"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS" A Charge To Withdraw (3:6-15) by Mark Copeland

A Charge To Withdraw (3:6-15)


1. As Paul nears the end of his epistle to Thessalonians, he gives them
   a serious charge...
   a. To withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly, and not
      according to the tradition received from Paul - 2Th 3:6,14; cf.
   b. The seriousness of the charge seen in that Paul invokes the name
      of Jesus - 2Th 3:6
      1) Something he rarely does
      2) Another example is found in 1Co 1:10

2. The circumstances at Thessalonica that prompted such a serious
   a. Some had quit working, and had become busybodies - 2Th 3:11-12
   b. Contrary to Paul's own example, and previous commands - 2Th 3:
      7-10; cf. 1Th 4:11-12
   -- Perhaps excitement about the Lord's coming was the excuse given

3. This charge to withdraw pertains to the subject of church
   a. How churches are to discipline unruly members
   b. A subject not often discussed, even less often applied
   -- Yet necessary if we are to remain a faithful church of Jesus

[With Paul's charge to withdraw before us (2Th 3:6-15), this may be a
good opportunity to review what else is revealed about the command and
purpose of church discipline...]


      1. In the case of a brother who sins and refuses to repent - Mt 18:15-17
      2. Jesus' own words:  "...let him be to you like a heathen and a
         tax collector."
         a. Spoken in the context of social relations at the time
         b. Jews had no social dealings with Gentiles, nor with their
            Jewish brethren who worked for the Roman government as tax
      3. The point is to withdraw social association from a brother who
         refuses to repent

      1. Paul's charge to the church at Rome - Ro 16:17-18
         a. Involving those who "cause divisions and offenses"
         b. The brethren were to "note" and "avoid them"
      2. Paul's charge to the church at Corinth - 1Co 5:1-13
         a. Involving a man who had his father's wife
         b. The church was instructed:
            1) To "deliver such a one to Satan..." - 1Co 5:5
            2) To "purge out the old leaven" - 1Co 5:7
            3) To "not keep company" - 1Co 5:11
            4) To "not even to eat with such a person" - 1Co 5:11
            5) To "put away from yourselves that wicked person." - 1Co 5:13
      3. Paul's charge to the church at Thessalonica - 2Th 3:6-15
         a. Involving those who would not work and support themselves
         b. The church was instructed:
            1) To "withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and
               not according to the tradition which he received from us"
               - 2Th 3:6
            2) To "note that person and do not keep company with him"
               - 2Th 3:14
      4. John's charge to the elect lady and her children - 2Jn 9-11
         a. Involving anyone who would seek their support, and yet not
            abide in the doctrine of Christ
         b. They were instructed to "not receive him into your house nor
            greet him"

[It is clearly evident that "withdrawing" is necessary under certain
conditions.  What is the purpose of withdrawing in such cases?]


      1. Note well:  one who refuses to repent of sin is in a lost state
         - cf. He 10:26-31
      2. By making him (or her) "ashamed" of their sin, perhaps they may
         repent - cf. 2Th 3:14
      3. Consider again Paul's words in 1Co 5:5...
         a. The church is to "deliver such a one to Satan"
            1) That is, to remove all godly influence from that person
            2) This is done by withdrawing fellowship
         b. The purpose is "for the destruction of the flesh"
            1) It is "fleshly desires" (of which pride plays a great
               part) that encourage one to persist in sin
            2) But "shame" can go a long way to destroying these things
               of the flesh
            3) Therefore the command to publicly note and withdraw from
               such a person - cf. 1Co 5:4,13
         c. The ultimate goal:  "that his spirit may be saved in the day
            of the Lord Jesus"
            1) Our concern is not his (or even our own) temporary
            2) But the salvation of his soul on the day of judgment!
            3) Therefore the need for "tough love" by withholding

      1. This is Paul's point about the need to purge out the "leaven"
         - cf. 1Co 5:6-8
      2. Just as leaven infects the whole loaf, so can "sin in the
      3. Sin left unchecked will destroy the other members in the
         a. Either by tempting them to sin in similar fashion
         b. Or by their failure to exercise the proper discipline
            1) For they would then be guilty before the Lord on that
            2) As was the church in Pergamos - cf. Re 2:14-16
      4. Even if the erring brother does not repent, the church that
         exercises proper discipline will still be saved!

      1. This was an effect of the first case of "church discipline"
         recorded in the NT.
         a. The example of Ananias and Sapphira illustrates how
            seriously the Lord Himself views "sin in the camp" - cf. Ac 5:1-10
         b. The result was one of "fear", yet great "esteem", which lead
            to many conversions - Ac 5:11-14
      2. The world is not going to take the gospel call to holiness
         seriously if the church does not deal properly with "sin in the
      3. But when a church deals with unrepentant sin in the manner of
         withholding fellowship, the reputation of the church is held in
         high esteem
      4. When people decide to get serious about sin, where do you think
         they will go?
         a. To a church that winks at sin?
         b. Or one that provides every proper motivation to turn from


1. One cannot ignore the subject of church discipline...
   a. It is commanded by Christ and His apostles
   b. It is necessary for the salvation of erring brother, and for the
      rest of the brethren

2. It is a form of "tough love"...
   a. Not to be done out of spite
   b. But in the spirit of brotherly love, as difficult as it may be
      - cf. 2Th 3:15

3. Yet the charge to withdraw presumes certain conditions exists...
   a. There is fellowship to withdraw
   b. Fellowship withdrawn will be a significant loss to the erring
   -- For church discipline to be more effective, church fellowship must
      be more meaningful

If we desire to truly walk "according to the tradition received" from
the apostles, we need to heed the command to love one another (cf. 1 Th
4:9,10) as well as the command to withdraw when necessary!  May the Lord
help us keep both commands as He intended...

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Galileo-Gate by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.



by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

In October 1992, a Vatican commission concluded that the Inquisition had treated Galileo too harshly. It added, however, that Galileo was partially to blame by insisting that he had absolute proof for Copernicus’ (heliocentric) system of astronomy. Actually, Galileo’s argument, based on the ebb of the flow of the tides, did not prove the Earth’s motion. It would take another two centuries of scientific study to modify and establish Copernicus’ theory. Today, the Vatican feels the actions of its predecessors were overly zealous, although not wrongly motivated.
Some in the scientific media saw this is as a “half-hearted rehabilitation of Galileo” (Nature, 1992; Cole, 1992). They seemed to take a perverse pleasure in the fact that the Church had taken so long to apologize, and then acted hurt that the retraction was conditional.
The conflict between Galileo and the Catholic Church was, in part, a struggle over intellectual territory. In 1546, the Council of Trent had given equal authority to church traditions and Scripture. Further, it decreed that the Church, and the opinions of the Church Fathers, were the only proper guides for interpretation. Although the Council never debated the Earth’s motion, its broad decree elevated Ptolemy’s (geocentric) system from endorsement to dogma. Likewise, some Fathers had taken various Old Testament passages to mean that the Earth stood still while the Sun moved (cf. Jackson, et al., 1986); this interpretation was now law.
Galileo rebelled, arguing that science was an entirely separate authority. One of his favorite quotes came from Cardinal Baronius: “The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes.” Galileo argued that any reference to the natural world in the Bible is purely incidental. Science, not the Bible, must convey scientific truth. Further, if science contradicts a literal interpretation of Scripture, then theologians should deem the passage allegorical or metaphorical.
The irony is that Galileo wanted to advise the Church on hermeneutics, while reserving science for himself. For its part, the Church was in no mood to backpedal in the face of a growing Protestant challenge. However, authorities were quite willing to allow scientists to speculate on Copernicus’ theory. It was Galileo’s talk of absolute proof, laced with arrogance, that eventually brought him before the Inquisition.
Perhaps Galileo could have avoided censure if he had played by the rules of what was a very perilous game. The Catholic Church of the time must take the blame for creating such peril. But it is not true to say that the Galileo affair typifies the relationship between faith and science.


Nature (1992), “Eppur si non muove,” 360:2.
Cole, John R. (1992), “Vatican Recants; Galileo Cleared,” NCSE Reports, 12[4]:9.
Jackson, Wayne, Bert Thompson, and Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A. (1986), “Questions and Answers,” Reason & Revelation, 6:47-50, December.

Gaining God's Perspective in the Midst of Trials by Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.


Gaining God's Perspective in the Midst of Trials

by Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div.

Sometimes it seems that living for God yields no real tangible benefits. At least, that is what the psalmist said in a moving lament: “Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning” (Psalm 73:13-14). Such a pessimistic statement, however, stands in bold relief to the introductory affirmation of this psalm: “Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart” (v. 1).
The psalm alludes to the circumstances that gave rise to the feelings of futility expressed in verse 13. The psalmist, who took God seriously, apparently had been stricken with a debilitating disease that inflicted him with a prolonged period of discomfort (v. 14). On the contrary, evildoers who boasted of their infidelity appeared to prosper in every conceivable way (vv. 3-12). Reflecting on this perceived disparity, the psalmist began to lose faith in the special beneficence of his God (v. 2). However, something on the psalmist’s spiritual decline toward faithlessness caused him to alter his course radically, and exclaim: “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all your works” (Psalm 73:28).
The turning point occurred when this wearied follower of God entered the sanctuary and was reminded of the fate of the wicked, and God’s continued presence with the godly sufferer (vv. 17-24). The sanctuary of God was where the Law was read, prayers were uttered, and songs were sung. It was there that God’s sovereignty and vision of life were articulated and acknowledged. In the solemn presence of God, the psalmist recaptured and confessed his profound trust in Jehovah’s life-sustaining power, even though there is no indication that his external circumstances had changed.
Though written centuries ago, this psalm is as relevant today as it was when it fell from the author’s inspired pen. In bold language, it affirms the real struggles that the faithful face in their walk with God. The lament embraces the daunting reality that our faith in God’s benevolence can be subverted by extreme adverse circumstances. Yet, the psalm also demonstrates that expressing one’s waning faith and frustration to God is, itself, an act of faith. For in so doing, the complainant implicitly trusts that God will hear.
The psalm also provides meaningful language for all believers who struggle with the realities of living. While it embraces the negative emotions associated with the pain of unfavorable situations, it moves us beyond such potentially destructive thoughts. In the end, it offers us God’s perspective in the midst of our trials and invites us into His holy presence where we can find “the strength of our hearts and our portions forever” (v. 26).

Flaws In Calvinism by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Flaws In Calvinism

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

John Calvin (1509-1564) was a French theologian during the Protestant Reformation whose system of Christian theology, primarily expressed in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, has exerted tremendous influence throughout the Christian world for nearly five centuries. The central tenets of his thinking have been summarized under the acrostic TULIP.

Total Depravity = All men have inherited the sin of Adam through their parents and are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because of their own depraved, sinful nature which extends to every part of their personality.

Bible Responses

Ezekiel 18:19-23—“Yet you say, ‘Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself…. ‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’”
Ezekiel 28:15—“You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.”
Psalm 106:37-38—“They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters.”
Zechariah 12:1—“Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.”
Matthew 18:2-3—“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.’”
Matthew 19:14—“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’”
Romans 7:9—“I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.”

Unconditional Election = God chose from eternity to save certain people, not based upon any foreseen virtue, faith, or anticipated acceptance of the Gospel. God chose to extend mercy to those He has specifically chosen and to withhold mercy from those not chosen. Those chosen receive salvation through Christ alone. Those not chosen receive wrath and damnation.

Bible Responses

Luke 13:3—“I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
John 3:16—“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
John 8:24—“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
Acts 10:34-35—“Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousnessis accepted by Him.’”
Romans 2:5-11—“God…will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”
1 Peter 1:17—“And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”
Revelation 22:17—“Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”

Limited Atonement = Christ died only for those whom God specifically pre-decided to save—the elect—but not for any others.

Bible Responses

1 Timothy 2:3-4—“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:5-6—“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all.”
Titus 2:11-12—“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all menteaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
1 John 2:2—“And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
John 3:17—“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
2 Peter 3:9—“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Acts 10:34—“God shows no partiality.”
Romans 2:11—“For there is no partiality with God.”

Irresistible Grace = God’s saving grace is applied to those whom He has determined to save (the elect), overcoming their resistance to the call of the Gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved (even against his will if necessary). This purposeful influence of God’s Holy Spirit, Who creates faith within the individual, cannot be resisted.

Bible Responses

Deuteronomy 30:19—“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life.”
Joshua 24:15—“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Luke 7:30—“But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.”
John 12:42-43—“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
Acts 7:51—“You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”
Acts 13:46—“Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.’”

Perseverance of the Saints = Since God is sovereign and His will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with Himself will continue in faith until the end. They cannot be eternally lost.

Bible Responses

Galatians 5:4—“You [Christians] have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”
2 Peter 2:20-22—“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: ‘A dog returns to his own vomit,’ and, ‘a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.’”
Hebrews 4:11—“Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.”
Hebrews 6:4-6—“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”
Hebrews 10:38-39—“‘Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
James 5:19-20—“Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
Revelation 2:5—“Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”
Revelation 3:5—“He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Revelation 22:19—“If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life.”

Finding the Right Answer to the Right Question by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Finding the Right Answer to the Right Question

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

How should a sinner react to the gift of salvation freely offered by Jesus? What is man’s appropriate response to learning about the crucified Creator and Savior of the world?
Man’s sin, along with God’s grace and sovereignty, should drive every person to ask a most foundational (and logical) question: “What does God want me to do?” If Jesus is my Creator; if He has all authority in heaven and on Earth; and if He is the only Savior of mankind, what does He want me to do?
While Jesus was still living, a young man once recognized the Son of God’s authority, knelt before Him, and asked, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17, emp. added). After the first recorded gospel message following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the convicted hearers asked: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). When Jesus revealed Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus, the persecutor of Christians immediately asked, “What shall I do?” (Acts 22:10). A heathen Philippian jailor, who found himself in dire circumstances, all the while in the presence of a singing-and-praying Paul and Silas, was likewise compelled to ask, “What must I do to be saved?”(Acts 16:30, emp. added).
What is the answer to this question? What is a person to do to be saved? Through the years I have heard and read a number of professed Christians say things like, “God loves you. There’s nothing for you to do.” “We do nothing to become righteous.” “We do nothing to get salvation.” “Salvation is from nothing we do ourselves.”
Interestingly, not one of those in the New Testament was told these sorts of things—that he did not need to do anything. The very opposite is true, in fact. Though all are saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), each time the question, “What shall I/we do?” was asked in the New Testament, the hearers were always told to dosomething. While the Law of Moses was still in effect, Jesus told the rich young ruler, in essence, to repent (Mark 10:21-22). [Jesus instructed the young man to get rid of the “one” thing in his life (his great possessions) that was keeping him from committing his life to Christ.] The Philippian jailor was told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31). The thousands in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were told to “repent…and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). When Saul asked what he needed to do, Jesus told him what he had to do. Saul had to go wait for the word of the Lord in Damascus where Jesus sent Ananias to tell Saul what he “must do” in order to have his sins cleansed by the blood of Christ (Acts 9:6). And what was it Saul had “to do”? By the authority of Christ, Ananias told Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Friend, don’t buy the lie that so many false teachers in the 21st century are selling: there is something for you to do in order to become a Christian and live the Christian life. No, it is not any kind of meritorious work (Titus 3:5). We could no more earn salvation than I could earn $999 quadrillion in my lifetime. But, we must submit ourselves to God and do what He says in order to receive the free, gracious gift of salvation, which comes only through Jesus Christ.
[NOTE: To learn more about becoming a follower of Christ, read our free e-book, Receiving the Gift of Salvation.]

Studying Error? by Trevor Bowen


Studying Error?

Misnomer and Overreaction

Occasionally, after a teacher or speaker has conducted a thorough investigation and rebuttal of a false doctrine, a few may wonder, “Why should we spend time studying error?” “Why not just study truth?” This is a fair question that deserves an answer, which is the goal of this article.
First, although surely unintended, it should be noted that there is a misleading element, a misnomer — maybe even a straw man and a false dilemma in this question. Generally, people do not advocate “just studying error”. Whenever gospel preachers and Bible class teachers publicly refute error, they study truth to answer error. Consequently, the above question may represent more of an imagined straw man than concrete reality.
Second, people do not alternatively “just study truth” despite their claims to the contrary. Inevitably, they will eventually offer some correction, explain some misunderstanding, or challenge an opposing thought, even if only to protest “studying error”.
Third, is there no middle ground? Can not a false teaching be presented for the express purpose of combating it? Furthermore, can we not alternate examination of error with other spiritual needs and Bible topics? Obviously, it is unfair and self-contradictory to present only these two extreme options: “study error or study truth”. Therefore, a middle ground should be sought. The optimal position of such a middle ground may move closer to one extreme or the other at various times, depending on the needs of the students as identified by those responsible for the teaching, but it nonetheless exists.
Ultimately, this question represents an issue of priority, emphasis, and judgment. Responsibilities vary, but each one must decide how much time to invest into answering error for one’s self and for those under his care, even if the threat is not evident to most. Since this issue is in reality a question of degrees, let us dispense with unclear and misleading terms of extremes and false dilemmas.

Like Jesus and the Apostles

As we have studied previously (Can We Understand the Bible?“Do All Things According to the Pattern”“Do All in the Name of the Lord”An Introduction to Bible Silence, and Do Silence of Scriptures Prohibit or Permit?), the ultimate source in understanding how to study and teach the Scriptures are the Scriptures themselves! Should we not use the Scriptures as those inspired used them?
A brief survey of the New Testament Scriptures reveal that combating error and correcting misunderstandings was an ever-present occupation of inspired writers. Outside of the the little epistle to Philemonvirtually every New Testament book prominently confronts or exemplifies confronting error! For example, New Testament writers and Jesus frequently directly quoted and answered prevalent error and incorrect thought:
“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to those of old ... But I say to you ... (Matthew 5:20-22; see also, 5:27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44)
Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? (Matthew 23:16-19)
And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. ... (Acts 15:1-2)
And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come?” — as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just. (Romans 3:8)
Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (I Corinthians 1:12-13)
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (I Corinthians 15:12)
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; ... Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15)
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (I John 1:6-10)
Beyond confronting imminent threats, they also anticipated and answered in advance the arguments of error, false teachers, and the obstinate:
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. ... And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? ... Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, ... and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? ... (Romans 2:1-317-21)
But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? (Romans 3:5-6)
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1-2)
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7)
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! ... You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” (Romans 9:1419-20)
For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. ... You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. (Romans 11:13-1419-20)
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-- and tremble! (James 2:18-19)
They also cited the false teachers’ own internal accepted sources as evidence of inconsistency and fallacy:
“... for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. (Acts 17:28-29)
One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, (Titus 1:12-13)
On some occasions, these exemplary writers called out influential false teachers by name:
Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him about many things, lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him. In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 11:52-12:1)
... by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (I Timothy 1:18-20)
And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. (II Timothy 2:17-18)
Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. (II Timothy 4:14-15)
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. (III John 1:9-10)
Finally, they frequently warned brethren to beware false teachers and avoid extending fellowship to them and their corruptive influence:
Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! ... For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame — who set their mind on earthly things. (Philippians 3:1-19)
Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer ... (II Timothy 2:14-17)
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. ... as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; (II Peter 2:1-3:18)
Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. (II John 1:9-11)
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. ... These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; ...These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. (Jude 1:3-23)
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. ... this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ... Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. (Revelation 2:2-620)
Many more examples could be provided, but these should be sufficient to prove that inspired teachers never “just studied truth”, while ignoring error that was rampaging around them or dismissing preparations for threats anticipated. Instead, Jesus and His inspired apostles and prophets frequently referenced, exposed, and corrected false doctrine. Therefore, if by divine example or inspiration, they understood, addressed, and corrected dangerous errors of their day, should we not do the same in our day?

Danger of Too Little

There is an understandable aversion toward wrapping one’s mind around a foreign concept, especially when our initial instinct is to immediately disregard what is different. Dedication is required to understand another’s beliefs, sift it, and prepare a response (I Thessalonians 5:21-22I Peter 3:15). However, such commitment is essential, since the Scriptures are replete with warnings against the real danger of false teachers and doctrine:
Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18)
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. ... For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (II Corinthians 11:2-15)
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:14-16)
Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. (Colossians 2:4)
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. ...Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. (II Thessalonians 2:9-15)
For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; ... But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. (II Timothy 3:6-13)
Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them. (Hebrews 13:9)
False teachers and their teaching are deceptive, misleading, subtle, cunning, and scheming! They come as “ministers of righteousness” and as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (II Corinthians 11:13-15Matthew 7:15). They skillfully mix truth with error and compliments with presumption. Furthermore, we are too easily deceived through flattery, lusts, ignorance, and prejudice. Often we think we understand very well, but because we have not been tested, we may be easily cast down. (Like the Corinthians, “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall”I Corinthians 10:12. Also consider the example of Peter in Matthew 26:33-3569-75“Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.) Like those “Spot the Differences” puzzles in the newspaper, we may think we know truth through an almost exclusive study of it only to awaken to the sudden realization that we are unprepared to recognize a distinction. Even worse, in our simplicity and naivety, we may never awake. We may be unknowingly carried away with the error of the wicked through too little preparation (II Peter 3:16-17).

Danger of Too Late

Furthermore, false doctrine does not float on the wind. It is carried by a proponent, who can lobby for its sympathy. Regrettably, people may develop an early prejudice in favor of error, because of a false teacher’s charm. Therefore, it is important to address false doctrine before it becomes entrenched through socialization, emotional familiarity, and institutional dependencies. Why would we assist error’s agenda by offering it the element of surprise by allowing it to find a host in our own company before confronting it? For example, consider this wisdom advocated by one, who too late recognized the failure of many to denounce false teaching before it was embedded:
“The fact that no church is to assume the oversight of more work than it can support seems crystal clear to me now as I look back. My hindsight is clearer than my foresight! I am in no position to boast, because I was not among the wise ones who saw the danger in the sponsoring church idea at first. I was not among those who preached before this plan of centralization was introduced in the latter part of the forties. We failed to do that which should have been done very effectively in those earlier days. We failed to discover and teach the simple, local government for the church as God ordained. Enough teaching before and during the war could have immunized the church against the complicated plans men set up as substitutes for God's pattern. We had the opportunity; but, in our simple ignorance, we failed in this significant way.”
“I, and many of my brethren, soon saw that the sponsoring churches were unscriptural; but by then they were already set up and were collecting millions of dollars to do great things. As they made their big splash they grew in popularity. What could we do when we saw the error? There was not much we could do but raise our faint voices in protest, and then be crushed by the logrolling tactics of the big machines. Our opportunity to do effective teaching was before the powerful machines were set up and thrown into high gear. Several good men saw the danger before I did, and they tried to awaken the brethren, but even they were too late. They were given such names as antis, fanatics, the lunatic fringe, mossbacks, etc. They could not preach to those who did not want to hear them, because they closed their eyes, stopped their ears, and hardened their hearts. The followers of the promoters of the big machines would not endure the sound doctrine of these good men who tried to point out the unscripturalness of these central agencies. A remnant did awaken to the danger, but the larger mass of people turned back toward denominationalism by opening the door to apostasy. The sponsoring church was the first step in a long march down the path of digression. The floodgate was opened, and none could close it. It has not been closed, and it will not be closed in time to bring safety to the great mass of people who have rushed headlong after these promoters. Many are now disillusioned by the present absurdities of these rich and powerful congregations; but they are still in the crowd that followed the promoters, and are going from one new error to another.” (Preaching In A Changing World, Irven Lee, 1975, p. 43-44)
In every given area, there is some set of false doctrines that are more popular and widely held than others. If we love our Lord and those whom He loved, then why would we not want to prepare ourselves in advance to answer their questions to strengthen our evangelistic outreach? If we are aware of doctrines that are prevalent in our area, then why would we not try to inoculate those around us? If we spend too little time preparing ourselves and others to answer error, it may be too late by the time we begin in earnest.

Danger of Too Much

In almost every matter, there is a danger of moving toward extremes. This matter is no exception. Devoting too little in preparation may lead to weak, vulnerable, arrogant, and lethargic Christians; however, there is also danger in devoting too much time to examining error! Please consider the following possible pitfalls:
  • Although much of the New Testament writings are focused on recognizing and answering false doctrine, a significant portion is spent on other aspects of Christianity, like growth of personal character, refining inner attitudes, maintaining moral purity, and such like. As Paul was only held guiltless by declaring “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27), so must we spend time studying and teaching God’s Word upon every matter. Ignoring any aspect of God’s Word leaves us susceptible to the enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18I Peter 5:8-9); therefore, no part must be overlooked.
  • Just as teachers develop among mature, experienced Christians (Hebrews 5:12-14), and just as stronger, more spiritual Christians help those who are weak (Galatians 6:1), so we also must take great care not to expect too much, too soon of young, inexperienced, or struggling Christians. Requiring too much effort in combating false teaching may discourage those whose responsibilities are already overflowing because of their own needs.
  • Although one may benefit from the “sharpening” effect (Proverbs 27:17) of interacting with those of opposing views, it is ill advised to spend the bulk of one’s time reading opposing views. We are impressionable, and although we should be open to questioning and self-examination, too much exposure to any one side of a matter - especially the wrong side - will inevitably soften our stand against error, if not convert us unto it (I Corinthians 15:33Proverbs 18:17)! Even worse, some have deliberately turned to false teachers as experts, hoping to learn from them in matters that are central to their error! Like those long ago, they “have changed their Glory for what does not profit” and “have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:11-13, see also: II Peter 2:15-22Jude 12-13).
  • There is a diminishing level of return associated with answering any error. Once the strongest, fundamental, and common points of a false doctrine are countered, there is little need in examining the lesser points (Ecclesiastes 10:10). At some point, one’s time is better spent examining other topics, once the wisdom of men has been exposed on a given topic. New questions may trickle into view and merit further consideration, but provided the original effort was zealously undertaken, follow-up efforts should not consume nearly as much time.
Some amount of judgment must be exercised to determine how much time must be spent examining error. Just because dangers exist toward one extreme, we should not ignore the dangers of the other.


For those who are busy with the Lord’s work of teaching the lost, there is no need to explain the value of examining and answering error. Such people are busy persuading others, wrestling with difficult questions, errors, and misunderstandings of Scripture; therefore, they greatly value and relish the insight of those who have already crossed such waters. Others, who may be struggling with a brother “drifting away” or a sister nursing a “root of bitterness” (Hebrews 2:1-310:23-3912:12-17), do not require motivation to take time to prepare answers for false doctrine. They are living it! They appreciate the help! How can we minimize the need for such teaching without directly undermining the effectiveness of evangelism, jeopardizing teetering saints, and exposing our shame?
Even if it is wearisome to investigate errors foreseen, the inspired text demonstrates an ongoing mission to examine, confront, and answer threatening false doctrines. Even errors that were only anticipated were still cut off by teaching in advance. This preparation is needed, because false teachers are extremely deceptive, and it takes time to disseminate truth, dismantle error, and steady unlearned and unstable minds. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Let us not fall into the seduction that we are prepared, if we have invested little time into answering the arguments of error. In contrast, let us not become so enamored with false teachers that we invest too much time answering them — or even worse, expect to directly learn from them! May God bless with wise elders and evangelists, who have the knowledge to grow in knowledge and to adequately prepare those whom they serve for God’s work of evangelism, teaching, and restoration.
Trevor Bowen