By Pastor Geoff Kragen
Joan: "The Reverend I. M. Wright says you have to be baptized in a 'Son Solar Hot Tub' at his church, The 'First Real Church,' to be saved. John, how can you believe this stuff?"
John: "That specific teaching doesn't really matter. Rev. Wright loves the Lord. He is doing is best. You're just being judgmental. After all, Jesus said: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matthew 7:1). What really matters is that the Reverend is sincere, not if he's right."
Haven't you hear this before? It seems that every time we try to question some teaching or other we are told we are being judgmental. Then Matthew 7:1 is thrown at us as the proof that we aren't to question this teaching.
The problem is:
First, this passage is not a requirement to abstain from testing someone's teaching. The command is to avoid a judgmental or critical spirit. We are to be loving in our relationships with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Second, scripture clearly teaches that we are to test teachings, to judge them. If someone teaches something contrary to scripture, we are not only to judge it, but we are to reject it.
This issue of Morning Star deals with aberrant teaching. One of the reasons this is such a serious problem within the church is the false view that to question teachings is somehow judgmental.--And Christians are never to judge.
There are some basic principles on the using the Word and the testing teachings. In the Old Testament, God established requirements for confirming the words of the prophets. "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die." The LORD said to me: "What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.
But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death." You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.
Do not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:15-22). Not only did God require that the prophet prove his words, but failure to do so would bring result in the death penalty. The Israelites were called to judge.
In the New Testament, we find an example of individuals who judged the teachings of Paul and Silas. "As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men" (Acts 17:10-12).
Following the Old Testament injunction, these people made sure that what Paul taught agreed with Scripture. Obviously, if they had found it didn't, they would have rejected Paul and his teachings. The people of Berea judged.
Next, we see the Apostle John requires that believers test the basic teachings of anyone purporting to speak for God. In 2 John 1:7-11 he says: "Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully.
Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work" Now, this passage specifically relates to teachings on the incarnation and the nature of Christ. But the general principle requires that we judge the words of a teacher, and reject him and his words if they are heretical. Even if his teaching is judged wrong, but is not heretical, we must reject it. WE MUST JUDGE!
If believers would hold to this truth, then many contemporary teachers, who teach we are all gods and other heretical views would be rejected out of hand. This would be the case, regardless of their sincerity or the "success" of their ministries. Some set dates for Christ's return in direct disobedience to scripture. Others propagate different aberrant teachings. So, their teachings should be rejected regardless of their sincerity or the "success" of their ministries. Christians can be lazy. It takes effort to be a Berean, to test men's teachings against the scripture. And this call to test includes testing the words of your pastor or Sunday school teacher.
We are responsible before God for an accurate understanding of His word. He holds us to that because He provides the Holy Spirit to give us that understanding. "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him" (1 John 2:27).
I find it sad that frequently those who have a significant awareness of the ministry of the Holy Spirit are also those who are easily misled by aberrant doctrines and misguided teachers.
In Ephesian Paul talks about the importance of teachers and sound teaching. He notes that knowledge is vital in maturing in our walk. Then he identifies the dangers when lack of knowledge and inadequate teaching is prevalent. "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:10-15). Notice that where truth is given out in love, that we do not fall prey to false teachers and "fad" doctrines.
This again requires that we test the teacher. WE MUST JUDGE!
John states that it does matter what a person teaches. If someone rejects the basic tenets of orthodox, biblical, Christianity, he comes in the spirit of Antichrist. "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world" (1 John 4:1-3). Both the false teacher and his teachings need to be rejected. WE MUST JUDGE!
The church suffers from much aberrant teaching. If we would hold to the requirement of scripture for testing the words of men against the standard of the Bible, we would not have this problem. The touchstone for truth is God's word. And all of us as individuals are responsible to hold to His word. We must reject all that is false or poor regardless of its source or the sincerity of its proponents.
Let us resolve to cleanse the sanctuary of the false teachings of men, lifting up the truths of scripture. "Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn your commands. May those who fear you rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word. I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law is my delight. May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts. May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your statutes. May my heart be blameless toward your decrees, that I may not be put to shame." (Psalm 119:73-80).