Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Pervasive Nature of False Teaching

"16But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness,
17and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus,
18men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some." (2 Timothy 2:16-18; NASB)

Paul advises Timothy to “avoid worldly and empty chatter”. We are to avoid discussion based on worldly wisdom and philosophy that is described as “empty chatter”, which is translated from the Greek word “kenophonia”, which means discussion comprised of vain and useless matters based on man’s wisdom that cannot edify. In fact, this type of discussion will only multiply, resulting in more ungodly talk and is very caustic in nature. False teaching does not remain isolated and if left unchecked will actually spread very rapidly, becoming very pervasive and extremely corrupting. The word used to describe its spread is a disease called gangrene. This is a pervasive and deadly disease that attacks the tissue of an affected body part with such voracity, that if treatment is not promptly applied, it will rapidly spread to other parts of the body until it finally gnaws away the bones. In order to treat the disease, the effected tissue must be urgently removed to prevent further spread, and often includes amputation of the affected part. Prompt intervention is vital to the survival of the affected individual and the disease simply cannot be ignored in hopes that it might go away.

Likewise, false doctrine cannot be ignored. It cannot be allowed to coexist along side truth any more than gangrene can be permitted to remain along side healthy tissue. It is extremely invasive and will rapidly corrupt even the healthy part of the body. If false teaching is allowed to fester in the church, it will inevitably corrupt it. It must be dealt with promptly and swiftly. It cannot be allowed to coexist along with the truth. False teaching must be addressed immediately and cannot be ignored.

To give another illustration, if you went to the doctor and after running some tests he came back and informed you that you had a cancerous tumor growing in your body. After reviewing the results the doctor gives you a prognosis that if you begin treatment immediately, you have at least an 80% chance of eradicating the disease. It would be unwise and foolish to decide that you think that your healthy cells outnumber the bad ones and that the malady will take care of itself. Cancer spreads. In fact, certain cancers are known to spread aggressively invading other parts of the body. False teaching is the same way. It cannot be ignored.

If we look at Galatians and Paul’s response to the Judaizers, you can readily see how embracing certain elements of the truth have a tendency to provide a covering for doctrinal error. The false teachers in Galatia were not denying such things as the virgin birth or the resurrection of Christ. But they introduced heresy in one crucial area; by adding works to the plan of salvation which essentially denies salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and ended up proclaiming another gospel. It seems apparent that this error spread rather rapidly, given Paul’s amazement that they “so quickly “departed from the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6) Once again, these false teachers were brought in secretly, by stealth, unnoticed, to release their pervasive teaching. (Galatians 2:4)

This is why it is fundamental to the duty of pastoral leadership to guard the flock and be diligent to “earnestly contend for the faith”. (Jude 1:3) Paul also warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20, to “guard” what was entrusted to him, and to take great pains to avoid the “worldly and empty chatter” and the arguments based on false knowledge to oppose the truth.

"23But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels."
(2 Timothy 2:23; NASB)

Foolish and ignorant speculations are not to be entertained. The term “ignorant” comes from the Greek word "apaideutos" and means “uneducated”, “without instruction”. This is coupled with “speculations”, (Greek “zetesis”), which basically means an enquiry designed to instigate a debate which engenders controversy. It is a common strategy among false teachers to devise arguments and raise questions, not to dig into the text and determine the meaning, but rather, to create doubt and confidence in the clarity of Scripture. This is certainly the case with postmodernism and its entrance into the church through the emerging/Emergent church movement. Satan found an effective strategy way back in Genesis 3 that has proven most effective in drawing people away from God; create doubt concerning the authority and integrity of the Word of God and twist it to distort its meaning.

It is of utmost importance that we understand how to properly interpret Scripture and not tolerate those who distort and twist the Word of God. Phil Johnson wrote in a post yesterday about an hour long interview he taped with John MacArthur on the Emerging Church Movement. Grace to You will be offering the interview on CD next month. If you are not on their mailing list, you may want to sign up. Phil has an email listed in the post that you can use to sign up for the mailing list for Grace to You. I will look forward to listening to that interview. Here is a quote from that post concerning what Dr. MacArthur said about the movement:

"one of the worst tendencies of the "emerging" spirit is the way it exaggerates and venerates mystery at the expense of the Bible's clarity. Denying the perspicuity of Scripture has the same practical outcome as denying the truthfulness of Scripture. The essential message of Scripture is not unclear or uncertain, and Jesus Himself bore testimony to that fact repeatedly."

All I can say is "Amen"!

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