True vs. False (VI)
TRUE AND FALSE TEACHERS (2)
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 12/24/00 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Last week, we saw God's description of false teachers. We saw that false teachers preach in the name of other gods, tell people to serve other gods, do not speak according to the Word of God, speak peace when there is no peace, walk after their own spirit, are blind leaders of the blind, and teach man-made traditions as God's commands. False teachers come in many colors. Some will preach that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception, thus conditioning salvation on the sinner. Some will preach for a time that the work of Jesus Christ is the only ground of salvation but later say that our acceptance before God or our right to enter heaven is conditioned on the sinner. Some will claim to preach salvation by sovereign grace but then welcome into their fellowship those who believe in salvation conditioned on the sinner. Some will teach that man-made traditions must be followed as law. And we could go on and on.
Now we come to God's description of true teachers. What does God say in His holy Word about true teachers? The Lord willing, we will see what He says in the remaining minutes.
Let's first turn to Jeremiah 3:15:
Jeremiah 3: (15) And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you [with] knowledge and understanding.
Here is the primary role of true teachers. It is to FEED the people with knowledge and understanding. Notice that these shepherds are according to the heart of God. This means that they are ones who know the mind of God - they know His truth. And they don't keep His truth to themselves; instead, they FEED His truth to the people. The way they FEED His truth is by PREACHING His truth so that others will HEAR the truth. Turn to Romans 10:14-15:
Romans 10: (14) How then may they call on [One] into whom they have not believed? And how may they believe [One] of whom they have not heard? And how may they hear without preaching? (15) And how may they preach if they are not sent? Even as it has been written, "How beautiful" "the feet of those preaching the gospel of peace, of those preaching the gospel of good things."
We see that PREACHING is the way people HEAR of Christ, and HEARING must come before BELIEF. There is no BELIEF without HEARING, and there is no HEARING without PREACHING. 1 Corinthians 1:21 says that God saves through the foolishness of PREACHING.
Jeremiah 3:15 says that true preachers preach so that the people might KNOW, and UNDERSTAND the truth. He doesn't preach mysticism and ignorance. He preaches KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING. Mysticism and ignorance are the tools of the FALSE teachers, not the TRUE teachers. He doesn't preach that there are contradictions in Scripture that just need to be swallowed by faith. Turn over to 2 Corinthians 1:17-20:
2 Corinthians 1: (17) Then purposing this, did I indeed use lightness? Or what I purposed, did I purpose according to flesh, that it may be with me yes, yes, and no, no? (18) But God [is] faithful, that our word to you did not become yes and no. (19) For Jesus Christ the Son of God, the [One] proclaimed among you by us, through me and Silvanus and Timothy, did not become Yes and No, but has been Yes in Him. (20) For as many promises as [are] of God, in Him [they are] yes, and in Him [are] Amen, for glory to God through us.
The word of the true preacher is not "yes" and "no." He doesn't preach that salvation is conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone in one sermon or in one part of a sermon, and then preach that salvation is conditioned on the work of the sinner in another sermon or in another part of a sermon. He doesn't one time preach that believers will plead the merits of Christ's work alone on judgment day and then another time preach that believers will plead their works on judgment day. He doesn't say at the beginning of his sermon that God is sovereign in salvation and then say to his lost hearers at the end of his sermon that God is ready and willing to save them. He doesn't say that all who are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel are lost and then make some exceptions for the Old Testament saints or for the Galatians or for infants or for anyone else. He doesn't say that God's promises are sure and certain and then turn around and say that one must fulfill certain conditions in order to receive God's promises. A TRUE PREACHER says that God's promises are YES and AMEN. He preaches that salvation is conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, with no contribution from the sinner's best efforts. He preaches that God is sovereign in salvation and saves whom He wills and damns who He wills. He preaches that all without exception from the beginning of the world to the end of the world, from conception to death, who are ignorant of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, are lost. He is a "YES IN CHRIST" man. Nothing makes him swerve from his narrow-mindedness and judgmentalism. If someone comes along who is of great religious reputation but who speaks peace to God-haters, he will treat him the same way as he treats a person of no reputation who speaks peace to God haters - he will preach that both of them are lost. He is totally consistent in the gospel he preaches. He might be in error in other matters, but when it comes to the gospel and its particulars and implications, he is totally consistent. He does not preach ANY OTHER GOSPEL than the one that the Apostles preached. How do we know this? Well, remember when I talked about how we can see the things that a true Christian could NOT do by reading the things that unbelievers do that are indicative of lostness? The same applies to teachers. Galatians 1:8-9 says that if anyone preaches a gospel that is different than what the apostles preached, he is lost. Thus, no true preacher preaches a gospel that is different than what the apostles preached.
Let's turn to 1 Corinthians 1:21-24:
1 Corinthians 1: (21) For since in the wisdom of God the world [by] wisdom did not know God, God was pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save the ones believing. (22) And since Jews ask for a sign, and Greeks seek wisdom, (23) we, on the other hand, preach Christ crucified (truly an offense to Jews, and foolishness to Greeks), (24) but to the called out ones, both to Jews and to Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God;
Now let's read 1 Corinthians 2:1-2:
1 Corinthians 2: (1) And when I came to you, brothers, I did not come with excellency of word or wisdom, declaring to you the Testimony of God. (2) For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and Him having been crucified.
True preachers do not come with eloquent speeches that tickle the ears or with carnal wisdom. They just declare God's Testimony. And 1 Corinthians 1:23 and 2:2 show what the testimony of God that they declare is. True preachers preach CHRIST CRUCIFIED. This explains Jeremiah 3:15. The KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING that the preacher who knows God's heart is to preach is CHRIST CRUCIFIED. If a preacher does not preach CHRIST CRUCIFIED, then he is not a preacher sent from God. But how many preachers who come in the name of Christ say that they preach Christ crucified? All of them! Yet almost every single one of them is a false teacher. So CHRIST CRUCIFIED needs to be defined. Well, in verse 23, we see that Christ crucified is an offense to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks. It confounded the carnal wisdom of the Greeks, who were the Carl Sagans and Stephen J. Goulds of the day. They saw no need for a Christ. But it also offended the Jews, who were the zealous religionists of the day. Why is this? Let's go to Romans 9:31-33:
Romans 9: (31) but Israel following after a Law of righteousness did not arrive at a Law of righteousness? (32) Why? Because [it was] not of faith, but as of works of Law. For they stumbled at the Stone-of-stumbling, (33) as it has been written, "Behold, I place in" "Zion a Stone-of-stumbling," "and a Rock-of-offense," "and everyone believing on Him will not be shamed."
The Jews were offended at Christ, because they were seeking salvation based on their works. Look down at chapter 10 and verse 4:
Romans 10: (4) For Christ [is] the end of Law for righteousness to everyone that believes.
Now THAT will OFFEND those who believe that it is the work of the sinner that recommends you to God. The Jews were offended at Christ crucified, because Christ crucified means that the work of the sinner is totally excluded from the ground of salvation! Christ crucified means that the work of Jesus Christ demands and ensures the salvation of all whom He represented! And this is what true preachers preach. They preach Christ crucified. They preach that Christ's death by crucifixion accomplished what Christ set out to accomplish - the salvation of all for whom Christ was crucified. Anyone who preaches that Christ died for those in hell is a false preacher. The TRUE preacher will BOLDLY and REPEATEDLY proclaim that the finished work of Christ on the cross demands and ensures the salvation of all whom Christ represented, and they will BOLDLY and REPEATEDLY proclaim that all who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone are lost. They'll make no apologies for it, for they are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ crucified.
Let's turn to 2 Corinthians 5:18-21:
2 Corinthians 5: (18) And all things [are] from God, the One having reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and having given to us the ministry of reconciliation, (19) as, that God was in Christ reconciling [the] world to Himself, not charging their deviations to them, and having put the Word of reconciliation in us. (20) Then on behalf of Christ, we are ambassadors, as God [is] exhorting through us, we beseech on behalf of Christ, Be reconciled to God. (21) For He made the One who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become [the] righteousness of God in Him.
We see here that true preachers are ambassadors for Christ, and their ministry is one of reconciliation based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. This ties right in to what I just said regarding preaching Christ crucified. Christ crucified and the word of reconciliation are the same thing. We preach Christ crucified as the only ground of reconciliation before God.
Let's turn to Philippians 1:17:
Philippians 1: (17) But these [others] out of love, knowing that I am set for defense of the gospel.
True teachers DEFEND the gospel. They DEFEND the truth. Now think about the word "defend" for a minute. Does one have a DEFENSE if there is no opposing OFFENSE? Some preachers would like you to think that it's not their job to defend anything. Yet God shows through the apostle Paul that preachers are to DEFEND the GOSPEL. This means that when a false gospel comes invading, this false gospel is exposed, and the true gospel is proclaimed in such a way that its opposition to the false gospel is CRYSTAL CLEAR. If a false gospel of universal atonement is put into a preacher's path, and the preacher merely says, "I believe that Christ died for His elect," the GOSPEL has not been FULLY DEFENDED. In fact, most who would say they disagree with universal atonement and believe in limited atonement do not defend the gospel AT ALL. They are actually defenders of a FALSE GOSPEL. Whenever one of these preachers says that a person who believes in universal atonement is saved, that preacher is actually DEFENDING A FALSE GOSPEL. He is saying that the gospel of the universal atonement advocate is the same as his gospel, and we shouldn't be judging a person lost just because he believes in universal atonement. See how this is a DEFENSE of the false gospel? And oh how many so-called "Calvinists" or "sovereign grace preachers" will defend the false gospel of their Arminian brethren even more vehemently than defending the gospel of sovereign grace! It really shows where their loyalty is, doesn't it? But TRUE preachers, TRUE teachers of God's Word, will vigorously, adamantly, boldly, zealously defend God's honor whenever it is called into question by false preachers.
Let's turn to 2 Timothy 2:15:
2 Timothy 2: (15) Give diligence to present yourself approved to God, a workman unashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
A true teacher rightly divides the Bible. What does it mean to "rightly divide" in this verse? As you probably know, C.I. Scofield thought that this meant that a true teacher is able to divide the Bible into different sections, called dispensations. He taught that in each dispensation, there were different ways of salvation, with most of the dispensations being salvation by works. Not only was his exegesis of "rightly dividing" foolish, but the system he devised was Satanic. So let's see what "rightly dividing" means. These two English words actually come from one Greek word, which is or-thot-om-EH-o. Now you can see right away that this word has "ortho" in it, as in "orthodox." The Greek word OR-thos means "straight" or "correct." The last half of or-thot-om-EH-o comes from the Greek word TEM-no, which means "to cut" or "to dissect." So the Greek word that's translated "rightly dividing" is actually "cutting straight," or, "correctly dissecting." The true teacher cuts the Bible straight. The true teacher correctly dissects the Bible. He doesn't use the Bible to confirm his own preconceived notions; he uses the Bible TO GET his notions! And he studies the meaning of Bible passages, dissects them correctly, and expounds them to his hearers. This is in contrast with 2 Peter 3:16. Let's turn over there:
2 Peter 3: (16) as also in all his epistles, speaking in them concerning these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the unlearned and unsettled pervert, as also [they do] the rest of the Scriptures, to [their] own destruction.
Notice that Peter doesn't cut these people slack just because these Scriptures are hard to understand. Instead of correctly dissecting these Scriptures, these men twist and pervert the Scriptures, and they do it TO THEIR OWN DESTRUCTION. The man of God will be orthodox in His interpretation of Scriptures. His interpretation will always be consistent with the Gospel. When he comes to a verse that is hard to understand, he already knows what it CAN'T mean, in light of the gospel. He then dissects it with this in mind.
Let's turn to Titus 1:9:
Titus 1: (9) clinging to the faithful Word according to the teaching, that he may be able both to encourage by sound doctrine and to convict the [ones] contradicting.
True teachers are ones who clings fast to the Word. Whenever there is a dispute, he gets his answers from the Word. He is a man who walks by doctrine. When a brother in Christ comes to him, he is able to ENCOURAGE with doctrine. When he comes up against one who contradicts the truth, he is able to CONVICT with doctrine. And notice in verse 11, a true teacher is to stop the mouths of those who teach what they shouldn't. Quite different than the so-called "churches" of today, isn't it?
In that same chapter in Titus, we also see some qualities of character that a true teacher is to have. Let's read verses 6-8:
Titus 1: (6) If anyone is blameless, husband of one wife, having faithful children, not in accusation of loose behavior, or disobedient, (7) (for the overseer must be blameless as a steward of God), not self-pleasing, not prone to anger, not given to wine, not a quarreler, not greedy of ill gain; (8) but hospitable, a lover of good, discreet, just, holy, temperate,
Now I'm not planning to go into detail in this sermon about these qualities - I'd like to spend some time on them in the future - but for now, I just want to emphasize that sound doctrine is not the only quality of a true pastor, teacher, elder, preacher, etc. He is also characterized by these qualities of character. Another such list is given in 1 Timothy 3:2-7:
1 Timothy 3: (2) Then it behooves the overseer to be blameless, husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, well-ordered, hospitable, apt at teaching; (3) not a drunkard, not a contentious one, not money-loving, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not avaricious; (4) ruling his own house well, having children in subjection with all respect. (5) But if anyone does not know how to rule [his] own house, how will he care for an assembly of God? (6) [He should] not [be] a novice, lest being puffed up he may fall into the devil's judgment. (7) But he must also have a good witness from those outside, that he not fall into reproach and [into] a snare of the devil.
We've encountered people who say that it's just a man's doctrine that matters when it comes to qualifying to be a pastor. But these passages clearly state that CHARACTER matters as well. We've also seen that many of those who say that character doesn't matter are the ones whose character shows that they are not qualified to be a pastor. There are so-called "pastors" who claim to preach the true gospel who are divorced and remarried. There's even one pastor I know of who would agree with us on the gospel and on judging Arminians and tolerant Calvinists lost, but who committed adultery with his secretary and then divorced his wife and married the one with whom he was committing adultery. And he considered himself regenerate during this whole ordeal. This man was and continues to be an ADULTERER, and adulterers DO NOT enter the kingdom of heaven. This shows that he DOES NOT truly believe the same gospel we believe, no matter what he says. Of course, I'm not saying that if a person's character is good, then what he believes doesn't matter. Let me make it very clear: Even if a person's character is that which is described in the two lists I read, if this person does not believe and preach the true gospel, then all his qualities of character are nothing but evil deeds, dead works, and fruit unto death.
Finally, I'd like to read a passage from 2 Corinthians chapter 2, describing the ministry of true preachers. Let's start with verse 14 and go through the end of the chapter:
2 Corinthians 2: (14) But thanks [be] to God, the One always leading us in triumph in Christ, and [the One] revealing through us the odor of the knowledge of Him in every place. (15) For we are a sweet smell to God because of Christ in those being saved, and in those being lost; (16) to the one, an odor of death unto death, and to the other, an odor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? (17) For we are not as the many, peddling the Word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God. We speak in Christ, in the sight of God.
The true ministers of God spread an odor around. And what is that odor? It is the odor of the KNOWLEDGE of CHRIST. Once again, we see KNOWLEDGE. Remember in Jeremiah 3:15, God says that the shepherds will feed the people with KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING. It is KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING of Christ revealed in the gospel. And this odor of knowledge and understanding has two effects. To the elect, it is an odor of life, for the gospel of Jesus Christ, which gives the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ to His people, is the power of God unto salvation. To the reprobate, it is an odor of death, because it is foolish and offensive to the carnal mind that is bent on establishing a righteousness of its own, and God uses it to harden the reprobate for destruction. And notice in verse 15, that BOTH RESULTS make this odor smell sweet to God. God is not disappointed that the reprobate do not come to Him. He is not mourning over sinners that He wished would be saved. He is WELL-PLEASED with His hardening of the reprobate through the gospel, and the odor of the knowledge of Christ is SWEET when it has the effect of hardening the reprobate. So even if NOT ONE PERSON comes to faith in Christ through a true preacher's preaching, that preaching was a success. We see this in some of the Old Testament prophets, who were commanded to preach in order for the people to be hardened. And lastly, in light of the truth of election and reprobation, true preachers do not hawk the word of God. That means that they do not peddle the word of God. To "hawk" means to offer for sale by outcry in the street. True preachers of God do NOT do that. They do not use the gospel as a sales pitch. They do not proclaim a so-called "gospel offer." They do not cry out in the streets and tell people that Christ is there for the taking, if they would only do their part. They do not cry out that Christ is knocking at the door of their heart and is waiting for them to let him in. That's for the Whitefields and the Moodys, not for true preachers. The true preachers preach the truth, which is the gospel of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone, realizing that it is an odor of life to some and an odor of death to others. May we all be able to discern between true and false teachers. Amen.