Maybe like me, you have the dilemma of whether to attend Church, or not. There are so many false doctrines flying about, that it is virtually impossible to find a church untainted by Purpose Driven heresy, or Emergent heresy, or neo-Catholicism, or Word/Faith heresy, or Contemplative Mysticism, or simply pastors who lift themselves up as Lords over the Church. The situation is bleak to say the least.
One passage has been on my mind, since my mother quoted it to me a couple of years ago. She quoted it to me for the same reason most Christians quote it; to get me to go back to church.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
This passage does indeed teach that Christians should continue assembling together, especially as we approach the Day of the Lord. It also teaches something else, however, which many pastors are uncomfortable with.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love Church. I miss it terribly. The problem is that, as Christians, we are not called to go and warm a pew, and merely listen to what the pastor is saying. Notice what else this same verse is saying: “but exhorting one another”.
It is not only the pastor’s job to do the exhorting. Notice that we are to “exhort one another”. He to me, and me to him, and us to each other. While it is the pastor’s job to be a leader, many pastors have fallen into sin, and sometimes they teach error. Very often, because they hold themselves above the congregation, no one holds them accountable. This is very dangerous for the pastor, and for the Church.
What are we to do if we see the pastor teaching something false? What if they teach error? What if they slip in a little error with the truth? The writer of Hebrews says we are to exhort him to preach the truth.
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. II Timothy 4:2
While Timothy was written to a young pastor, Hebrews was written to all Hebrew believers, and by extension, to all believers. The Christian Church is made up of brothers and sisters. The true Church does not have a heirarchy. In fact the biblical Church was designed to have a plurality of elders in leadership positions, and not one man as a local pope.
What is your ministry? I can assure you that all believers are called to some ministry or other. None of us is called to warm a pew, and put money in the offering plate, without having our own ministry. We are called to be evangelists, missionaries (at home and at work), elders, and teachers. Above all we are all called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. I don’t think that leaves any room for bench-warmers.
1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, andcalled: 2 Mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied. 3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. Jude 1:1-3
Notice to whom this passage is directed; “to them that are sanctified by God, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called”. That is, to every one who is saved.
Contending for the faith does not only mean against false teachers outside the Church, but also against false teachers INSIDE the Church! This second group is harder to spot, and harder to combat, because they have disciples and fans within the congregation. Very often false teachers have large ministries, and international followings, for example; John Hagee, Joel Osteen, and Rick Warren.
As Paul said; “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Galatians 5:9
And Jesus said,
Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. Matthew 13:33
A lot of people take it that the “leaven” in this passage represents the Church, that it is going to grow and spread throughout, and even take over, the world by the time Jesus returns. This is an incorrect interpretation, and is actually the basis of a false system of Eschatology.
Leaven is always a symbol of sin and error in the bible. The “kingdom of Heaven” in the passage is actually represented by the three measures of meal (flour-bread) and the leaven is something that is in the church, but not a part of it. As in bread, the unbelievers in the Church make it look larger than it really is! No doubt Jesus was saying that toward the end of the Church age, false teaching will become prominent among professing Christians. The Christian Church will look very large, but in reality it will be very small.
How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, (but) that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Matthew 16:11
Today there are more false teachers in Christendom than there are true teachers of righteousness. From where I sit it looks like an up-hill battle.
One does not have to be lost to get involved in false teachings;
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. Galatians 2:11
Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, who had spent three years at the feet of the Master, was still susceptible to false teaching, and had actually spent some time teaching this error to the extent that several, including Barnabas, were let astray. This would mean that Peter had been a false teacher, for a time!
Because Peter’s error was public, Paul had to confront him publicly.
But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? Galatians 2:14
The principle that Paul lived out here is, that if a preacher makes a public error, he needs to be corrected publicly. Peter, being the man of God that he was, repented publicly.
In two thousand years nothing has changed. If we are going to obey the Word of God, we need to obey it all; not pick-and choose which parts we will obey.
It was Peter himself who warned us about the times in which we live;
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2 Peter 2:1-3
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:3
Hagee, Osteen, and Warren certainly fit the above definitions of false teachers, but they are not alone by a long shot. Emergent leaders like Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, and Brian McLaren would also fit the bill, but even closer to home, there are false teachers in most churches today. “Surely not in Independent, fundamentalist Baptist churches?”, I hear you say. Yes, they can be found even in the most conservative churches.
How much false teaching are we to take, without saying something? At what point must I stand up and confront error?
Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. II Thessalonians 3:6-9
Usually this verse is taken out of context to mean anyone who does not follow (Baptist, Methodist, Anglican, Catholic, i.e. man-made) tradition. Paul actually defines what he means by “disorderly” as a person who will not work, but insists on being supported by Christians. This would actually define the majority of today’s pastors, those who insist on a “tithe”. Paul worked, and supported himself, as a humble tent-maker, and says this is the example we should follow.
Beware of pastors who insist on their right to be supported by you, and will not work with their own hands. These are men who lord it over God’s heritage.
Of course, the “tradition which he received of us”would also include everything that is written in the Scriptures, especially the New Testament. Therefore, any public doctrinal error is sufficient grounds for a public challenge.
The flip side is; how do we do it in love? Look at Paul’s confrontation with Peter. It may not sound like it to a 21st century westerner, but Paul actually did it in love! Tough love!
Oh! Yeah! Things which are NOT written in the bible are also subjects that the pastor needs to be careful with when speaking about them. Otherwise he risks adding to the word of God, contrary to definite commands in Scripture. (Deuteronomy 12:32, Revelation 22:18-19) A man who adds laws not commanded in Scripture is risking everything, even his Salvation! For instance, those who say that “drinking alcohol is a sin”, are adding to Scripture. A saved man would not do this! Thus, these people are in the same category as those who deny the deity of Christ, or His substitutionary atonement!
25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. 27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. Luke 22:25-27
We are all to have the attitude of a servant, especially the pastor and elders.
1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 1 Peter 5:3
First, notice that there is a plurality of elders in the Church. It is not a one-man show. While one man is the overseer, (translated as “bishop” in the KJV), he is not alone as an elder, and can be removed if he falls into sin. He is to live as an example to the flock, and should be removed if he fails in this.
I don’t like conflict, and would rather just leave quietly, but maybe that is not what the Lord would have me do? Maybe a public challenge to false teachers is the best way to show love to their victims?
Having said all of this, there is still the issue of the five churches in Revelation 2-3, who were in serious error, and yet the saints were not commanded to leave.
To the churches of Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea, Jesus tells them to “hold fast what thou hast”, “repent”, and “overcome”, but nowhere does he tell the Church members to leave those Churches.
So this leaves us with a dilemma; when to leave, and when to stay and contend for the faith?
The only definite thing I can say is that we need to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit. If you are in the Word, on a regular basis, and in communion with the Holy Spirit, you will know what He wants you to do.
The difference I see between the churches of Revelation, and the false teachers spoken of above, is that even though there was serious error in these five churches, they did not deny the cardinal doctrines of the faith. By this token, all of the men mentioned above have led their churches into serious doctrinal error, and most of them really don’t even fit the biblical definition of a Christian anymore! Laodicea was more Christian than some of our big-name churches today!