Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). So every believer must strive to make peace in any conflict where God gives us the ability to have influence. But that brings up a really good question, “How can we be a peacemaker with false teachers? Are we to forgive their sinful, false teachings and go on like it’s not happening?” We should be thankful to God that He has not left us without divinely revealed instruction on this.
There are two sides of the matter on which people may only see one side being blind to the other. One side I will call the “peace at all cost” side and the other I’ll call the “Duke Nukem” side. People on the “peace at all cost” side rightly want to live at peace with everyone but may not recognize the damaging effects false teachers have on people’s lives and society. They may be willing to overlook damaging false doctrine for the sake of keeping peace at all cost. The “Duke Nukem” folks get the false doctrine part and are ready to vaporized it readily with showers of biblical truth. On the other hand they often overlook the relationship and commands of Jesus to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Both of these sides need to be corrected in their own way by God’s commands given in the Bible.
This blog post will be too brief to delve into all the details such Christians avoiding dating or marrying those who teach false doctrines or relating to a family members, holding pastors and leaders accountable, or addressing another church when they embrace false teaching. But I hope to offer some basic instruction from Scripture to help shape how we think about living at peace with false teachers.
First of all a believer’s communication really should not resemble the interaction of “DoomGuy VS Duke Nukem.” It should sound a lot more like Jesus talking than napalm burning. And it must begin with identifying clearly what the false teaching is and putting it on the theological spectrum in the appropriate place. Is it an essential doctrine without which no one can be saved (existence of God, deity and humanity of Christ, truthfulness and origin of the Bible, etc.)? Or is it a non-essential doctrine held by denominations who differ but not at the peril of their soul (eternal security, mode of baptism, method of church government, etc.)? Those differing on essential Christian doctrines must be confronted and held accountable by the church at the highest level of seriousness. Those differing on non-essential doctrines are to be loved as brothers and sisters even though we may want to have friendly debates over our differences.
To answer the original question though, “Are we to forgive sinful false teachings and go on like it’s not happening?” The answer is no. We must never ignore false teachings on essential Christian doctrines. Looking at what the Bible says about false teaching shows us we can never overlook these kinds of errors. The Bible calls these falsehoods “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1-2) and “destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1) taught by “people who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:14). They themselves are those who “do not know God” and “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). According to the Bible they will be eternally lost and they will take their listeners with them. Obviously we may not strive for “peace at all cost” with those who will take many into eternal condemnation. But as we warn them we are not to “Duke Nukem” but rather to love them in hopes of “snatching them out of the fire” (Jude 23).
Here are some commands for us to obey concerning those false teachers with whom we may never agree. Mark 12:28 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” Romans 12:14-21 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” We are to live out the gospel of God’s love toward them in prayerful hope that they will repent and trust fully in Jesus for their soul’s salvation.
Yet as we love and pray for false teachers we must also follow these instructions from God. We are to “rebuke them in the presence of all” (1 Timothy 5:20), “rebuke those who contradict,” and even “rebuke them sharply” (Titus 1:9-13). “They must be silenced” (Titus 1:11). When a false teacher will not listen to correction, church members are commanded to “have nothing more to do with him knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).
Why does God instruct us with such severe actions? It is because false teachers “secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:1-3). They are “fierce wolves” who “come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 2:29-30).
So in the end, false teachers who will not listen to correction and return to teaching sound doctrine, themselves, will be condemned by God. We are not their judge. God is their judge and He warns them of their coming destruction. But He also warns church members not to join them in their false teaching not to allow other church members, especially the weaker and more vulnerable, to be exposed to the falsehoods lest they be led astray. This is why the Scriptures exhort us in this way through the writer, Jude, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” May we be faithful to this task.