Our last Blog article addressed the question of “What Should Be Our Attitude Toward Error?”  In this article, we want to go a step further and give some thought to those who teach error and determine what our attitude toward them should be. As Christians, we can expect to encounter false doctrine and false teachers.  If truth exists, and it does, error can also exist.  It is evident that grave problems are present for the church and for salvation when false doctrine is taught by brethren.  False teachings are evident in history and present in the church of the 21st century.

In view of such, we are confronted not only with the teachings, but with the problem of what we are to do with those who teach error. The reality is those who have veered off the straight and narrow path of truth, embrace and teach error, are often those who are our friends or loved ones.

This presents us with an emotional issue. What are we to do? In this article, we want to give some thought to this matter.

WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?When we consider this question, we see that false doctrines destroy (Galatians 2:4), while the truth saves (John 8:32).  As Jesus taught, the blind lead the blind (Matthew 15:14).  Jesus gave numerous clear and to the point warnings concerning the presence of false teachers (Matthew 15:9; 16:6, 11, 12).  When we consider such teaching, we must acknowledge the fact that there is no doubt; God hates every false way (Psalm 119:104).  The Apostle Paul, by inspiration, warned the Galatians concerning the Judaizing teachers and any others who would pervert the gospel (Galatians 1:8, 9).  Surely, none among us would say that false doctrine is good, but some seem to think that the teaching of such makes little difference in the end.  The truth is, though, as the Apostle Paul taught the Corinthian and Galatian brethren, “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (l Corinthians 5:6, 7; Galatians 5:9).  Here, the use of leaven was done in the sense that there is a clear negative result that comes from the “leaven” of false doctrine or practice.

HOW THE CHURCH GETS INVOLVED WITH ERROR, DIGRESSION, AND APOSTASYThis problem comes from mixing truth with error.  As it was with the Galatian brethren, many members of the church are easily deceived today (Galatians 3:1). Liberalism comes into the church one step at a time and not all at once.  If it were to present itself in its fullness at the very beginning of its attempted entrance into the local congregation, most would raise up in opposition.  But when it comes into the local congregation one small step at a time, we find ourselves engulfed in it before we recognize what has happened.

 The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy of “some” who would depart from the truth (1 Timothy 4:1) while Peter wrote of “many” who would follow the “pernicious (malicious) ways” of the false teacher (2 Peter 2:1, 2).  History has shown how that many are lead away by the magnetism of personalities, friends,  family, marriages, and children.  When looking at the Old Testament, we see that Israel was misled by their peers, the false prophets, princes, priests, and people.  As it was in the first century, many in the present century have “slipped” or “drifted” away from the truth (Hebrews 2:1).  The English Standard Version’s rendering of this passage is revealing, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”  The word  “slip” or “drift” (pararheo) is interesting in the fact that it speaks of one that finds himself “flowing or passing by, without giving due heed to a thing” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 341).  This is an excellent description of so many today that are simply “drifting along,” paying no attention to the truth like a twig floating downstream with no concern as to where it is going.

WHEN CONFRONTED WITH THE PROBLEM OF FALSE TEACHERS, WHAT IS THE RIGHT ATTITUDE AND ACTION TO BE TAKEN?  First, we need to attempt to correct the error, recover the one in error, and show love by rebuke (Galatians 6:1).  Like the Apostle Paul, we should never compromise, or “go along to get along” (Galatians 2:4, 5).  When considering our response to such individuals, we must be careful to not confuse cowardice with love.  It is never a sign of love of the brethren if we compromise on the truth!

Secondly, we must honestly seek to prove all things by the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  God’s Word has been given to us for that purpose, which is why we are encouraged to study it so as to be “approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15).  We need to continue to follow the “advice” given by the Apostle John to “try the spirits” to see “whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1).  Additionally, we must understand that God will hold us accountable for this (John 12:48).

Thirdly, we need to give careful consideration to such passages as 2 John 9-11 and Ephesians 5:11.  If Aquila and Priscilla had possessed the same attitude toward error that some do today, Apollos would never have been corrected (Acts 18:24-26). Instead, we might read where they said to Apollos, “Let’s just agree to disagree.”  

We need to be careful to not accept error because some good is mixed in.  Would we drink a cola mixed with one percent poison?  Of course not, even though it is 99% pure cola!  We need attitudes and actions like John the Baptist, Paul, and Christ who all stood firm when it came to the truth and the defense of it!

WE MUST ACKNOWLEDGE THAT NOT ALL IN ERROR ARE EMBRACING SUCH AS THE RESULT OF DISHONESTY Someone has said, “Oh, for an honest false teacher.”  Well, we have a couple examples of such in the New Testament.  For example, Saul of Tarsus was honest (Acts 23:1), yet wrong, as was Apollos as noted above.  There is no way that we can accuse either of these men of dishonesty in how they conducted themselves before their conversion.  The same would be true of some today that are in need of additional teaching to correct the error they embrace.  Our attitude toward the honest but mistaken must allow for growth, time to repent, and opportunity for us to teach them “the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26).  But the time may come when we must turn from them because of their unwillingness to accept the truth (Romans 16:17, 18; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Titus 3:10, 11). If that time comes, then we must be willing to do so in order to please God rather than man (Galatians 1:10).

THE ONLY SOLUTION AND RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARD FALSE DOCTRINE AND FALSE TEACHERS IS REVEALED IN THE SCRIPTURESWe must continue to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:1-5) regardless of who it is or what it is they are teaching.  If correction cannot be attained, marking and withdrawal of fellowship must be practiced (Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:6).  We must acknowledge the fact that we have been commanded by God relative to the proper process.  Failure to follow His command will not only result in the false teacher being condemned, but also those that refuse to comply with what God has commanded concerning dealing with false teachers.  The facts are clear; we must respect the Word and obey it, regardless of personal cost.

THE PROBLEM OF FALSE DOCTRINES AND TEACHERS IS WITH US AS IT WAS WITH GOD’S PEOPLE IN THE PASTIt will always exist as long as earth time exists!  Men go their own way, regardless of what God says.  Error cannot be supported or ignored. It can only be opposed.  Being friends wth God’s enemies is spiritual treason, and will cost us our souls.  It may not be popular to take such a stand for the truth.  But it will always be right. In the end, we have to acknowledge that God has not called us to be popular; He has called us to be right.  In many cases, it is now or never.  As we tarry, failing to comply with what God has commanded, souls are being lost, and congregations are being torn asunder.