A true heretic is a dangerous person—one of the most deadly is the type who is opposed to the gospel of Jesus and passionately seeks to persuade others to embrace a false gospel. Do you know a heretic? How should you show genuine love to that person without endangering yourself and your family? The Bible speaks to such situations, and we would be wise to follow the biblical pattern of love.
Stop Affirming and Start Evangelizing
According to the world, the politically correct method of showing love is to be affirming to all people no matter what they say or do—it’s their life and their choices and we should love them anyway. Friendship evangelism never works. If you think that being a friend to a heretic will lead that person to Christ—you will never see results. The heretic is often pleased with remaining friends in hopes that he or she could chip away at the foundation of your faith. It’s time to stop affirming them in their beliefs and start evangelizing them with the gospel.
To share the gospel involves confronting people with error. According to the world, this is judgmental and that’s precisely why so many people hate Jesus. Christ didn’t come to make everyone happy, happy, happy. According to Jesus, he came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), but in doing so, he brings division to friendships and families (see Luke 12:49-53). Hanging out with the heretics will never change their hearts. The Bible says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). In other words, if you continue in a close intimate friendship without evangelizing the unbeliever with the gospel and confronting them with their error—you’re not showing true love to your friend. True love will lead someone away from an eternity that’s under the blazing wrath of our sovereign God. Do you really love your friend if you refuse to confront them and to point them to Jesus?
Stop the Intimate Friendship
For the sake of your soul, you need to bring an end to the friendship between you and your heretic friend. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, and taught the church to keep their distance from those who claimed the name of Jesus but denied him in their manner of living (1 Cor. 5:11). You can do this in several ways, but perhaps the best way to do it is to be honest. You can sit down across the table from your friend and explain how their heresy has divided your friendship and that you will no longer be able to remain close friends. Doctrine matters and false doctrine divides. In this meeting, you can take time to share the true gospel and plead with your friend to embrace Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins. However, the breaking of the relationship is necessary for the sake of your spiritual wellbeing. Don’t have an elevated opinion of yourself—yes you can be fooled too. Remember, Paul scolded the church at Galatia for being fooled by the heretics. Robert Thomas, former professor at The Master’s Seminary once wrote the following:
People don’t often go heretical all at once. It is gradual. And they do not do so intentionally most of the time. They slip into it through shoddiness and laziness in handling the word of truth… All it takes to start the road to heresy is a craving for something new and different, a flashy new idea, along with a little laziness or carelessness or lack of precision in handling the truth of God. All around us today are startling reminders of doctrinal slippage and outright failure. In case after case someone who should have known the truth of God better failed in upholding that truth. 
In Matthew 24:24, we find these words, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, eventheelect.” If Satan desires to lead astray—even God’s elect (which is not possible), that goes to show you how persuasive he will be in all of his attacks on the gospel of Jesus. Beware of this as Satan and the demonic spirits labor to oppose the gospel of Jesus and his Church.
The intimate friendship should come to an end, not just for the sake of your soul, but for the sake of their soul. The heretic needs to know that heresy divides friends and that the relationship will never be as close as it once was because of the false gospel. We are created with a desire for intimacy and close friendships. Christians find this fulfillment in the church, but unbelievers find it (on a much lower level) in the world. One of the elements of church discipline is to put a division between the members and the offending member who is being excommunicated in such a way that the person can feel the distance between himself and the church of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 5:5). This is God’s plan for church discipline, and the individual should know they have been turned over to Satan.
The world has one way to show love, but it’s not real love at all. True love will point people to Jesus and then continue to remain close and intimate friends with others within the body of Christ. Pray for the soul of your friend who refuses to bow to Jesus. Pray for God to open this person’s eyes to the truth.
Dr. Robert Thomas, “Precision as God’s Will for My Life,” (pamphlet, The Master’s Seminary, 1989).
We are living in a day that is consumed with the desire to see signs and wonders of God. Miracle hunters fill stadiums in search of signs and wonders that would amaze them or heal them or satisfy their curiosity about the existence of God. There is no lack of self proclaimed prophets who are willing to perform such signs and wonders for the seekers. Like a WWE Wrestling event—it’s filled with drama and action, but it’s really a hollow shell—it’s something other than the real thing.
During the Old Testament days, Moses warned the Israelites regarding false prophets (see Deut. 13). In the days of Jesus, the Prophet greater than Moses had arrived and the people were awestruck by his sovereign power. It was like nothing they had seen before. Yet, almost everyone was attracted to Jesus because of the signs and wonders rather than his gospel (John 6:1-2). In Matthew 12:38-42, a crowd of the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus looking for a sign. Jesus responded, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt. 12:39).
Does God still perform miracles in our day? Absolutely. In fact, the great miracle that God continues to perform among us is the salvation of a lost sinner as God miraculously brings the person to life spiritually. However, we also know that God is capable of hearing our prayers and bringing healing and restoration of health to a hurting or sick person as well. While God is still in the miracle business, we must admit that the sensationalism and craving of signs and wonders that we see today is not in alignment with what we see happening in the apostolic days. Below are five red flags to look for in a minister or ministry that falls into the category that Jesus himself warned about during his earthly ministry.
Beware of Replacing Bible Exposition
Today’s Word of Faith movement and many of the branches of the charismatic movement as a whole major on signs and wonders rather than plain Bible exposition. In many circles today—the Bible has become boring and irrelevant. One charismatic pastor in my town instructs his people to walk through the local mall “blowing the Holy Spirit” on people. Meanwhile, scores of church members in our town couldn’t tell you the difference between the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mark. We are living in biblical illiterate times, and we don’t need less preaching, less exposition, less theology, and less Bible teaching in search for signs and wonders. Jesus warned, “an evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign” (Matt. 12:39). Jesus has already provided us with the ultimate sign in his resurrection from the dead.
As we examine the early church—even in a day when the miraculous gifts were normative and operative in the life of the local church—the people were centered together on the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. The regular preaching and teaching of the Bible in a systematic manner known as expository preaching (verse-by-verse) is necessary for the health and vitality of the body. When a church is hyper-focused on miracles and minimizes doctrine—the church will be like a sailboat on the ocean without a rudder. John MacArthur observes:
Any sensationalism inevitably is frustrated by the law of diminishing returns. People are never satisfied. They always want one more sign, one more miracle, one more show. To have maintained His influence over the people by the use of miracles, Jesus would have had to produce greater and greater sensations. Because the natural, carnal heart can never be satisfied, this year’s miracle would have become next year’s bore. His followers would only have been lovers of sensation, not lovers of God. 
Beware of Veiling the Gospel
If you listen to many of the charismatic teachers today, you will often hear them providing statistics about how many people were healed or delivered from evil spirits in their last meeting as opposed to how many were impacted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In jail ministry circles, it’s extremely common to hear lessons on how to be filled with the Spirit and speak in tongues as opposed to how to be reconciled to God through the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross.
We must remember that God doesn’t bring people to heaven by miracles, signs, and wonders. He brings people out of darkness and into the marvelous light of Christ by the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16; Acts 26:18). When you hear of teachers who focus on miracles, deliverances, healings, tongues, and various other signs and wonders but they talk very little about the gospel—run for the hills.
Beware When Signs and Wonders are For Sale
Once upon a time, Simon the Sorcerer offered to pay for the power of God because his power looked like child’s play in comparison to the power of God in the lives of the apostles (Acts 8:18-19). Peter responded with some stern language for the magician:
May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me (Acts 8:20–24).
It’s common today to hear of false prophets offering people signs and wonders for a “seed gift” offering. When you hear of the power of God being put up for sale, run for the hills. Such a person is a charlatan and has no business speaking on behalf of God. Don’t be fooled into such monetary scams. Like hucksters who prey upon the elderly with phone scams, such false prophets prey upon God’s people by using God’s name and they seek to lead even God’s elect astray (Matt. 24:24).
Beware When Signs and Wonders Are Made Ordinary Rather Than Extraordinary
In Jesus’ day, people were coming from all around Galilee to see the miracles of Jesus. They were extraordinary. The same thing was true of the apostles. The miracles that were associated with the apostles were connected to Jesus and they were not widespread and common. In today’s confused religious culture—the signs and wonders have become ordinary rather than extraordinary. Almost everyone who appears on religious television proclaims himself or herself to be a prophet or prophetess of God. We must pause and ask ourselves why do we see more signs and wonders in our day today than we did at the close of the biblical canon and the spread of God’s church?
According to the Word of Faith teachings—there is such power in the words we use—if we simply speak God’s Word and use certain religious vocabulary it will cause miracles to happen instantly. Why is this formula not used in the days of the early church? With such a common formula of merely speaking God’s Word and commanding things to happen—wouldn’t the extraordinary miracles associated with the office of an apostle become normative as they are now performed by the average person who professes the name of Jesus? Wouldn’t that render a miracle something other than miraculous?
Beware When Signs and Wonders Cause People to Miss God
The very purpose of signs and wonders in the days of the early church was to point people to God. It was to put on display the lightening and thunder of God’s sovereignty. However, in our present religious culture—it’s very common for people to be awestruck with the signs and miss God. The wonder and amazement is placed on something that happened rather than on God himself. This is exactly where the people were in Jesus’ day as they begged him to make the sky dance or turn colors—but they were bored with the fact that the One who spoke the universe into existence was standing in their presence clothed in human flesh. Jesus rebuked the people in his day for their craving for signs and we see those sobering words in Matthew’s Gospel:
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed (Matthew 16:1–4).
John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary,Matthew 1-7, (Chicago: Moody, 1985), 94-95.
Yesterday I had lunch with a very kind and gracious man in our community. This man is a committed member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In short, my friend is a Mormon. He was respectful, gracious, and I enjoyed our conversation very much. However, at one point the conversation shifted and he asked me if I was willing to call him a brother in Christ?
I explained that we both hold to very different doctrines that cannot stand in harmony—especially the teachings about the person and work of Jesus Christ. He said that he was offended by that statement. I acknowledged how that would be offensive, but I must stand upon the gospel of Christ. The most loving thing I could do would be to point him to the truth. The most unloving thing I could do would be to ignore the differences and embrace him as a brother in Christ.
The devil is the father of all lies and he is really good at causing people to embrace error as truth. How do you determine the difference between denominations of Christianity and other religions outside of Christianity? In other words, we know that Baptists and Methodists are quite different on many theological levels, but they’re both Christian denominations. Today, a growing number of people continue to purport the idea that Mormonism is just another denomination like Methodists within the family of orthodox Christianity.
How can we determine if Mormonism is Christian or cult? Based on foundational doctrinal evidence—I can’t embrace Mormons as fellow Christians.
Mormonism Rejects the Sufficiency of the Bible
If you can add to the authoritative body of teachings of the church each year by a vote—it would make the religion more fluid and apt to change with culture or adapt over time based on pressures from the culture. This is true of the Roman Catholic Church regarding their belief regarding the RCC’s official tradition. The same thing is true of the Mormon religion. At one point polygamy was defended as permissible, but later it was changed.
Christians stand upon the absolute sufficiency of God’s Word—something that does not change with time, circumstances, and geographic location. Not one other source from church history is needed outside of God’s Word alone as the sufficient guide for God’s revelation of himself to humanity. For the Mormons, they hold to a group of writings called the “Four Standard Works.” This body includes the King James Version of the Bible (as properly translated), the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and The Book of Mormon.
Anytime a religion adds books to the same divine level as God’s Word—that should cause an immediate red flag to be raised. Consider what Joseph Smith said, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church,4:461).
Mormonism Rejects the Deity of Jesus
While the Mormons do uphold Jesus as “a god”—they do not embrace Jesus as “very God of very God” who is one with the Father (John 10:30; John 8:58). Mormons believe Jesus is a god, but they also believe it’s possible for any human to become a god (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345–354). In John 10:33, we find these important words:
The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
The driving reason that Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross was on the basis of his teachings—which threatened the authority and teaching of the religious establishment of the day. Jesus made it clear that he is God. If Jesus is the Creator of all things—how can he be a created being? That does not make sense and it certainly doesn’t align with the Word of God. Mormons claim that Jesus was the first of the spirit beings begotten through a physical relationship between Elohim and one of his many heavenly wives. This is in clear violation to Matthew 1:20, but nevertheless, they maintain aberrant doctrines about God the Father existing in flesh like a perfect man who would be capable of such a relationship.
According to the Articles of Faith on the Godhead, the LDS doctrine of God consists of a God who possesses a physical body. In comparing the LDS beliefs with Christian doctrine, their Articles of Faith read, “But where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being.” Jesus said something quite different in John 4:24, “Godisspirit, and those who worship him must worship in spiritand truth.”
Mormons are not Christians based on several key teachings. Some of those troubling teachings include the spirit brotherhood of Satan and Jesus, the baptism for the dead, a racial problem, a polytheistic view of many gods, and a clear denial of the Trinity. These teachings stand in clear contradiction to the teachings of God’s Word—and have never been embraced as merely another Christian denomination.
Mormons have a troubling past with Joseph Smith Jr.—the founder who had multiple wives—one of whom was only 14 when he was 39. Their troubling past also includes a lengthy letter by Professor Charles Anthon of Columbia University who was said to validate the translation of Jospeh Smith’s writings (Book of Mormon) from the “Golden Plates.” According to Professor Anthon, “The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be ‘reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics’ is perfectly false.” While all of these things are troubling—none are more troublesome than their rejection of the deity of Jesus Christ as second Person of the Godhead who is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit.
In short, the Mormons have one Jesus and the Christians have a very different Jesus. Make no mistake—they aren’t the same Jesus. For that reason—I can’t call my Mormon friend my brother in Christ. I want to, but I simply can’t. Therefore, I will continue to have such gospel conversations praying that God will open his eyes to the truth.
Is the gift of prophecy given to the church in our present day? Was the gift of prophecy reserved for the apostolic era of church history? What must we say about the numerous accounts of modern-day prophecies that people continue to share. Some are formally given in a corporate worship gatherings and some happen in the break room at work. According to B.B. Warfield, the age of the miraculous gifts has passed. He writes:
The theologians of the post-Reformation era, a very clear-headed body of men, taught with great distinctness that the charismata ceased with the Apostolic age. 
Several years ago, Beth Moore told a story about how God often speaks to her in visions. According to Moore, God placed this picture in her head while she was sitting out on her back porch. She stated that it was as if she was raised up and could see the world as Jesus does. Does God continue to speak to people by giving prophecies for them to share with the church? What important questions must be considered?
Is the Gift of Modern Prophecy Compatible with Sola Scriptura?
At the heart of the Reformation was the principle of sola Scriptura. The Reformers lived and died upon the fact that the Word of God was all that was necessary to communicate the binding and necessary elements of the faith. They rejected the claims of the Roman Catholic Church’s authority and elevated the necessity of Scripture as the sole basis of truth. Anything else was a counterfeit and was rejected. This struck at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church and became a sharp sword that would be used on the battlefield of the Protestant Reformation.
Today, we have cults who knock on our doors and try to slide pamphlets and booklets over the top of sacred Scripture. In other words, if a cult group comes to your door, they will often appear to have a high regard for God’s Word, but not far into the conversation they will start to point you in the direction of some other literature written by their cult group’s organization. This is an ancient gimmick, one employed by Satan himself in the Garden of Eden as he cast shadows upon God’s Word asking Eve—”Did God really say” (Gen. 3:1)?
Within the charismatic movement, or as some choose to be labeled—the continuationist movement, the gift of prophecy is embraced as an ongoing normative gift given to the church of Jesus Christ. Does the gift of prophecy square with the teachings of sola Scriptura? As the Roman Catholic Church fought for control of God’s Word in church history, is the modern charismatic movement seeking to capture the greater stake in who actually has more of God’s revelation? In fact, you could expect that Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen would both reject any notion of sola Scriptura, but today we find many Reformed Christians who claim to be continuationists. Therefore, does a continuationist model invalidate the central principle of the Reformation?
As a cessationist, I do not find true theological consistency between the continuationist position and historic position of the Reformers. If God’s Word is to be accompanied by modern-day revelations that are communicated by modern-day prophets—sola Scriptura is replaced with a multiplicity of words from God. No longer is God’s Word sufficient because it comes in a plurality of ways—written and verbal.
Is God’s Word Authoritative and Less Authoritative?
When an ancient herald would be commissioned out into a town to deliver the message of the king, he would be received with honor and respect. In fact, when the message of the herald was delivered to the people, the message was embraced with the same authority as if the king himself had been standing there to deliver the message. When we read the Bible, we read the authoritative Word of God. The authority of God’s Word is clearly articulated by Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5. Peter picks up this same tone as he writes:
Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Wayne Grudem, a gifted scholar who holds to the continuationist positions writes:
Furthermore, aside from the question of current practice or belief, I have argued extensively elsewhere that ordinary congregational prophecy in New Testament churches did not have the authority of Scripture. It was not spoken in words that were the very words of God, but rather in merely human words. And because it has this lesser authority, there is no reason to think that it will not continue in the church until Christ returns. It does not threaten or compete with Scripture in authority but is subject to Scripture, as well as to the mature judgment of the congregation. 
When we read the Bible, are we led to believe that what Paul said to the church at Corinth regarding church discipline is less authoritative than what Jesus said in Matthew 18? Is what Paul said about justification by faith alone in Christ alone in Ephesians less authoritative than what James said about faith and works? The point is clear—all of God’s Word is authoritative. Therefore, the position that suggests that verbal prophecies are less binding than what we find in Scripture seems to contain logical and theological fallacies. Why would God communicate lesser authoritative words to modern prophets than He did to ancient prophets?
Tom Schreiner provides a helpful consideration as he writes:
The burden of proof is on those who say prophecy in the NT is of a different nature than prophecy in the OT. Prophets in the OT were only considered prophets of God if they were infallible (Deut. 18:15-22), and the same is almost certainly true in the NT. 
It seems abundantly clear that God’s Word is the final and sure authoritative revelation given to us by the Holy Spirit. It can be validated, trusted, followed, and remains our sole source of divine truth.
Is God’s Word Inerrant and Errant?
In 2011, the entire world was put on notice that the world was coming to an abrupt end. At least, that was the message from Harold Camping and his dedicated followers—many of whom sold their homes and spent their “final days” warning the world. In 2007, Pat Robertson delivered a message of doom by saying, “The Lord didn’t say nuclear but I do believe it will be something like that, that it will be a mass-killing, possibly millions of people, major cities injured. There will be some very serious terrorist attacks. The evil people will come after this country and there’s a possibility not a possibility, a definite certainty that chaos is going to rule.” Still today, a man named Horacio Villegas is predicting the end of the world, by a nuclear event, will take place on May 13th, 2017.
Do any of these men speak for God? How do we know if a self-proclaimed prophet is speaking for God? The verification is based on the outcome of their prophecy. In fact, that is the only basis of verification. While some people within the charismatic movement dismiss people as Harold Camping and other radicals as false prophets, some people still hold to the idea that true modern prophets can make errant prophecies by accident. All prophets are known by their fruit. Therefore, the idea of an errant prophet who actually speaks for God is beyond the realm of what it means to be a true prophet of God.
Long before the Word of God was complete, God instituted a means to protect His Word from corruption. According to Deuteronomy 18:20-22, if anyone came speaking for God and did not speak the truth, they were to be executed. In short, the death penalty was the punishment for all false prophets. This was God’s way of protecting His Word. According to Ezekiel 12:25, everything the LORD speaks actually comes to pass.
In the New Testament, we don’t have a single place where a prophet erred. Some accuse Agabus of error, but if you read Paul’s explanation of his arrest in Acts 28:17, you will see that he never accused Agabus of any error whatsoever. In fact, it seems that he was connecting the dots to what had been prophesied by Agabus. All throughout the New Testament, the message of the prophets was to be received as truth. The idea of an errant prophet delivering an errant word doesn’t seem to align itself with the overall picture of God’s inerrant Word (Ez. 12:25; 2 Tim. 3:16-4:5).
As we consider the Word of God and the work of the prophets, it’s apparent that their work has been completed and their office is no longer a gift to the church. Since the completed canon is now on hand and properly assembled—all such prophetic statements are no longer necessary.
While I have friends who hold to the continuationist position, I simply cannot validate the position with Scripture. I recognize that not everyone who holds to the position of a continuationist model should be immediately dismissed as a follower of Benny Hinn as well. Anything that challenges the sufficiency of Scripture by adding to it or providing additional information is, in my opinion, a dangerous thing. A robust cessationist position regarding prophecy is not to diminish the work and value of the Holy Spirit. Remember, John Calvin was known as “the theologian of the Holy Spirit.”
Today we continue a three-part series (posted each Tuesday) that will focus on the positive side of being negative. Today’s subject is centered on the need to be negative in the work of apologetics. Last week the focus was evangelism and next week will be focused on the work of pastoral ministry. We’ve all heard the line, “Don’t be negative, you will push people away.” Is that true or is that merely the tagline of an ultra tolerant inclusive culture that demands positivity and tolerance at any cost?
We live in a culture that paints an improper picture of Jesus as the “nice guy” on the right side of the Bible rather than the wrathful God on the left side. Perhaps people should read all of the right side of the Bible – especially the first four books of the New Testament along with the last book of the New Testament as a fitting assessment of the true Jesus. Jesus was often straightforward and He placed a great deal of emphasis upon defending the truth of God and the sacred Scriptures.
Apologetics is not the practice of giving an apology. It’s the act of defending the faith. Cornelius Van Til once defined apologetics as “the vindication of the Christian philosophy of life against the various forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life.”  One of the key words in his definition is the word, “against” which points to the negative focus that must be included in the work of apologetics. Perhaps the key verse in the New Testament regarding apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15, which says, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
The Greek term translated, “to make a defense” is ἀπολογία – from where we derive the word – apologetics. The fact that we must defend the faith once delivered to the saints is clearly laid out in the Scriptures, and it’s clearly practiced by the early church. The New Testament is filled with apostolic examples of apologetics from Peter’s sermon at Pentecost to Paul giving a defense of the faith before Agrippa. Likewise, we see the early pastors being mandated to practice the work of apologetics in their pastoral ministry (Titus 1:9). In short, all Christians are apologists at some level. In the home as Christian parents, at your place of employment, or on social media. You don’t have to be called to full-time vocational ministry before you engage in apologetics.
Practicing Apologetics and Being Negative
False teaching often lurks in the realm of evangelical circles. It’s one thing to refute the false teaching of Joel Osteen, but what about the individual who has crept into the church of Jesus Christ and is leading people astray? A.W. Pink once said:
False prophets are to be found in the circles of the most orthodox, and they pretend to have a fervent love for souls, yet they fatally delude multitudes concerning the way of salvation. The pulpit, platform, and pamphlet hucksters have wantonly lowered the standard of divine holiness and so adulterated the Gospel in order to make it palatable to the carnal mind. 
According to Jude 3-4:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Notice two specific statements in these verses. First notice that Jude says, “contend for the faith.” The word contend is translated from the Greek term ἐπαγωνίζομαι meaning “to extert intense effort on behalf of something, contend.” The command to contend for the faith with intensity does not always mean with a positive tone nor does it demand tolerance. The idea that Christians are to tolerate false teachers and false teaching within the church is on the same level as a momma bear tolerating wolves entering her den where her babies are sleeping.
Secondly, notice that Jude says such false teachers had crept inside unnoticed. Jude then argues that such false teachers should be noticed and the work of making people aware of such individuals is part of the work of apologetics. Anytime light shines in darkness, it reveals error. The best teacher in the New Testament who consistently revealed error is Jesus. In His earthly ministry, Jesus consistently put false teachers on notice and it wasn’t always positive.
One such example is found in Mark 12:18-27. In this text, the Sadducees approached Jesus with a theological question. They wanted to know Jesus’ position on the marriage law mentioned in Deuteronomy 25:5-6 – or did they? Actually they were setting a trap for Jesus regarding His position on the resurrection of the dead. That was their real issue. Their question wasn’t exactly sincere, it was more of a theological trap.
Jesus fielded their question and then point by point exposed their false religiosity. Jesus wasn’t about to allow these false teachers off the hook. Why didn’t Jesus just remain positive in hopes of gaining new followers from the community? Why didn’t Jesus merely tolerate their different interpretations on the Scriptures? Jesus responded with a catastrophic bomb, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Mark 12:24)? The reason Jesus exposed them was because of their danger to God’s people. Notice, Jesus exposed their ignorance of the Scriptures.
Negative is not Automatically Nasty
To be clear, as I stated in the first article on evangelism, I’m in no way insinuating that Christians should go around being rude, hateful, and harsh with everyone they come in contact with. All Christians are commanded to love sinners and treat people with respect – even people we disagree with. However, Christians are not to be spineless pushovers who allow anyone to say anything they want – especially as it pertains to the gospel.
The Christian community is often quick to press fellow Christians on the idea that we need to follow Jesus’ example of love, but what about His apologetic? Are we to employ the WWJD principle in the area of love only, or should we actually defend the gospel too? According to 1 Peter 3:15, we are to defend the faith “with gentleness and respect.” I can recall times when I wasn’t as gentle as I should have been in my attempt to defend the faith. There is a difference between gentleness and negligence. Exposing error necessitates negative facts, but it always has a positive goal rooted and grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The very moment we claim that pluralism is wrong, we aren’t doing so with the goal of being negative. We speak with the goal of pointing people to the exclusivity of Christ. When we call out the errors of LGBT inclusivism, we aren’t doing so with the goal of being a hater of LGBT people. To the contrary, we do so with the goal of pointing people to faith in Jesus Christ and protecting the church from such false teachers who would press the church into an inclusivist position. Apologetics involves exposing negative error with the positive goal of pointing people to Christ and guarding the gospel from perversion. Vance Havner once said, “The early Christians condemned false doctrine in a way that sounds almost unchristian today.”
Next week, we will look at the need to be negative in the work of pastoral ministry.
Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976), 1.
A.W. Pink, Sermon on the Mount (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2008), 344.
This week, over 10 million people from around the world will sit under the ministry of Joel Osteen. Thousands will be in attendance in Houston, Texas during one of their weekend services. Millions will watch through Internet and television broadcasts. Recently, Joel Osteen appeared on the Stephen Colbert show to promote his latest book titled, The Power of I Am where he basically points people to the power of positive thinking rather than the power of God. You can view the short interview below.
In the interview with Colbert, Osteen was asked if he has any desire to form a religious denomination. He denied any desire to form an official denomination, but if the truth were known, more people watch Osteen each weekend than are professing members of The Episcopal Church of the United States of America (TEC). In 2014, the membership of the TEC was 1,504,273 communicant members and 1,956,042 baptized members.
In this interview with Colbert, Osteen was handed another opportunity to speak for God and to articulate the gospel, and he fumbled the ball – again. If this were a game, Joel Osteen would need to be planted on the bench long before now. However, this is by no means a game. This is much more serious, and souls are at stake.
In this short clip from The Late Show, Joel Osteen misinterpreted the I AM statement of God from Exodus 3:14. Osteen claimed that the statement means that God is everything, completely missing the point of God’s name. Beyond that, Osteen went on to describe his “Word of Faith” theology on how he believes that there is actual power in the words that we speak. What he means by this is far more than the impact the words may have upon a person (good or bad). He embraces a specific theological position known as the Word of Faith movement whereby spoken words have creative power. Every word is a pronouncement of blessing or curse.
If there was a group known as Osteenians, their belief system would be centered on the power of positive thinking, speaking, and pronouncing. This theological system is filled with many classic errors dating back to Balaam in Numbers 22. There have been different feathers of this type of prosperity teacher surface through time, such as Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8) and other false teachers of the New Testament. The Word of Faith theology of Joel Osteen is heretical because it misses the gospel. It under values the good news of salvation. The Word of Faith movement reduces the work of Jesus on the cross down to a prosperity ticket whereby the chief end of man is to glorify self and enjoy our toys for a temporary life.
Really, this is nothing new from Joel Osteen. He isn’t charting new territory in his spiritual journey. He said very similar things in his book titled, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day where he writes the following:
One of the best ways that we can improve our self-image is with our words. Words are like seeds. They have creative power. It says in Isaiah that “We will eat the fruit of our words.” That’s amazing when you stop to consider that truth: Our words tend to produce what we’re saying…Every day we should make positive declarations over our lives. We should say things such as, “I am blessed. I am prosperous. I am healthy. I am talented. I am creative. I am wise.” When we do that, we are building up our self-image. As those words permeate your heart and mind, and especially your subconscious mind, eventually they will begin to change the way you see yourself. The Scripture says “With our tongue, we can either bless our life or we can curse our life.” Some individuals curse their own future by saying things such as “I don’t have what it takes. I’m so clumsy I can’t get anything right. I’m so undisciplined. I’ll probably never lose this weight.” We must be extremely careful what we allow out of our mouth. Our words set the direction for our lives. 
Joel Osteen would fit much better within the realm of secular self-esteem and self-help psychology, rather than masquerading as a pastor who shepherds souls for the glory of God. I realize that many Osteen fans become angry with statements like that, but time and again Joel Osteen blows it when it comes to theology. How many times will you take your car to a mechanic who consistently makes errors in repairs? As a skill and profession, the mechanic should take seriously his ability to diagnose and repair your automobile. What about heart surgery? How many times will you allow an incompetent heart surgeon to repair heart valves in your aging parent or spouse? Why should we give pastors a free pass when it comes to incompetence in the study of God’s Word? Souls are at stake.
As Joel Osteen states in his interview with Colbert, his message is “a little bit different.” At this point, Joel Osteen speaks the truth. But, in his attempt to state the truth, he understates it. His message is far from the biblical teachings of Christianity. He doesn’t want to focus on the negative. Instead, he wants to tell people that “God is for you.” Should pastors consistently tell every person that God is for them? How will a person be brought to repentance without first hearing that God is their enemy (James 4:4)? Was God for Pharaoh? Was God for the Ninevites? Was God for Goliath? What about Saul of Tarsus? Was God for Saul or in opposition to Saul as he made his way toward Damascus (Acts 9)?
In short, Joel Osteen is a heretic. He is a wolf who comes with a smile, but behind that smile and southern accent lurks a deadly bite of soul damning heresy. Joel Osteen has been afforded many different platforms to preach the truth, but he consistently demonstrates a woefully deficient knowledge of theology, sin, salvation, and God’s purpose in redemption. At the end of each interview I watch with Osteen, I end by asking myself all over again – does Joel Osteen know the gospel? A.W. Pink wrote the following about false teachers:
False prophets are to be found in the circles of the most orthodox, and they pretend to have a fervent love for souls, yet they fatally delude multitudes concerning the way of salvation. The pulpit, platform, and pamphlet hucksters have wantonly lowered the standard of divine holiness and so adulterated the Gospel in order to make it palatable to the carnal mind. 
If you know people who are consistently sitting under the teaching ministry of Joel Osteen (on campus, online, or through his books), you must sound the warning. Many have debated whether or not Osteen is a wolf or merely a confused megachurch pastor and successful author. I think by now we can accurately say that Joel Osteen is no accident. His success is calculated and his message is heretical.
Beware of Joel Osteen.
Joel Osteen, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day, (Brentwood, TN: Howard Books, 2009), 109-110.
Arthur Waddington Pink, Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, (Lafayette, IN: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001), 344.