Attitudes toward false teachers vary. Some people are more concerned about hurting the feelings of those “ravening wolves” which are devouring the flock of God than they are with protecting the precious bride of Christ from being ravaged. Some have come to believe that more good can be accomplished by being irenic toward those who teach false doctrine and lead astray God’s elect than by marking “those that cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned” (Romans 16:17). Some would be afraid to suggest that any today have “concerning the faith made shipwreck” (I Timothy 1:19). To suggest such would be too harsh and/or too unloving. The possibility of dealing with false teachers by delivering them to Satan would be unthinkable to many who want to bring back those blasphemers with a disposition of sugary sweetness. Yet, in the New Testament we have the example of Paul’s dealing with Hymenaeus and Alexander to compare with the sweet-spirited approach common today. To suggest that a false teacher’s words “will eat as doth a canker (cancer, NKJV)” would be too strong and too bold to even contemplate uttering, but Paul stated these very ideas regarding Hymenaeus and Philetus (II Timothy 2:17). On another occasion Paul referred to those who taught damnable doctrines as “dogs” and “evil workers.” Paul was so bold as to shock our “civility” by saying “beware” of these dogs and evil workers. How inconsiderate; how unloving!!?
Concerning the Cretians, Paul stated emphatically that they were “liars, evil beasts, idle gluttons” (ASV). Before someone says that Paul did not say this but someone who was a prophet among the Cretians said it, it should be remembered that Paul said “this witness is true” (Titus 1:12-13). Also notice carefully that Paul’s next words of inspiration were, “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). What is meant by “rebuke them sharply”? It does not mean smile and tell them that everything is fine and that there are no problems with what they are doing and teaching! These comments written on this verse are helpful: “Titus should ‘expose,’ should ‘unmask,’ the false teachers and should do it ‘severely.’...Titus must not be content if the false teachers merely soft-pedal their doctrines. They must completely abandon them. There must be a clean cut, a severance....It involved something like a surgical operation. The gangrenous limb must be severed (cf. II Timothy 2:17)” (Commentary on I and II Timothy and Titus, by Ronald A. Ward, page 246). This sounds too severe for some of our irenic brethren who do not want to upset especially false teachers by being too blunt, too harsh, or too direct. It must be kept in mind, however, that Paul’s words were inspired of the Holy Spirit – had the approval of God; it must be observed that Paul was not unloving and unkind; it needs to be noticed that the “irenic spirit” that is so popular among some brethren is NOT the attitude of Paul and others in the New Testament. The irenic approach advocated today by many will not halt false teaching, will not diminish the influence of such teachers, and will not enable the salvation of the false teachers and those under their influence. It should be noted that Paul’s treatment of these false teachers was designed so “that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13b). Can we believe that the “sweet” treatment being presently advocated by some will bring the same result as the divinely authorized approach? Absolutely not!
According to I Peter 2:21, Jesus is to be our example and we are to follow in His steps. In Matthew 23 our Savior referred to the false teachers as “hypocrites” several times, He called them children of hell, He spoke of them as “blind guides,” He described them as being like tombs that had been white-washed on the outside but were full of dead men’s bones, He stated that they were “children of those who killed the prophets” meaning that they were of the same mindset and attitude, and called them “serpents” and a “generation of vipers.” He then posed the pointed question, “How can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Our Lord’s words were clear, plain, bold, direct, blunt, and TRUE.
Should we have a more conciliatory approach toward those that destroy precious souls with their false doctrines? Should we ignore the seriousness of their crimes and try to downplay the harm that is being done by those who make shipwreck the faith of many by their damnable heresies? Should we not follow the example of Jesus? Of Paul? Should we act as if the teaching of lies (the commandments of men) does not really matter? Shall we just look the other way when our Lord’s bride the church is being attacked and destroyed by the cohorts of the “roaring lion” which “walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Shall we all agree to use only “sweet words,” and just hug each other and act as if any deviation from God’s Word is just a friendly difference of opinion without any real significance? I think not!
We as Christians are engaged in a warfare with the devil and the forces of evil (Ephesians 6). Many times those who are messengers of evil pretend to be messengers of righteousness (truth) (II Corinthians 11:15). We must be aware of the devices (ways) of the devil (II Corinthians 2:11). If the devil can convince us that soft-soaping error and soft-pedaling false teachers is the loving thing to do, much harm will come to the body of Christ and the souls of many will be lost! Remember, it was the same apostle Paul who wrote, “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Paul did not violate his own inspired instructions when he exposed sharply those false teachers we have noted above. Jesus did not violate that which the Holy Spirit revealed to Paul in Ephesians 4:15. Could it be that the concept of the “loving thing to do” that many brethren have today is not really the loving thing to do? Surely this is the case! Let’s follow Jesus! Let’s expose every false way and mark every false teacher! Let’s be clear whose side we are on!