I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
John Calvin said, “The pastor must have two voices, one for gathering the sheep; the other for warding off and driving away the wolves and thieves” In other words, it’s not enough merely to exposit the truth, a pastor must also be willing to expose the errors! Why? Because not all “doctrine” is created equal. If there is true doctrine, there is also false doctrine! If there is truth that builds people up in Christ (Eph 4:15) there are lies that tear them down. There are doctrines of demons (1 Tim 4:1) and destructive heresies (2 Pet 2:1) that lead people away from Christ. A faithful pastor just be willing both to build people up with truth, and at the same time warn them about error.
Now here’s where that gets hard. Because not only must he be willing to warm them about error in doctrine. He must also be willing to help his people identify those who promote such error so they can avoid them! False teachers, like a spiritual Typhoid Mary carry the contagion of corrupting doctrine into people’s lives to the destruction of their souls. For that reason a pastor must be willing at times to get specific, just as Paul did in 2 Timothy 2:16-18 when he said,
“But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.”
I know at times my friend Paul Washer has taken flak for being willing to name false teachers. So have I, at times, no matter how tactful I’ve tried to be (though thankfully, such complaints have rarely come from within our congregation). Most recently someone took me to task for a sermon posted on Sermon Audio.com (you can find it here) But I understand. People get uncomfortable (even angry) when you start “naming names” if a name you happen to name is that of their own favorite (false) teacher.
Nevertheless, this is part of the preaching task of faithful shepherd. It’s certainly not the only task he has, but it is without doubt a part an important part of it. Just as Paul commanded young Titus, in Titus 1:9, when he told him that an elder
“must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
And the reason he must do that, v 10 continues, is because
“there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers . . . [who] must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”
Another problem with deceivers is that they are, well . . . deceptive. If Satan can appear as “an angel of light” (1 Cor 11:14), it’s no surprise that his followers can disguise themselves as preachers of the Gospel (1 Cor 11:13). So it is necessary for faithful elders and pastors in any church, not only to expose the lie of false doctrine, but also be willing to unmask the liars who spread such teaching as well (Acts 20:28). He must name names!
So pray for faithful pastors and teachers who will , as tactfully as possible expose error (and those who promote it) as they exalt the Truth of God’s Word for the good of God’s people. Ask God to raise up faithful shepherds like those Paul describes in Acts 20:28-32
28 "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32 "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.