What Do You Say To Someone Who Listens To A False Teacher?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What do you say to someone who is listening to a false teacher?

In Spirit and Truth

When Jesus was speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well, He told her, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). God must be worshiped in the spirit but also in truth. If you are not worshiping God in truth, then you are not worshiping God in a way that pleases Him. If it is not biblical, He may not accept it, so why is the truth so important to God? Jesus not only told the truth, but He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 6:44; Acts 4:12), and that is the truth. Any teaching contrary to Jesus being the only way is false, so we must be telling the truth, and the truth is Jesus is the one and only way to eternal life…period! Anything that adds to or subtracts from this is false, and anyone that teaches such error must be confronted, but what about those who listen to false teachers who are convinced that they teach the truth? Mankind is not a good standard bearer of the truth. At one point in our history, we used to believe the earth was flat. Of course we were wrong, so what humans believe is true can end up being false. Only God and His Word contain unchanging truth. It is always true and it will always be true. We cannot say the same for the teachings of man.

Preach the Word

In the Apostle Paul’s very last letter prior to his death, he admonished Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:2-4). I believe that time has come, and when I see someone speaking things that are not biblically sound, and thus may prove harmful to the listener, I do “reprove, rebuke, and exhort,” but perhaps not “with complete patience.” I know that when someone’s teaching error, they must be corrected because it’s contrary to God’s Word. Of course, it’s best to do this in private in order to maintain some dignity and respect for the person, but if that doesn’t work, we know we must bring this to the attention of church leaders. The Bible commands us that “if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

Correction in Love

What are we to do when we see someone believing a lie or teaching error? We must correct them, but this should always be done in love and not in a spirit of superiority. Paul told Titus how to handle error, and it was to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:13-14). A sharp rebuke is not ignoring it, sweeping it under the carpet, or thinking, “That’s none of my business.” In love, we must rebuke a brother or sister who is teaching or listening to error so “that they may be sound in the faith.” That’s the purpose of steering your friends or family away from error. It’s done to bring them back to what is true and not fables as some teach. Jude, in writing about doctrinal errors, said, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:3-4). What is true is that we are saved by grace alone and not by works (Eph 2:8-9), and anything more than that or anything less than that is error, and it must be confronted. If someone’s wrong about how to receive eternal life, we must intervene and show them that it is not by works but by Christ’s blood alone that we are reconciled back to God. We must never try to improve the gospel or make it easier to accept. It must be the full, accurate counsel of God, or it is not the truth.

What to Do

What do you do when someone you know is either listening to a false teacher or teaching false things they learned from that teacher? If you are a friend, you must speak the truth in love. If there was ever a time that is needed, it’s today. The Apostle Paul’s command to Timothy was that “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim 6:3-6). It sounds very much like Paul was speaking about the health and wealth gospel. Some call it the prosperity gospel, but either way, it is a false teaching to conclude that godliness is a means of gain, or a way to make money, but it is happening with increasing frequency. The way to point out error is to show people the truth. Tell your friend that prosperity does not automatically mean the blessing of God. Money can become a curse and lead many to ruin (1 Tim 6:10). What these teachers are is “deprived of the truth,” and they are depriving others of the truth too, so you must speak up. We are admonished, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend [but] profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov 27:6).

Conclusion

Even a half-truth is a whole lie. We must have all of the truth or it’s not truth at all. If that means offending your family member or friend, or even a co-worker who’s listening to false teaching, we must speak the truth. If you love that person, you will tell them the truth. Use Scriptures to support your reasons for pointing out the false teachings of someone. You’re not judging them but judging whether their teaching is true or not. The truth is, “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue” (Prov 28:23), so even if it’s painful, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Prov 27:5). Wouldn’t you want to know the truth if you were in error? I would. I believe you would too.

Here is some related reading for you: How do you Approach a False Teacher?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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