In the work I do I often name names. When I expose a false teacher, invariably someone will call me judgmental. When that happens it is always best to respond with Scripture: “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”
(Marsha West – Christian Research Network) Some professing Christians become infuriated when those of us in a discernment ministry has the chutzpah to report on a false teacher by name, as if naming names is unbiblical. High-profile leaders and bloggers who mention heretics by name are often accused of demonizing or judging them.
Invariably someone will cite Matthew 18:15-17:
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Whenever I write about a false teacher, I’m frequently asked if I’ve gone privately to that person in an effort to correct him or her. My response is “Of course not!” Why? For the reason that Christian celebrities are generally inaccessible. Many are, in fact, akin to Hollywood celebs. No doubt some of them rationalize that their popularity affords them certain privileges, one of which is to choose not to have a dialogue with anyone who “attacks” them.
Yet the Bible says that those who are in sin (false teaching is sin) must be admonished. In 3 John 1:9 the Apostle John calls out Diotrephes and promises to publicly correct him upon his return; we see in Galatians 2:11-14 Paul standing up to the highly esteemed Apostle Peter! He chastised Peter for fearing false teachers. What resulted from Peter’s “fear of man”?:
And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’ (bold added)
In context, Matthew 18 addresses how Church leadership is to discipline a brother or sister who have fallen into sin and provides the proper steps to take before excommunicating an unrepentant sinner. First, we are to go to him privately. If he refuses to repent we must go to him a second time along with two or more witnesses. If he remains unrepentant, the pastor must go before the church and proclaim his sin. Ouch!
It is essential for Church elders to be involved in the process.
Likewise, Matthew 18 does not apply to doctrinal issues, nor does it apply to Christians who have put their work before the world. Those who go public are fair game. Anyone in the public eye will get scrutinized, even unfairly criticized, for their work. Consequently, Christians who cannot stand the heat should not go into the kitchen.
Making A Judgment
Is it biblical for a Christian to judge another Christians teaching or their actions? I’ll get to what the Bible teaches on this in a moment. But first, we are never to make a judgment without having as many of the facts as it is humanly possible to obtain. As well, we are not to judge self-righteously. Never judge a person’s heart or motives because you have no way of knowing for sure what is driving either of these. Moreover, it is always a good idea to examine your own motives. Is there a just cause for judging someone? Do you really want what is best for him or her? Are you driven by anger? Are you getting even? Are you jealous of the person? Your motive must be that you want what is best for him or her. Report only the facts. No gossip. No slander. No twisting his or her words.
In the work I do I often name names. As I previously indicated, when I expose a false teacher, invariably someone will call me judgmental. Whenever that happens, I respond to them with Scripture:
The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:15-16)
What? You mean Christians have the mind of Christ? Those who are regenerate do. To clarify this difficult concept, I’ll point you to Bible expositor Matthew Henry. He writes:
The apostles were not guided by worldly principles. They had the revelation of these things from the Spirit of God, and the saving impression of them from the same Spirit. These things they declared in plain, simple language, taught by the Holy Spirit, totally different from the affected oratory or enticing words of man’s wisdom. The natural man, the wise man of the world, receives not the things of the Spirit of God. The pride of carnal reasoning is really as much opposed to spirituality, as the basest sensuality. The sanctified mind discerns the real beauties of holiness, but the power of discerning and judging about common and natural things is not lost. But the carnal man is a stranger to the principles, and pleasures, and actings of the Divine life. The spiritual man only, is the person to whom God gives the knowledge of his will. … And the apostles were enabled by his Spirit to make known his mind. In the Holy Scriptures, the mind of Christ, and the mind of God in Christ, are fully made known to us. It is the great privilege of Christians, that they have the mind of Christ revealed to them by his Spirit. They experience his sanctifying power in their hearts, and bring forth good fruits in their lives. (bold added — Source)
In short, it is the spiritual man (regenerate) who possesses the mind of Christ and has received the knowledge of His will which is laid out for us in Scripture. Therefore, the believer who is truly walking with the Lord— in His will—has been given the authority to judge words and actions, especially when what’s being taught is unbiblical.
How do we know when someone’s teaching is unbiblical? We are to test his or her teaching against the Word of God. If their teaching doesn’t line up with what’s in the Bible, then it’s not from God. And if a certain teaching is not in the Bible? Then it is coming from another source. To be specific, false teaching is inspired by the spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places!
Bible teacher and expositor John MacArthur cautions:
It should be noted that [Matthew 7:1-5] has erroneously been used to suggest that believers should never evaluate or criticize anyone for anything. Our day hates absolutes, especially theological and moral absolutes, and such simplistic interpretation provides a convenient escape from confrontation. Members of modern society, including many professing Christians, tend to resist dogmatism and strong convictions about right and wrong. Many people prefer to speak of all-inclusive love, compromise, ecumenism, and unity. To the modern religious person those are the only “doctrines” worth defending, and they are the doctrines to which every conflicting doctrine must be sacrificed. (Source)
In my experience, many professing Christians stubbornly stick to their position that those who expose the unbiblical teaching of Christian celebs are unfairly judging them. So they play the Matthew 7:1-5 card: “Judge not, that you be not judged” followed by a resounding rebuke from verse 5: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye?”
It boggles the mind that Christians fail to grasp the notion that those who are Spirit-filled have the mind of Christ. Only believers can make this claim — no one else can.
God’s ways and His Word make little sense to the unsaved. Listen to what Paul says:
The natural person [unregenerate] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
The only way to learn about the things of the Spirit of God is by reading the Bible. For believers, the Bible’s our final authority in all matters of faith. 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” According to 2 Peter 1:21 “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
Every page of Scripture is God-breathed, yet a growing number of Christians choose to reject some of hard to understand Bible stories and Church doctrines. Two examples are the Creation story in Genesis chapters 1 & 2 and our Lord’s teaching that hell is a place of fire, demons and everlasting torment. Christ spoke more on hell than anyone else in the Bible.
Today a growing number of professing Christians reject much of what is taught in the Bible even though they rarely study it. They may attend church regularly but because they are biblically illiterate, they wouldn’t know if their pastor is teaching God’s truth or filling their minds with outright heresy. In many cases, professing believers would not know biblical truth if it walked up and bit them on the nose!
I regularly hear from Christians whose heart’s desire is to attend a healthy well-balanced church where they can be confident that they are hearing the gospel and receiving good solid biblical teaching. They lament that they’ve searched high and low to find a gospel preaching church near their home, but to no avail. So, they have become discouraged. But the sad fact is that only a handful of ministers still preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. My advice to these people is not to give up searching. Finding a biblical church is best left for another article.
Many ministers and so-called Bible teachers come to us via the airwaves. The term for them is televangelist. The televangelist’s lifestyle is clearly identified by opulence, luxury and riches. They assure viewers that you can live in the lap of luxury like they do if only you will apply certain principles to your life. We also have TV preachers who are CEO’s of mega churches. Worship services are interrupted by commercials for the purpose of promoting upcoming events and to sell their books. Buyer beware! Many TV preachers also sell consumers a false gospel that saves no one. What they offer is a counterfeit Christianity. Front and center is the word-faith/name-it-and-claim-it/prosperity charlatans such as Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Paula White, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar and Joyce Meyer, to name a few.
Be on the alert for the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) a heretical movement that holds to the view that God is restoring the lost offices of church governance such as the prophets and apostles. The late “Super Apostle” C. Peter Wagner headed up the NAR and there are a swarm of so-called apostles and prophets worldwide. The wolves in this movement believe they possess the same gifts as the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles.
Other apostates, false teachers, “frauds, phonies and money grubbing religious quacks” to be weary of can be found here.
Again, we’re not to judge a person’s heart or motives, but we can certainly judge the fruit they produce! Jesus himself said:
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. (Matthew 7:17-20)
Believers who read and study their bibles are far less likely to blindly follow false teachers. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility for mature believers who cease being Bereans to have the wool pulled over their eyes. For this very reason John warned:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1).
This article was adapted from “Does the Bible really say we’re not to judge others?”
Copyright by Marsha West, 12/17/20
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