Judge with Righteous Judgment

Craig Branch

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

A very discouraging and destructive trend has been growing in the body of Christ. The world has formed people into its mold rather than the minds and lives of people being transformed by God's word. Too many Christians have adopted pragmatism or substituted feelings and experience in place of the truth of God's word.

Theology and doctrine are regarded as being 1) reserved for the pastors, 2) boring and irrelevant, 3) not practical, 4) divisive.

As a result very few are developing the mind of Christ. As the writer of Hebrews admonishes theChristian congregations, "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses trained to discern both good and evil" (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Too many Christians base their convictions on feelings, experiences, and the persuasive abilities of a preacher. If the word of God is used, it is merely a "proof-text" used (or misused) to support the preacher's teaching. Christians must be called back to the clear teaching of the Scripture and be committed to what the word of God says and means.

Watchman Fellowship urges the reader to look up cited passages and study them in context. Be instructed by the word of God, whether in this magazine or in any other message. Like the Berean Christians, test what is read by God's word. (Acts 17:11).

Sound teaching, doctrine, accompanied by the Holy Spirit is essential to healthy growth. Jesus said to the Father, "sanctify them in thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17, 8:32).

John emphasizes this essentiality by warning about those who abide not in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). Paul repeatedly drives home this point as he teaches that our transformation (sanctification) is directly tied to the renewing of our minds by God's truth (doctrine) in the word of God (Romans 12:1-2; Colossians 3:9-20, 16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Peter concurs (2 Peter 1:2-3).

Another important means that God has ordained in our sanctification is the opportunity of "watchman on the wall" to protect the flock from false doctrine (Ezekiel 33:1-7; Isaiah 62:6; 1 Timothy 6:3; Titus 1:9-11).

Moreover, God stresses the need that teachers, leaders, and those who operate in that position (including T.V. evangelists) must exercise great care and responsibility as they will "receive the greater condemnation [judgment]" (Titus 2:7-8; 1 Timothy 4:6; James 3:1).

Christians must take heed concerning the importance of doctrine and "study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth", especially in view of the warnings (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 4:3-4).

It is a half-truth (lie) to believe that how one lives is more important than what one believes. How one behaves is ultimately and directly linked to what one believes.

Most Christians today do not understand the significance and importance of church history as it relates to the early councils. The church has had to "contend earnestly for the faith" (Jude 3) against heretical attacks in the setting forth of time-proven doctrine and tradition (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Someone once insightfully said, "he who doesn't learn from the past is doomed to repeat it".

Some followers of the word-faith movement have been ministered to by the truth which is mixed with the error. In discussion with many word-faith followers, it has been discovered that they have either not heard these leaders teach certain heretical doctrines, or have not understood what those teachers meant.

Today, many are blindly following the heretical teachings of the leaders of the word-faith movement without realizing the pattern of how cults begin and grow. Many cult leaders began within orthodoxy and then they began to introduce novel doctrines (destructive heresies), twisting the Scripture to teach their doctrine (Acts 20:30; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 2:19; 2 Peter 3:16).

Hiding the Heresy

Just as Adam and Eve had tried to hide from God when their sin was exposed to them, man continues to try and hide his sin from God and others. This pattern is certainly present with many word-faith teachers.

The most common dodge used by both Christians and non-Christians is to misapply Matthew 7:1-5. The misguided focus centers on verse one, "Judge not, that ye be not judged".

Yet instead of teaching that it is wrong to call attention to sin or error, the passage, in context, actually teaches that Christians should judge (verse 5).

Their warning is not to judge unrighteously or hypocritically. The implication is that when anyone judges, God will judge using that same standard.

In fact, the New Testament emphatically teaches Christians are to judge truth from error, both individually and corporately (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1-2; Ephesians 5:11-13; 1 Corinthians 14:29).

But whoever judges needs to be sure that their motives are right. The responsibility is to first go to the offender(s) with the evidence. If they do not acknowledge the error or sin, take others and eventually the church (Matthew 18:15-18; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Galatians 6:1).

There is only one major problem with this process, which is one reason why this problem continues. Most of the word-faith teachers have no real accountability. So when we "tell it unto the church" (Matthew 18:17), we must expose the error to the church at large.

Watchman, along with many other solid ministers and ministries, have repeatedly gone to these teachers with documented evidence and often have been attacked in return.

God's instruction in "telling the church" is to publically name them (2 Timothy 2:17, 4:10; 1 Timothy 1:20). Paul even publically rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-14), because the error was serious enough, and Peter was influential enough, that the welfare of the body needed to be protected. The high visibility and influence of these teachers warrant the need for public exposure.

Not only have many ministers and ministries specifically called these teachers to account, but the general consensus of the church and the voice of the church councils and church history cry out against the word-faith errors.

So when men, like Paul Crouch of TBN, begin their diatribes against the "heretic hunters who pick at thelittle doctrinal specks in word-faith teacher's eyes, instead of the logs in their own", he must be asked to name in which doctrinal areas Watchman Fellowship, other counter-cult ministries, and the church must be repentant.

The other two major attempts to dodge the spotlight of truth is to threaten the admonisher with the warning "do not touch God's anointed", and with the red herring, "these people are anti-charismatic". These two false arguments are covered in other articles in this magazine.

And finally, a charge sometimes laid at the feet of Christian apologists (defenders of the faith) is that they are causing divisions in the body of Christ. But the Scripture makes it clear that those who are causing divisions are the ones teaching novel false doctrines.

Watchman's (and many others) original concern was the misguided and harmful teaching of what is called "name-it and claim-it" or "positive confession". But we know that what may seem to be a less important error can be symptomatic of outright heretical beliefs. For example, faulty anthropology (doctrine of the nature of man) can negatively impact the doctrine of the gospel.

The Watchman staff began to lift the lid and look, and was appalled to see that the word-faith teachers are teaching fundamentally heretical doctrines on the nature of man, Christ, God, and the atonement.

It is because of this that Watchman Fellowship has joined with others in Matthew 18, which has resulted in this magazine. We pray for the correction of these teachers, the defense of the faith, and the protection of the flock.

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