By Roland W. Keith
Are you a person of influence? Are you a parent, sibling, or boss? A spouse, a teacher, employer, or employee? Then the answer is yes. We all affect others around us in indirect or intangible ways, as well as directly. We all exert a spiritual or moral force on those in our lives. Moreover, we all have some impact on the condition and development of other people, especially those within our own families. The real question isn’t whether or not you are an influential person, but rather what kind of influence are you exerting? Jesus once said, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
As Christians it is our responsibility to be a force for good in the world. In so doing we develop a good name for ourselves and favor in the community, which has greater value than worldly riches (Proverbs 22:1), and we bring glory to the one we serve (Matthew 5:14-16). Our influence on others begins and ends with the things we say and do (Matthew 12:34-35). Does our behavior reflect the teachings of Christ? Do we have a positive or negative attitude in life? Do we look at the world and its condition and shrug our shoulders and say, “There’s nothing I can do, the world’s problems are too big for me,” or do we ask, “What can I do to help fix things,” then roll up our sleeves and get to work.
The world’s problems are not too big for us if we are trusting in God. Paul wrote this to the Philippians, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:27-29). What is going on in the world should concern us, but it should not intimidate us into inaction. As James said, “You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18).
The world (and our fellow Christians) know us by our works. Every once in a while, we need to assess our own efforts and ask, “What am I saying to others with my life?” Are we telling them we love God and the church? Are we showing concern for our neighbors? (Luke 10:27; John 13:34-35). Or, are we in fact still conforming to the world (I Peter 1:14-16)? As someone once said “silence is consent.” We can’t hide in a building we call the church while the world rages around us. We have a duty to stand up to the world and sin come what may. In his first letter Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (I Peter 2:21-23). Do not misunderstand these words. Peter is not saying that Jesus kept His mouth shut to what was going on around Him. Anyone who has studied the life of Christ knows that He confronted sin head on, and He expects us to do the same; what he did not do was get dragged down to the world’s level and play their game, moreover He taught us to follow His example and rise above the world, exerting godly influence at every opportunity.
If we do that then our effect on the world will live on beyond our own lifetimes, much like Abel’s (Hebrews 11:4). As Christ lives in us, He will live on in those we touch with His gospel, and those we lead, even as we follow in His footsteps. Not only will our efforts bear fruit for the Lord here on this earth, but they will follow us beyond this life (James 2:18; Revelation 14:12-13).
Every once in a while, I walk into someone’s house and see a quote from the Bible displayed on one of their walls, or a Bible displayed prominently in a main room and I am reminded of Deuteronomy 11:18-21. What we present to others in our homes says a lot about us, especially when we make it a focus of our daily routine for all to see and hear, beyond our own walls. Thinking on these verses from the Old Testament got me to thinking of a conversation I was a part of not long ago. It was about our country and the direction it is headed in and the impact newly proposed laws and amendments and court decisions will have on the church. One of the sentiments expressed during the conversation was the belief that a time may come in the not too distant future when the church will have to meet in homes or other private venues.
The idea was that we would be driven underground, meeting in secret to protect ourselves. But recent events involving the slaughter of Christians in other parts of the world, coupled with scriptures like those in Deuteronomy have made me realize we cannot hide away from the world, nor are we suppose to. Our influence is meant to extend to the world around us, not be kept hidden away among the faithful. Going back to Matthew 5 we read more of Jesus words: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The Lord expects us to stand up for the truth and for Him, as He made clear when He said, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). We must be willing to not only live according to the teachings of Christ, but to share them with the world, for as Paul wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Paul suffered much for the cause of Christ reminding those who questioned his apostleship: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (II Corinthians 11:23-27).
The Lord died for us and set the example that we must be willing to die for the truth and for one another. Paul’s life and works are recorded in part as a testimony of one who followed that example faithfully. If hardship and persecution come our way whose influence will prevail in our lives, the Lord’s or the world’s? Will we in turn become an influence for spiritual cowardice or Christian strength. Will we become a stumbling block for the lost and our fellow Christians or a beacon of light? Will we follow the path of our Lord and as Paul be able to claim, “For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left” (II Corinthians 6:2-7).
Jesus honored His father’s will even unto death. Paul honored his Master body and soul, in life and death, a hope he spoke of and lived up to (Philippians 1:20; II Timothy 4:6-8), confident in the reward of his King. With Paul we can be assured of our place in heaven if we are a faithful servant. One whose influence on the world is a godly one. If we are faithful and true then what Paul noted of the faithful of old can be said of us: “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines gospel as “the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation.” For those of us who are Christians that’s like defining a human as a “bipedal primate mammal.” Both are correct definitions in their essentials, but they hardly describe the subject words in the fullness of their meaning. After all a human is so much more than just an animal who walks upright. And, the gospel is more than just a message.
Paul once wrote, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). How is that for a definition? If the word of God is a living entity, then the gospel is its heart muscle. All of God’s work throughout both the Old and New Testaments is centered around and given life in the promises that the Father made concerning His Son. The entire Bible is about God bringing man to the promised land, to forgiveness after failure, to redemption, to salvation, to the kingdom. The Son’s blood is the lifeblood of that redemptive work and man’s salvation. The gospel encompasses all that God has done for man since the fall; even before time began (Titus 1:1-3).
In the Old Testament the gospel work was prophetic and preparatory, culminating in the work of John the Baptist and Jesus Himself. Since Jesus’ resurrection the gospel work continues, not in prophesying the coming Messiah and His kingdom, but in proclaiming Jesus as the Christ and bringing the lost of the world into His kingdom (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Today the “good news” of the gospel and its promises are at hand (Acts 8:35; 13:32; I Peter 1:12, 25; Luke 19:9; Acts 4:12; 28:28), and it is the job of Christians everywhere to spread the word (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Romans 1:16; Revelation 14:6).
The purpose of the gospel is to bring man face-to-face with his Savior. In the gospel according to John we find this exchange between Jesus and Martha, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27). The gospel prepares us to meet Him, to learn of His life and resurrection, of the redemption found in coming to Him, and then to become members of His kingdom (Mark 1:15; Matthew 4:17; 13:43; Ephesians 6:15).
The gospel is revelatory. It reveals God’s plan of salvation for man. And while it is natural to focus on the positive aspect of that message it is important to understand that it also reveals the fate of those who reject God’s message (Mark 16:15-16; John 3:16-18). There is no message, no written word of greater import for humanity than the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them” (Romans 1:16-19).
For those who seek to share the word of God we are given due warning. We will be resisted by those who do not want to know or live in accord with the truth. Satan seeks to blind unbelievers to the truth (II Corinthians 4:3-4), even as he leads the ungodly to destruction (Jude 1:15; II Peter 3:7). Nonetheless, the power of the gospel is sufficient to reach those whose minds are open to the truth, even among the ungodly, if we will but reach them with the truth (Romans 10:13-15; I Thessalonians 1:4-6). We go forth with the word under the authority of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), knowing that there are forces arrayed against us, but those cosmic powers (Ephesians 6:12) are inferior to the one under who’s banner we fight (Ephesians 6:13). As Paul wrote, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His Own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died—more than that, Who was raised—Who is at the right hand of God, Who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).
No one who stands for Christ and His gospel can truly be defeated. Even in death the victory is his (I Corinthians 15:54-57; I John 5:4). It is in understanding this that we can comprehend the meaning of Jesus’ words when He said, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). By human standards the burden of Jesus’ life was heavy indeed. And, it is no less so for those who suffer trials and tribulations as His followers. Yet from the perspective of eternal salvation the burdens of this life are but for a moment— and then heaven. This is the promise of the gospel, that the Savior Who died for us and rose from the dead has gone ahead to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3).
It took centuries for God to prepare the world for His Messiah, but the day finally came (Galatians 4:4-5). The Christ was born (Luke 2:8-14). There is no mystery as to why He came, John tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17). The gospel is the account of God’s promises kept and made manifest in the man, Jesus of Nazareth. For all who turn to Him there awaits eternal salvation (John 3:14-15; 10:25-30). It is the divine knowledge needed to draw us to Him, as Peter explained: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (II Peter 1:3-4). Paul said it is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16).
It is has now been nearly two millennia since Jesus was crucified. And, as in the first century there are many who will scoff and say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (II Peter 3:4). I do not know when He will be back. Although sometimes I think it can’t be long. However, I trust the gospel promises and the rest of the Holy Scriptures. I know He will be back to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; I Peter 4:5). Until then I will share the gospel and abide in all the word of God and echo the words of Paul who wrote, “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” ( II Timothy 1:12).
by Roland W. Keith
There is more than one way to get from New Orleans to Dallas. There is more than one way to solve many math problems. And, as my granddad use to say, “there is more than one way to skin a cat” (although I am pretty sure he never actually skinned one). The point is there are often legitimate options to choose from in life that allow us to achieve the same goal. On the other hand, we often find that methods are standardized because someone has found the single best way of doing something. Moreover, there are times when there is, in fact, only one way to do something correctly. In Isaiah 1:18-20 we read, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
God was not seeking a compromise with the Israelites, nor was He seeking to enter a dialogue or debate with them when He spoke these words. Instead He was rendering a legal decision and calling on Israel to listen to reason and choose wisely. They stood convicted of their sins and a verdict was being rendered. However, the Great Judge was allowing them to choose their fate. Based on their own free will He was giving them two options to choose from. The way of the world or His way. But it was not a blind decision they were being forced to make. He told them up front what the two choses would lead to. Read the verses again. Clearly there is only one way to get what they want— a long and prosperous life living off the “good of the land.” That way was God’s way. The alternative would lead to their destruction. Easy chose right?
Today we also stand convicted of our sins. Although the day of judgment still awaits there is no escaping the fate of our actions. At least there wouldn’t be if we were made to pay the due penalty for our offenses. However, as with the Israelites of old, God is giving us a chose. To stand convicted of our sins and be condemned to eternity in hell, or to repent of our sins and to find redemption in the blood of Jesus Christ and be granted a place in His eternal kingdom. Our options are before us. The way of the world as laid out by the great deceiver, Satan. Or, God’s way as laid out in His inspired scriptures. The chose is between obedience and disobedience to God, between heaven or hell. If our goal is eternal joy and happiness, freedom from pain, love, and fellowship with our Creator the chose should be easy.
Why then is it so difficult for most people? If we listed all the ways we can go astray it would be a separate study in itself. Suffice it to say, for this study, the answer is the entanglements of self-will and sin. As Paul quoted, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12; Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20). Most of the world has turned aside to do their own thing, their own way; including how they choose to worship God, if they worship Him at all. However, as Isaiah noted, even as our lives fade, we are carried away by our sins, to such an extent that even our good deeds are polluted (Isaiah 64:5-6).
All it took was for Satan to infect one man, and sin became the most infectious disease in existence. Through man, in turn, the whole of creation has fallen under its curse and deviated from the pure course of its intended by its Creator (Romans 5:12; 8: 9-22). From the day of our birth we are exposed to the disease (Psalm 51:5; 58:3), with no hope of living into the age of accountability without contracting it. Spiritually speaking, once we have sinned, we are nothing more than the walking dead, children of wrath under the power of the prince of darkness (Ephesians 2:1-3). The malady we contract alters the very essence of what we were created to be, as Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Once sin has penetrated our hearts, we become an altered being, the disease feeding on the basest parts of the host and being spread to others by his own deeds, as Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). The pure being that is born into the world becomes defiled in mind and conscience, becoming enslaved to the ravages of the disease to the point of physical and spiritual death (Titus 1:15; Romans 6:20-23).
So pernicious is the plague of sin that even those who receive the anecdote remain subject to its recurrence and all its ill effects. Paul the apostle described the condition with these words: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:18-23).
The only hope of surviving the spiritual death that sin brings, the only anecdote is the blood of Christ. Salvation through Jesus Christ is God’s way. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The one who thinks he can forge his own way to heaven is mistaken (Jeremiah 10:23). And so is the one who exalts himself with his own righteousness. In the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector Jesus said, “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:11-14). It is the one who humbles himself before the Lord in submission who is justified not the one who touts his own deeds as justification. Even those who have a zeal for God will be rejected if they continue to seek their own way and refuse to learn and live according to His righteousness (Romans 10:1-3).
To be saved we must hear the word of God (Romans 10:13-17; I Corinthians 1:21). We must believe (Romans 10:9-10; Mark 16:16; John 3:18; Acts 16:31; I Corinthians 1:21). We must confess our faith in Christ (Romans 10:9-10; I John 4:3; Matthew 10:33; I John 2:23). We must repent (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30). That means turning away from the world (and our own ways) and turning to God in submission to His will. If we choose to walk in God’s light the blood of His Son cleanses us of our sins and we are in fellowship with God and His church (I John 1:7-9). It was God’s plan to redeem us through the death of His Son on the cross; the perfect sacrifice given as a ransom for those held hostage by the great deceiver through sin (I Peter 12:18). Our reconciliation, our righteousness, the forgiveness of our sins, and our salvation were all accomplished on our behalf by Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 5:18-21). In addition to hearing, believing repenting, and confessing Jesus as the Son of God we must also be baptized (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; John 3:5-7; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:12; 18:8; 19:3-5; 22:16; I Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27). Then, after we have been added to the Lord’s church we must continue or abide in Him (John 8:31; 15:10; Acts 14:22; Romans 11:22; Colossians 1:21-23; I John 2:24; II John 1:9).
As Christians following in God’s way, we will count all things in the world as loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7). This means that we will put God first in all that we do, giving Him preeminence in our lives (Matthew 6:33; 10:37-39; Luke 14:33; Colossians 1:18). That is a tough assignment. The way we are being raised in the world today, the way we are motivated, the enticements put before us are all in contrast to the way God wants us to live our lives. That doesn’t mean we should give everything we have away and live a life of asceticism and poverty. It does mean putting everything in its place, with God above all things, in all things. There is only one path to heaven. Through the blood of Christ (Acts 4:12). As John wrote, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). There is also only one way to maintain what God has given us. By remaining faithful to all He has given us, as John wrote, “Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He made to us—eternal life. I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in Him” (I John 2:24-27).
Do not let the world deceive you. There is only one correct path in life. There is only one way to heaven. God’s way.
by Roland W. Keith
When I was in the Navy, as a member of the maintenance department, we lived by what are called technical manuals. These manuals were full of diagrams, schematics, and illustrated parts breakdown images and lists. Moreover, they included procedures and instructions on how to analyze and trouble shoot malfunctioning systems, how to recognize operator error, and how to remove and replace or repair parts or entire pieces of equipment. They also included something else of great, even grave, importance. Words that we were told were “written in blood.” These were the cautions and warnings highlighted throughout the manual. The blood quote was no joke. Most of the safety warnings were added over the years only after someone was injured or killed. Read in a proper state of mind the Bible is a lot like one of those technical manuals.
The Bible is full of the rules and procedures God has laid out for man to live by. It contains organizational structure, defines responsibility, outlines legal requirements and consequences of action. It defines expectations and provides instruction in training and how to instill and maintain good order and discipline. It is also full of words “written in blood.” Throughout the Bible the shedding of the blood of animals and men was recorded as a caution against the consequences of sin and disobedience and as a warning against the loss of life— in this case the loss not only of corporeal life, but more consequentially of eternal life. One such type of warning found consistently through the New Testament is that dealing with false teachers. Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-20).
The bad tree (false prophet or teacher) and its fruit are fit only for the fire (hell). This is a stern warning not only to the false teacher, but to all of us, as John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (I John 4:1). It is our responsibility to test what is put before us, using the Bible itself as the measure of truth. The danger of false teaching cannot be over-stressed. It is hard enough to combat that which comes from outside the church. Secular ‘authority’ is dominate in today’s world; they hold sway in education, government, media, and entertainment. However, what is close to home may be more dangerous, striking at the heart of even those earnestly seeking the truth. Those who operate within Christendom teaching what is false can mislead even the faithful. Especially those who are prone to feeding their own desires while exercising a “form of godliness” (II Timothy 3:5; I Timothy 6:3-5).
In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (II Timothy 4:1-4). Anyone observing the Christian landscape today can certainly see the forces of false teaching at work. The one remedy? Abide in God’s truth, understanding that we do not have the authority to change it to suit us, or the sensibilities of the modern world. The word of God does not change, nor are we authorized to add to or take from it (James 1:17; Deuteronomy 12:32; Proverbs 3:6; Revelation 22:18-19).
Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). In his letter to Titus, Paul informed him that an elder 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.” He went on to say that those who taught contrary to the truth must be silenced and rebuked to be brought back and “made sound in the faith.” They were to be turned from and brought back from “Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:9, 11, 13-14). In another letter, to Timothy, Paul mentioned by name two men who, among others, had made “shipwreck” of their faith. His remedy? He “turned them over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (I Timothy 1:18-20). In these instances, those in error were treated in a manner designed to help them see their mistakes and hopefully return to the truth. But what of those who do not turn back to the Lord? What of those who claim to know God but deny Him by their actions? Paul said, “They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:15-16). Among these are some who at one time were truly of the faith but had departed from it, as Paul mentioned to Timothy, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared” (I Timothy 4:1-2).
Whether a false teacher is one whose faith may be questioned as to whether or not it was ever genuine (II Timothy 2:23- 3:7); or perhaps a false brother brought in to wreak havoc (Galatians 2:4-5; II Peter 3:3-4)), or whether they are true believers who are misled and in turn mislead others (Galatians 1:6-10), the damage done to the church and the work of God is the same. Many of those turned aside will never be recovered and others who may have been near the truth will follow the lie the rest of their lives. We must safeguard our own salvation (Philippians 2:12), and at the same time look out for our fellow Christians (Matthew 7:12; Romans 15:1-3; Philippians 2:2-4; John 13:34-35), all the while seeking to get the truth into the hands of a lost world (Romans 10:12-17).
There was once a group of men who faithfully recorded all that God required of them. Through them God gave us the technical manual of salvation, the New Testament. God’s final covenant with man, the completed plan of His work of salvation. How do we combat false teaching? By learning God’s word for ourselves. If someone teaches you something that you think contradicts holy scripture, then search out the answer in the Bible. If necessary, question them. Maybe you are wrong, or maybe it was an honest mistake or lack of understanding on their part that needs to be corrected. Or, maybe they had an ulterior motive for misleading you. I am not trying to make people paranoid, but there is a reason so much attention was given to false teaching by the Bible’s inspired writers. False teaching happened then, and it is happening now.
Timothy received these words of encouragement and instruction from his mentor, Paul the apostle, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:14-17). The word of God is our guide, the Holy Spirit working in our lives through it. Today it is the lone source of God’s eternal truth. If you have a question about what is being taught about it, ask. Ask in class or in private, but ask. And, if an error was made make sure it is corrected. That is every saint’s responsibility. Anyone who has taught for any length of time has had to issue a correction. The real damage done is when the error is allowed to abide in silence.
As Christians we were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). One of those works is to herald the word of God. Another is to safeguard and defend the truth that we believe in (I Peter 3:15). If we don’t the Devil will find ways to distort it or snatch it away from those we are seeking to reach with it.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.