Identifying False Teachers Publicly by Ernest Underwood

Is It Wrong to Identify False Teachers and Their False Doctrines Publicly?

      The Bible teaches that children of God are to preach and teach the word, as well as defend it.  Admitting this, we shall explore what the Bible says in answer to the question posed in the title above.  Is it anti-scriptural, unloving, unkind, and mean-spirited to identify both the false teacher by name, and the false doctrine he or she teaches by name?  Is the one who exposes such teachers and their doctrine bereft of godliness?

Facts of the Matter

     Before answering these questions let us freely admit that it is possible for one to do all of these things in an arrogant and hateful attitude.  However, before we assign any vicious motive to the one who exposes the false teachers we should first determine if he is correct in his appraisal of those teachers and doctrines.  After all, have any of us developed such wisdom that we are able to judge motives of those who make such appraisals?

     Yet, it is a fact that we have biblical passages wherein the Holy Spirit, through the preachers and writers inspired by Him, tells us of the ungodly motives of false teachers. After warning his readers that there would be false teachers among them, the apostle Peter continued by saying that these teachers “…will secretly bring in destructive heresies….because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.  By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words…” (2 Peter 2:1-3).

     These false teachers hoped to deceive Christians for the purpose of exploiting them.  One can hardly turn on a radio or television religious program without having to listen to or view the money beggars using their wiles to deceive the listener into sending them money.  Is it wrong to identify such individuals or religious organizations by name – whether publicly from the pulpit or in an article such as this?

The Scriptures Demand it

     To contend that such is wrong or sinful is to condemn every faithful prophet of God in the Old Testament, and every preacher or writer in the New Testament.  What may seem even worse is that such a position condemns the Lord of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Read Matthew 23 and listen as the He exposes and gives a scathing rebuke to the religious leaders of His day – the scribes and Pharisees.

     Read also the book of Jeremiah as he preaches to rebellious Judah.

     Listen to Stephen as he calls those ungodly murdering Jews: “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears…” (Acts 7:51)

     Read as the apostle Paul confronts Elymas by saying, “O full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness…” (Acts 13:10).

    To listen to some denominational preachers today, they would contend that each of these men should be marked as unloving and without the spirit of Christ.  It is sad beyond belief that there are some of our brethren who will defend the false teacher while condemning those who would expose the same.

A Personal & Practical Experience

     Several years ago while living in another state, I had a weekly radio program every Sunday morning.  On this program I was engaged in a series of lessons on the one church and how one becomes a member of the one church, and how the one true church worships.

     In one lesson I showed by the Scriptures that one must believe and be baptized in order to have forgiveness of sins.  I used Mark 16:15-16 as a reference to show that Jesus Himself taught this very thing.

     A denominational preacher also had a Sunday morning radio program.  Two weeks after I had delivered the lesson on baptism being a command of Jesus, this preacher opened his radio program with: “The command to be baptized for the remission of sins is a command of the devil.” 

     On hearing this blasphemous statement, on my next program I immediately challenged him to a debate on the subject.  I followed this challenge with certified mail stating the challenge and giving propositions for the debate.  Of course, he declined.

     However, two men of the congregation where I preached, who referred to themselves as “main members,” were extremely upset with me. They accused me of harassing and embarrassing this denominational false teacher.  They also stated that we ought to try to get along with other churches rather than trying to embarrass them.  Thankfully, the congregation did not agree with those two men.  They are no longer associated with that church. The church publicly withdrew its fellowship from these two, and from four other men who promoted the same thing as the other two men.

Is It Ungodly to do so?

     In reference to the second question: “Is the one who exposes such teachers and their doctrine bereft of godliness?” Were Jesus, Paul, Steven, Peter, and others bereft of godliness when they called names and identified false teachers and their doctrines?  Who will dare to say so?

     But then one last question needs to be asked and answered: “Why do those who call themselves by unbiblical and denominational names, especially the preachers of those denominations, become so incensed when one calls them by the name they call themselves?”  It doesn’t seem reasonable that they are ashamed of that name, whatever it may be.  In fact, they prefer that denominational name to the name of the One who died on the cross.  They speak long and loud about “the lovely name of Jesus,” and claim that the church which they “pastor” is a “church with an open Bible.” Yet, they refuse to wear that lovely Name, and though they claim to have an open Bible, their minds are closed tighter than a steel trap.

     One last thing that this writer has noted about such teachers and preachers is that they are adamant in their denunciation and criticism of one who points out their hypocrisy, using such terms as: not having the spirit of Christ; mean-spirited; hateful; and a host of other such designations.  But, for some reason, they do not see themselves under these same descriptive terms as they accuse others. Perhaps it was Shakespeare, or some other man, who said, “Consistency, thou art a jewel.”