As I often do, I want to get us all on the same page before we turn the page. Christians are called to live like Jesus. We all share a common goal of Christlike character and want to love God and love people with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. 1 John 2:5-6 tells us “By this, we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” I want to walk and live like Him. We should be unified at this point.
Recently, I have made a couple of Facebook posts that a few people have disagreed with. In one instance, I called my upset friend and we had a conversation. We did not fully agree but we did better understand each other after that phone call. In the other case, my friend and I had a conversation over messenger and that helped us to better understand each other. But these conversations got me thinking. In part, this post is a response to those recent conversations. I want to clarify my motives and agitate others to consider the Words of God.
In these two aforementioned posts, I named false teachers Bill Johnson and Todd White. Why did I do that? Isn’t that mean? Should I not have talked to those people first? Maybe you think, like my friend, that doing that is legalistic? If not legalistic, maybe you just wonder why I would call out “teammates.” Let’s consider Jesus.
In Matthew 23, Jesus was brutal against false teachers called the Pharisees. At one point, he tells these highly respected religious teachers that they “Travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (vs 15) Read the chapter yourself. That statement is the tip of the iceberg. Honest question here. What do you think the friends of those false teachers thought and said about Jesus?
Luke 11 is the parallel account of a similar situation. Jesus is confronting false teachers again and a group of lawyers was feeling condemned along with them. One of the lawyers spoke up and said: “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” This was a perfect time for Jesus to apologize for being misunderstood. He made respected people very upset. What does Jesus do? He responded; “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (vs 46) Those lawyers had friends and no doubt, they had friends who loved them. Jesus did not flinch. He was not scared to call out false teachers even if it offended people on Facebook for doing do. Theology matters. That’s why Jesus spoke against bad theology and bad teachers. Are we not to be Christlike in this?
And then we have Paul. In Acts 20, Paul addressed his elder buddies in Ephesus for the very last time. He encouraged and commissioned them. Also, he warned them. He said, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them.” (vs 29-30) The Holy Spirit wanted these elders to know, in the future, there will be men with the title “Elder/Pastor” that will be fierce wolves. There are always some sheep that love playing with wolves. It does not go well. It is not loving for shepherds to allow it.
But Paul doesn’t just talk about this. He modeled it. In 2 Tim. 2:17-18 we find out there are two teachers in Ephesus that were false teachers. He names them. They were Hymenaeus and Philetus and they were upsetting the faith of some. That is important to note. They were not upsetting the faith of everyone. Just some. Yet, Paul names them and says there teaching is like gangrene. Another question for you. What do you think the friends of Hymenaeus and Philetus said upon hearing this letter? I can just imagine! “Paul, I have really been helped and set free by the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus! You should have talked to them privately! At least Paul should have recognized that we are all on the same team as we build up different parts of the kingdom!” Yet, Paul did it. And he was right to do so. It was Christlike.
In the Bible, there are many other examples of this. As a pastor, I take my charge to “shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Pet.5:2) very seriously. When there are people who are doing the exact same thing Hymenaeus and Philetus were doing they must be called out! If a pastor does not protect his flock from false teaching and false teachers he is failing at his most basic task. It is not loving for a pastor to sit back and watch wolves lead sheep away from the fold.
In fear of congregations or in fear of Facebook friends, it is easy for pastors to say nothing. It is easy to justify silence. It can even be defended “biblically.” But saying nothing is abandonment. It is harlotry against God and his people. It is the fear of man. It is hatred toward the sheep.
Instead, I want to be like Jesus. That is why I named Bill Johnson and Bethel. Because I love you.