It grieves my heart that I have to address false teaching in this way. There was an event today and some of our church members were in attendance. In accordance with Titus 1, I must safeguard our congregation by addressing any false teaching that we might be exposed to:
For an overseer, as God’s administrator, must be blameless, not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.
For there are also many rebellious people, full of empty talk and deception, especially those from Judaism. It is necessary to silence them; they overthrow whole households by teaching what they shouldn’t in order to get money dishonestly (Titus 1:7-11 HCSB).
This is not something that I do lightly and is certainly not something that I rejoice in doing, for we gain nothing by speaking badly of any teacher in our community. Out of respect for this teacher and in an effort not to mar his name, I will not mention him by name here. Those who were in attendance will know and this is the group I speak to primarily. If you are a member of the church in which this teacher teaches, my deepest hope is that you remain committed to your local body, but even more so to the genuine and unadulterated gospel of our only Lord, Jesus Christ.
The message this afternoon was built upon two passages of Scripture: John 10, and Psalm 23. The reader taught from a translation in which words are added to enhance the meaning and not an actual translation of the text of Scripture. He spoke of a ‘dispensation of grace’ in a way that caused the listener to imagine God as a being capable of change from one age to another. He also taught a gospel built on the idea of earthly prosperity.
First, I will mention John 10. John 10 speaks of Christ as the good shepherd. In fact, Jesus used the illustration of a shepherd and his flock to present a picture of Himself and those who follow Him. Within his sermon, the teacher stated that those who are sheep of Christ are protected from the wiles of the world and the attacks of Satan. Of course, he contradicted himself as he spoke of the “pressures on our lives” that try to isolate us. If God’s people were protected from the wiles of the world and the attacks of Satan, then the isolation of God’s people would not be possible. He insisted, at the same time, that it is Christ who lays down at the gate and guards His sheep so that no enemy can overtake them; completely ignoring the first verse in John 10, which seems to indicate that there are illegitimate ways that the pen might be entered. John used this verse to illustrate that there are people who enter into the community of faith (now the local church) who have not been saved by Christ. John refers to these false sheep as thieves and robbers. This means that there are preachers of false gospels amidst the people of God in this world. There is danger all around. Not to worry, though, according to John 10, those whom Christ has saved know His voice and do not listen to thieves and robbers that enter into the fold by another way. The local church is not protected from the outside world, but is the visible manifestation of a kingdom of priests that Christ is building. John 10 states nothing whatsoever about protection in this world from the attacks of people or of spiritual creatures. The promise is that Christ leads His people.
Added to this, the teacher also stated that Christ’s sheep are always able to hear the voice of God. This idea is not represented in this passage of Scripture either. While it is true that Christ has all authority to lead His sheep, it is not true that God’s people always hear God clearly. We are imperfect, easily persuaded, and many times pay more attention to our own thoughts and convictions than we do those of God. This might be illustrated in this way: Though the message presented was, almost in its entirety, contrary to the text of Scripture, still the room applauded and still amens could be heard from the audience at the most heretical claims. Sometimes we are blind, yet Christ has grace to lead those who belong to Him. This should be taken as a warning for every local church. Biblical literacy is important. We must study and we must recognize false teaching. This should also be a warning to every pastor and teacher, we must devote ourselves to study because God has given a Word that He desires to be proclaimed as He has given it. Nothing more, and nothing less.
As the teacher moved to Psalm 23, he declared that psalm 23 was a foreshadowing of the ‘dispensation of grace,’ in which all of those who believed in Christ would be in the fold of God and protected from the outside enemies. His hermeneutic was one of prophecy while this specific verse of Scripture is a Psalm of David who, in the Psalm, described his own circumstances (not a future age). The teacher failed to read the Psalm in its own context and skipped probably the most important part. David states, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” The Psalm speaks of, not worldly peace, but inner peace and restoration in a world where evil and enemies abound. It does not speak of the physical protection of the believer in the current age, but the fact that even though David’s enemies surrounded him there was a restoration in his spirit provided by God. When we begin with a wrong hermeneutic or read the text of Scripture out of its historical context, we will surely see it wrongly. I imagine this teacher would have to teach, according to the theology that he has developed in these two passages, that the Christian life is one of safety. I guess most of our brothers and sisters around the world who are persecuted are following someone other than Christ… I imagine, when we experience the coming of an enemy that we, too, have not been saved or are somehow outside of the graces of God… This message is drawn to its natural conclusion, then there was no one in that room who is Christ’s sheep and no one in the world, in fact, who is in Christ. For, it is those who belong to Christ that, perhaps, experience the most danger (spiritually and physically) in this world (this is obvious this week as more of our brothers and sisters in Egypt are dying at the hands of militant Muslim terrorists).
I simply cannot endorse nor invite anyone to listen to such heresy as the prosperity gospel. It is entirely contrary to the text of Scripture. I cannot endorse the worship of any teacher the way that it seems this one was worshipped. All I can do is grieve and hope that the genuine Gospel is heard clearly in our community. Christ is Lord. We are wrong. We need to repent and surrender to Him. We become willing to endure the evil and sin in this world for Him and for the sake of the Gospel. We trust Him to sanctify us and to glorify us. The Gospel is not about our safety, comfort, wealth, earthly blessings, entertainment, leadership, perfection, priorities, numbers, or us at all. It is about the glory and work of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Will we have surrendered to Him, or will we have somehow made the faithfulness of Christ about us? Be careful little ears what you hear.