From Paul’s letters to Timothy, leaders in the church can gather quite a bit for how to deal with so-called teachers who profess Christ but deny Him in word and deed.
Be an example in the midst of false teachers. In in event that one might “despise you for your youth” (or later, for that matter), “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). In the presence of false teachers, a godly example of a teacher is worth a 1,000 words in and of itself. The difference between right and wrong will be all the more obvious.
Keep away from the influence of false teachers (2:20–21). When Paul speaks of the one who “cleanses himself from what is dishonorable” (2 Tim 2:21), he uses the picture of honorable vessels being cleansed by separating themselves from dishonorable vessels (cf. 2 Tim 2:20). Instead, we should pursue what fits our faith “along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22).
Tell false teachers to stop teaching different doctrine (1 Tim 1:3–4). Timothy’s task was clear. He was to “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” (1 Tim 1:3–4).
Confront and correct false teachers in a proper manner (2 Tim 2:24–26). Speaking of “the Lord’s servant” as one who is “correcting his opponents,” Paul requires this servant to be “kind to everyone…patiently enduring evil” (2 Tim 2:24). With this kindness and patience, he also corrects “with gentleness” (2 Tim 2:25). The goal is never to simply shut down the opposition and destroy them. Their souls, too, are at stake. With a proper rebuke, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim 2:25–26).
Use witnesses when dealing with false teachers publicly before the church. In the event that the false teacher is an elder in the church, we should “not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim 5:19). Should such a one “persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear” (1 Tim 5:20).
Hand them over to Satan (1 Tim 1:19–20). Along with this public rebuke, the persistently unfaithful are put out of the church, which is Paul’s meaning when he speaks of Hymenaeus and Alexander and said, “I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim 1:20). These men likely led others in “rejecting this, that is, “faith and a good conscience” (1 Tim 1:19), creating spiritual warfare in the church (cf. 1 Tim 1:18).
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.