in their sin should be dealt with. Paul commanded the Corinthians to do the same thing in 1 Corinthians 5 with the man who was caught in immorality. God demands purity in His church. The church must not be tolerant of sin in any form if purity is to be maintained; “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. (1 Corinthians 5:6) Just like leaven in a lump of dough, a small amount rapidly spreads throughout the whole lump.

This is why it irritates me when false teachers and their materials are tolerated in the church. The excuse given is that they are “chewing off the meat and spitting out the bones”. When you are dealing with false teachers who are attacking core essential doctrine in the church, this excuse will not fly. In fact, it is patently unbiblical. I will cover that subject further in my next post.

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