LTRP Note: The following commentary was submitted in relation to our recent article “Francis Chan Warns Those Who Criticize Christian Leaders: “God Will Destroy You.”
By Victor Scipioni
In Revelation 4:11, it says:
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Given that we are created for God’s pleasure, it stands to reason that as a Christian, our primary goal should be to please God; that is why we were made.
Each of us can come up with a list of things the Scriptures say we should do—that if we do these things, we can expect we will please God. Some of the instructions and commands we might put on that list are “love,” “obey,” “serve,” and, of course, “trust” Him. Jesus’ willingness and desire to obey God the Father is a good example of how we ought to desire to please the Father.
And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (John 8:29)
But where does combating error fit in to pleasing God? It fits in through obeying the instructions in His Word to do so. We are told specifically to be prepared at all times and in all seasons to rebuke those who do not adhere to sound teaching (doctrine). That constitutes combating error.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. (2 Timothy 4:2-3)
Combating error is a fight in which we must be willing to engage just like a boxer contends to try to win the title belt from the one who holds it. It is necessary.
[I]t was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. (Jude 1:3)
Why was it needful for Jude to instruct his readers to “contend” for the faith? Because false teachers were creeping in, and his readers needed to combat the error these teachers were spreading.
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:4)
There is a difference between “apologetics” and combating error (which is called “polemics”). Apologetics comes from this verse:
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:15)
The word “answer” is “apologia” in Greek, from where we get our word apologetics. It means to defend what we believe. Polemics is directly refuting error and comes from the word “polemos” in Greek, which is often translated “war” or “battle” in the KJV. This verse represents its application:
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Polemics is the fight against errors that exalt themselves against the right knowledge of God.
Can someone who studies or teaches truth avoid recognizing and pointing out error? Did Jesus? Paul? Peter? James? John? Jude? No, they didn’t avoid it. Exhortations to truth and warnings about error abound from them all, often going hand-in-hand. As much as I might like to limit what I say to something like the adage, “you only need to read your Bible because if you spend all your time getting to know the truth you will spot error when it comes,” I have to admit that there is more to it than that. Studying God’s truth requires studying the warnings about error because the warnings are a part of His Word. Studying truth and error go hand in hand for all of us.
Therefore, since every believer should want to please God, and since following instruction pleases God, and we are instructed to combat error, every believer should be concerned with combating error on some level. There is no getting around it—save for excuses, laziness, or fear. Once we admit the necessity of and are committed to combating error, we should look for things to help us do it. Is combating error a full time job for everyone? It’s certainly a permanent aspect of our walk with the Lord but not necessarily a full-time ministry for each of us as it is for those who are called into such a ministry. The real problem is that many Christians avoid studying and comparing truth and error altogether.
Here are some ways each of us can avoid and combat error:
1. First and foremost we must love God supremely. That means loving Him more than we love our comfort zone. We all have comfort zones, the place we’d like to stay in so we don’t get stressed or challenged. Loving God supremely means being willing to leave our comfort zones and go where He sends us. Maybe it is a conversation He asks us to have or some literature He wants us to share. Whatever it is, we have to purpose in ourselves to be open and ready to accept the challenges He sends our way.
2. We need to care so much about what “truth” is that it forces us to care about “error” too. “Rightly dividing” the truth includes separating it from error. It is work, but we have to be ready to engage in it. You can’t separate truth from error if you can’t recognize both. That doesn’t mean we have to scour the earth looking for all kinds of error. If we limit our efforts to learning about the errors Scripture warns us about, such as idolatry, false Christ’s, false gospels, and false apostles, we will learn just about all we need to know. This makes us approved to God.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
3. We must have integrity, which in simple terms means consistency of one’s thoughts and actions. We need to take what we’ve heard and believe and put it to work in our lives. When God highlights some kind of truth or error during time spent praying, reading, or going to Bible study, we must make it our own by studying up on it for ourselves. Once we study an aspect of truth or error in depth and learn and even memorize the Scriptures that pertain to it, and possibly glean from other documentation, we can begin to put it into our own words and act on it. To put something in our own words does not mean practicing a scripted dialog of what we need to say when asked but is a way to capture it for ourselves so we cannot only point out error when we hear it, but put it into words to communicate it clearly and effectively.
4. We must pray for discernment from God by His Holy Spirit.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13)
Discernment, which is often separating the Holy Spirit from false spirits, comes from testing each spiritual concept we are presented with from any source. Testing is a form of preparing to combat error. In order to “test” we need tools such as questions or Scriptures ready in our minds to measure what we hear against.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
5. Know the Scriptures because the Scriptures are how we know the truth and are also what protect us from the bondage of error.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)
Here are some more ways to consider for combating error as you make learning truth and separating it from error an increasing part of your walk with God:
• Nurture your personal, private relationship with God (see John 14:21).
• Fellowship with like-minded believers (see Roman 15:5).
• Follow, support and pray for discerning ministries (see 2 Thessalonians 3:1).
• Do not fear man (see Hebrews 13:6).
• Love others enough to throw them a rope even if it offends them (see 2 Timothy 2:25,26).
• Mark false teachers and teachings (see Romans 16:17).
• Avoid ministries that compromise the truth and the gospel (see Galatians 1:6,7).
• Realize that the most likely source of deception and error attacking the church comes from within the church (see Acts 20:29, 30).
• Take responsibility for using the resources and knowledge you are given (see 2 Timothy 4:5).
• Avoid living after the flesh in any area of your life because that weakens your spiritual strength and discernment in all areas of your walk with God (see Galatians 5:16).
• Recognize that some people who profess error are simply deceived by the enemy as he blinds their minds (2 Corinthians 4:4) and others are in league with the enemy and trying to drag others down (2 Corinthians 11:13).
(photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)