Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I Say, or Should I Go?

 

My family recently left a church that was embracing more and more New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine. However, we have many friends and family still attending. I’ve tried to lovingly point out that the church is teaching false doctrine, but I have been completely shut down. I don’t want to leave my loved ones where they are, but I feel they don’t want to see or hear the truth. They tell me they’ve searched the Scriptures and feel they are right. They also talk a lot about the feelings and experiences they have had and that, in their eyes, proves it’s God moving. My question is, how much should I engage with them? Should I just walk away and pray or keep talking with them about it?

It’s so heart-wrenching to love someone who blindly rejects the truth. We kind of “get it” on a spiritual level when that person is an atheist or just your run of the mill lost person, but if the person is a self-professed Christian – who is supposed to believe, love, and submit to God’s Word – it can seem especially baffling and difficult.

So how do we handle situations like this? Let’s back all the way up to the very foundation of the issue for those who haven’t yet faced this situation.

We have to start by making sure we have the correct understanding of what’s going on here. Every human being, whether he knows it or not, lives in two worlds: the physical world of everyday “real life” (tangible things, people, and decisions we consciously see,) and the spiritual world (where God moves and works and where demons try to thwart Him by stirring up chaos in the world) that we can’t see and that most people aren’t even aware of.

So the first thing we have to recognize in a situation like this, is that this is primarily a spiritual battle, rather than a tangible one. The fact that, in the physical realm, you clearly recognized the false doctrine in this church and acted upon that knowledge by leaving is the fruit of what God did in your heart in the spiritual realm. The things your loved ones have said to you and their decision to stay in an apostate church in the physical realm is the fruit of the fact that they are deceived, hard of heart, and probably unsaved, in the spiritual realm.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
1 Timothy 4:1-2

A spiritual realm problem requires a spiritual realm solution, and only God – not us – can effect true change in the spiritual realm. He must change the hearts of your loved ones. And until or unless He does, you can talk to them until you’re blue in the face and they will continue to dig their heels in.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
John 6:44a
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

So the number one thing you should be doing in this situation is to pray. Ask God to intervene and do the work in their hearts that only He can do. Ask Him to open their eyes. Ask Him to woo them toward studying His Word. Ask Him to save them if they aren’t saved.

And while you’re down there on your knees, pray for yourself and ask God to help you study hard to understand His Word about this situation, and to give you the wisdom to know when to speak up and when to keep silent. Because, while God is the One doing the work, He works through His Word, using instruments like you and me to accomplish His work, much like a doctor uses instruments to perform surgery.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
Ecclesiastes 3:1,7a

Once you’ve asked God to guide you and give you wisdom, believe His Word and trust Him to do so. If you’re with one of these loved ones, and the time seems right to say an appropriate, biblical word, take a second to get your demeanor and tone in order, and then say it.

But, as you’ve said, you’ve already tried to talk biblical sense into your loved ones and they have rejected it. Now what? Should you just walk away and pray, or keep talking with them about it? Yes. There’s actually room for both in situations like this. Let’s take a look at a few biblical passages:

And behold, a man came up to [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples…
Matthew 19:16-23a
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
1 Peter 3:1-2
If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
1 Corinthians 7:13-15

What do these passages have in common? They all help us to understand that:

  • not everybody we share the gospel with or impart biblical truth to is going to accept it.
  • we are under no obligation to chase people down or badger and nag them to death with biblical truth once we’ve shared it (and this may even do more harm to our cause than good).
  • it’s OK to share the truth and then back off for a while while, praying fervently, loving well, and setting a godly example.
  • it’s OK to let people to walk away from the truth once you’ve shared it.

It is perfectly OK to say to people who are hostile to the truth, “I love you and I’d like to share more of what the Bible says about this with you. If you’d ever like to talk more about it, just let me know. Now how about a piece of pie?”

And Jesus even goes further than that:

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Matthew 7:6

In Jesus’ day, dogs were not the cute little domesticated pooches we smooch on today. They were wild beasts more akin to a pack of coyotes or wolves. Pigs were the epitome of unclean animals and can be pretty violent when provoked. Jesus used these animals’ violence and uncleanness to represent lost people (regardless of whether or not they call themselves Christians) who respond in blasphemy, unbelief, and anger to the Pearl of Great Price. He’s saying that if you know a person has a history of acting this way and is likely to act this way again (e.g. Paul, prior to conversion), or if you’ve laid out biblical truth to someone and she responds with blasphemy, anger, and unbelief (e.g. your loved ones) it’s OK to climb out of the pig pen or the dog pound (or don’t get in there in the first place), take your pearls, and go home. God is demonstrating to you through this person’s behavior that He has not, at this particular time, softened this particular person’s heart to hear and receive what you’re saying. If He does soften that person’s heart in the future (as evidenced by her distinctly undoglike and unpiglike behavior) you can share the truth with her then.

Every person is different. Every situation is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when to engage and when to keep silent. And that’s actually a good thing. That keeps us in prayer, completely dependent on the Lord and His Word for guidance.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag, Social Media

The Mailbag: Contending for the Faith on Social Media

Originally published December 5, 2016

mailbag

 

I was wondering what your opinion is about using Facebook to correct false doctrine. Mostly what I do is post Scriptures, but every once in a while I may comment on something that is blatantly contrary to the Bible and I try to point to the appropriate Scriptures to show the truth. This mostly happens when a popular preacher or teacher that does not hold to sound doctrine posts something, or when a friend posts something that is clearly unbiblical.

This is such a great question that so many of us (including me!) struggle with. We love our friends and don’t want to see them believing something unbiblical (and spreading it around on social media) and it’s hard to just scroll past the blasphemy false teachers so often post without taking a stand for God’s word.

I readily admit I don’t have a perfect answer for this question. On the one hand, you want to protect your friends from error. On the other hand, there aren’t enough hours in the day to correct every single false teaching out there. And, if you try, people stop listening and you become ignorable background noise. Here are some of the principles I personally try to operate from on my personal (personal friends and family) social media pages. (I try to be consistent, but it doesn’t always work out that way):

  • Do keep in mind that – if it’s a matter of someone simply following a false teacher/ministry, not re-posting – people don’t always follow these accounts because they agree with them. Sometimes it’s to keep an eye on what the false teacher is teaching, to find out more about her doctrine because her materials are being introduced at church, etc. I follow two or three accounts on Twitter for reasons like that.
  • By and large, I don’t follow false teachers/ministries on social media. It just raises my blood pressure too much. So, for the most part, I don’t comment directly on false teachers’ posts because I don’t see them in my feed. If you do decide to comment, be sure you provide ample, in context Scripture passages to support what you’re saying, and comment in a patient, kind tone, not with histrionics, keeping in mind that most of the people who follow that false teacher are baby Christians, Christians who simply aren’t aware they’re being fed false doctrine, or false converts. Be aware that you’re almost certainly not going to change anyone’s mind, that people will verbally eviscerate you, and that the admin of the page will probably block and/or report you.
  • My main way of sharing biblical truth and discernment is to post about it on my own timeline. That way, the information is out there, yet direct confrontation is avoided.
  • When it comes to posting things on your own news feed, make sure you’re posting about good resources and teachers as well as warning about the bad. It’s not enough to get people away from bad teaching. They need somewhere to go for good teaching.
  • I have something of a “Golden Rule” policy about commenting on other people’s posts. I’ve had people comment on my discernment-type posts rebuking me and arguing with me for posting such things, as though they have some sort of right to dictate what I can and can’t post on my own page. That’s not right. People have the right to post what they want to post on their own page, and, while I’m not always perfect at it, I try to remember to respect that fact with others as I would want them to respect it with me. If what the person has posted concerns me for her soul, I will send her a private message. I operate on the assumption that people who claim to be Christians would want to know they’re posting something that’s in conflict with God’s word.
  • If someone’s post or comment makes me biblically angry, I try to remember to wait 24 hours before responding. I’ve found that helps me to calm down and respond more patiently and kindly. I’ve also found that sometimes my anger clouds my understanding of what the person actually meant. I have greater clarity the next day and can respond (or even refrain from responding) more appropriately.
  • There are two passages of Scripture I try to keep in mind when responding to people on social media about false teaching. The first is 2 Timothy 2:24-26. It reminds me of where that person might be coming from and how I am to comport myself:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

The second is Matthew 7:6:

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

The Bible is the final word of the holy God of the universe. What He says, goes, whether people believe it or not. It is stake in the ground, unalterable truth that needs no defense from us to pigs and dogs (not that everyone who posts false doctrine is a pig or dog- sometimes they’re just unaware). Sometimes the best response you can give on social media is to patiently lay down simple biblical truth in one comment and walk away, refusing to engage in debate, and trusting God to work on people’s hearts through His word.

  • Above all, pray. Pray for the false teacher/ministry you’re concerned about. Pray for the friend or loved one who’s re-posting false doctrine, that God will open her eyes to the truth. Pray about whether you should approach someone on social media, in which venue (comment, private message, etc.), and for wisdom to use the right words, tone, and Scriptures.

If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag, Top 10

Top 10 Mailbag Articles of 2019

I always enjoy the annual “year in review” articles and TV shows that run in abundance in late December, so I thought I’d contribute my own. Several Mailbag articles were among this year’s most popular, so I decided to make two separate lists. Check out my top 10 non-Mailbag articles of 2019 tomorrow. Here are my ten most popular Mailbag blog articles from 2019:

Vaxxers, Anti-Vaxxers, and the Health of the Body

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate? It’s a tough issue to discuss these days. 


Do You Recommend Angie Smith (“Seamless”)?

Wife of Todd Smith of the Christian music group, Selah, Angie started out as a blogger, then blossomed into a Christian author and speaker. Her best known book to date is a women’s study: Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story


Potpourri (Todd Friel on Rick Warren, Enneagram, Should I stay or should I go?…)

Todd says Rick isn’t a heretic?…Sharply, yet gently, rebuking false teachers…What is an Enneagram?…Books vs. interactions…Should I leave my women’s Bible study group?


BSF (Bible Study Fellowship)

While I totally support the idea of delving deeply into the Scriptures with other women, there are a few of aspects of BSF that concern me… 


Should My Church Participate in Operation Christmas Child’s Shoebox Ministry?

Should my church participate in Operation Christmas Child? What are some other good international ministries my church could participate in instead?


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 1

Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Lisa Harper, Karen Kingsbury, Rebekah Lyons, Raechel Myers, Shauna Niequist, Jennifer Rothschild, Susie Shellenberger, Sheila Walsh, Amanda Bible Williams

(After today, I’ll be retiring this article. Thanks to Project Breakdown, I have completed updated, individual articles on each of these teachers which you may access at the Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends tab at the top of this page, or by entering the teacher’s name in the search bar.)


Should Christians listen to “Reckless Love”?

Remember, everything we do should be governed by Scripture, not our opinions and preferences, or whether we happen to like a particular song or not…


Questions about the Open Letter to Beth Moore

Since the publication of the Open Letter to Beth Moore, several questions have arisen that I’d like to address…


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 3

Jill Briscoe, Lauren Chandler, Tony Evans, Rachel Hollis, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Brenda Leavenworth, Leslie Ludy, Bianca Olthoff, Wellspring Group, Jen Wilkin


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 2

Jennie Allen, Lisa Bevere, Rachel Held Evans, Heather Lindsey, Ann Graham Lotz, Kelly Minter, Nancy Leigh (DeMoss) Wolgemuth

(Project Breakdown begins on this list next!)


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Mailbag, Top 10

Top 10 Mailbag Articles of 2018

I always enjoy the annual “year in review” articles and TV shows that run in abundance in late December, so I thought I’d contribute my own. Several Mailbag articles were among this year’s most popular, so I decided to make two separate lists. Check out my top 10 non-Mailbag articles of 2018 tomorrow. Here are my ten most popular Mailbag blog articles from 2018:

Potpourri (Calvinism, Baptism, Modesty…)

LT calls Calvinism heresy…my views on baptism…Why isn’t 1 Timothy 2:9 emphasized as much as v. 12?…responding to a rude e-mail…


MLM-ing Essential Oils at Church

I don’t care how much of a go-getter saleswoman you are, there are some lines you just don’t cross. And I can’t believe I’m actually having to explain to grown up, adult people that you don’t go church hopping to make sales and recruit people to work for you…


False Doctrine in Contemporary Christian Music

Are there any CCM groups, artists, or songs I should avoid?
Can you recommend any specific doctrinally sound artists or groups?


What is the New Apostolic Reformation?

Since there’s no official NAR creed or statement of faith, beliefs and practices can vary from church to church, but, loosely speaking, the NAR takes the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) heresy and kicks it up a notch with outlandish “supernatural” manifestations, blasphemously attributed to the Holy Spirit…


BSF (Bible Study Fellowship)

While I totally support the idea of delving deeply into the Scriptures with other women, there are a few of aspects of BSF that concern me… 


Should Christians listen to “Reckless Love”?

Remember, everything we do should be governed by Scripture, not our opinions and preferences, or whether we happen to like a particular song or not…


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 1

Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Lisa Harper, Karen Kingsbury, Rebekah Lyons, Raechel Myers, Shauna Niequist, Jennifer Rothschild, Susie Shellenberger, Sheila Walsh, Amanda Bible Williams


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 3

Jill Briscoe, Lauren Chandler, Tony Evans, Rachel Hollis, Chrystal Evans Hurst, Brenda Leavenworth, Leslie Ludy, Bianca Olthoff, Wellspring Group, Jen Wilkin


Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 2

Jennie Allen, Lisa Bevere, Rachel Held Evans, Heather Lindsey, Ann Graham Lotz, Kelly Minter, Nancy Leigh (DeMoss) Wolgemuth


What did you think of Beth Moore’s “A Letter to My Brothers”?

If I had to sum up this article in one word, it would be “vague.” I have more questions than answers after reading it…What, specifically, is the church supposed to do in response to this nebulous accusation of misogyny?…


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

False Doctrine, False Teachers

Throwback Thursday ~ Can a False Teacher be a Christian?

Originally published December 4, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to read a fascinating and thought provoking Twitter discussion among some brothers in Christ about what constitutes a false teacher, and whether or not some false teachers might actually be genuinely regenerated Christians.

My working definition of a false teacher is someone who unrepentantly, despite biblical correction, consistently teaches, either implicitly, explicitly, or via his or her behavior, doctrine that is in direct conflict with clear cut Scripture.

It’s not a perfect definition, and I’m sure we can all think of exceptions, but that’s the general guideline I follow before referring to someone as a false teacher. But could someone who, despite correction, persists in teaching things and behaving in ways that contradict Scripture truly be a born again Christian?

Let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say:

Galatians 1:8-9

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

This passage is in reference to the Judaizers, who were preaching a false soteriology. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says twice, of such a teacher, “let him be accursed.” The Greek word anathema, translated “accursed,” means “devoting someone to destruction in eternal hell.”¹ Is this something the Holy Spirit would say about someone who is a Christian?

1 Timothy 4:1-3

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Verse 2 as well as the phrase “teachings of demons” would seem to indicate that at least some false teachers are not saved. I think it’s fair to say that someone who is a Christian would not be marked by the Holy Spirit as a liar, or someone whose conscience is seared, or someone whose teaching is demonic.

Also notice the false teachings mentioned in verse 3: the forbidding of marriage and the requirement to abstain from certain foods. Some would say that only deviant soteriology qualifies a person as a false teacher, but here the Holy Spirit says false teachings on marriage and food (what most would probably call secondary or even tertiary theological issues) are leading peple to “depart from the faith.” How can someone whose teachings lead people away from the faith not be considered a false teacher? Would someone who is genuinely born again knowingly teach things that lead people away from Christ?

2 Peter 2

Here, Peter gives us a twenty-two verse description of false teachers, their characteristics and their fate. He uses words like destruction, sensuality, greed, condemnation, willful, and blasphemous. Can you think of any passages of Scripture which describe believers with these sorts of words? Read 2 Peter 2 with Galatians 5:22-23, and the character and eternal destiny of believers in mind. Does it sound like Peter is talking about Christians or non-Christians?

1 John

The book of 1 John is practically a checklist for determining whether a person is saved or not. Does the teacher you’re listening to deny her sin (for example, preaching to men) and continue in it, or confess it and repent? (1:8-10) Does she keep God’s commands or walk in disobedience? (2:3-6) Does she hold to apostolic teaching (4:1-6) or leave it behind (2:19)? John draws a very clear line as to who is genuinely saved and who is not.

Jude 4, 18-19

For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ…[The apostles] said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

The whole book of Jude deals with false teachers, and can be read and compared with what we know to be true of believers as we did with 2 Peter 2. The false teachers described in Jude do not sound like they bear the characteristics of believers.

Verse 4 seems to deal with those who teach a false soteriology (“pervert the grace of our God” and “deny our only Master…) and says they are ungodly and designated for condemnation. Christians do not fall under condemnation. Verses 18-19, however, describe people who are scoffers, have ungodly passions, cause division in the church, and are worldly (all of which can fall under the umbrella of non-soteriological false teaching). Verse 19 says such people are “devoid of the Spirit.” Notice that “Spirit” is capitalized, which indicates the Holy Spirit. All born again believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Only non-Christians can properly be described as “devoid of the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 11:12-15

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

This passage describes false teachers who disguise themselves as “apostles of Christ” and “servants of righteousness.”  Verse 15 describes false teachers as servants of Satan. Their end (their eternity) will correspond to the fact that they serve Satan. Christians are defined as servants of Christ, not Satan, and they spend their eternities in Heaven, not hell.

Romans 16:17-18

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

While this passage does not specifically use the term “false teachers” it is clear that people who cause division, create obstacles contrary to sound doctrine, and deceive the naive, “do not serve our Lord Christ.” Christians, by the Bible’s own definition, are servants of Christ, and do not willfully or habitually deceive people, cause division, or create obstacles to sound doctrine.

2 John 9

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Does the teacher you’re listening to “abide” – live in, stay in, walk in – the teaching of Christ, or does she habitually deviate from, or “go on ahead” of it? This verse describes those who do not abide in the teaching of Christ as not having God. Christians are those who abide in the teaching of Christ.

Matthew 7:15-23

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

21 “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. 22 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?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

In the first section of this passage, Jesus says we will be able to recognize false teachers by their fruits. Does the teacher you’re following bear fruit in keeping with repentance? What about the trajectory of her life and teaching? Are her teachings, hermeneutics, affiliations, and behavior getting better and more biblical over time, or is she on a downhill slide? What about the fruit of her ministry? Is she producing genuine converts who grow to spiritual maturity, correctly handle and understand God’s word, share the gospel, and disciple others? Jesus says that diseased trees that don’t bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. That’s not imagery the Bible applies to Christians.

The second section of the passage makes it clear that there will be people in hell (non-Christians by definition) who looked every bit like Christian teachers to us on earth. They will do lots of Christiany looking things “in Jesus’ name,” but only those who do “the will of my [Jesus’] Father” are known by Christ (Christians). Are teachers who knowingly twist God’s word, even on secondary and tertiary theological issues, doing the will of the Father? What about those who deliberately walk in disobedience to His word in their own behavior or by their affiliation with those who teach another gospel? Christians are characterized by obedience to Christ and submission to His word.

Acts 18:24-28

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Aha! Here’s a false teacher who was a Christian! Or was he? Apollos is actually a great example of someone who was not a false teacher, yet was wrong, initially, in what he was teaching.

Look back at the Scripture reference: Acts 18. Apollos came along during the transition time between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church, which was in its infancy. The New Testament Scriptures, as we know them, didn’t exist for Apollos to study. There were no Christian seminaries to train him in the full gospel. What Apollos knew and taught was correct, but it was incomplete due to the era and circumstances in which he lived.

So, while Apollos taught inaccurate doctrine at first, he was categorized as a believer (as evidenced by verses 27-28 in which the brothers and disciples endorsed and encouraged him, and he was considered a great help to the church). Why? Because when Priscilla and Aquila took him aside and explained things to him accurately, he readily received correction and immediately began teaching the complete gospel correctly. Receiving correction and upholding and proclaiming the truth of the gospel are hallmarks of a Christian.

These are just a few of the Scriptures that deal with false teachers and false doctrine. All of them seem to at least lean toward calling unrepentant false teachers unbelievers. So the verdict is in, right? People who teach false doctrine are unsaved. Period. Case closed.

Nope. You and I don’t get to make that pronouncement (except in cases in which the person openly denies an imperative soteriological doctrine, such as the deity of Christ, the Trinity, etc. Then, we can agree with God’s word that the person is not saved). We sit on the jury. We look at the preponderance of the evidence. In certain cases we might even believe there’s evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular false teacher is an unbeliever. But, ultimately, it’s not our job to render the verdict or hand down the sentence. In this court system, that’s the job of the judge- God – the only One who can see into the person’s heart and know beyond a shadow of a doubt if he or she is saved.

Our job is to evaluate what we can see – the person’s behavior, writings, sermons, teachings, and conversation – and determine whether or not it aligns with Scripture. If it doesn’t – even if we personally believe the person is actually saved – those teachings, and the person who teaches them, have no place in our churches or personal study materials.

A large portion of the New Testament is dedicated to instructing us to stay away from false doctrine and those who teach it. Second Timothy 3:5 and Romans 16:17 say we are to “avoid such people.” First Corinthians 5:9-13, speaking about unrepentant sinners who call themselves believers, says that we are to judge those in the church, and we are “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty…not even to eat with such a one.” Second John 10-11 goes so far as to say, “do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

The bottom line is, it’s up to God to say whether or not someone is saved. It’s up to us to prayerfully and biblically determine whether or not her teachings match up with Scripture – regardless of our opinion about her salvation – and, if not, remove those teachings from our churches and our study of God’s word.


1. MacArthur Study Bible, ESV translation, notes on Galatians 1:8, p. 1741.