Recently I was asked, “Should you confront false preachers? Does Scripture say you shouldn’t judge people – or something like that?” Yes, Matthew 7:1 does say “Judge not, that ye be not judged” but you should read this scripture, like them all, in their context to properly understand the true meaning. The verses that follow in Matthew 7:2-5 clearly explain we should not hypocritically judge. You can’t judge another for their sin if you doing the same thing. Jesus was warning against improper judgment. He goes on in the same chapter to make a judgment by saying, “beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing” (v. 15). How do we know them to be false unless we judge them by the Word of God? It is right to confront and expose false teachers. The Bible says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). All doctrine and teachers are to be tried according to the Word of God – no matter who they are or how fancy and alluring their words.
“Well, Pastor, can you give me some Scripture about this?” Paul tells us to mark and avoid those with words contrary to sound doctrine (Romans 16:17). We are also told to rebuke them sharply so they will be sound in the faith (Titus 1:13). Ephesians 5:11 says to expose and have no fellowship those who spout unfruitful works of darkness. “Pastor, isn’t this a little extreme? Shouldn’t we love them? Doesn’t it say it’s God’s kindness that brings them to repentance?” This isn’t just anyone caught in sin – this is a pastor or someone of authority willfully disobedient to Scripture and habitually teaching others falsehood. They are leading the sheep astray. You deal with these different and more severe than the unknowing sinner you are attempting to lead graciously and loving back to Christ (Galatians 6:1) because these false teachers are knowingly teaching others to violate Scripture. You don’t pet a wolf. He’s a threat to the sheep and isn’t seeking friendship but blood in his attempts to maim and kill.
It is right to turn away from those who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof (2 Timothy 3:5-7). You can’t turn away from what you don’t identify. John would say not to even receive them into your house or bid them God speed (2 John 10-11). Paul told Titus to warn a divisive man twice then have nothing to do with him (Titus 3:10). There are those who preach another gospel and another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4). Paul called them false apostles, who are deceitful workers and transform themselves into the apostles of Christ yet are truly ministers of Satan (2 Corinthians 2:13-15).
Now, there is a difference in someone who has taught something incorrectly and a false teacher. Apollos only knew John’s baptism and needed teaching from Pricilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26). He was teachable and humble and Paul later said he was a co-laborer in preaching the Gospel (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Paul had to confront Peter face to face in public (Galatians 2:11-14) over wrong teaching, yet Peter was not a false teacher. “But should you just preach generally against false teaching or specifically name false teachers?” Paul named Demas, who loved the world and forsake him (2 Timothy 4:10). Alexander the coppersmith was another (2 Timothy 4:14-15). John named Diotrephes (3 John 9-10). Paul named them and disciplined them by turning them over to satan so they would be taught not to blaspheme (1 Timothy 1:19-20). Jude 1:19 says those who do not respond to correction are those who prove themselves to be devoid of the Spirit and are taking orders from another master. How they respond to confrontation shows if you are dealing with a wolf or brother in Christ. 2 Peter 2:17 says these false teachers are “springs without water and mists driven by a storm for whom the blackest darkness has been reserved.”
It is right to confront and “tear down every speculation and lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). Pastors especially should confront false teachers as it is part of their calling (Titus 1:9). While right, you must watch your motives in confrontation. We should desire the best interest of the flock thus protecting God’s people from being led astray (Acts 20:28). We should also confront in hopes the false teacher will repent and be won over to the truth “coming to senses and escaping the snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).