Have you ever caught a close friend, spouse, or even a teacher in a little white lie? I occasionally find myself questioning the validity of their statements in future conversations. I start to ask myself ‘is there more to the story they’re not telling me?’ or, ‘how much of what I just heard is true?’. In Paul’s letter to Timothy he opens with a warning of false teachers who have “wandered away from the Truth into vain discussion”(1Tim 1:6). Paul is a man Timothy and the church in Ephesus have come to love and trust because He has been “teaching sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel for the glory of God who entrusted it to him”(1Tim 1:11). We not only need God’s Word but a steward we can trust to guide us in it.
Paul then charges Timothy to “wage good warfare”. In other words, Paul is commanding Timothy to fight false teaching with God’s Word, our ultimate weapon. When those in Asia were found to have turned away from sound doctrine, he calls out by name, Hymenaeus and Alexander. Of them in his letter he writes, “for making a shipwreck of their faith, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme”(1Tim 1:18-20).
Because of Paul’s faithfulness to God’s Word and good teaching, there is absolutely no confusion in his letter to the church that unless we rightly handle the Word of Truth, our “message will spread like cancer” and take casualties. Paul mentions Hymenaeus once again, along with associate Philetus of whom “have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.”(2Tim 2:16-18).
Before giving additional Scriptural precedent for naming names, I would like to quote again from Dr. Anton Bosch’s booklet “Contentiously Contending” because his words provide such a perfect summation of the coupling of truth and love:
The Truth With Brokenness
“Should we then not name names and expose those who lead weak disciples astray? No, we must name names. Jesus, Paul, Peter and John all named names. Every writer of the New Testament exposed error and warned against error. This is a very important part of the mission of any true teacher of Truth. Unfortunately, unless the names are mentioned, people often do not make the connection between the false doctrine and the face on the television.
Weak and new believers especially need to be given guidelines as to who is “kosher” and who is not. But, with what attitude do we name the heretics? Is it with glee and pride that we are not like so-and-so? Or is it with sorrow over the need to even have to mention another’s name in warning?
Matthew 23 is often quoted as an excuse to rail against others. In this chapter Jesus warns against the Pharisees, exposing them for all their falseness and error. Eight times he pronounces woe over them. He calls them whitewashed tombs, snakes, hypocrites, blind, fools and a few other things.
Yes, He did all that – but with what attitude?…He wept and lamented over the same men, men that He was lambasting: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).
Many have styled themselves after the aggressive prophets of the Old Testament without bothering to see that the private moments of these brave men were filled with tears and heartache for the state of Israel.
Only when we are willing to season our insults with tears from a broken heart for the heretics do we have the right to say anything to them.”
ADDITIONAL EXAMPLES OF NAMING NAMES
10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—
2 Timothy 4:10New King James Version (NKJV)
14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.
– 2 Timothy 4:14New King James Version (NKJV)
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us.
– 3 John 9New King James Version (NKJV)
Why Expose Biblical Error?
We’ve learned in Dr. Bosch’s booklet “Contentiously Contending” that teaching against false doctrine isn’t done with a heart of righteousness but a heart of compassion for others. When the Apostle Pauls says, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?(Galatians 4:16) our desire to expose biblical error comes from wanting to see loved ones secure in salvation and to protect new and future believers from being shipwrecked before they get out of port.
Dr. Harry Ironside (1876-1951), a godly Fundamentalist author and teacher for many years, served as pastor of Chicago’s Moody Memorial Church from 1930-1948.
“Objection is often raised even by some sound in the faith regarding the exposure of error as being entirely negative and of no real edification. Of late, the hue and cry has been against any and all negative teaching. But the brethren who assume this attitude forget that a large part of the New Testament, both of the teaching of our blessed Lord Himself and the writings of the apostles, is made up of this very character of ministry, namely, showing the unsettling results of the propagation of erroneous systems which Peter, in his second epistle, so definitely refers to as “damnable heresies.”
Our Lord prophesied, “Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:11).
We are called upon to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” while we hold the truth in love. The faith means the whole body of revealed truth, and to contend for all of God’s truth necessitates some negative teaching. The choice is not left with us. Jude said he preferred a different, a pleasanter theme -“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3, 4). Paul likewise admonishes us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11).
This does not imply harsh treatment of those entrapped by error – quite the opposite. If it be objected that exposure to error necessitates unkind reflection upon others who do not see as we do, our answer is: it has always been the duty of every loyal servant of Christ to warn against any teaching that would make Him less precious or cast reflection upon His finished redemptive work and the all-sufficiency of His present service as our great High Priest and Advocate.(ed. Emphasis mine).
Every system of teaching can be judged by what it sets forth as to these fundamental truths of the faith. “What think ye of Christ?” is still the true test of every creed.
There is constant temptation to compromise. It is always right to stand firmly for what God has revealed concerning His blessed Son’s person and work. The “father of lies” deals in half-truths and specializes in most subtle fallacies concerning the Lord Jesus, our sole and sufficient Savior.
Error is like leaven of which we read, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died.
Exposing error is most unpopular work. But from every true standpoint it is worthwhile work. To our Savior, it means that He receives from us, His blood-bought ones, the loyalty that is His due. To ourselves, if we consider “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” it ensures future reward, a thousand-fold. And to souls “caught in the snare of the fowler”(2Timothy 2:26) – how many of them God only knows-it may mean light and life, abundant and everlasting.
(Ironside, “Why Expose Error”, amos37.com)
WHAT STANDARD DO WE USE TO JUDGE ERROR?
All doctrine and teaching is to be tested according to the Word of God:
20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
– Isaiah 8:20New King James Version (NKJV)
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:21New King James Version (NKJV)
Jesus states in the Gospel of John that He is not only the “Word of God” (John 1:1) but also that He is the “Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). Only His Word contains the Truth and it alone must be our only criteria. Do not be swayed by personality or popularity.
“2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord—
3 And shall make Him of quick understanding, and His delight shall be in the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord. And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, neither decide by the hearing of His ears;
4 But with righteousness and justice shall He judge…
– Isaiah 11:2-4Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
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I would like to thank my fellow consultants for all their assistance in getting this blog published: Hannah Hall, Michelle Arrington, Ariel Mcgarry, Carol White, J.P.Wilhelm, and Tracy Yoder. Their encouragement and patience have been invaluable to me.
Ironside, Harry, “Why Expose Error”, amos37.com. accessed 1/31/2018 at https://amos37.com/why-expose-error/
Pied Piper – illustration by Kate Greenaway – Project Gutenberg eText 18343. accessed 1/30/18 at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/18343