False teachings or heresies are making inroads into the church today and many are caught unaware by the wiles of satan.
How do false teachers infiltrate the church? They worm their way, slither in unnoticed and surreptitiously enter the church (Jude 4). These heresies, like leaven, progressively spread its destructive influence among church members (2 Peter 2:1).
I make no apology if a large proportion of my posts include themes that many Christians would not like to hear or expect to hear. I have a burden to discharge and it weighs heavily on me if I do not keep on doing the job. Even if I wanted to, I can’t stop.
We can see in the final days of Paul’s life that he had this burden to confront false doctrine.
Paul was apprehensive that—amid the infiltration of false doctrine—both the church he founded at Ephesus and the church he was about to leave under young Timothy’s care would not be able to endure when he (Paul) was no longer around.
Before he left the elders of the church at Ephesus to go to Jerusalem, Paul shared with them a poignant farewell message:
- “So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following.”
- “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.”
(Acts 20: 28-30, 32)
Paul’s last words to Timothy have a strikingly similar tone. The former, holed up in a dark and damp dungeon, charged the young disciple to preach sound doctrine and defend the truth amid false teaching.
- “I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
- For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
- But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”
(2 Timothy 4:1-5)
We can glean precious lessons from the two passages above, which record for us Paul’s parting words.
Firstly, it concerns the paramount importance of preaching the truth, the Word of God, irrespective of the season. The flock needs to be fed the solid Word, especially when there is false teaching (heresy) that it is so enticing; it tickles and soothes “itching ears”. People are naturally drawn away from truth to distorted versions of truth because the latter give them the “feel good” sensation. There is a great need not only to teach and encourage (positive) but also to correct and rebuke (negative).
Secondly, Paul wanted to impress upon the believers the importance of unwavering faith and the need to hold on to the gospel so that they will not be swept by every wind of doctrine that blows across their path.
That is why he had to entrust the church at Ephesus to God and the Word (Acts 20:32) so that their faith might endure and they will finally receive their heavenly reward.
Similarly, Paul told Timothy to endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist and fulfill his ministry. Earlier, Timothy was reminded to endure suffering as a soldier of Christ, an athlete and farmer (2 Timothy 2:3-6).
We need to hold on to our faith till the end if we do not want to miss out on the eternal rewards promised to all who love Him.
- “When righteous people turn from their righteous behavior and start doing sinful things, they will die for it. Yes, they will die because of their sinful deeds” (Ezekiel 18:26).
- If we have one foot in the kingdom and the other foot in the world, we will not inherit God’s promise: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
On one hand, we need to watch our lives—how we live. On the other hand, we need to watch our doctrine.
- “Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:13-14).
- “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
The success of any minister lies not only in his ability to impact lives when he is around. He must be able to pass the baton to chosen ones so that lives continue to be impacted when he is no longer around. “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
It is imperative for leaders to confront false teaching during these perilous end times. If they can identify with Paul the seriousness of the task they have been entrusted with—to feed the flock with solid teaching from the whole Word of God (Acts 20:27) as well as to correct and rebuke heresy (2 Timothy 4:2)—then people will not be so easily led astray from the faith.
"Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ."
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A brother, called Francis, sent this comment (unedited): "The masterful deceiver does not tell lies to one's face. He mixes truth with falsity, using rhetoric, flattery and positivism to appeal to the flesh. He knows that once the ears are scratched, the ensuing pleasure will overwhelm even spiritual discernment. That's why sanctification is the daily dying to self. You crucify the flesh so it cannot resurrect."ReplyDelete