The Responsibility To Challenge Error
In Ephesus some men had got into the fellowship and were promoting their ideas. They were very sincere and passionate, but they were not spreading truth. They came in as brothers, but wanted to be teachers. They talked with weighty words, but did not have apostolic authority. They were fascinated with minor matters and distracted the church from the major principles of discipleship. The consequences of their energetic teaching were to stir up debate, polarise one believer against another and move the church’s focus away from following and proclaiming Jesus.
Paul’s command to Timothy is very strong: not only must he teach the truth, but he must also rebuke people who were teaching wrong doctrines. It was essential that the church knew these teachers were out of order and not authorised by Christ’s apostles. That was a tough assignment for Timothy who was temperamentally a nervous character (2 Timothy 1:7). However, Timothy should not get into arguments with these men, debating the merits of his ideas over theirs, but rather to publically warn them and forbid them from teaching falsehood. Titus was given the same advice (Titus 3:9-11).
Today’s church is also at risk. Fellowships can be easily led away from gospel priorities into self-serving – agreeing to accept what the Bible calls ‘sin’ as ‘righteousness’. But it is never a ‘loving thing’ to allow error to be taught to the church: false teachers must be rebuked. Failure to do this will result in a divided church where people become spiritually weak because their lives are not built on the truth. Leaders who allow false teaching also become weak, and are accountable for their failure to confront error (James 3:1). All of us should support Christian leaders who stick closely to the truth and we should encourage those who bravely denounce what is false – it is the most loving thing they can do!
© Dr Paul Adams