By Mike Oppenheimer
Let Us Reason
I’m going to use an example of a disturbing sermon from a popular teacher* to show why the church is being misled by false teaching and starving for truth in God’s Word. Recently, Francis Chan spoke to a group at Bethel Church, and using Bible verses, he warned that God will destroy (kill) anyone who questions or opposes the teachings of Christian leaders. He proceeded to name some of those leaders (e.g., Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, John Piper, etc.) who should not be spoken against.
His main premise: using the Old Testament where God told the people of Israel not to speak or act against God’s temple in which the penalty was death.
In the New Testament, people are now the temple of God. Therefore, we must never speak or act against God’s temple. His basic text: “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:17).
Chan used the story of Uzza who was struck dead for touching the ark to keep it from falling, saying, “we don’t understand the word sacred.”
He gave other examples of those who were punished, such as Moses. In referring to Moses, Chan recalled the first time he read this and of thinking to himself that God is not going to keep him out of the promised land.
Chan interprets God’s response to Moses as: “Because you didn’t treat me as holy [which fits in the greater context of Chan’s message], I’m not going to let you enter the promised land.” But this is not exactly what happened. In Numbers 20:11-12, Moses was told to speak to the Rock, but he instead “smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly” (Moses was angry at the people). “And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” Moses was angry with the people which led him to disobey God.
Chan also refers to the story of Saul and Samuel. Samuel is late, and Saul makes the sacrifice; God then says he will tear the kingdom from him.
Chan’s reasoning from the Scriptures goes from bad to worse. I am certainly aware that there is great need for broken relationships to be reconciled, but what Chan is saying is just not accurate in so many ways.
Along the way, he tells us that unity is what gets the world to believe. No, it isn’t. John 13:35 says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
What it is saying is that the world will know we are truly learners (disciples) i.e., followers of Jesus, by our love for each other, but even witnessing that won’t get them to believe. Only the Gospel, the Word of God, can do that.
Chan also says he used to read this passage and wonder how his idea of unity is going to happen. Sounds like the musing found in Roman Catholicism. Francis Chan, it already did—at Pentecost (1 Corinthians 12:13: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body . . . and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”)The Spirit comes into the believer, and the believer is put in His body. The unity is spiritual, and it is produced by Jesus, not us.
Regarding Chan’s unity or be destroyed sermon, Lighthouse Trails has pointed out,
“and even those who question confusing theologies, are clearly under attack here, but how is it that God would want to slay us? We thought further: Doesn’t Scripture say, “the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you” (1 Corinthians 12:21)? But Chan is saying that God has no need of people like us (who are a part of God’s temple) and will destroy us.” (source)
It’s ironic that the examples Chan gives, for the most part, were God judging leaders, those who were visible in positions of leadership and influential.
The point Chan is trying to get across to everyone is: stop speaking out and challenging leaders; correcting someone who is in rebellion or deceived is not love and is what Chan deems as destroying the temple. “If anyone tries to destroy this unity . . . this temple.”
Then speaking of a divisive person, Chan says divisiveness is different than other sins—referencing Titus 3:10 from a Bible version that says to warn a divisive person once then twice then have nothing to do with him. In the King James, Titus 3:10 says, “A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject.” This verse is talking about those who cause division by teaching false teachings. If we look at the verse prior to 10, we can see that Paul is referring to “foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law,” which he says are “unprofitable and vain [useless].” In other words, it is about teachings that would certainly include those who divide people from the doctrine of Christ.
But Chan is saying keep your mouth shut about everyone and everything. According to Chan’s reasoning, then Paul is guilty, for he named people and warned the church; Jesus also named people and groups that led others astray with their false teachings.
Chan then apologizes for saying things too flippantly of other leaders, “[W]hen I speak against that brother, I’m taking a sledge hammer to the temple.” Are we condemned by God for speaking up when someone is teaching something wrong? Or rather, is that person wrong for teaching WHAT IS WRONG?
Consider if someone teaches that we are all little gods or messiahs, or that Jesus is not God in the flesh, or that there is no Trinity. According to Chan, we have no right to speak on this. Chan calls it gossip and warns you will be judged. In contrast, what does Scripture say about exposing false doctrine and those who spread it?
Titus 1:13 says, “rebuke them sharply.” Ephesians 5:11 is among the many exhortations to test one’s teaching: “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.”
Romans 16:17 says, [M]ark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
Chan takes it a step further and describes incidents in the Bible where God took people’s lives, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:10) where Peter told both of them they would die for lying to the Holy Spirit.
Chan spoke of those who have negative criticism of leaders, but he does not name those critics (after all, that would be doing what he is opposing). But he does name some leaders who should NOT be criticized.
Are you gonna bash Rick Warren? This is a guy that loves the Lord. You might not agree with everything he does, but man, I’m telling you, he loves Jesus. And he’s a supernaturally spirit-filled man.
Are you gonna attack Mark Driscoll? Are you gonna attack John Piper? Are you gonna attack Mike Bickel? Are you gonna attack some of these expressing of the body of Christ that may look a little different?—I’m just saying, dude, put that down! I’ve met these people and I’ve seen their hearts. I hang out with people in different denominations and I’m like, man, they love Jesus. It looks different from me, but I can see the Spirit in them and we better be careful!
Chan vouches for them, saying that they love Jesus. Be that the case, they can still be wrong and do extensive damage spiritually. How or why do they have spiritual immunity when they say something terribly wrong that can bring great harm? (Peter loved Jesus. Does that make Paul wrong for rebuking him publicly for his error (Galatians 2:11, 14)?
Instead, Chan does the very thing he accuses others of and calls people names. He should add his name to his list of those whom God will destroy (according to his reasoning).
Bickle! Really? One may not remember Bickle’s Latter Rain involvement with Bob Jones and Paul Cain as their head prophet (in the Vineyard) who was a disciple of William Branham.
For Chan to use Ananias and Sapphira who lied about a promise and were killed is an absolutely insufficient example. Can Chan show any lies from those whom he accuses, those who question unbiblical teachings? Is this really the same thing, or has he gone beyond the Scripture (which Paul instructed us not to do)?
What Francis Chan has done is pronounce a death sentence on Christians who are trying to use discernment, saying he has found examples in the Bible to back up his pronouncement.
Chan isn’t the first one who has done this. For instance, Kenneth Copeland used the same tactic as did Paul Crouch, Benny Hinn, and so many others. We should look to them as the examples of what Chan says should be the church’s policy to allow. They have threatened believers, but shhh don’t say anything.
In other words, this is just a new way to implement the “touch not God’s anointed” tactic to stop criticism coming at them. (By the way, by him saying this, he did exactly what he told his audience not to do.)
Chan says we are to warn the “offending” person to put the sledgehammer down. To not destroy the temple. He says, “If you come from another church, don’t go telling me anything about what happened over there and how they mistreated you and oh, you poor victim!” He then calls such people enablers and insane. And then he says:
I’m a part of the temple of God. Man, let’s be careful with our words. Man, I hear people criticize leaders around our nation. And I haven’t been quick to confront it but now it’s like, I’m getting serious. Like, are you crazy?
Chan references 2 Chronicles 7 where the temple is dedicated by sacrifice, and fire from the sky takes place. Then he says, “could you imagine picking up a sledgehammer and striking the temple? [after the fire]”?
He continues, “What if one of your friends picked up the hammer and were about to do that? What would you scream? Wouldn’t you scream, put it down? What were you thinking? You’re insane! No! Don’t do it Don’t do it! Don’t do it! This is something that is sacred!”
Chan then references 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, saying that we are the temple of God, and if someone destroys (criticizes) the temple, God will destroy that person.
His point in using 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 is to apply it to his examples of physical destruction.
To show how his teaching is off in application, let’s turn to a few Bible commentators:
Consider the following three commentators on 1 Corinthians 3:17:
If any man defile . . . Or, “destroy, corrupt” . . . The figurative sense is, “If any man by his doctrines or precepts shall pursue such a course as tends to destroy the church, God shall severely punish him.” (Barnes’ Notes emphasis added)
If any man injure, corrupt, or destroy the church of God by false doctrine (Adam Clarke’s Commentary; emphasis added)
If any man defile the temple of God . . . By the wisdom of the world, through philosophy, and vain deceit; by bringing in false doctrines, errors, and heresies, and hereby corrupt their minds from the simplicity that is in Christ (Gills Commentary emphasis added)
What we have here is a serious bending of the Scripture by Chan in order to fit his message. In actuality, the verse (1 Corinthians 3:17) means the very opposite of what he is saying. The divisiveness is made by false doctrine being taught, not by those who expose it.
Chan is presenting a standard to not openly question things or refute unbiblical teachings. A pastor or teacher should always allow and even insist that we compare what is said to the Word of God—for his accountability and our safety. Paul commended the Bereans for looking into the Scriptures on what he said!
As a unified body, we are to protect one another from being misled by what is false; but according to Chan, we are not allowed to discuss this.
But God’s heart is for His people, to see them protected and safe just like we would want for our own family. Chan poses a question:
“God, how come more people aren’t dead?” And here’s what I heard from the Lord: “THEY HAVEN’T BEEN WARNED.”
While Chan says he doesn’t want us destroyed by God, he predicts that God will take the lives of those who have negative things to say about the teachings of today’s leaders. Apparently, his ministry is to warn those who discern teachings to stop discerning.
And so the only way that God can bring unity is if He actually acts and He actually opposes the proud and He actually humbles and He actually destroys. And I’m just saying, I really believe that time is coming when God Himself has listened to all the bickering, all the gossip, all the division, and He’s held back because the warning hasn’t gone out. And I believe He’s telling me—warn.
Consider this your first warning.
Consider what John and James said. If false teachers present doctrines that mislead is that not causing destruction to the temple? It is the people who teach falsely who are to be warned about according to the Bible. False teaching comes from pride. Testing what is said is an act of humility to the Word.
While I’m not going to defend those who are crass and call names or maliciously gossip and belittle people, I will defend those who humbly and biblically discern truth from error and speak from love for the brethren who are the recipients of these false teachings.
The way I see it, Chan’s sermon is an attempt (whether he realizes it or not) to intimidate, silence, and control what people say. Surely, this is not the mind of Christ.
We need more biblical judging of teaching, not less. Not condemnation but discerning what is spoken as either false or true, especially in this day and age.
Chan later says, “That doesn’t mean I don’t go to people and even other leaders and say, hey, I’m really concerned about your belief in this area, but that’s between me and them.”
Sorry, not if they are distributing false teaching to thousands or millions. This is not treated as a personal offense but an offense to the whole body.
The mature in faith listen to the content rather than being swayed by enthusiasm or speaking abilities expressing emotion.
We are told to “try the spirits” to see whether they are from God.
If we all keep quiet about what is wrong, as Chan insists, surely the church will be overrun with false teachers. This is what the policy of silence does when facing heresy, which is the real divisiveness.
These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment. He that saith unto the wicked, Thou are righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him: But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them. (Proverbs 24:23-25)
It seems that God’s Word expresses a very different idea than Chan’s on how to view those who confront what is wrong.
*Chan’s sermon in question:
(artwork from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e5/TissUzah.jpg; public domain)
Transcript on file with Lighthouse Trails.