What should you do when you are confronted with false teaching?

Decide to Correct

It is not a matter of ‘if’ you will hear false teaching in your life, but it is a matter of ‘when.’ Since we will be confronted with false teaching, we need to decide ahead of time what we are going to do about it. Let me strongly suggest that we decide to correct false teaching no matter who or where it is coming from.

Martin Luther, a German monk, recognized false teachings that were taking place in the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. He stood in front of his boss and challenged him, challenged his boss’s boss, and challenged his boss’s boss’s boss known as the Pope!

Luther was put on trial for challenging the false teachings of his day, and his superiors wanted him to recant what he said about their teachings. This is where Martin Luther is famously remembered for saying, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

There may be times in our lives when we too may have to stand for truth. We need to stand for truth, because when we know the truth, the truth will set us free (John 8:32). Therefore, if false teaching is taking place, it will not set us free, but it will enslave us (2 Peter 2:19).

Whenever we hear false teaching, we MUST correct it.

When to Correct

So, what if we here false teaching from the pulpit? What if we hear false teaching in a classroom setting? What if we hear false teaching in a Bible study? What if we hear false teaching when mentoring somebody?

There are times in which false teaching should be publicly rebuked and there are times when it should be privately rebuked.

The first question we must ask is, “What is the severity of the false teaching?” Is it something that affects salvation, is it a secondary doctrinal issue, or is it an opinion issue. For instance, if the pastor was preaching from the pulpit and said, “You can go to heaven without believing in Jesus Christ,” I would probably stand up, rebuke him, and walk out. However, if a pastor were to say, “Dancing is always sinful and no Christian should ever dance,” I would probably speak with him privately about why he believes this and attempt to correct him.

After we discern the severity of the false teaching, we will be able to discern whether a public or private rebuking is necessary.

DO NOT MISS THIS! Rebuking is not meant to embarrass or hurt the person teaching falsely, but it is to protect the people that may be subject to the false teaching. Therefore, always rebuke in love, and when possible, rebuke in kindness.

How to Correct

The second question we must ask is, “How should I rebuke?” More often than not, we should simply put forth the Word of God in truth and let God do the work. For instance, when I am sitting in a seminary class and I hear false teaching from the professor or another student, I may say something along the lines of, “Well, in Ephesians 5:23, the Apostle Paul writes that Christ is the head of the Church. Therefore Johnny, I would have to disagree with you when you say that the pastor is the leader of the Church, because he is not, Christ is.”

In most situations, I will simply put forth the truth and trust that the Lord will defend His Word.

As Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “The Word of God is like a lion. You do not have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.”

Brief Recap

  • Choose to correct false teaching
  • Discern whether to correct publicly or privately
  • Correct by declaring the truth of God’s Word
  • We correct false teaching to protect those subjected to it
  • The ultimate goal is freedom in Christ that comes from the truth