By Mike Wilson
Our culture thrives on diversity. The author of the recent best selling book, Megatrends, says, “Everything comes in 33 flavors.” Try shopping for a car and you will be overwhelmed with how many brands, sizes, shapes, and colors there are. Unfortunately, this wide diversity of choice has spilled over into the realm of religion. In the context of denominational selection the name “Christian” has been so maligned that it is even worn by some who have no respect for God, the Deity of Christ, and the integrity of the Bible.
To theologians who treat choosing a church like buying a car, the pronouncement of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 seems out of place: “Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it.” Truth by its very nature imposes limitations and marks out the boundaries.
The path of least resistance, on the other hand, is the path approved by the consensus of popular opinion. People like to remain uncommitted on life’s most crucial questions. It is easy to walk the fence. Any deviation from the middle ground is looked upon as extremism. There would always be those swayed so much by peer pressure that they would not publicly acknowledge their allegiance to Christ for fear of expulsion from the synagogue (cf. John 12:42-43). To such moral cowards, the Lord says, in essence, “Take your stand! ” The prophet Elijah was considered a troublemaker for using similar language. He called the Israelites whose affection was divided between Jehovah and Baal to make such a choice: “How long go ye limping between the two sides?” (1 Kings 18:21).
There would never be a time when a clear, sharp line of distinction would have to be drawn more decisively than in the battle between truth and error. After telling the multitudes gathered on that Galilean hillside about the two ways, Jesus turns His attention to the subject of false prophets (Matt. 7:15-20). The New Testament is replete with similar warnings. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4: 1). We are expressly forbidden to engage in any action which might imply endorsement of a false teacher (2 Jn. 9-11). Such men, having been sternly tested with the gospel, are to be declared “anathema” (Gal. 1:8-9). Paul would not tolerate the Judaizing heresy even for “an hour.” His reason is clear: “that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal. 2:5). False teaching cannot be defeated with compromise!
Perhaps the chief characteristic of false teaching, other than its deviant content, is the deception with which it is propagated. Jesus warned that men would “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). To penetrate that deceptive outward veneer, we must become expert fruit inspectors.
The fruit reveals the true character of the tree. A man’s conduct, and especially his teaching (cf. Matt. 12:33-37), says much about the man. Paul declared that some “deceitful workers” in Corinth were masquerading as apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13). Many unsuspecting listeners would prove to be vulnerable to their subtle techniques.
If our stand against evil influence is not taken firmly and decisively, that influence will spread like a cancerous growth that goes undetected until it is too late! Jesus called the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees “leaven” (Matt. 16:6, 12). A little leaven does indeed leaven the whole lump (1 Cor. 5:6-7). A fornicator maintaining a status of “good standing” with the church would create an ungodly influence that would permeate the entire church. Such was Paul’s argument to the Corinthians. The same apostle likened the “profane babblings” of Hymeneus and Philetus to a deadly “gangrene” that spreads through the tissues of the body (2 Tim. 2:17).
It is sometimes objected that we take stands of conviction that are too firm for too little study. It is true that the cause of truth has not been served well by unqualified men whose poor exegesis suffers from a lack of diligent study. There are others who confuse the fight for truth with the ungodly spirit of selfish ambition and contentious rivalry. Such abuses need to be exposed, but they do not negate the need for conviction in waging the war against error.
False teachers must be attacked on many fronts. Some are emphasizing the enhancement of personal relationships and other social trivialities while failing to denounce the immorality of our decadent society. Others do not respect God’s word, God’s church, and God’s worship – and then they preach unity in diversity on these matters! Still others cheapen the Lord’s plan of salvation with Calvinistic heresy. Consequently, many who do not have a right relationship with God have been given confidently-stated false assurances. The situation in Christendom today causes the lingering memory of false prophets who cried out, “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 8:9).
On the Day of Judgment, there will be preachers whose hands are stained red with the blood of those to whom they refused to tell the truth. Every elder, teacher, preacher, and Christian of any influence should take these things to heart.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 8, pp. 225, 249
April 18, 1985