by Brian A. Yeager
When one reads of false brethren and those teaching errors (false teachers/prophets) throughout the word of God you find that they were labeled, at times, in colorful ways. Of the watchman in Israel, Isaiah penned the following: “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter” (Isaiah 56:10-11).
Today we find that the “politically correct” mindset has influenced our brethren. Too many are afraid to identify false teachers for what they really are. Too many hold their tongues when it comes to identifying those who are teaching errors that will lead others to Hell. One wrote me recently chiding me saying, in part, “Neither Jesus nor Paul engaged in name-calling”. This was said after I appropriately identified a false teacher as a liar. Why was it appropriate? Notice the following: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:3-4). Calling a false teacher a liar is not only okay, but it is also authorized by way of example (Titus 1:12).
If you identify a false teacher today for what he is you will be the one that is condemned by many so-called “brethren”. These “brethren” are ignorant of what the word of God shows us in relation to identifying the false teacher. They are weak-minded and more like a deceptive politician than Jesus Christ who, as we will see in this article, will identify a dog as a dog! If we are to claim to follow the example of Christ we need to understand that using strong terms that truly identify those who are false, however non-politically correct they may be, is right!
Jesus – The Master Name Caller
I shall allow the Scriptures to speak on their own for the majority of this part of the article. What would Jesus say to false teachers / false brethren today? The answers:
“Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matthew 15:12-14).
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves… Ye fools and blind… Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites… Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel… Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity… Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:15, 17, 23, 24, 27-28, and 33).
Guess what – Jesus was a name-caller!
Sometimes people will do things such as asking questions to tempt us or try to entangle us in our speech. Questions, at times, are asked to cause strife or even to try and teach false doctrine (II Timothy 2:23 and Titus 3:9). Some tried these tactics with Jesus. He did not respond with the typical politically correct responses of some “brethren” today. Try to entangle Jesus in His talk and He’ll respond by saying: “…Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites” (Matthew 22:18)? Try to tempt Jesus by asking Him about marriage in the resurrection and He’ll respond by saying: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). Today, somebody would jump all over a preacher if he said someone was ignorant after they asked a question. Would they do so also of Jesus?
Jesus teaches that there are such things as people who are dogs and swine (Matthew 7:6). In fact, Peter used such terms in a context dealing with false teachers: “But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:22). Jesus tells us that we can know false teachers / false brethren by the fruit of their works (Matthew 7:16; 20). Jesus teaches us that we can judge righteous judgment (John 7:24). We can know a person is a dog or a pig from what they do! If we know them as such, we can follow the scriptural examples cited above and those following as examples in calling them what they are. Of course, when you do this you will be told you are lost. You will even be told that you are unloving. Are those charges correct?
Are We Unloving When We “Call Names”?
I do not believe that any man could claim to be more loving than Jesus Christ who bled and died to offer salvation to all mankind (Romans 5:6ff.). Yet, as we have seen, Jesus was not soft in speech when it came to those who were doing wrong. Even to Christians, Jesus would tell them how they were lukewarm and He would spew them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:15-16). Sin sickens our Lord and should sicken us too. Love is to rebuke and chasten those in error (Revelation 3:19). We need to learn to love that which is good and to hate evil. If we do so, we will not hesitate to call names when identifying those who are evildoers.
What If Your Terms Imply Hatred?
Paul, by means of inspiration, wrote saying: “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9). Let’s think about this verse for a moment. Dissimulation means hypocrisy. Thus, we are to love without hypocrisy. Loving God means obedience to God (John 14:15, I John 2:5, and I John 5:2-3). If we endorse those practicing error and claim to love God, we are hypocrites. If we associate with those doing evil and claim to love God, we are hypocrites (II John 6-11). Secondly, we are to abhor that which is evil. To abhor means to hate. Thus, we are to hate that which is evil (Psalms 26:5; 97:10, Proverbs 8:13, and Amos 5:15). Finally, in this one verse, we are told to cleave to that which is good. To cleave is to hang on to. We should hold fast to that which is good (I Thessalonians 5:21).
Seeing what we have discussed in this section of our article, there are some things that need to be made very clear. If you love truth you will HATE error. Thus, when you speak of those promoting, practicing, and supporting error; hatred will be heard and seen in what you say: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (Psalms 101:3). We should take hold to the words of the Psalmist: “Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way” (Psalms 119:128). When the Lord addressed the complacent Christians in Pergamos, who did not deal with false teachers among them, He said: “So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:15). Why aren’t brethren talking like people who hate sin? Hmm, maybe the answer rests in the sympathies many brethren show for those despicable false teachers that are roaming about today.
We could examine more examples of texts within the word of God where we see sharp terms used against and in the description of false teachers and all manner of sinners. I for one cannot see how more should be needed. When someone needs to be called a snake, you should do so (Matthew 3:7). If someone needs to be called Satan or the child of Satan, you call them that (Matthew 16:23 and John 8:44). Be correct in the sight of God and be not concerned by the politics played by those among us pretending to be God’s people.
As Christians, we are supposed to follow the approved examples we read in the Scriptures. We should be rebuking false teachers sharply (Titus 1:13), not walking on eggshells when talking about them. Of course, you can expect those false teachers that you speak sharply against to respond. They will ignorantly proclaim that you are hateful. They will blame you for their apostasy. They will say that you are running people away from the Lord’s church. Will you let those ignorant charges keep you from calling a dog what he is?