By Holly Culhane
Do you have a pet peeve, a behavior that gets under your skin in a way that you just can’t resist complaining when you witness it? Driving slowly in the fast lane, littering, or talking during movies are common pet peeves in American culture.
As I felt the importance of sharing the following blog by J.D. Walt, of Seedbed, I began to describe the issue he addresses – because Paul addresses it – as one of my pet peeves. Then I realized that false teachers and false teachings are far greater than a nurtured annoyance. They are a clear and present danger to the body of Christ and to the Church.
With that in mind, let’s begin by reviewing this final warning from Paul to the believers in Rome.
And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong.
J.D. entitled his blog, A Closing Zinger. I pray that as a shepherd leader, you take Paul’s words to heart, understand the responsibility you play in the body of Christ with regard to exposing and speaking out against false teachers and false teachings, and never sit silent when action is required.
“I appreciate the pull-no-punches nature of the way the Open English Bible translates vv.17–18:
“I beg you, friends, to be on your guard against people who, by disregarding the teaching which you received, cause divisions and create difficulties; disassociate yourselves from them. For such persons are not serving Christ, our Master, but are slaves to their own appetites; and, by their smooth words and flattery,
they deceive simple-minded people. (Rom. 16:17–18 OEB)
“This is a zinger of a warning against false teaching and false teachers. From the first day to the present day, false teachers and false teaching abound and it is among the gravest threats to the church and our churches.
Please know, this is not Paul warning the church in Rome that the Mormons have moved into the neighborhood. He is talking about church leaders and people who have been influenced by false teaching, errant doctrine, fake gospels, and the like. Notice something else. False teaching, while often cloaked in plausible shifts in interpretive methodology, is usually driven by an attempt to accommodate or otherwise pave the way for the expansion of human appetites and novel ideologies concerning the human body (see Gnosticism). Paul could not be any more clear on this point:
“For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.
“That was the third jab. Here’s the right hook:
“By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
“This is a constant warning Paul often issued to the churches. Remember when he said this in the letter to his young protege Timothy:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine.
Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers
to say what their itching ears want to hear.
2 Timothy 4:3–4
“So what’s a Bible-believing, Jesus-following Christian to do, Paul? To the Romans, concerning false teachers and teaching, Paul is emphatic: Keep away from them, says the NIV. The OEB renders it even stronger: Disassociate yourselves from them.
“But why Paul, what’s the harm here? I mean, can’t thinking people disagree on such matters? Doesn’t it all come down to how you interpret the Bible? Have you looked at the science, Paul? We’ve heard of your harsh rhetoric concerning women in the church. Why should we be surprised about your other prudish prejudices? (It’s a classic tactic of those who can’t win on the merits. Attack the witness. aka ad hominem)
“But really, why Paul?
“Here’s why: False teaching and false doctrine work like termites. They show up long before you have any idea of them and they slowly, systematically destroy the house from the inside out. By the time you discover their presence, it is usually too late.”
Two questions for you to consider, shepherd leader, directly from J.D.:
Do you carry the urgency of Paul’s concern about false teachers and false teaching?
Or, do you have a more laissez-faire attitude?
Think about it. As a leader in the body of Christ — in your church, in your family, in your community, in your denomination — you have a responsibility.
How seriously are you taking it?