“I know they popular but don’t let them deceive ya” – Shai Linne
Track 10 on Shai Linne’s album Lyrical Theology has drawn much attention over the past year because in it he publicly calls out some household names as being false teachers. Shai also put out a brief video explaining why he chose to write the song and how he prepared to write it. I encourage you to check out the song and the video if you haven’t already.
I am currently preaching through 2 Peter 2 and have chosen to publicly mention the names of people our elders feel could be dangerous influences on our flock.
What I’d like us to consider is should I, should Shai Linne, or should any of us, ever publicly point out someone we believe to be a “false teacher?” To help us answer this, let’s consider a few questions about Model, Method, Motive, and Message.
Is There a Biblical Model for Name Dropping?
Yes. In the Old Testament God regularly warns Israel that the lies of false teachers defame His name and defile His people (Num. 12:6; Deut.18; Jeremiah 23:18-22; Lam. 2:14-15; etc.). Though there aren’t many false teachers listed by name in the Old Testament Scriptures, Jannes and Jambres (Exod. 7:11; 2 Tim. 3:7) and Baalam are later exposed as being deceivers (Num. 22-23, 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14).
In the New Testament, name dropping becomes a bit more regular. Jesus called out the Pharisees and Sadducees throughout His ministry (Matt. 5:20, 16:6, etc.) as well as other false teachers when He speaks to John about the 7 churches of Revelation (Rev. 2-3). Paul publicly named Hymenaeus twice (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17), Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20), Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17), and the formerly faithful Demas (Col. 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:10) as having abandoned the truth. The Apostle John also mentions Diotrephes (3 John 9). This brief survey shows that there certainly is a biblical model of outing false teachers by publicly stating their names.
Is Our Method Dignified?
Though there is a biblical model for name dropping, we should make sure that if we choose to call people out, that we have a dignified method in doing so. Because we are each made in God’s image, we must strive to aim attacks at what people say rather than how they say it, what they look like, or anything else we might be tempted to focus on. We want to guard against mocking people or using them as props to make a point. Our goal must always be to make the Gospel clear, not make ourselves look good at the cost of others.
I have been a poor model of this at times in my own ministry. I once imitated Joel Osteen in a sermon and another time poked fun at Mormon missionaries’ bikes and badges during a seminar on the Gospel. These were ungodly and unloving decisions of which I’ve repented. I was helped in seeing my sin by a gracious couple who told me that they had almost brought a Mormon friend to the seminar I was teaching and were thankful they hadn’t because I might have driven them further from Christ because of my mocking. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I’m eternally grateful for the couple who pointed out my sin.
When we name drop, we must strive to uphold the dignity of those we publicly expose. So if you name names, keep the focus on the teaching as much as possible and treat them as you’d want to be treated if you were being called out (Matt. 7:12). One way of doing this is being slow to speak about people’s motives. God certainly knows the motive of false teachers (Mic. 3:11; Ezek. 22:25; Titus 1:10-11; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 2 Pet. 2:2-14) but we should be slow to speak about people’s motives because, in the end, only the Lord knows the heart (Jer. 17:10; 1 Cor. 4:3-5).
What Are Our Motives?
As with anything we do, we must always examine our motives (Matt. 5:28; Acts 8:22; Heb. 4:12). If we’re going to publicly accuse someone of being a false teacher, we should ask some close friends to help us examine our heart by asking questions like:
Is it necessary to expose this person?
Am I sure that they are a false teacher?
What am I hoping to gain from doing this?
Is there a chance I can speak with them personally first?
Do my fellow pastors think I should do this?
These are good questions to ask as we pray the prayer of David in Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”
If after prayer and wise counsel we trust that our motive is to uphold the truth of the Gospel (Jude 3) and to make sure that people are not led astray into error (James 5:19-20), then we should feel free to name drop for the glory of God and the good of His people. If you need help discerning whether someone is indeed a false teacher, Colin Smith’s article (here) is a great read.
What is the True Message?
Calling out false teachers is certainly necessary to guard the flock from following after their teachings. It is even more necessary for us to make the true Gospel clear. Tearing down false gospels is only good if people are able to see the true Gospel for what it is.
This is clear throughout the New Testament and, I am thankful to say, is abundantly clear in the music ministry of Shai Linne. We must first and foremost be people who are about the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, even those who were once formerly false teachers.
So if we are going to call out people who teach falsely, we must make sure to clearly show what it means to trust in the true Christ. Show clearly where the false teachers are wrong and display clearly how much infinitely greater the true Christ is. May we be a people who love Christ publicly with both grace and truth that, as Shai says “Jesus is not a means to an end, [but] the Gospel is He came to redeem us from sin.” Amen and Amen.
Photo courtesy of: Ex-Charisma.com