Preaching Error With Assurance

by Mike Ratliff

Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV)

God is not the author of confusion. His truth is clear and discernable by the regenerate heart. On the other hand, our enemy, being the source of lies and deception, must create a climate in which what his false teachers expound is disguised as the truth and there will be attempts by those defending these false teachings to demand tolerance so that their error will not be open to detailed scrutiny. It is all a paradigm of smoke and mirrors. For instance, in this post, we see that Rob Bell teaches that it is wrong to use the Bible as our plumb line, our standard of truth. Whenever any of us address these things he says, out come his defenders with their smoke and mirrors attempting to redirect the focus from Bell to those demanding that he be held to account as a false teacher. They call us divisive and all sorts of other things in their attempt to deflect our scrutiny. Then in this post, we see what this sort of error causes. The Church must withstand false teachers. Just because they preach with assurance does not mean they are right and that the source of what they are teaching is from God. 

The more I dig into these things the more God keeps bringing to my mind a statement I hear quite often from those unrepentant in their error when confronted with the truth from God’s Word. They say, “Well, I don’t believe it!” The standard for truth then becomes what they believe to be true rather than what God says is the truth. Christians are not immune from this my brethren. That is why we are commanded to stay immersed in God Word and be transformed through the renewal of our minds by that (Romans 12:2). As I backed out of my driveway this morning on the way to work, I heard the last couple of minutes of “Through the Bible Radio” with J. Vernon McGee. I do not listen to him very often, but occasionally he says something piercing that God uses to get my attention. In today’s broadcast, he was introducing Paul’s first epistle to Timothy. When he contrasted 1 Timothy 1:5 with vv6-7 God got my attention. J. Vernon McGee has been dead a long time, but they still play his radio show on Bott Radio. He recorded most of these shows over 20-25 years ago, but in his examples of the growing apostasy in the Church, we see a reflection or our own time. In any case, he read vv6-7 then made the comment that these false teachers were preaching their error with assurance. That was when I thought of the adamant claims of men such as Rob Bell and the other emergent leaders that what they preach is just as true if not more so than what the Bible says. Now, let’s look at 1 Timothy 1:3-7 in greater detail.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. (1 Timothy 1:1-4 ESV)

Paul had urged Timothy to remain at Ephesus. Why? It was so “he may charge”  (παραγγειλης) certain persons not to continue to teach error. This Greek word refers to one making an announcement or one giving a word, an order, charge, or command. Paul is using Timothy to deliver a command to these people to “not” (μη) “teach any different doctrine” (ετεροδιδασκαλειν). We have looked at this word before. Paul was telling Timothy to command these people to not teach doctrines different that what he taught. He also included a command to not devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies because all this does is create an atmosphere of speculation rather than one that promotes the proper stewardship from God that is by faith. Rob Bell is very big on teaching that it is wrong to be set in God’s Word as truth concretely. He teaches that the best way to know God is by believing that no one can know the truth because it is all a mystery. Well, Paul sure did not teach anything like that. He taught clear doctrines that he expected the Church to know, grasp, and live by in all they did. Notice what happens when the teaching atmosphere is speculative rather than clear and precise. It leads the people away from walking before the face of God by faith.

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5 ESV)

The word charge (παραγγελιας) in v5 is closely related to παραγγειλης. The difference is in emphasis. The word used in v3, παραγγειλης, is simply a charge or command, but here in v5 Paul uses παραγγελιας, which is a command based on his apostolic authority. This charge based on this authority is what? It is that those in the Church love (αγαπη) one another with a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (αγαθης). What a contrast to what the false teachers were stirring up! These false teachers caused the opposite of this. The reason this is vital in the Church is that this love Paul is speaking of, αγαπη, has as its source only the internal, Holy Spirit-worked changes that have produced a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. The contrast to each of these is from the counterfeit doctrines that come from all false teachers. Instead of a pure heart, false teaching creates an environment that promotes sinful desires. Instead of a good conscience, those subjected to these false teachings find themselves laden with guilt. Instead of having a sincere faith, they have pretense and hypocrisy. The counterfeit teachings cannot be the source of what the spirit produces in the hearts of God’s people. Instead, it only causes outcomes that are flesh based.

Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV)

What was the cause of these false teachers’ apostasy? By swerving from (αστοχησαντες) the apostolic command to love one another from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith, they have wandered away (εξετραπησαν) into error (ματαιολογιαν). The word Paul used here that is translated as “by swerving,” αστοχησαντες, describes a deviation from the truth resulting in missing the mark. This is an aorist tense participle in active voice. All that means is that it describes simple action that has taken place prior to the action of the main verb, which is “wandered away” or εξετραπησαν. This word describes a deliberate turning aside from the main way. Because these false teachers have swerved aside from the apostolic command to love another in the Spirit they have wandered off the main path into error. The word translated “error” here, ματαιολογιαν, describes random talk that is nothing but babble in the form of vain jangling. In other words, false doctrines or false teachings cannot hold a candle to the authoritative pure doctrines of God that produce Holy Spirit-worked changes in God’s people. All they produce is vain jangling that leads to confusion.

My brethren, I did not write this to be mean-spirited towards those people who are obviously teaching what is contrary to the pure truth of God’s Word. No, I pray that these people will be pierced through with the grace of God to repentance and conformity to the pure doctrines given to us in God’s Word. However, if this does not happen then what we have is another promise by our Lord for them.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

Soli Deo Gloria!


καθως παρεκαλεσα σε προσμειναι εν εφεσω πορευομενος εις μακεδονιαν ινα παραγγειλης τισιν μη ετεροδιδασκαλειν  μηδε προσεχειν μυθοις και γενεαλογιαις απεραντοις αιτινες εκζητησεις παρεχουσιν μαλλον η οικονομιαν θεου την εν πιστει  το δε τελος της παραγγελιας εστιν αγαπη εκ καθαρας καρδιας και συνειδησεως αγαθης και πιστεως ανυποκριτου  ων τινες αστοχησαντες εξετραπησαν εις ματαιολογιαν  θελοντες ειναι νομοδιδασκαλοι μη νοουντες μητε α λεγουσιν μητε περι τινων διαβεβαιουνται (1 Timothy 1:3-7 WHNU)

9 thoughts on “Preaching Error With Assurance

  1. Mike,
    This is from Apprising Ministries…
    “I think that it is so important to know this. In a time like this of tolerance, listen, false teaching will always cry intolerance. It will always say you are being divisive, you are being unloving, you are being ungracious, because it can only survive when it doesn’t get scrutinized. So it cries against any intolerance. It cries against any examination, any scrutiny—just let’s embrace each other; let’s love each other; let’s put all that behind us.

    False doctrine cries the loudest about unity. Listen carefully when you hear the cry for unity, because it may be the cover of false doctrine encroaching. If ever we should follow 1 Thessalonians 5, and examine everything carefully, it’s when somebody is crying unity, love, and acceptance.” – John MacArthur
    Keep fighting the good fight brother


  2. Pingback: Preaching Error with Assurance « Defending. Contending.

  3. Brother Mike, there must be divisions to see those whom are truly disciples of Our Lord Jesus and those who are just professors.
    1 Corinthians 11:19
    King James Bible
    For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you


  4. Hi Mike,
    I think when Rob Bell teaches that the best way to know God is by believing that no one can know the truth because it is all a mystery is really saying this: God is this grand mystery=anything goes=freedom to sin. Don’t you think it is really all about self idolatry? Seems clear to me, anyway.
    Obviously, Jesus’ statement about Himself that He is the Way, Truth and Life should make one tremble with reverential fear of our Lord. I pray for him that he would see his error and that God will show him the truth as only He can.
    Have a blessed day!


  5. Amen, so true. It’s amazing how much false doctrine is out there. When you study church history, it’s just the same repackaged errors over and over again. Many who are falling into false doctrine and are advocating/defending it, are really professing Christians who were never regenerate in the first place. That’s why it is so important to be diligent in presenting/defending the true Gospel to the unregenerate whether they accept it or not. Great job once again Mike.


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