The Apostle Paul’s words to the Galatian churches in Galatians 2:4 and 5 present us with information as to the proper way and urgency of dealing with false teachers and their “damnable heresies” (2 Peter 2:1). Far too often, when things contrary to “sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 1:10) creep into the church we want to “bury our heads in the sand” or “sweep the matter under the carpet” and hope no one sees the hump. However, neither of these actions actually represents dealing with the issue at hand. They are nothing more than an attempt to escape having to deal with an issue that may be difficult or emotional. Some elderships have learned well this tactic. Issue after issue confronts them, and repeatedly, they refuse to confront them head on. They are “tabled” for a later meeting or “put on hold” until they see what the outcome is going to be. It appears as if the mentality is, the importance of dealing with the error is not determined by the teaching’s opposition to clear Biblical teaching but by the amount of “backlash” that comes from what was taught. If they somehow manage to escape criticism, then it must not have been anything to be concerned with after all. How different from Paul’s attitude seen in the Galatian letter. He did not need “outside” criticism to “prod” him into doing what needed to be done to protect the souls of those in Galatia. Because of his love for the truth and for the Galatian brethren, he was unwilling to give the false teachers “an hour” of free reign. He sought to see “that the truth of the gospel might continue with” the Galatians. Can you imagine what would have happened had Paul failed to take action like so many do today? Much like his handling of the problems at Corinth, once he was aware of them, he set out to refute them before they had disastrous results on the church. What a wonderful example for us!

Life experiences often teach us valuable lessons that we use when confronted with matters of importance in the future. For example, as a child we get a splinter in our finger. We leave it alone, because it is going to “hurt” to dig it out. We cry if mom even hints at removing it. However, a day or so later the infection sets in. Now, no matter how much it hurts, it has to go. Clearly, a valuable lesson learned! The Doctor informs us that we have cancer, and we are devastated by the news! Against the advice of the doctors we put off treatment, hoping the cancer will go away on its own. We have talked to others who went through the treatment suggested and learned how “sick we will get”. It does not sound like “fun”. So, let’s just “wait and see what happens”. A few months later, we learn the cancer has spread. Now the treatment and surgery needed to cure our disease is more evasive and radical than what was required earlier on. We “bite the bullet” and go through it all hoping we did not wait too long. Once again, another valuable lesson learned!

Job one for shepherds (elders) over “God’s heritage” (1 Peter 1:3) is to provide the spiritual oversight necessary to protect the flock from the “grievous wolves” that will “enter in among” them “not sparing” them (Acts 20:28, 29). They have taken upon themselves the “work” (1 Timothy 3:1) of “watching for” the “souls” of God’s sheep (Hebrews 13:17). From the words of this inspired Scripture we see that whether they recognize it or not, shepherds “must give account” for those put under their watch and care. Because of this, a cavalier attitude must never be taken when it comes to dealing with those who would come bringing teachings that are in contradiction to God’s Word. Shepherds need to move, and move decisively and quickly to protect the sheep. One lost sheep, due to a failure to do so, will be on the “heads” of those shepherds who failed to do their job.

Jesus contrasted the shepherd and the hireling as He emphasized His work as “the good shepherd” (John 10:1-18). In doing so, He pointed out that the “hireling”, “flees” when he sees “the wolf coming. . .because he is a hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” In name only “shepherds”, who look like and act as if they are hirelings, are just that. They have stopped caring for the sheep, and it is seen by their failure to properly protect them. These “shepherds” have “sold out” for whatever reason. They have stopped doing what they “signed on to do” when they took on the “work” of the shepherd. And they will be judged accordingly.

Sin had come in amongst the members of the church at Corinth. The Apostle Paul pointed to the grievous nature of the transgression that was “reported commonly among” them
(1 Corinthians 5:1). He, further, went on to condemn the church at Corinth due to their response to the sin of the fellow mentioned in verse 1. Paul accused them of being “puffed up” and having “not rather mourned” over the sins of the one previously mentioned (1 Corinthians 5:2). The words of Paul are a stinging rebuke directed at those who should not have had to be told to do what was right. His command to the church at Corinth, authorized by the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:4), was “to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:5). A similar rebuke is necessary today for those who refuse to handle similar matters in the church.

Paul went on to “argue” the point that, should they continue to allow this situation to remain, not only would those directly involved be affected, but also “the whole lump”, as the church could not escape being affected (1 Corinthians 5:6, 7). I admit I know little about baking. Nevertheless, I know one thing, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Whether good or bad, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” False practices or teachings cannot be allowed to remain in a congregation, no matter how small the amount that it begins with. As the splinter soon causes an infection, and as the cancer grows without treatment, so the allowance of false doctrine possesses the ability to destroy a once faithful congregation.

With all the New Testament Scriptures that speak to the need for the preservation of doctrinal soundness, how is it possible that those who are to be on the “front lines” for the protection of the flock are so easily persuaded to “look the other way” when certain people “cross the line”? The following passages of Scriptures have not changed since they were inspired by God nearly 2,000 years ago – Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15; 1 Timothy 6:5; Titus 3:10, 11. It is just as important today to root out those who lead the Lord’s people away from Him as it has ever been. The injunction given by John to “the elect lady and her children” (2 John 1, 9-11) remains as true and necessary as it was near the end of the first century. As congregation after congregation apostatizes, elders need to be willing to step up and “willingly” take “the oversight. . .being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2, 3). As has been said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” In other words, if those who are commissioned with the job of protecting the sheep won’t do it, they need to step down from that role.

Uncertain sounds are being heard throughout the brotherhood today. From those who clamor to associate us with the denominational world, to those who would pervert the worship of God, false teachers are making vast strides in subverting “whole houses, teaching things which they ought not” (Titus 1:11). The answer to the problem is not to overlook or dismiss it, or treat it as if it is not a problem after all. The answer is simple, “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). We must “speak” and practice “the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). If we are to speak, or if we are to allow another to speak, it must be “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). We must be willing to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) when people want to hear it and when they do not want to hear it. Anything less, is less than what God demands!