From the Scriptural passages we quoted in our previous articles on the above subject (see the issue of Feb. 15) it became evident that the false teacher is motivated by carnal considerations. He serves not the Lord Jesus Christ, but his own belly, his carnal purposes and desires, his own name and position and glory, the acquisition of filthy lucre. These purposes he cannot serve by teaching and preaching the truth, that always is contrary to the flesh, condemns it; hence, he needs the lie and. teaches it in order to realize his carnal ends. But from the same passages it is also plain that his method is that of deception. He comes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His methods are characterized by such phrases as “the sleight of men,” and “cunning craftiness,” and he is said to “beguile the believers with enticing words,” and “to deceive the hearts of the simple” by “fair speeches” and by “good words.”
This deception is practiced in a twofold way.
First of all, the false teacher, intruding into the Church of Christ and aware that in, that Church the truth of God in Christ, is, preached and taught and known, attempts to introduce his errors under cover of the truth. That Church not only has the Scriptures, but also its Confessions, in which it has definitely formulated the truth of the gospel. And the false teacher realizes that he must exercise extreme caution, if he would “deceive the hearts of the simple.” He cannot venture to speak clearly and openly. A semblance of truth he must give to his erroneous doctrines. He must seek a formulation of his false teachings that resembles as closely as possible the words of Scripture and the declarations of the Confession of the Church. If at all possible he must employ the same terms, and give them a different content. And thus, he must persuade the “hearts of the, simple,” that, he teaches nothing but what has always been accepted by the Church as the truth of the Word of God. Later, when his false doctrines have been imbibed, he may grow bolder, and employ terms that more clearly express his meaning. But this cannot be done, at once. By “fair words” and “speeches” he must prepare the way.
It is well-known that this has always been the method followed by those that would introduce, false doctrines into the Church. How carefully, for instance, did the Arminians formulate the five points of the Remonstrants in 1610. How many were persuaded by this crafty formulation that they intended to teach nothing else than what was always professed by the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands! Did they not speak of the eternal and immutable counsel of election? Did they not confess in very strong language that man is wholly incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil, powerless to save himself, wholly dependent upon the grace of redemption? Did they not very clearly teach that even the Christian would not be able to persevere one moment without the all-sufficient grace of God? Yet, in these same five points they introduced the false tenets of an election that is dependent on man’s faith, of the freewill of man with respect to salvation, and of a perseverance of the saints that rests ultimately in the will of the Christian to receive the preserving grace of God. And a Christ who died for all! How does even the modernist of today employ the very terms which the Church has always employed to express the great truths of the gospel! Even he speaks of Jesus the Savior, of Christ the King, of the Kingdom of God, of peace and righteousness, of redemption and regeneration, of faith and hope. Yet, he gives to these terms a meaning so radically different from their proper signification, that by them the faith of the Church is completely robbed of its contents!
Or let us stay a little closer at home.
Why are the well-known “Three Points” formulated in such ambiguous language, that it requires many a written page even to explain them properly, and many more pages to make the “hearts of the simple” believe that they are in harmony with Scripture and the Confessions? Why did the Rev. Zwier recently consider it necessary to devote no less than three entire articles to give an answer to the simple question of Dr. Schilder: “whether or not the word CERTAIN properly belongs to the First Point?” The answer is very simple: because the error had to be camouflaged by the appearance of the truth! O, the matter itself is very simple! The Reformed Confession holds that grace is particular, that the sinner is wholly depraved and incapable of doing any good, and that good works are only those that are in harmony with the law of. God, are done to His glory and proceed from a true faith; and that, therefore, only the Christian is able to do good works. But now the false doctrines were to be introduced, that grace is common, that the natural man is not totally depraved, and that he is able to do good works in this world. How could this be accomplished? Could the Synod that formulated these points speak in simple terms, clear and unambiguous, so that all could understand? No, it could only have recourse to “fair speeches” and “good words,” by which they introduced the lie under cover of the truth!
Beware of false teachers!
But this method of deception also means that the false teacher usually tries to make his, doctrine acceptable to the flesh, more pleasing, to the carnal nature of man than the truth can ever be. He comes with “good words” and with “fair speeches.” He uses kind words, lovely words, words that appeal to man; and with fair speeches, words of praise and flattery for the carnal man. He refrains as much as possible from appealing to Scripture. He tries to present the truth in such a form as to bring it into discredit. And over against it he presents his own lie in a form that appeals to man’s imagination. It is not plain that it is really a “horrible doctrine” to teach that God from eternity determined men unto damnation? Does it not make God the author of sin? Does it not present Him as a terrible tyrant rather than as the God of love? And cannot everyone see for himself that the natural man still performs a good deal of good? Look at all the mighty works of modern culture, of science and art, at the works of charity, at the noble deeds of self-sacrifice performed by the unregenerated! No, the world is not so bad as those would make it who insist on the truth of total depravity! How would you explain all this, if there were not an operation of common grace? And thus the false teacher always appeals to man’s vain imagination rather than to the Word of God, and deceives the hearts of the simple!
Shall we, then, permit the false teacher to do his evil work in the Church?
God forbid! Would you permit the murderer of your children to feed his poisonous candy to them?
Shall we, at least, allow him a small place in the Church and refrain from troubling him, as long as she departs only a little way from the pure truth of the gospel, and does not attack the great fundamentals of the truth? God forbid!
For, he will drive in the wedge of false doctrine until the foundations of the truth are destroyed!
Shall we, perhaps, assume an attitude of “broad-mindedness,” and say that, perchance, we also do not know it all, and there may be elements of truth in the doctrines of the false teacher, which we might adopt? Or shall we, at least, confess that the truth lies in “the golden mean”?
For, by so speaking you would already have surrendered the truth to the enemy of it, and exposed yourself to him as a man without definite convictions, easily moved to and fro by every wind of doctrine.
Shall we, at least, assume a charitable attitude over against them that teach false doctrines, make common cause with them, and, in conferences and otherwise, be as fraternal as possible?
Everywhere Scripture warns us to assume quite a different attitude over against them that would introduce or that teach false doctrines in the Church of Christ. The Lord Himself admonishes us to “beware of false prophets” and to know them by their fruits. With a view to these false teachers the apostle exhorts the Church of Philippi; “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision,” Phil. 3:3. To the Church of the Colossians he writes: “Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit.” The apostle John writes: “if there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed,” II John 10. And he emphasizes this by adding: “For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” To the Church of Pergamos, that tolerated in her midst the false teachers known as the Nicolaitans, the Lord writes: “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth,” Rev. 2:16. And Paul admonishes the Church at Rome with a view to those that cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which they have learned, that they should “mark them” and “avoid them.”
Now, all this certainly condemns the attitude of those who would simply ignore the false teachers and leave them alone. Always there are those that would assume this attitude. They do not like controversy, as they say. They would rather be silent in regard to false doctrines and seek for the points of doctrine on which we can agree. Some would even unite all the churches on such a basis. Let us abolish creeds, say they, and only speak of those things on which we all agree, and then unite! But this is not the attitude which we are admonished to assume over against false teachers by the Word of God. Always we must watch! The laissez-faire attitude over against false teachers is to be condemned, first, because it is the calling of the Church to profess and to keep the truth; and, secondly, because such an attitude simply would leave plenty of room for the false teachers to do their destructive work.
We shall beware of them, and mark them! This implies that we shall be always on the lookout for them, knowing that at any time they may creep into the Church. It means, too, that we shall be able to distinguish their error from the truth, to expose their false doctrine in the light of the Word of God. And it signifies, in the third place, that you shall point them out, so that all may know them. Mark them! Expose them, wherever they try to corrupt the truth, whether it be on the pulpit, by the written page, in Sunday School or Christian School or in your societies, designed for the mutual edification and instruction of the members in the Word of God.
And have no fellowship with them!
Receive them not in your house. Do not bid them Godspeed. Avoid them. Turn away from them! Shun them as you would shun poison!
If they are not member of your church already, keep them out unless they repent. If they are found in your own midst, expel them, unless they repent.
For, the false teacher that does not repent, after that he is admonished and instructed in the truth, is not an erring brother, whom you ought to pity in love, but an enemy of the truth, a wolf in sheep clothing, to whose pernicious influence you may not expose the flock of Christ!
And grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For in Him only are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!