DON'T PREACH AGAINST ERROR

by Lynn Parker

 

Over a number of years of preaching we have occasionally heard that someone is unhappy with preaching and teaching that refutes doctrinal error. Some may believe that we ought to leave error alone unless it appears at the congregation's front door.  Others might believe that you should deal with doctrinal error privately and never from the pulpit.  I heard one woman say that we should just preach God's Word and never call the names of those who are false teachers.  Some object to calling names of denominations or congregations in error.

Of course, preachers could preach on error to the neglect of other topics needed by the hearers.  To avoid extremes, it is a good idea for preachers to make a list of sermon topics to be addressed during the year, and to keep a log of what has been taught so as to cover the many areas that need attention. Balanced preaching will cover the negative and the positive, the error and the right.  It will teardown sin, and build us up in righteousness.  It will afflict those who are comfortable in sin, and comfort those afflicted by trial and tribulation. Effective, sound preaching will make those in sin uncomfortable or contrite.  They will either repent or get mad.  Remember that for some folks, even one sermon refuting error is one too many-it just really irritates them.

So what should preachers do?  Preachers should take a lesson from Jeremiah's commission to, "pluck up and to break down and to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant" (Jeremiah 1:10).  Paul com­manded the young evangelist, "preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2).

Now if someone says, just "preach the word" and leave error alone, we would have to ask this question: "Which part of God's Word would you have me leave out of my preaching?"  You see, if I leave off preaching against error, I must leave out Colossians 2 for the second chapter of this epistle is directed at errors confronting the church (agnosticism, etc.).  Almost all of the Galatian letter-6 chapters worth- refutes errors facing the church.  Leave out refutation of error and you will have to edit the epistle of 1 Corinthians because Paul dealt with sin and error frequently there.  And while we are deciding which passages to cut out of our preaching, we must remove several scores of verses from Hebrews and James.  And by the way, we can no longer preach from either 2 Peter or Jude-they are almost completely devoted to refuting error. And the epistles of John (1 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John) simply must go because they are militant against error. The book of Revelation gets kicked out of our preaching because John called the specific congregations by location (rebuking five of the seven churches), and then called the name of a specific group of false teachers:

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there some that hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.  So hast thou also some that hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans in like manner.  Repent therefore; or else I come to thee quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:14-16).

 

I doubt the Nicolaitans appreciated that mention but it is written there nonetheless!

I know of a congregation where the preacher and elders seldom spoke of error.  Few warnings were given.  And when finally error was at the "door," the congre­gation was unprepared to handle the matter.  The congregation is now, for all practical purposes, dead in sin and error.  Brethren, refuting error, and calling the names of groups or individuals that teach error, is as much a part of Christianity as love, joy; and peace!  It builds the faith, it protects souls, and it arms the Christian soldier with ammunition to battle against every false way (Psalms 119:104).  Let us stand by the proclamation of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Lynn Parker, New Braunfels, TX [The Saluter, October 5, 2008, Dresden church of Christ, Dresden, TN]