Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 19, 1970

New Testament Preachers: True And False

Edward Fudge

The gospel tells sinful man about God's grace in Jesus Christ, and calls on him to turn from sin to God. Christian doctrine strengthens him in faith and hope, and tells him how to live in a sinful world [see "Rightly Dividing the New Testament," Firm Foundation, November 11, 1969] . In the New Testament, false teachers are generally of two sorts: (1) Those who corrupt the gospel itself, and (2) those who pervert the grace of God to allow immoral living and encourage sin.

False Of Two Sorts

The first class includes (1) those who ascribe salvation to man's works rather than to the work of Christ for man [this takes in the Judaizers who constantly appear in Scripture] ; (2) those who deny the person or deity of Christ [such as the gnostic-like teachers of Col. 2:8-10; I John 2:22-24; II John 7-10] ; and (3) those who deny Christ's present position as Lord or His future role as Judge [see I Cor. 12:3; II Pet. 3:3-7] .

Today there are religious people who do the first [and we might beware lest we fall into this particular snare], speculative religious philosophers who commit the second, and infidels and modernists who are guilty of the third. All these are to be resisted and withstood. They preach a different gospel and properly come under the condemnation of Galatians 1:6-9.

The second class appears more frequently in the New Testament. Paul warns against them in writing to the Ephesians (5:5, 6), the Philippians (3:18, 19) and the Thessalonians (I, 4:2-8). Peter also speaks of this error (II, 2:1-22; 3:14-18), as does John when penning Christ's letters to the churches (Rev. 2:14, 20). Paul attacks the false teaching in Romans 6:1-15, although he does not there identify specific sources of the error.

In most cases these were self-seeking persons who cared only for their own advancement and personal lusts. Today there are also religious libertines who "turn the grace of God into lasciviousness" (Jude 4), and therefore we must "contend earnestly for the faith" (Jude 3). Many so-called "faith-healers" are immoral charlatans who use the faith for a cloak of covetousness. All such God will judge. The Calvinistic doctrine of "once saved, always saved," pressed to its logical consequences, also leads into error. Scripture does teach the security of the believer (I Peter 1:3-5), but it also teaches that the believer may stop believing and be condemned as an unbeliever (Col. 1:22, 23; Heb. 3:12-14). The sophisticated pronouncements of the "new morality" and "situation ethics" schools are appropriate modern analogies to the smooth-talking and persuasive errorists faced by Paul in the first century.

The Faithful Preacher

Paul instructs Timothy and Titus to continue in the faith [the gospel itself] and to persevere in instruction in godliness. The goal of sound teaching is love out of a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5). It is unfortunate that some turn from this pure teaching to "vain jangling" (I Tim. 1:6). Calling teaching "sound" does not make it so. Teaching designed, to further the ends of personal desires or promote any party or sect is not healthy ["sound"] by Scriptural standards. The fact that Christians are warned against such tendencies proves that they face them constantly. All that the faithful preacher teaches should be aimed at the true spiritual growth of God's children — and that can be ascertained only as it leads them into the fullness and likeness of Christ Himself.

Paul instructs Timothy and Titus to continue in these things. He warns them against those who will not (see I Tim. 1:5-7; 4:1-11; 6:2-5, 11-12; II Tim. 2:22-26; 3:13-17; Titus 2:11-15; 3:8-11). Their opponents, Paul warns, will be men who thrive on controversy, advance themselves and their interests, love earthly prestige and tickle the ears of their listeners to these ends. The servant of the Lord seeks quiet growth — not noisy and controversial notoriety. If Paul were here today it is doubtful that he would commend any segment of the brethren in full along these lines. There certainly seems to be no room for one group of brethren to feel self-righteous in contrast to another group. The "position" a man takes on a given "issue" today is a different question entirely than that being discussed here. We are not dealing with conclusions and inferences but with characters and attitudes.

In Closing

Let us examine our own hearts to see what is there. Let us determine to be God-pleasers and not men-pleasers. Let us insist that the teaching which receives our approval is that which grows out of faith in Jesus Christ, and which leads to godliness and good works (Titus 2:11-15; James 1:27). Let us see that we are doers of the word and not hearers only. To do otherwise is self-deceit, and any other kind of religion (or preaching) is useless (James 1:25, 26). It is a big order. Filling it will keep us busy a long, long time.

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