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Why Confront False Teachers?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013 | Comments (9)

The issue of false teaching and the question of how to address it is a present reality for every believer. Many Christians choose to respond with silence rather than incur the wrath of a world that demands tolerance. But is silence the best reaction to doctrinal error?

In the following audio clip, John MacArthur examines Christ’s confrontations with false teachers, how His example clashes with our polite society, and what it means to fight for the truth.

As we look forward to the Strange Fire conference in October at which John MacArthur and several other outstanding preachers will follow Christ’s example by confronting the errors and excesses of the charismatic movement. You can view this or any of our other Strange Fire media at the conference website.

GTY Staff


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#1  Posted by Joshua Bolaji  |  Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 4:06 AM

Thank you, for all your hard work, Pastor John, and the team at GTY. We're currently living and ministering in South Africa; will you be bringing this conference here? If not, will we be able to get hold of all the conference teachings etc...? Thanks.

#2  Posted by Gary Lee Fennimore  |  Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 7:34 AM

Unfortunately with so many False Pastors and False Teachers massively infiltrating Churches today why are the faithful biblical leaders so afraid to name names so that we the sheep are not fleeced so easily? I am one that is favor of naming names as long as Matthew 18 is adhered too not just blaming for disputable points of doctrine. This shyness or fear that is so very prevalent is not what Jesus Christ nor His disciples ever exhibited. The Truth of God's word is too valuable and crucial to be timid about. These are people's eternal destinies and torments that so many are just so casual and careless about. Thank you Pastor John for being forthright with names that need to be publicized.

#3  Posted by Luis Aponte  |  Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 4:10 PM

As MacArthur says: "The Truth Matters". And we as believers who know the Truth of God clearly teached in Scripture, need to fight for it. There are false teachers everywhere deceiving people and we need to confront them...

#5  Posted by James Williams  |  Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 7:42 PM

I agree with Gary Lee. The Church today, also, has melded in with the P.C. crowd and is afraid of offending people with a "judgmental" call. On a couple occasions I've "called it like it is" and have come away with derision from my own brothers and sisters in Christ for being too judgmental or callous. I make no apologies for it. When I see false teaching I call it and give scripture to back it up. We need more of that in the Church. Maybe that would keep more of the false teachers at bay. Look at the "healers" for example, waving their hands making people "swoon" to their "power." Hinn being the most popular at that. I can't for the life of me see how believers don't see through their facade.

#6  Posted by Dirk Gently  |  Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 9:08 AM

The problem I see here (and granted, the above is a 2-minute clip of what was likely a longer sermon) is that Dr. MacArthur regularly calls out "false teachers" on issues most of us in the larger church would consider secondary or tertiary.

The greatest irony I see here is that Dr. MacArthur is quick to call out Rome for their errors, but what he's done over his decades at Grace Community is set up a systematic theology that is no less comprehensive or inflexible than Catholicism's.

We must walk in faith that the Holy Spirit will guide us in truth, but we must walk humbly, knowing that we cannot possibly hope to know or understand everything correctly until we are fully like Christ.

That is not to say that we do not ever confront error. But the goal of healthy confrontation should be to edify both parties. So for example, when an amillennialist and a post-millennialist have a discussion on eschatology, they should both recognize the possibility that neither of them is 100% correct, and they could perhaps learn something.

We must be wary of the fact that we too may inadvertently be "false teachers" in need of correction.

#7  Posted by Fred Butler  |  Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Dirk #6 Writes,

The problem I see here … is that Dr. MacArthur regularly calls out "false teachers" on issues most of us in the larger church would consider secondary or tertiary.

I attend Grace so I hear John regularly. I am not entirely sure what instances you have in mind of John calling out “false teachers” on secondary issues. You supply the example of amillennialism and postmillennialism, but when John has addressed individuals who may adhere to either one of those particular eschatologies, John is clear to distinguish between what he disagrees with in their teaching on that subject, and what is clearly “false teaching” on the level of Roman Catholicism.

To suggest that there is some unyielding doctrinal magisterium at Grace that is inflexible is a tad hyperbolic and out of touch with what John teaches and what happens at Grace. You’re setting up what really amounts to a strawman example of what John believes and teaches and claiming such fundamental attitudes need to be addressed accurately. The problem is, such an atmosphere doesn’t exist there.


That is not to say that we do not ever confront error. But the goal of healthy confrontation should be to edify both parties.

Again, John does distinguish between false teaching and disagreement. Those that are seriously teaching falsely are confronted head-on, whereas individuals who may disagree on what you call “secondary” matters are extended grace.

Just reading over your post again, it seems as though you are conflating false teaching that needs to be confronted with firm rebuke with theological disagreement. If one is premillennial and another postmillennial, neither is teaching “false doctrine.” One may be mistaken, but his mistake cannot potentially damn souls. I think that is where you need to draw a distinction.

#8  Posted by Cheryl Kaster  |  Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 12:20 AM


I'm not sure the examples you gave (the Roman Catholic Church & disagreements between adherents to amillenialism and post-millenialism) are on point to your observations. Here is why.

First,the fact that the doctrinal belief system Grace Community has "set up" can in no way be compared to the heretical teachings of the Catholic Church. The fact of each organization's "dogmatism" does not make them equal and it is correct to identify false teachers.

There is nothing wrong with a theological belief that is both comprehensive and inflexible, as long as the basis of the belief is the truth, God's truth, unlike the RCC which substitutes man's doctrine and tries to pass it off as God's. In fact, "flexibility" in Biblical doctrine will lead people directly to hell and it is that "flexibility" that is being embraced in the name of "love," all the while turning their backs on the only One who is the source of love.

There is nothing "tertiary" or "secondary" about the issues when John MacArthur finally does call out someone by name. I don't believe he is quick to do so and I am confident that by the time he actually takes that step it is no longer a question.

Amillenialism vs. post-millenlialism is not an issue that I have ever heard John MacArthur speak about except to explain the difference if it comes up in the course of a message. A belief one way or the other will not determine one's eternal destiny according to any doctrine I have ever heard of.

With regard to your statement that the goal of confrontation is to "edify," I'm not sure where you are getting that. Confrontation as in confronting false teachers, or anyone who is in a seeming pattern of sinful behavior and professing to be a believer, is to be approached with the idea of bringing awareness to that person of the sin they are involved in, counseling them with regard to confession and repentance, and then ultimately removing them from the community if they refuse to repent.

Such a confrontation is done not only out of concern for the sinning believer, or possible salvation of the person if they are not, in fact, born again yet, but also demonstrates a pastor/shepherd protecting his flock of believers from the devastating effects of falling under the sway of false teachers (likened to leavening). The concept of "edify" is in many passages in the Epistles, but I am not aware of it ever being used in the context you are suggesting.

False teachers who teach in public must also be confronted in public because of the greatly-multiplied effect that their false teachings have on the many professing believers who are essentially unaware of all but the most common proof texts.

I believe your mis-understanding of John MacArthur's ministry at Grace Community Church suggests a lack of any real familiarity with the man, or his ministry. If you feel I am inaccurate, please do not hesitate to reply. Please forgive any typos. :)

#9  Posted by Caleb Vaughn  |  Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Hey Dirk. I realize your post has already given you a lot to read but I just wanted to look at a different angle here with you shortly. And I want to look at the point you made about being unable to critique others because we aren't perfect either. You said,

"...we must walk humbly, knowing that we cannot possibly hope to know or understand everything correctly until we are fully like Christ."

What I would like to draw your attention to is that this is a fallacy. This idea that our imperfections make us unable or unworthy to speak out against outright heresy is a result of post-modernism. Post-modernism has made subtle inroads in the Church and it has taken the form of "humility". However, the humility you are talking about, and the humility that post-modernism offers is a "pseudo-humility". In other words, to say that we are imperfect so we should be "humble" enough to know to keep our mouths shut SOUNDS good and even SOUNDS Christian. However, speaking out against heresy and standing up for Biblical truth is a mandate for Shepherds in the Church.

"He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." Titus 1:9 [ESV]

Furthermore, there is an irony to what you said and that is this; in making the statement in a public forum that John MacArthur should not publicly speak out against error, you are doing the very same thing, therefore cutting the branch out from beneath you. You are essentially criticizing public rebuke publicly. Do you see the irony?

The last point is in regards to the Catholic Church. I believe that MacArthur's qualm with the Catholic Church has less to do with the unswerving nature of their theology than it does with the tenants of their faith that are diametrically opposed to Scripture (ie. Mary as co-redemptrix, the infallibility of the Pope, priests as mediators, indulgences, etc...). To be unshakable in your theology is not a bad thing; to be anti-Christ is a very bad thing.

I just want to conclude by saying that I am not attacking you nor do I mean to offend you. I simply wanted to try and shed a different light on some of your thought processes. And I hope that I did so in "true humility" as one who has, myself, had to be corrected more times than I can remember. You were right when you said that we will not know fully until the perfect comes.

#10  Posted by Cheryl Kaster  |  Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Hi again Dirk,

I read your post again and wanted to make just one more point.

You assert that "Dr. MacArthur regularly calls out "false teachers" on issues most of us in the larger church would consider secondary or tertiary."

What Dr. MacArthur has referred to with some regularity is that the "larger church," as you call it, is largely made up of false converts, or, possibly true believers whose growth has been stunted by the severe lack of spiritual food, brought on by pastors and teachers who refuse to spend the requisite time in actually studying Scripture so that they can in turn actually feed the sheep entrusted to their care.

There is a very valid reason that people are admonished that not many should be teachers because there is a much greater mantle of responsibility that is assumed when one assumes the role of bible teacher. John MacArthur is one of a handful of truly excellent and gifted teachers.

The attitudes of the "larger church" should not be examples we should strive to emulate or hold up as any form of good example. The validity of a ministry is not measured in numbers. The validity of Grace Community's ministry under the leadership of John MacArthur and the elders of that church, is not recognized to be of value because of the attendance. I have heard John say that it is not the breadth of a ministry one should evaluate but the Spiritual Depth (maturity) of those that attend and belong.

Please remember that thousands upon thousands followed Jesus and yet when he taught the "hard sayings" almost all left. He may fed the thousands, but there were 120 in the upper room at Pentecost.

There should be grave concern for the "larger church" that they are, in fact, on the broad road that leads to destruction, not the narrow way that leads to life and peace.

I have listened to some of John's messages from just a few years after he came to Grace, and I listen to current messages, and I have made note of the fact that all that he warned those at Grace about the culture of that time, and the compromise and descent down the slippery slope is turning out to be the exact same things he taught less that 10 years after he started with Grace over 40 years ago now, I believe. His messages haven't changed.

John is consistently faithful to do his absolute best to teach accurately what Holy Scripture means, he expounds on important things like the culture, the language, and what the scripture, in CONTEXT, meant to those it was written to. He has inspired me to an even deeper love for and desire to learn to know God more and more through His Word.

My prayer is that God would touch eyes to see the value of truly gifted teaching and preaching such as that delivered by John MacArthur. I praise God for the teaching gift he has given John and John's faithfulness in exercising that gift. I have a feeling however that John, like Paul, would say he is "compelled" to do what he does...he can do no other.