What Should A Christian Do About False Teaching?

I’m seriously seeking advice from anyone on my email list, and readers of my blog, to the following question:

“What should a Bible believing born again Christian do when faced with apostasy and false teaching in their church?”

I am particularly interested in responses from those who have been telling me for over two years that what I and others like me are doing is the wrong way to do it.  And so, I ask those same persons to provide me with a biblical answer to the question, including scriptural references that support their answer.  All responses will be kept confidential unless you specifically ask to use your name.  I will publish them in the next few weeks if there are any answers.  I appreciate the input from anyone who can help me with this issue, as I do not wish to continue in error if I am.

This question is also being asked of the General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene, of which I am a member, since according the church manual, they are responsible for interpreting church doctrine.  I look forward to all responses.

(I reserve the right to NOT approve any answers that are not biblically grounded).

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5 responses to “What Should A Christian Do About False Teaching?

  1. I am not an expert, but I would follow the teachings of the apostle Paul. We are to go to the person and confront them with biblical teaching. If they do not see their error then a second confrontation is in order. If it is the pastor then the district superintendent is to be notified to confront the pastor. I will recommend a book “How Shall We Live”, by
    Charles Colson. In 455 pages he starts with a lot of the world views, philosophies, Darwinism, utopia, etc. Humanism, etc. He gives solid information to show the deceptions and errors of all the popular views
    being taught in universities, and colleges, maybe even seminaries. In the last year I have read biographies, Bud Robinson, D.L. Moody, John Bunyan, George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, Corrie Ten Boom, John R. Rice and Charles G.Finney. Where are men like these today?
    I have read a lot of other good books also.
    I know that good intentions are not enough to get the job done.

  2. This is a tough question to answer. It’s tough not just because most “false Christian teaching” uses many ideas, concepts and words similar to those found in the bible, but because false teachings can sound so RIGHT at times.

    It is also a tough question to answer because there are so many biblcial senarios about how God dealt with apostasy and false teachings and biblical mandates regarding heretics, apostates and false teachers.

    It would seem that the easiest answer is to follow the pattern found in Matthew 18:15 ¶ “if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 “but if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” But this has to do more with church discipline, I guess.

    Dealing with apostasy, false teaching and heresy is a very serious and not at all an easy matter. “Apostasy in Christianity refers to the rejection of Christianity by someone who formerly was a Christian. The term apostasy comes from the Greek word apostasia (“ἀποστασία”) meaning defection, departure, revolt or rebellion. It has been described as “a willful falling away from, or rebellion against, Christian truth. Apostasy is the rejection of Christ by one who has been a Christian….”[2] “Apostasy is a theological category describing those who have voluntarily and consciously abandoned their faith in the God of the covenant, who manifests himself most completely in Jesus Christ.”[3] “Apostasy is the antonym of conversion; it is deconversion.”[1]… (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostasy_in_Christianity )

    Here are a few examples I have found of how God dealt with this matter:

    2 Peter 1:20 but know this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,
    21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the holy spirit spoke from god.
    1 ¶ but false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
    2 many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned;
    3 ¶ and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
    4 for if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;
    5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
    6 and if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;
    7 ¶ and if he rescued righteous lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men
    8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),
    9 then the lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment…

    Notice the words and phrases in the above passage such as “destructive heresies”, “truth maligned”, “in greed they will expliot you”, “God…cast them into hell”. The bible tells us how God views this matter.

    Again in Matthew Matt 7:15 ¶ “beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
    16 “you will know them by their fruits. grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
    17 “so every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
    18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
    19 “every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
    20 “so then, you will know them by their fruits.
    21 ¶ “not everyone who says to me, ‘lord, lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven will enter.
    22 “many will say to me on that day, ‘lord, lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’
    23 “and then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

    God deals harshly with false prophets.

    See in 1 Kings 18:17 ¶ when Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “is this you, you troubler of Israel?”
    18 he said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals.
    19 “now then send and gather to me all Israel at mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

    40 then Elijah said to them, “seize the prophets of baal; do not let one of them escape.” so they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.

    Here we see the trial and destruction of false prophets, false teachers and false gods.

    Of course we cannot take it upon ourselves to ‘destroy’ false teachers. But, we can see the seriousness of the nature of false teaching and false teachers.

    Other places in the bible tell us the fate of false teachers or to those who would add to, subtract from or change the teachings of God’s Word and it is always harsh.

    But, how should we, Christians, respond?

    (I took the following, in part, from Mr. E.L. Bynum at Tabernacle Baptist Church, Lubbock, TX. I do not necessarily agree with all the Mr. Bynum says but this seemed appropriate for this matter)

    We are to TRY them. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4: 1). All doctrine and teachers are to be tried according to the Word of God. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). Every message, messenger, and method is to be judged according to the Word of God. The church at Ephesus was commended because they had “tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars ” (Rev. 2:2). The church at Pergamos was rebuked because they tolerated those that held “the doctrine of Balaam, ” and “the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate” (Rev. 2:14,15). It is never right to tolerate false teachers, but they are to be tried by the Word of God, and exposed. Of course those who want to disobey the Word of God will seek by every means to avoid this teaching.

    We are to MARK them and AVOID them. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them ” (Rom. 16:17). Those whose conduct and teaching contradicts the Word of God are to be marked and to be avoided. This requires discernment and judgment in the light of the Bible.

    We are to REBUKE them. “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith ” (Titus 1: 13). This was written to Titus, because there Were those going from house to house and subverting whole houses with false doctrine (v. 10-16). Are we to sit silently by, while they do this, without rebuking and admonishing people to avoid their teaching? No, the faithful servant of the Lord is to be “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers ” (Titus 1:9).

    We are to have NO FELLOWSHIP with them. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them ” (Eph. 5:11). Reprove means to censure, condemn, find fault, rebuke, and to refute. How can we obey this Scripture unless we try them by the Word of God?

    We are to WITHDRAW from them. “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye received of us ” (II Thess. 3:6). We are to withdraw from those whose doctrine and conduct does not conform to the Word of God. The context clearly shows that obedience to sound doctrine is what Paul has in mind, for he says, “if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet, count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (II Thess. 3:14-15). Paul admonished Timothy to “withdraw thyself ” from those who “consent not to wholesome words … and to the doctrine which is according to godliness ” (I Tim. 6:3-5).

    We are to TURN AWAY from them. Concerning the last days, he says that some will have “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. from such turn away” for such people are “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (11 Tim. 3:5,7). How can we turn away from them if we do not identify them, and this requires that their message be compared to the Word of God. It is the business of the true preacher to: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine ” (II Tim. 4:2). This is usually an unpopular and thankless task but it is the duty of the God-called man.

    We are NOT to RECEIVE them into our house. “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds ” (11 John 10, I 1). There is no doubt about who John is speaking about, it is ” Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ… ” (v.9). By radio, TV, music and literature, false prophets are brought into the homes of many Christians today. Brethren, this ought not to be!

    We are to REJECT HERETICS. “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject ” (Titus 3: 10). We should reject those who deny redemption by the blood of Christ. There are many who deny this or some other doctrine of the Word of God. If they will not respond to being admonished, then they are to be rejected.

    We are to look out for those who preach another gospel. Paul warned about those who preached “another Jesus … another spirit … or another gospel” (II Cor. 11:4). How can we know them unless we judge their Jesus, their spirit, and their gospel by the Word of God? Paul called such preachers “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (11 Cor. II: 13). He explains in v. 14-15 that these preachers are the ministers of Satan. The God-called man must be just as faithful today in exposing the ministers of Satan.

    Paul warned the Galatians about those who “pervert the gospel of Christ.” He also said, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (See Gal. 1:6-9).

    We are to SEPARATE from them. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no the unclean thing; and I will receive you ” (II Cor. 6:17). This makes it plain. God’s people are to come out of apostasy and religious error.

    If we are called to confront false teachings and false teachers we should prepare ourselves for the repercussions of the enemy (Satan). We should also examine ourselves often, that we don’t fall into some temptation, also. And we should have many praying for us that we have God’s protection at all times.

    Finally, I want you to know, Manny, that your writing, your blog sites and web sites have been a great help and encouragement to me. I have been through a tough time dealing with these matters as they have affected me and my family. I am not sure how I would have proceeded had I not found Concerned Christians, Concerned Nazarenes and your dedication to revealing the tactics of these latter day apostatsies.

    Thank you.

  3. So hard because of the authority of our leaders in the church, should we follow a specific way when dealing with them? I find it interesting to look at what the Bereans did in Acts when confronted with true teaching, they still searched the scriptures to see if the teaching was sound. Now, what this means I don’t know for how to confront? Still, Luke (who wrote Acts) was aware they did this. This means they must have been open and honest and shared their information. They were commended.

  4. According to the Scripture, false teachings/teachers are to be confronted with their errors, using scripture to back up the Biblical position (not MY position). One of the critical references is in the book of Ezekial, that we are to be “watchmen”, warning others of false teachings. If we do, whatever they do with the truth becomes their own responsibility. If we do not warn others, God holds us accountable. I could elaborate on the issue, but feel that this is essentially the bottom line. And I feel that this is what you (Manny) are doing – giving us the truth and warning us against false, deceptive doctrine. Margerete Gilroy

  5. There is no such thing as a perfect church: history and Scripture both show us this. We will always have people among us who have incorrect beliefs regarding the Bible.

    However, when that error begins to proceed from the pulpit, we have a problem.

    Paul exhorts Timothy to not rebuke elders, but to entreat them as fathers. That principle should apply to pastors in general; it needs to be done in a gentle and meek spirit (something that I confess I’ve sinned in myself), but it needs to be done in a bold spirit. If we really believe we have error coming from the pulpit or leadership, it needs to be really addressed, and held up to the word of God for examination-and I mean the WHOLE word of God.

    The one thing to NOT do is gossip. To simply complain about the problem behind the backs of the church leadership without coming to the leadership about it is not right. When there were concerns about the Emergent church, doctrinal weakening in the denomination, and evolution in the church I attend, I brought it up to the pastor. While I’m not completely satisfied with his answer about the matters (and the former matter in particular), at least I know that I did my part in bringing it up (For what it’s worth, he passed the items on to the church board, but I’ve no idea whether or not they’ve done anything with the information).

    As a friend of mine once said, “I’m not saying anything about you that I haven’t said to you.” We need to deal with the people in question first, and do so Biblically.

    And of course, we need to do it prayerfully as well. To do any endeavor without God or outside of His will is foolishness.

    BTW, just as an aside to the first poster (Lynn Blakely), I would seriously reconsider including Charles Finney as a good Christian to read about. Finney denied Original Sin and Total Depravity as well as the substitionary atonement of Christ.

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