How can one tell the difference?
What is the difference between making a judgment against someone and discerning when a belief, teaching, etc is false and speaking out against it?
A common disclaimer I hear from people is “well, don’t speak against a person/ministry even if what they do/teach is wrong. God will take care of it. Just go on doing what you know is right.” I call this the head-in-sand response. This means: “If I ignore false teachings and false prophets, they will all just go away.” This is otherwise known as denial.
Did Paul say: “Hey, it’s ok. No congregation is perfect. Go on believing the false gospel that is leaking into your congregation. You’ll find heresy everywhere so no need to make a fuss over this.” Um, I think not. He was pretty direct in how he dealt with this issue…as you will see further below in the scripture references I have included at the bottom of this post.
But to answer my question above, I believe the difference between judging a person and dealing with a false teaching is this:
To judge a person is to attack their identity based upon their actions. To discern a false doctrine and call it out as such is to deal with the two separately. This allows one to bring loving correction, healing and restoration (Gal 6:1) to the person/ministry while eradicating the false teaching and exposing it for what it is. In other words, in dealing with a false teaching or doctrine, it’s important not to make harsh judgments of the PERSON who is in the deception. The person can come to repentance, be restored to truth and turn from that deception…but the deception is still just that, deception. It remains false. It cannot change. An erroneous teaching is just that and regardless of who buys into it, its validity as a doctrine is not based upon the one who believes it.
Take for an example a person with cancer. Is that person evil because they have a disease? Should they be hated and judged because they have cancer? Of course not. But will the cancer eventually destroy them if not removed? Yes. The properties of cancer are the same regardless of what person they have infected. Cancers are toxic, deadly and life-ending diseases that attack different systems within the body. They have measurable effects because they can be seen in the natural with medical equipment. False teachings and deceptions are internal cancers that are more elusive and more difficult to detect…thus requiring the discernment of the Spirit of God. The cancer is what must be removed in hopes of sparing the life of the person infected. The goal is to bring healing and freedom to the person by exposing the cancer that is eating them away inside…whether physically or spiritually.
As the verses below illustrate, there is judgment that comes upon those who buy into and teach false doctrines and lead others astray. But keep this in mind: the Father does not wish that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). So even his judgment is for the purpose of bringing them to freedom and wholeness. Spiritual chemotherapy can be painful.
So let’s take a closer look at how Scripture identifies false teachers and doctrines. Where is there documentation in the Word of those who spoke out against false teachers, doctrines, etc? Please don’t take my word for it. Go search it out.
What does God say about those who twist truth and teach and/or prophesy things that did not come from Him? What is HIS response? What did the apostles in the new covenant such as Paul, Timothy, etc say in response to false teachings that introduced a “new and higher gospel” than they had been preaching?
Here’s a starting point:
Zech 10:2–The idols speak deceit, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd. (vs 3) “My anger burns against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the LORD Almighty will care for his flock, the house of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle. (NIV)
Matthew 7 (Jesus’s warning)
15-”Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
16-By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
17-Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18-A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
19-Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20-Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (NIV)
Matt 24:10–At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, (v.11) and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. (NIV)
2 Cor 11:4–For if someone comes to you and tells you about some other Messiah than the one we told you about, or if you receive a spirit different from the one you received, or accept some so-called “good news” different from the Good News you already accepted, you bear with him well enough! (CJB)
2 Cor 11:13–For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Messiah. 14. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Colossians 2:18–Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.
1 Tim 6:3–If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4. he is conceited and understands nothing…(v 11) But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
1 John 4:1–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.
2 Peter 2–whole chapter
Feel free to continue researching this issue on your own. I pray that the eyes of your heart will continue to be enlightened to the truth of God’s Word and they He will lead your heart into freedom!