Matthew 18 – And Heretics and Hypocrites

By Paul Proctor
Free-lance writer
Used with permission.

Every now and then I get a terse email from someone who has taken exception to my candid comments on Rick Warren, asking questions like: “Have you ever spoken with him personally about your objections and concerns and tried to work through your differences privately as scripture teaches, rather than attack him publicly as you do?”

The scripture they usually cite is, of course, Matthew 18:15-17

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”

This is probably one of the more misunderstood and misapplied Scriptures quoted today, especially among those who ingest Church Growth Carcinogens and Purpose Driven Lies. Because we have been inappropriately taught that unity and relationships are the most important things for Christians to pursue and protect in the church, these verses are often touted as the principal directive we should follow when addressing false teachers, which frankly, couldn’t be any further from the truth and only ends up protecting, sustaining and empowering them, which is probably why they teach it.

There is absolutely no biblical record of Jesus or any of His disciples ever taking a heretic off to the side for coffee and donuts after they led someone astray distorting the Word of God. They didn’t shake hands, exchange hugs, kisses and phone numbers or set up appointments on their PDAs to dialog their doctrinal differences over lunch in the quiet corner of a favorite restaurant at a more convenient time.

No, Jesus dealt with heretics harshly, publicly, and immediately, as did Paul and the other disciples. And, keep in mind; we’re talking New Testament here friends. In the Old Testament, false prophets were simply taken out and stoned to death for their lies. That’s how serious God is about His Word being rightly divided and properly proclaimed.

So, what was Jesus referring to in Matthew 18? Look again carefully at how he begins:

“…If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone…”

You see, the Lord is referring here to a personal offense, grievance and/or misunderstanding between two people – something that has broken their fellowship and has little or nothing to do with anyone else. Personal and private matters of wrongdoing should always be dealt with personally and privately first, so as not to unduly disrupt the unity of the body. That is indeed, biblical.

Now, as for wolves in sheep’s clothing that stand in pulpits and on stages before vast audiences with microphones and television cameras proclaiming demonic doctrines as the Word of God, the scriptural directive is altogether different:

“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” – Galatians 1:8

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” – Ephesians 5:11

(“Reprove” is another word for rebuke)

“A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject” – Titus 3:10

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2nd John 1:10)

Jesus didn’t request a closed-door session with the Scribes and Pharisees in order to find common ground, build relationships and promote unity in Jerusalem. He condemned their blasphemy before one and all and repeatedly warned His disciples about their leaven. And when His number-one disciple challenged Him about His own up and coming crucifixion, Jesus didn’t put His hand gently on Peter’s shoulder and softly whisper: “My friend, you just don’t understand.” No, He lashed back at him with power and authority in front of ALL the disciples saying:

“…Get thee behind me Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” – Matthew 16:23

Why? Because, Peter was publicly contradicting God’s Word and Divine plan, which is the equivalent of proclaiming Jesus to be a lunatic or a liar.

Did the religious leaders stone Stephen to death because of all the cute and cuddly things he had to say about them? I don’t THINK so. Stephen spoke the cold hard truth that day and they hated him for it because God’s Truth is always “evil” and intolerable in the ears of the unrepentant. He told them:

“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears…who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.”

You see, defenders of today’s religious leaders almost always resort to calling their critics, among other things, “legalists,” for incessantly using scripture to rebuke unbiblical teachings and practices; comparing them to the Pharisees of Stephen’s day, when, in reality, Stephen might just as easily say to Rick Warren and others like him:

“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears…who have received the Gospel, but have not proclaimed it.”

Of course, when someone reprimands today’s religious leaders for their unbiblical teachings, they are silenced, shamed, slandered, marginalized, isolated and/or asked to leave. But, isn’t that exactly what the religious leaders did to Jesus and His disciples?

The Pharisees were a lot of things but they were not “legalists.” They’ve merely been labeled as such by the religious liberals of OUR day in order to try and discount the importance of studying and obeying scripture. In fact the word “legalist’ does not even appear in any version of the Bible I searched. It is just another contemporary twisting of the truth to forward a corrupt agenda and steer people away from God’s Word to something more flexible, entertaining and endearing.

“Legalism” is defined in my dictionary as the “strict adherence to a literal interpretation of a law, rule, or religious moral code.” Under this definition, is not Jesus Himself a legalist? You see, without the law, there is no need for a cross; which probably explains why both are being expelled from the church and society today as outdated and offensive relics from the past.

So, according to Stephen’s own testimony, if the religious leaders indeed “received the law but have not kept it,” they don’t even QUALIFY as true “legalists” but only as lawbreakers; or, as Jesus repeatedly called them; “Hypocrites,” which is another word for “actor,” meaning, they only pretended to keep the law.

And THAT, my friends, is what today’s Purpose Driven Pastor is – an actor – a hypocrite and a pretender, because he CLAIMS the Word of God but does not actually believe it nor proclaim it. If he did, he would preach the Bible and nothing else; verse by verse, for the rest of his ministry; not The Purpose Driven Life, chapter by chapter for 40 days. He would quote The Almighty with power and conviction before a trembling and uneasy congregation, instead of quoting Rick Warren with purpose and ambition before a casual and comfortable constituency.

When church attendance and revenues are down, closet liberals, be they Purpose Driven or otherwise, often minimize, in varying degrees, the importance of the Bible in a Christian’s life, calling it “legalism” whenever one encourages the brethren to obey God’s Word or dares to chastise those who refuse. Well, THEY might call keeping God’s commandments “legalism,” but Jesus Christ calls it “love.” Don’t believe me? Read it for yourself:

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” – John 14:15

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” – John 14:21

“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.” – John 14:23-24

“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” – John 15:10

“He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” – 1st John 2:4

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” – 1st John 5:3

Keeping God’s commandments will not gain you entry into the Kingdom of Heaven anymore than attending church will make you a member. That only comes by faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for our sins. (Ephesians 2:8-10) But for those of us who claim Him, there is no other way to exercise that faith and prove our discipleship.

Loving God is not having a hand-raising, hip-hopping, wave-making, emotional experience in a Hawaiian shirt and sandals before a rock band in some downtown arena full of shrieking Seekers, Creekers, Promise Keepers and Passionate Purposeites. The only true act of love, worship and service to God is obedience to His Word. Everything else is distortion, distraction, deception, delusion and destruction.

And, when you set your Bible aside for some other book or teacher or preacher, you are neither loving, nor following, nor obeying the One you claim as your Lord and Savior. Oh, you might be Purpose Driven or Seeker Sensitive; but more than anything else, you’re a hypocrite.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” – Matthew 7:21-23

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