Why Dealing with False Teachers is an Urgent Matter

February 10, 2019 | Speaker: Pastor Jurem Ramos

 

1Timothy 1:3-7

  There are many things in life that cannot wait. They have to be dealt with quickly. This is what we see, for example, in the area of physical health.  Someone who has a fever may take it lightly and neglect to treat it quickly, only to find out when it is all too late, that it is dengue and of a strain that is serious and leads to a quick death. Some of the parents have been so influenced by the bad press regarding the Dengvaxia vaccine so that they have altogether lost their trust in all other vaccines. The effect of that is that there is now an outbreak of measles in many places in the Philippines and many children have died. DOH is now considering requiring all households to have the children of a certain age to be vaccinated.   The fact that there are problems that cannot wait to be dealt with is true not only in the physical realm but also in the spiritual. Some Christians are aware that they have loved ones who are believers who are dabbling with false teachings and they do not take this conduct seriously to deal with it urgently. Then one day, they are surprised to find their friend or loved one departing from the true gospel and turning to a false gospel. The once defender of the faith has now become an enemy of the faith and has committed the sin of apostasy.   This is what happened to my father. There was a time that he was a supporter of the evangelical faith. Because of his initiative, a Bible study was established at their office that has continued for more than 25 years. He used to criticize Ang Dating Daan, but he regularly watched the program. Then one day, he heard something that struck his interest. Soon he found himself more and more engaged in listening and watching the program. Then he got addicted to it, and then the inevitable happened. He changed religions, denying the Christian faith and believing the lies of Mr. Soriano.   This sad experience in our family is only one of the examples of the danger of false teaching when left unchecked. We need to realize the danger of false doctrine and the need to deal with it urgently. If we are not careful, some of you listening today could be falling into the very trap my father did and you are not aware of it.   We should not forget the source of these false teachings are demons that is why they could be so enticing and convincing. 1Timothy 4:1 says,   “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.”   Why we need to urgently deal with false teachers and false teaching is what I want to share with you today. This is exactly what we find in the text we are looking at in 1Timothy 1:3-7.   After the salutation, Paul skips his usual thanksgiving for his readers and immediately launches into the occasion and his purpose for writing this letter. In verse 3 Paul recalls the commission he previously gave to Timothy so that Timothy will receive formal authorization before the congregation and encouragement to fulfill his difficult task of commanding certain church leaders not to teach false doctrines. Timothy needed this encouragement because, as we have learned before, his somewhat timid nature may have caused him to be a little hesitant to remain at Ephesus, which was one of the most important of the churches in Asia in terms of its location for gospel propagation. Paul writes to make Timothy aware that he is himself a man of authority. He has a definite commission to address the false teachers. Paul says, “charge certain persons.” The word charge is a military term which means literally to issue a directive from an authoritative source, to command, to give strict orders.” (Analytical Lexicon of GNT)   Scholars are not certain as to when the event mentioned here in 1:3 happened. This cannot be placed in the stories that we find about Paul’s ministry recorded in the Book of Acts or in the earlier letters of Paul. The traditional view is that the occasion mentioned here occurred after the events recorded in Acts 28.   So, let me just relate to you the probable occasion of the writing of this letter. In one of the missionary trips of Paul outside of the Book of Acts, while he was accompanied by Timothy, part of his itinerary was to go to Macedonia by way of Ephesus. As they passed by the city of Ephesus, they visited the church or churches in the area. While they were there, they encountered false teachings that were similar to those in Colossae. Sadly, this false teaching that spread among the church came by the influence of elders inside the very church of Ephesus. The problem was that serious so that Paul himself excommunicated two leaders of this false teaching, Hymenaeus and Alexander (mentioned in 1Ti 1:19–20). But because he had to go to Macedonia, he left Timothy to handle the concerns in Ephesus and particularly to stop the further influence of certain false teachers who apparently were also leaders of the house churches in Ephesus. When Paul arrived in Macedonia, he wrote his first letter to Timothy in order to confirm his assignment to him. He did however plan to return to Ephesus to be with Timothy as we will see in 3:14.     So now, let us look at …   Reasons why false teachers should be dealt with urgently:   The first reason is that …  
  1. They damage the church severely, 1:3a.
  3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,   False teachings and false teachers, whether they come from outside or inside the church is a big problem. But the damage that they bring is more severe when the source of the false teaching comes from within among the church’s own own leaders.   The problem in this letter seems to be that the church is being led astray, not by false teachers from the outside but by some of its own elders. There are several clues to support this view:  
  • First, there is no hint in this letter to Timothy that the certain men who were teaching false doctrines were outsiders. Unlike in the case in Galatia and Corinth.
    • In Galatia, the problem of false teaching came from the outside. 2:4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery.
    • In Corinth 2Co 11:4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.).
 
  • Second, Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian elders, as recorded in Acts 20:17–35, clearly predicts that there are “savage wolves” who “will not spare the flock” will not just come from outside of the church but even from the inside:
    • ESV: and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
    • HCSB: And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them.
 
  • Third, that the false teachers were probably elders is supported by several items from 1 Timothy:
    • they presumed to be “teachers of the law” (v. 7), and teaching is the responsibility of the elders (5:17; cf. 3:2);
    • the fact that two are named and excommunicated by Paul (1:19–20), not by the church as in 1Corinthians 5:1–5;
    • the repeated concern about elders in this letter, both as to their qualifications in 3:1–7 and their discipline 5:19–25.
  We must take seriously the possibility that even Elders could fall into false teaching if they are not careful.
  • This is what happened to our former church.
  • This is also the story of some of you who have transferred to SDG church. Your former pastor who introduced false teaching was the problem and he was the reason you transferred.
  • If you cannot bring him to his senses and repent, you might as well leave that church.
  • You may have heard of the warning to the public that was issued by SEC last October 2018 against KAPPA Community Ministry that allegedly entices the public to invest with a promise of 30% interest every month. They don't call it an investment but a “donation.” The return for the so-called donation is called Love Gift. This is a scandal to the Body of Christ and brings dishonor to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    So that is the first reason why false teachers should be dealt with urgently is that they damage the church severely.   The second reason why false teachers should be dealt with urgently is that …  
  1. They deviate from apostolic doctrine, 1:3b
  3 … charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,   It is interesting to note that Paul says that there are certain persons who teach “different” doctrine. Paul uses a word that literally means “to teach a different doctrine” instead of “to teach false doctrine.” This could indicate that the teachings of these Elders were different from the teaching of the apostles. Of course, this teaching was false, but Paul wants to highlight that during that time, “there was already in existence a recognized standard of Christian doctrine.”   This standard is called different ways in the Pastoral Letters:   It is called ‘the faith’, ‘the truth’, ‘the sound doctrine’, ‘the teaching’ and ‘the good deposit’. In nearly every one of these expressions the noun is preceded by the definite article, indicating that already a body of doctrine existed which was an agreed standard by which all teaching could be tested and judged. It was the teaching of Christ and of his apostles.   Gal 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.   1Jn 4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. … 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.   I heard that one senior pastor of a former fast-growing church in Metro Manila no longer believes in the resurrection. This is no small issue. Paul said in 1Co 15:12-19:   12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.   We must urgently deal with false teachers because they deviate from apostolic doctrine. And as we have seen in Galatians 1:8-9, this departure from apostolic gospel brings dire consequences: “Let him be accursed.”   So far, we have seen two reasons why false teachers should be dealt with urgently:  
  • They damage the church severely, especially when they come from the church leadership.
  • They deviate from apostolic doctrine.
  Now the third reason why false teachers should be dealt with urgently is that...  
  1. They distract by focusing on non-essentials 1:4a
  Paul told Timothy to charge certain men not... 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations   Timothy is to command the false teachers not to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies (v. 4).   “To devote oneself to something” means here to pay or give attention to it. But it seems that they are not only overly attracted to myths and endless genealogies they also give them personal devotion. “Myths” and “genealogies” hold some kind of fascination for the false teachers and their followers.   The false teaching is characterized as myths and endless genealogies. “Nothing could be farther removed from the serious content of the gospel” (Tyndale).   Most probably, these myths had some connections with some elements of Judaism because Paul describes these myths in Titus 1:4 as “Jewish myths.” These myths may also refer to legends or fables, which Paul later categorized as ‘godless myths and old wives’ tales’ in 1Ti 4:7.   The word genealogies, on the other hand, may also have some Jewish color to it. Scholars suggest that myths and genealogies are two words that are to be taken together. They refer to legendary stories about genealogies that have been handed down by rabbis in their traditions or they may refer to the fanciful stories that one finds in ancient Jewish documents such as those found in The Book of Jubilees, or in Pseudo-Philo’s Book of Biblical Antiquities. These books mention legendary stories about genealogies like for example mentioning “the names of all the children of Adam and Eve, of Enoch’s family, of Noah’s predecessors and descendants, and of the seventy people who went down into Egypt.” (BST).   These law-teachers were not the ‘Judaizers’ whom Paul had opposed in Galatians, and who taught salvation by law-obedience, for there is no hint in the Pastorals of a recurrence of this controversy. They may have been allegorizers.   The effect of this preoccupation with myths and endless genealogies is that they promote “speculations.” The word is ekzētēsis which can mean either ‘controversy’ (NIV) or ‘useless speculation’ (BAGD). In fact, it seems to combine both notions.   Listen to these passages that speak of the effect of false teachings:
  • 1Ti 6:4-5 He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth,
  • 2Ti 2:23, Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
  • 2Ti 2:14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.
  There are some pastors who make a big deal of genealogies. I know of some pastors who have gone to Israel, have contacts with some Jews and have access to some genealogies and make a big deal of it. They claim that their names mean something in Hebrew, and they allegorize that to mean something special. They hold on to it more than the gospel of Christ. They often talk about and they entice others to become Jewish Christians. These only breed controversies, speculations and quarreling.   In similar vein that are churches that make a big deal of their roots. They take pride in the fact that they have been baptized by people who come from a line of Baptists who have been baptized by this or that biblical personality, whether John the Baptist or one of Christ’s apostles. This is a non-essential and only causes quarreling.   1Co 1:11-14 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.   So that is the third reason why false teachers need to be dealt with urgently: 3. They distract by focusing on non-essentials.   Now we look at the fourth reason why false teachers need to be dealt with urgently, and that is…  
  1. They depart from gospel issues. 1:4b-6
  which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,  
  • False teachers do not promote the stewardship from God that is by faith.The phrase “stewardship from God” may refer to God’s revealed plan of salvation or the gospel itself, of which we are stewards. A steward is a person who manages another’s property. The plan of salvation which is revealed in the gospel is the property of God and he gave His people responsibility to become, in some sense, its administrator. Christ’s disciples are God’s administrators who are in charge of handling the gospel properly. “That is by faith” may mean that we take this stewardship by faith or it could mean that we respond to this gospel by faith.
 
  • The phrase “stewardship from God” is the same as the “charge” referred to in v. 5. When Paul speaks of the “charge” here, I don't think that he just referring to the charge in verse 3 where Paul tells Timothy to charge (or command) certain men to stop teaching falsehood. The charge here in v. 5 is greater than that. The “charge” refers to the command that God gives to his people to handle the gospel properly. They are to proclaim the gospel faithfully, to defend the gospel from opposition, to protect the gospel from corruption, to believe in the gospel, to live according to the gospel and to be faithful to the gospel till death. False teachers depart from this. Instead of promoting this stewardship from God, or the command regarding the handling of the gospel, they instead promote speculations.
 
  • Because the false teachers have departed from proper handling of the gospel, they in effect also have departed from love which is the aim of the charge. Paul says in v. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
  The aim of the charge or of the stewardship from God is true salvation in Christ, which produces a love for God and for others.   Love here is the Gr. agapē which is “the love of choice and the will, characterized by self-denial and self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, and it is the mark of a true Christian (John 13:35; Rom. 13:10; 1 John 4:7–8). In contrast, false doctrine produces only conflict and “speculations” (1 Tim. 1:4; 6:3–5).  (MSB)  
  • That love comes from the internal qualities of man that have been transformed by the Spirit of God. Paul says, “Love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
 
  • This love comes from a “pure heart” (v. 5) reminds us of Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” The heart represents the total inner person in both Old and New Testaments. It is pure in that it is not filled with sinful desires.
  • This love comes also from a good conscience. God created man with a “conscience” as his self-judging faculty. Because God has written his law on man’s heart (see note on Rom. 2:15), man knows the basic standard of right and wrong. When he violates that standard, his conscience produces guilt, which acts as the mind’s security system that produces fear, guilt, shame, and doubt as warnings of threats to the soul’s well-being (cf. John 8:9; 1 Cor. 8:7 10 12; Titus 1:15; Heb. 10:22). On the other hand, when a believer does God’s will, he enjoys the affirmation, assurance, peace, and joy of a good conscience (cf. Acts 23:1 24:16; 2 Tim. 1:3; Heb. 13:18; 1 Pet. 3:16 21).
 
  • Love also comes from a sincere faith. This refers to trust in God that is truly there, in contrast to pretense and hypocrisy.
  These virtues stand in total contrast to those of the false teachers. The aim of false teachers is not love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Their aim is not love for God and for others but love of self or insatiable love for power, greed and controversy. All these evil come from a heart that is deceived instead of pure, a conscience that is callous instead of good, and a faith that is bogus instead of sincere. The aim of false teachers is not love. Their plan and schemes are contrary to the plan of God. They are not really concerned about loving others but only in loving themselves. Here is one proof of this. Listen to the words of one who pretends to be the Son of God of our times, Mr. Apollo Qoiboloy. Listen to his absurd claims.   See https://www.lucisphilippines.press/2018/11/philippines-pastors-claims-he-travelled-to-solar-system.html  
  1. He claims to be the owner of the earth and that he is now the owner of the world.
  2. He claims to have defeated Satan already in his Kingdom.
  3. He claims that God adopted Quiboloy’s name and God made it his own new name.
  4. He allegedly claimed to be the one responsible why Catriona Gray won the Miss Universe title.
  5. He also claims to have seen not only the whole earth but also the other planets when God allowed him to visit heaven several time. In other words, as someone said, he claims to have travelled to the solar system.
  All of these departures from the gospel only produce vain discussions. worthless talk.   We now come to the final reason why false teachers need to be dealt with urgently.  
  1. They deceive by pretending to be experts of the Law, 1:7
  7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.   The desire to be teachers of the law is a mark of these false teachers. Rather than expound the gospel, they would rather be speculative interpreters of the OT stories and genealogies about beginnings, 1:4. They confidently affirm the meaning of the Scriptures, but they don’t really know what they are talking about.   There are some church leaders who have studied a little Hebrew, knowing how to read the Hebrew words and use a Hebrew dictionary, pretend to be experts in Biblical languages. Their followers who know nothing in Hebrew are blown away by these teachers.   Go back again to verse 5. Paul said, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” If all that is produced is pride instead of love for God and love for neighbor, then we are failing in the true goal of the ministry.   Summary: So here are the five reasons according to this opening section why false teachers should be dealt with urgently:  
  1. They damage the church severely.
  2. They deviate from apostolic doctrine.
  3. They distract by focusing on non-essentials.
  4. They depart from gospel issues.
  5. They deceive by pretending to be experts of the Law.
  Lesson: I close with these words. Do not underestimate the danger of false teaching. This is Paul’s preoccupation in the first chapter of 1Timothy. He wants to maintain true or sound doctrine and to refute false doctrine.   In our day and age, people look down on these actions. In our pluralistic world and post-modern world where there is no such thing as objective truth or absolute truth, people want to affirm the validity of every religion. They would frown on any attempt to convert people.   BSTNT:   “…Everybody has his or her own truth. You have yours, and I have mine, and they may diverge widely from each other, even contradict each other. In consequence, the most prized virtue is tolerance. It tolerates everything except the intolerance of those who insist that certain ideas are true and others false, while certain practices are good and others evil.”   No follower of Jesus Christ can possibly embrace this complete subjectivism. For he said he was the truth, that he had come to bear witness to the truth, that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and that the truth will set us free. So, truth matters, the truth which God has revealed through Christ and by the Spirit. Jesus also told us to beware of false teachers. So did his apostles. Indeed, Paul urges Timothy to stay in Ephesus precisely in order to stop the spread of false teaching.   For the sake of the salvation of souls, for the sake of love for God and our fellowman, for the sake of the existence of the church and the glory of God, let us deal with false teaching, especially when we find that it has infiltrated the church and its source is the leaders of the church. We cannot tolerate it. May God help us to be courageous in dealing with this grave danger in the church.