by Mike Ratliff
There is a myth in our time that has deceived untold numbers of professing Christians. The deceived have believed the lie that Christians are not to confront and rebuke false teachers nor preach or teach anything that has the potential to cause division within the visible Church. The visible Church contains the churches we see all across this globe. This would include denominations and local churches and ministries that we can see visually and of which we can partake. The invisible Church is made up of the elect. This is the true Church of genuine believers. It is within the visible Church. Therefore, the visible Church contains both genuine believers and professing believers who are not genuine.
Someone confronted me not long ago about what we do in exposing the false prophets and their false doctrines. The verses that were quoted to me that was intended to rebuke me and show that it is wrong to do this was actually spoken by the Lord Jesus.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 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.” (Matthew 18:15-17 ESV)
This passage is addressed to believers who have a brother or sister in Christ who sins against them. Our Lord describes how we are to confront the one who has sinned that they may hear the truth and repent. I have actually been part of Church Discipline where we applied this passage to a man who refused to repent and return to his family from an adulterous relationship. This has nothing to do with dealing with false prophets and their false teachings. Instead, those who have been given the ministry of discernment are to apply passages such as this one.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV)
True biblical discernment is sadly lacking in our day. There are so many false teachers out there teaching things people want to hear in order to assuage their itching ears, that we must be very careful and discerning in order to avoid their poison. We are to never despise preaching, but we are to examine everything.
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22 ESV)
The Greek word used here that is translated a ‘prophecies’ is προφητεία or prophēteia. This word refers to the spoken revelation from God (Acts 11:27) or the written word of Scritpure (Matthew 13:14; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Revelation 1:3; 22:7, 10, 18, 19). These ‘prophecies’ Paul is referring to in v20 are authoritative messages from God through a well-recognized spokesman for God. Because these messages are from God then they are not to be treated lightly. Therefore, when one preaches to a body of believers we are not to just believe everything we hear, but receive what is said with great seriousness and test it all. This is the careful examination utilizing biblical discernment. When we do this we will never discount what is quoted from God’s Word, but we must examine how it used in the teaching along with its context in the message. When we discern that what is preached is correct and edifying then we rejoice and hold fast to it because it is good. However, if the preacher or teacher is misusing scripture then we must confront, rebuke, and expose because what is being taught is evil from which we must abstain.
The Greek word used here for ‘abstain’ is ἀπέχομαι or apechomai. It literally means ‘to keep oneself from or to refrain from’ the object of the sentence, which in this case is the evil of false prophecies. The myth of non-confrontation in order to preserve unity would tell us here to just keep quiet and let God deal with them. Well, He will deal with them eventually, but we are also told in God’s Word that we are to use the discernment and wisdom given to us to be salt and light. We must tell the truth to the body of Christ to show what is true and what is false. This will never be popular with the majority and will always be looked upon as Politically Incorrect.
The elect, the invisible Church, has the role of presenting the true Church to the visible Church. We are to preach the truth. We are to preach the Word in season and out of season. We are to stand firm and never compromise with what is evil. The only true biblical unity is found in the invisible Church, the true Church. Only they are united in Christ. On the other hand, there is a tension that brings pressure to bear when what is true and of God is presented to the visible Church as God’s absolute truth. This is when we witness divisiveness, which can become quite ugly. However, we must never refrain from our obedience to God in being salt and light in this lost and dying world.
Therefore, when the false teachings of someone like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Tony Jones, or Brian McLaren are exposed to the body of Christ as we test what they teach against God’s absolute truth, we are being obedient to the command of God. Through this, He will preserve His Church and cleanse it of what is evil. We must also be alert to the fact that what we are doing will incur the wrath of our enemy and his seed. He is a liar and an expert deceiver. He has his people spinning lies disguised as prophecies in that they contain some truth, but these are coupled with teachings that tickle itching ears and will never result in their followers being edified or lead into the truth. Instead, they produce followers of men who have created another Jesus and another version of His truth, which is false.
Our goal in all of this is never for self-promotion or self-aggrandizement even though that is the accusation from many of those who hate what we do. If we attempt to do this from any motivation other than God’s glory and the edification of His Church then we will eventually find ourselves in a very ugly desperate place in which we will spend way too much time in self-defense. No, we must not do that. Instead, we must tell the truth with the proper motives, defending the faith, and honoring God. Then when the enemies of the truth attack, all they will be able to do is attack us personally because God’s truth is unassailable. Then we are to simply turn our defense over to God as we humbly endure our enemies’ wrath.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:10-16 ESV)
Political Correctness consists of compromise in order to preserve a false unity. That is not what we are called to do. Instead, we must be discerning as we confront, rebuke, and expose those who teach what is false because that is what God has commanded us to do.
Soli Deo Gloria!