By Kevin Rutherford
Jesus gave us warning concerning those who would teach lies (Matthew 7:15-20). These are “false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Paul used the illustration of wolves also when he gave warning to the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:28-31). Paul said “savage wolves” would come among them, who would not spare the flock, but speak perverse things to draw disciples away. Paul also wrote to the Galatian Christians about those who pervert the Gospel of Christ and are accursed for so doing (Galatians 1:6-9).
It is so important that the pure Gospel is preached that bold measures are commanded of the church in addressing any perversions of the Gospel. There are those who serve themselves rather than God and who deceive others through smooth words and flattering speech (Romans 16:18). They are such that cause divisions and offenses contrary to the true doctrine and should be noted (marked) avoided (Romans 16:17) Elders must hold fast to the faithful Word of God so that they are able, by sound doctrine, to exhort and convict those who contradict the truth (Titus 1:9).
The book of Jude gives us an excellent example of an inspired approach to dealing with those had corrupted the Gospel. Jude calls for Christians to “contend earnestly for the faith,” becausecertain men who had already been marked had been allowed to sneak in among them (Jude 3, 4). Jude follows up this exhortation with a refutation and condemnation of the false teachers troubling the church (Jude 5-19). but Jude also lets us know compassion should be involved in the efforts to contend earnestly for the faith because some of those caught up in the false doctrine could be helped (Jude 22:23).
Peter spoke of false prophets and false teachers who would bring in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1-2). He told the early Christians, “by covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words (2 Peter 2:3). Peter then described the behaviors of the false teachers and warned of the danger of allowing them to lead one astray (2 Peter 2:4-22). Once Peter was very clear in describing the dangers of following these false teachers, he then specifically addressed and refuted their false doctrine (2 Peter 3).
1 John is also another tremendous example of how to handle false doctrines and perverted gospels. John begins by laying down the foundation of truth that undermines the various false doctrines of the “antichrists” (1 John 1:1-2:17). John then becomes more specific in addressing the errors of the antichrists, by identifying the errors, refuting the errors, and warning of the dangers of such errors (1 John 2:18-4:16). John then wraps it all up with confident and bold teaching concerning the truth on the matters in question (1 John 4-5).
All of these passages give evidence that support John’s statement in 1 John 2:21. John says, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” John is telling us that truth can be known and that anything that conflicts with the truth is a lie. These examples in which Paul, Jude, John, and Peter warned of false doctrine, and then refuted error prove the truth can be known so well, and with such conviction that it can be defended. These facts also lead to the conclusion that truth is not relative, and that one cannot just teach and practice anything he wants and still please God. The only way to please God is to know, preach, and practice the truth.
- Kevin V. Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/