A Message From the Heart and the Heart of the Message
Matthew 18 is often brought up to those who speak out about false teachers and teaching. If one looks carefully Mt.18 it applies to a personal trespass and offense, it is not about doctrinal problems that are publicly disseminated by books, radio or TV.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15).
As we can see it is about someone who has been offended by a brother trying to reconcile a personal offense.Notice the sin is personal, in other words you know the person and are probably able to contact him. However if we read through v.16 “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
I doubt that those who want to use this portion of Scripture as a defense would follow through completely with it as the Bible states. We already know that most of these speakers do not respond to any letters or calls when they are being called in to question. Many have written these ministries and asked for them to respond. I would say hundreds of individuals and ministries have done this, but we need to face the facts; the ministries under question don't care to answer. (Such as Benny Hinn when we asked about Jesus showing up on stage with him in a prophecy that failed. We received a standard email reply thanking us for writing the ministry). The policy for the most part is to ignore any questions. Those who are publicly well known often ignore a solicitation for a response. They have a policy not to personally answer ANY mail. Many do not personally know these people that have national TV ministries so it is next to impossible to get a response from them on these issues. However, this should not hinder one from speaking up.
Since there has been no personal offense (it is God's word that has been falsely represented) Mt.18 does not apply, therefore it cannot be something one is required to do when another is publicly propagating false teaching. To argue that we must write to them before saying anything publicly is absurd. Many of those who tell us to do this don’t take the time to write to them either asking if they actually said these things. Few want to deal with the problem, those who speak out on the issues get the brunt of the attacks. This is wrong. The fact is; we do not have to approach these ministries each and every time they speak falsely when they already have a track record of speaking like this.
Matthew 18 is intended for private offenses not public teaching of false doctrine. Dr. Jay Adams, in Grist from Adams's Mill, Explains the misuse of Matthew 18 as a feeble attempt to censure public criticism:
“Any Christian who sets himself up as a teacher in the church of Christ and publicly teaches anything thereby opens himself up for criticism by others (cf. James 3:1). If they think what he is teaching is harmful to the church, they have an obligation to point it out just as widely as it was taught. Such public warning or debate on the topic should not be considered a personal attack at all. The teacher's plea that a critic should first have come to him about his disagreement on the basis of Matthew 18:15 does not hold. This passage has to do with personal wrongs known only between the two, who should privately discuss the matter that separates them. What a critic of a public teaching does in pointing out his disagreement with that teaching has nothing to do with personal affronts or lack of reconciliation; he is simply disagreeing at the same public level as that on which the teaching was given in the first place” (p. 69).
My belief is that we should only contend and divide over essential doctrines. Most do not understand the difference between essentials and non-essentials. They react and immediately and become defensive when someone criticizes a false teaching of their favorite teacher. They then attack the one that is pointing out the error
Many ministries are trying to exercise a Biblical attitude in the face of blatant heresy being circulated throughout the church. We often try in the Spirit of Christ to inquire, though we were not obligated; it is often a gesture of courtesy and good faith. When someone writes us with vitriolic accusations that we should first contact a ministry before we write anything without ever asking if we did, they are wrong. In fact they are doing exactly what Jesus told them not to do, judging incorrectly. If we were to wait for an answer from some of the ministries we would all be long gone and still not receive a response.
The true Church has always warned people about the false teachings and practices of the cults, (and religions) which claim compatibility with Christianity and yet deny core Christian doctrine. But when we turn to false teachings within the Christian church, some want to apply a completely different standard. Jesus is now quoted as saying “it's wrong to judge,” any Biblical analysis or negative conclusion is unloving and divisive. That's man's opinion, not God's! Our standard is the Word of TRUTH and the judge on what is right or wrong is SCRIPTURE. The same judgment exercised outside the Church is needed inside. Judgment is never excluded, but unrighteous judgment is. Jesus declared: “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24), He never said not to judge at all. Moses appointed the head of one out of every ten households as a judge (Ex. 18:25; Deut. 1:15). We have the book of Judges? Paul writes of the Old Testament as left for our example. We are told over an over to judge teaching and teachers and a lack of it shows immaturity (Heb.5:13). It is not only Biblically permitted to judge a person's doctrine and teachings by the Bible, it is commanded. If they are found to be in error, people need to know for their spiritual safety. We don't wait until they are contacted and do not respond (Acts 20:27-31; Ephesians 5:11; Jude 3).
The Bible commands us not to have anything to do with the unfruitful works of darkness but expose them. The point is to rescue people so they may know truth, be set free and can have a right relationship with Jesus Christ. As John wrote, that nothing pleased him more than to see his children walk in truth. False doctrine is for the most part not a private matter, so Mt.18 does not apply to this specifically. If it is spoken publicly, hundreds, thousands and even MILLIONS can be mislead, it has to be dealt with publicly. Imagine trying to get a hearing with the leaders in the Watchtower to discuss what they are giving out house to house. Or how about the officials in the Mormon church and what they have written that is given out to houses daily?
Much of the New Testament was written to publicly correct false teaching within the Church itself. Paul could not deal individually with the many false teachers springing up like weeds in the different areas. Paul said to follow his example as he followed Christ. Christ openly confronted what is false, so did Paul. He named names and publicly told the church to watch out for certain men. Some of the people were friends Paul formerly worked with on the mission field that he had to later warn the church about (such as Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus). They were named because they went against the apostles’ teaching. He did not go to them first nor did he require anyone else to. He was more concerned about the sheep being misled than the reputation of the one who offended them. He had his priorities right and so should we.
Let me give some practical examples. If you knew someone was constructing a building and found proof that they were cutting corners and using 2nd rate material and the structure of the building could be unsafe, would you actually go to that person who you know does not care, or would you go to someone that does and can do something about it. Would you warn the people that were to move in? Another example: someone you know is selling food products to to people all over the country and you found that some ingredient in it is bad and will make people sick. You would be obligated to tell someone. What if you went to the seller and he refused to do something about it? Or did not want to hear from you and avoided answering. You would have no choice but to go public. This is exactly what is happening. How else do you protect the sheep if you do not speak out? Do you keep silent and just let it go or is it your duty to let others know? James says not to do something you know is right is sin. There too many guilty of the sin of omission.
Those of us who have done the research know better and have no other choice than to make the concerns public. After failed contact to numerous ministries and their continuance in teaching the same heresy publicly, there is no choice but to state what is correct publicly.
Paul commended the Berean’s for checking the Scriptures daily on what he
was saying. Sadly this is forbidden in some circles. “Touch not my anointed”
applies only to protecting those who practice false teaching and not to those who use the Bible to
question them. Some people need to do research before they parrot this saying,
it is a serious matter to God to protect and side someone who is misleading
people. Prov. 24:23-25 “These things also belong to the wise:
it is not good to show partiality in judgment.
In certain cults one is kicked out when they start asking questions, sometimes it can be no different in the Church. What we see is a concerted effort of censorship that is just like the world reacts. When we are told not to question because of someone’s reputation or because they are respected, then we are acting like a cult doing the very things Jesus said not to. “A man came to Jesus saying ‘Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do you care about anyone, for you do not regard the person of men’ (Matthew 22:16). How different it is today, many respect certain ministries intentionally overlooking the obvious harm they are doing to people, the church and its image to the public. Nothing is said because they have become a respecter of men.
People who are in high positions or have huge ministries are not exempt from examination for false teaching; in fact they are to be scrutinized more carefully because of their popularity. The exposure of their false doctrine is even more crucial because of their sphere of influence. Some of these men and women have disseminated falsehoods publicly to the whole church for years, therefore the whole church should know what they are. Anyone who makes untrue public declarations intended to influence large audiences through books, radio or television should expect some kind of criticism or correction. This does not mean that we are waiting for something false to be said to publish it. No respected ministry is gloating over pointing out someone’s error. We are talking about a consistent element in someone’s ministry that affects core doctrines and practices that affect others lives. The excuse that no one is perfect is hardly valid; we know this. We do not claim to be perfect either. All of us can make mistakes. But this is not about human flaws but about a consistent misrepresenting what the Scripture says and influencing souls to either to live or die. It is about statements that are directly contrary to the teaching of the Scripture that influence others into a false understanding. Jesus stood up to the Pharisees on this, he corrected his disciples on this, and we see the apostles doing the same for the church. In the early church numerous open debates ensued from those who challenged what the Scripture stated.
We believe those who claim to be “Christian” and have large public ministries should be open to discuss things. It would be pleasant if all were willing to come to a discussion table to work out what is wrong, but this is not reality, it is not taking place. True Christians a should be always ready to give an answer to anyone who challenges their faith as1 Peter 3:15 states, “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”
Being on the receiving end of those who written us about those inside the church, we have not seen much gentleness and reverence from the loyalists of these men’s teachings! Where is the fruit of the Spirit as they attack those who want to obey God’s word? They are telling us to disobey the commands of Christ - not to judge biblically, keep silent and thus allow the false teachers to continue on their platform. We have not condemned anyone, God is the final judge but we have presented the facts. But they cannot deal with the plain facts, so they attack ones character or their writing. What about the issue, what about false teaching? Because of their loyalty they are willing to overlook what is false and instead go after the one who uses the Bible to refute the teaching.
John the apostle of love writes “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ knoweth not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, (the Cross and all that goes with it) he hath the Father and the Son. If there are any that come unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not in your house, neither bid him Godspeed.” This means their book, tapes, videos and TV program is not to watched. we are not to be entertained by false teachers nor support them. And neither should we give God's blessing to them when we know they are wrong. We should pray for them but this does not mean we keep silent as years go by.
It is said when the apostle John went into the bathhouse and found Cerenthius, a Gnostic in there, he ran out, he did not sit down and try to correct him. We are told to avoid the heretics after the second admonition. We are told to separate from those who teach not according to the doctrine delivered (Rom.16:17)
Paul writes, Philippians 2:4-5 “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” This is the mind of Christ to love and care for others despite the attacks and false innuendos. But we find the love of many growing cold. They don’t care for others who are being deceived and they attack those who really are trying to help the people who are being hurt. Forgive them, they know no what they are doing.
If they proclaim doctrines that are false and dangerous to our loved ones and the church, if they speak falsehood openly we are just as free to speak and disagree; furthermore to prove by Scripture why they are wrong. We are told to contend for the faith (Jude). The fact is only one side is right and people need to make a choice. To have a choice they need to hear the other side. I believe this is doing the right thing, because it is the biblical thing to do. If you read the letters and met the people that have been hurt and bankrupt by these teachings and teachers, you would realize how many lives are being ruined and devastated. You too would be moved to tears and may want to do something about it then sit silently on the sideline. It’s a matter of conviction, its matter of defending the gospel against false gospels; it’s a matter of upholding TRUTH.
The guideline of Scripture is to “Test everything, hold on to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). I reject the idea that by Matthew 18 is a requirement to personally approach public false teaching by going to the party first. It does not apply to the public teaching of false doctrine and makes sense only in the context of personal offence and a local setting. Just for the record many of us have personally written sincere letters of inquiry to these teachers asking for some kind of response (or know someone who has). 99% of the time there has been no reply. What actually applies to this is what Paul did with Peter. The Apostle Paul rebuked Peter publicly for his compromising the truth of the gospel when eating with the gentiles? (Galatians 2:11-14)
False teaching is publicly disseminated and most of the people who argue about not judging don't seem to care about the sheep that eat of its poison, but care more about the person who distributes it. Sadly, their loyalty is to a person, more than Christ and His word.
So I ask you, where exactly does your concern lay, with the person who is being offended, stumbled and damaged in their faith or with the one who offends? Search the Scripture, think and pray about it.