The Importance of Biblical Truth
Truth and salvation go together, just as error and damnation go together. If you know and obey the truth, you go the right way and gain eternal life. If you don’t, then you are going the wrong way and will not experience eternal life. If the truth sets you free and saves you, then error enslaves and damns you. Refusing the truth, believing what is false, results in judgment and condemnation (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12). Therefore it is crucial, today more than ever, that we be certain we know the truth, and be unwavering in the Faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. We must also take care that we not wander away from the truth, being, “constantly nourished on the words of the Faith and of sound doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:6). But “anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Messiah, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).
Where do we find the truth? Where do we look for sound doctrine? The Sacred Writings are able to give us the wisdom that leads to salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). This wisdom that has been compared to the Tree of Life is available only in the Holy Scriptures, and only when properly interpreted and applied to our lives. Therefore we must be diligent to present ourselves to God as those who accurately handle the Word of Truth. If we do that, we won’t be ashamed, and we will receive the promised reward (2 Timothy 2:15). We must be discerning, only listening to men of God who “pay attention to the teaching, because this insures our salvation” (1 Timothy 4:16).
There is serious departure from the truth going on in large parts of the Church and the Messianic Jewish community, and I feel constrained to speak out. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning” (Isaiah 62:1). I need to speak out, and I have an obligation to speak out. I’ve been a follower of Yeshua for 30 years, 26 of those in full-time ministry. I’ve spoken in hundreds of churches. I feel a deep pastoral concern, not only for my flock, but for the entire Church.
I Will Not KeepQuiet
I realize that in speaking out against false teaching, some will accuse me of causing division, but contending for the true Faith is not the same as being divisive. It is, in fact, those who introduce erroneous teaching that are responsible for causing division. Genuine unity must be based on the truth. Our fellowship is a facade if it is not built on the sure foundation of the truth. We must not tolerate seriously wrong doctrine for the sake of a generic, bland unity. It isn’t enough to claim that we all just “love Jesus” while turning a blind eye to false and destructive teachings. Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons say they believe in Jesus, but a little further inquiry reveals that their idea of who He is is disastrously wrong! Roman Catholicism confesses Jesus, but also confesses a plethora of unbiblical doctrines as well. The people of God need discernment, not false unity.
On the surface, it may appear more spiritual to be non-confrontational, but there is nothing spiritual about avoiding necessary reproof. When someone is doing something that isn’t right, or believing something that isn’t right, the right and loving thing to do is admonish, rebuke and correct them. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Proverbs 27:6).
It is appropriate that I speak out and contend for the faith, when the apostles and inspired writers of the New Testament boldly spoke out. “Teachers of false doctrine are referred to in the New Testament as heretics, false prophets, ravening and grievous wolfs, vain talkers and deceivers, false apostles, deceitful workers, ministers of Satan following his example in fashioning themselves as ministers of righteousness, vessels for dishonor, men who by their smooth and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. Christians are instructed to beware of them, avoid them, purge their assemblies of them, refuse them, stop their mouths, rebuke them sharply, separate themselves from them, count them as accursed, not receiving them into their houses and giving them no greeting” (based on “The Duty Of Intolerance” and taken from the Eastern Methodist, an early-twentieth century publication for sound teaching in the Methodist denomination).
I will speak out and name names for the sake of clarity, and because the Word of God does it when necessary. Hymenaeus and Philetus were named as men who went astray from the truth (2 Timothy 2:18). Demas loved this present world and deserted Paul (2 Timothy 4:10). Alexander the coppersmith harmed Paul and Timothy was told to be on guard against him (2 Timothy 4:14-15).
I will speak out because we need to identify those who are corrupting the truth, and shun them. “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds” (2 John 1:10-11).
Some would try to silence me by saying, “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged” (Matthew 7:1). The Greek word which is translated “judge” has a wide range of meaning. It can also mean condemn, decide, determine, consider, regard. Some people misunderstand the Lord’s words to mean that we should not make any judgments at all. That’s not at all what the Lord was talking about. What Yeshua is talking about here is a critical, judgmental attitude that quickly passes sentence and condemns, without any regard for seeking restoration. It refers to people who are overly critical, who have an unreasonable emphasis on faults or defects in others, while conveniently ignoring their own. It is critical without being constructive, tearing down without building up, passing out blame without exercising mercy or understanding or patience in the process.
The exhortation not to judge means that we are not to pass judgment ourselves, to condemn people to Hell, to dismiss them as beyond repentance, or say that they are beyond the scope of God’s kindness and mercy. Like the merciful God we are to have a merciful attitude toward them. We are to hope and pray for them to repent and live. Someone put it this way: “Messiah is not giving us a requirement to be blind but a plea to be generous and merciful with others. Yeshua is not telling us to abandon our powers of discernment and cease to be intelligent people, but to renounce the ambition to be God. He is the Judge. He will assess all blame, weigh all lives, pass all judgment, take into account all factors.”
The exhortation not to judge does not mean that we are not to be discerning and wise, and make determinations between good and evil, between the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error. It doesn’t mean that we can’t engage in critical thinking, and reject that which is false. Critical thinking is not a sin. For example, when it comes to prophetic announcements, we are told to examine everything carefully and hold fast to that which is good and reject what is false (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). The same principle of critical thinking and judgment applies to doctrine. We must examine it carefully and determine whether it is sound or false doctrine.
The exhortation not to judge doesn’t mean that we can’t analyze the facts and information we have about people and situations and doctrinal matters and make an intelligent response. It doesn’t mean that we can’t recognize that something is seriously wrong in a congregation, or in someone’s life or teaching or ministry. It certainly doesn’t mean ignoring people’s sin or pretending the problem doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.
The exhortation not to judge doesn’t mean that we can’t call what is bad “bad” and what is good “good,” or to identify something wrong as wrong, or something heretical as heretical. So destructive is false teaching to its victims that Yeshua and the Biblical writers referred to the purveyors of spiritual falsehood as hypocrites, blind guides, fools, blind men, snakes, brood of vipers, unreasoning animals, stains, blemishes, hidden reefs, clouds without water, springs without water, mists driven by storm, trees doubly dead, wild waves, wandering stars; or call them false teachers, evil workers, false brothers, false circumcision, grumblers, flatterers, mockers, liars, ungodly sinners, conceited, understanding nothing, men of depraved minds, empty talkers and deceivers. We are responsible, both to warn them about the punishment, judgment and destruction they will soon experience, and to warn others against falling prey to their deception.
The exhortation not to judge doesn’t mean that you can’t call a false prophet a false prophet. How do we know that? In this same sermon the Messiah, who told us “Don’t judge,” tells us that He wants us to discern false prophets among us. Elsewhere He tells us to make a right judgment. “Do not judge according to appearance, but according to righteous judgment” (John 7:24). God wants us to see clearly into people and situations and doctrinal matters. We are to make things out clearly, analyze, know right from wrong, good from bad, truth from error. Paul insists we that judge those who are within the Church, and police ourselves by recognizing bad behavior and doctrine, and dealing with it (1 Corinthians 5:12).
If you detect some anger directed to the false prophets and those teaching bad doctrine, you are right. It is there, but it is a righteous anger. I, too, am angry at those who twist and distort the Holy Scriptures, and thereby dishonor the Word of the Lord and the Lord Himself; and sometimes do great harm to believers and non-believers alike. But I don’t want to judge anyone, and see anyone go to Hell – even those false prophets and false teachers. I want the false prophets to repent. I want the teachers who are teaching bad doctrine to return to teaching only the truth. But in the meantime, it is necessary that we point out their errors, avoid their bad teaching, and shun them, if necessary.