Here is part 2 of my 3 part article on separation. As always I am welcome to feedback as I am in the editing stage. Enjoy!
Separation from False Teachers
False Teacher: A false teacher is one whom deceives people into following another gospel message or whom teaches false doctrine. False teachers are deceptive and are easily able to land themselves in teaching/preaching positions. They may have charismatic personalities, excellent rhetoric, affluence, and possess other qualities, which get them into roles where they are allowed to teach. False teachers do not only teach different gospel messages, as they can also teach false doctrines. For example, many King James Version Only (KJVO) Fundamentalist pastors/evangelists are false teachers. Although they hold to the essential fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, they teach that only one translation is to be used and can be read from. All too often do they fail to understand that not everyone can read on a 12th grade level, and to many; the modern translations are far easier to understand. I wrote an article on false teachers as I described them as Spiritual Terrorists and I suggest you read it. Also a well written book on the subject is John Macarthur’s The Truth War and I again suggest you read it.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
In the passage, Paul strongly denounces the Judaizer’s twisting of the good news of Jesus Christ. To emphasize the fact that the good news of Jesus cannot be changed Paul starts off with a hypothetical case and says that if an angel (heavenly messenger) were to come and give another gospel message that he was to be condemned. Paul wrote this many years before the founding of the Mormon cult and tragically the deceiver Joseph Smith did not read this passage. In 1823 an Angel “Moroni” appeared to Smith and reveled to him the location of some golden plates that contained another gospel message. Paul does not leave the exclusion of condemnation to an angel, but to him or anyone else. Paul states “but though we” and this means that God’s curse would fall on Paul if he were to teach a gospel message contrary to the one revealed. The gospel is plain and those that teach a different one are condemned. The Bible does not need any more revelation and is complete. Charismatics all too often believe in continuing revelation as continuing revelation is a not endorsed by the scriptures as mentioned in Rev 22:18-19. The scriptures are complete and do not need any additions or deletions. Those that add and delete from them will be judged most severely. In verse, 9 Paul seems to repeat himself but in doing so makes the point clear that the gospel cannot be changed or altered. The gospel has been revealed and there is no way to salvation apart from Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6). Strong cursing's and condemnation fall on those that teach another gospel message. The Mormon leaders will be judged, as well as anyone else that ads or changes the gospel message.
Christians should boldly stand against false teachers and those that teach different gospel messages. I regularly do soul winning in my area and have bumped into Catholics, JW’s, Mormons and others that believe or teach different gospels. I have been as bold and direct with them as possible at times and in doing so made some of them angry. In the “all things love” society that we live in, such dogmatic views for the truth are not popular, even among professing Christians. But remember that Paul himself was not nice, and he was sternly direct about the condemnation and judgment of the false teachers. A Oneness Pentecostal pastor that I used to know I often would regularly expose his false teachings as contrary to the gospel. This often made him angry, but he knew he was teaching another gospel message but was deceived. Likewise should Christians oppose false teachers and false doctrine as Paul did. The need is even greater today than in Paul’s day as false teachers are roaming the earth with different gospel messages. The battle cry for the Truth War is at hand and Christians should stand up and join the battle. If people cared for the souls of others like Paul did then they would. But the tragic reality is that most Christians do not care much for the souls that are daily going to hell. I once heard that 97% of Christians do not regular evangelize and this is because they have a fear of people, a fear of failure, and the last reason why most Christians do not evangelize is because they are more concerned about their flesh. (Evangelist Tom Farrow, BJU Chapel, 12/8/08)
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them, which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
In this passage, Paul gives a warning to the Roman Christians about the false teachers before they actually appear in the community. It is very possible that prior to writing this letter Paul had already heard of the false teachers and he wanted to warn the Roman Christians to be ready for they are coming. There is no way to identify the exact group that Paul had in mind. However based on the characteristics mentioned; three groups have been suggested. Protognostics (Dodd; Bruce 1985), Judaizers (Godet 1969; Lenski 1945; Stuhlmacher 1994; Schreiner 1998), or the strong and weak parties (Barrett 1957; M. Black 1973). Paul urges the Romans to watch out as the false teachers tend to cause divisions or “dissension” in the community. Secondly, the false teachers put obstacles or “stumbling blocks” before the believers. The only proper way to respond to false teachers is to stay away from them and avoid them at all costs. The purity of the church must be guarded zealously and allowing the false teachers in the church would compromise the purity of the fellowship. In the same way must churches guard their fellowships from false teachers. I once spoke with a American Baptist pastor who said that for Christmas singing he and his church join the Mormons in reaching the city. I said to him that the doctrine of Separation prohibited such a position, and he refused to listen. Perhaps I came on him too harsh, but perhaps it was necessary as this disobedient brother needed a strong rebuke for leading others into thinking that associating with the Mormons is okay. Under no circumstance should a follower of Christ associate or have company with false teachers. It certainly is not acceptable according to the Bible that God gave.
Acts 20:28-31 (NIV)
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
The passage starts off with the exhortation which is addressed to the Ephesian elders. Paul commands them to watch themselves and also the flocks which have been given to them by the Holy Spirit. The exhortation is for the pastor “elder” or “shepherd” of God’s church. Paul next warns the Ephesian elders of the great deception that will be coming to the church after his departure. He describes the deceivers as “savage wolves” (NIV, NASB, NKJV), “fierce wolves” (ESV) and “grievous wolves” (KJV). Personally I prefer the NIV, NKJV and NASB’s rendering of the Greek word barus into savage which I believe better illustrates the seriousness and appetites of the false teachers. The false teachers are deceivers and are very hungry for a meal. There are many savage wolves roaming around in pulpits deceiving God’s children today. These wolves are able to land their positions of authority, because of their affluence, charisma and the like. In verse 30 Paul states that the false teachers will come from within the church. The false teachers are very deceptive, and so weak-minded Christians that do not read their Bibles are deceived by the lies of these savage wolves. Next in verse 31 Paul gives the ultimate exhortation for the Ephesian elders to be on their guard. Paul never stopped warning them night and day with tears. This example is to be followed by those serious about the truth. Tragically there are few even concerned about warning others of false teachers, because everyone is so blinded by “postmodernism”, “tolerance” and “multi-culturism” that they lack the discernment necessary to be effective apologists or are afraid of offending others. The duty to discern and to expose false teachers is primarily for the pastor, but it must not be limited to the pastor, because it’s the duty of all Christians to call out and oppose false teachers. The fields are ripe and many false teachers would not be in their positions of authority if Christians today got serious about engaging in the Truth War.
Matt 7:15-20 (ESV)
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Here Jesus is speaking to the crowd in his famous Sermon the Mount. In the culture context of Jesus’ day would people disguise themselves in sheepskins in the hope of being taken for stray dogs and other types of animals (Jos. War 3.192). But Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggeration for effect) as wolves do not wear clothes, and changing one’s hide was a metaphor for the impossible (Je 13:23; Jub. 37:20). The false prophets seek a meal on the sheep and the best way for them to get that meal is to dress as sheep refer to (Mt 10:16). There are many denominations that at one time were sound Bible preaching separatists. American Baptists, Assemblies of God, & the Conservative Baptist Association are a few of many denominations that have been deceived by savage wolves. These denominations went on the path to liberalism by making small steps and consequently went down the slippery slope. I know of one CBA church in my area and although they believe in the Fundamentals of the Christian faith, they have opened the door to liberalism by allowing women to teach adult Sunday school, by changing their worship style from traditional to contemporary, and by creating a contemporary cafe like atmosphere on Friday nights for the 20 something crowd. These leaders at this church claim that doing these things is the best way to reach the modern generation. But such a position is really the polite way for these leaders to say that they deny the doctrine of Sufficiency. For if they believed in the doctrine of Sufficiency they would believe that the word of God alone can change hearts, enlighten the eyes, and make wise the simple (Psa 19:7-8). Therefore there is no need for attractive programs or anykind of Market Driven approach to reaching the lost for the Bible alone is good enough.
In verses 16-20 Jesus explains to us how we can discern false teachers. Fruit is what can be used to measure the false teachers and is a metaphor for both character and conduct. The way the false teachers act is the way to detect them. In the Old Testament there were tests for the true prophet. The law as mentioned in Dt 13:1-5 required that a false prophet be put to death if he promoted rebellion against God. Tree’s can bear good or bad fruit and that fruit will be revealed no matter what the person claims of himself. Those that claim Christ yet glorify themselves or glorify self-fulfillment in their teachings can be false teachers. Joel Osteen a very charismatic and outstanding speaker, tends to be one that glorifies himself and self-fulfillment in his messages. I once was a follower of Joel Osteen, and while I do admit that he is quite deceptive, the truth is that his sermons have little if any gospel as Osteen never speaks on sin that I am aware of, and says only what people want to hear. Although it is possible that Joel Osteen himself may be saved, he has deceived countless millions. Many that hear his message and die the next day will be cast into a crisis without ever realizing their need for a savior. Bill Johnson of Bethel Church, Creflo Dollar, & Robert Schuller are also a few of many false teachers that are deceiving many. Christians must discern their teachers by their fruits and in doing so can tell whom is true and whom is false for many false prophets have gone out into the world (2 Jn 7).
Purposes in separating from false teachers
The Christian separates for the following reasons.
1. To maintain the doctrinal integrity of the church (I Timothy 2:6).
2. To protect the sheep or flock from error, which hinders spiritual growth (Acts 20:28; II Peter 2:1-2).
Additional scriptures related to separating from False Teachers
II Corinthians 11:13-15
II John 9-11
II Peter 2:1-3
I Timothy 1:3-7
I Timothy 6:3-5