God

The Art of Ending Church Apostasy: Doctrinal Clarity

This is Article #6 is a series on confronting apostasy in the church. You can read the last article HERE.


I began redefining my tree painting, bringing focus and detail to the blurred foliage. Adding dots of color, greens and blues, depth and visual clarity slowly returned.

Clarity… that magic word…

Clarity… Isn’t that what so many of us seek?

Clarity… Isn’t that what so many churches have forsaken?

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In my last article, I discussed the three preliminary principles of motivation for confronting apostasy in one’s church:

  1. First, love must be your motivation in confronting apostasy.
  2. Second, self-sacrifice must be this love’s demonstration.
  3. The third principle I want to reiterate is this: Biblical truth is the issue.

If you have not read the last article, please do so before proceeding.

What the Bible says:

Dr. Paul M. Elliott of Teaching the Word Ministries has written an excellent series on what the Bible teaches us about confronting apostasy.

As he correctly points out, we have been given instructions through God’s Word:

So let me now come to the process itself. We find the process for dealing with apostasy, in fact for dealing with offenses of all kinds, given to us in Matthew 18:15-17. We find there a process set forth by the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Jesus said this:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that “by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

Here we find a four-step process:

  • First, go to your brother alone and make his offense known. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. The force of the original language is that if your brother will pay attention to what you are saying and will repent, you have helped your brother to escape from evil.
  • Second, if he will not hear you, take one or two others with you and speak to him again.
  • Third, if he still refuses to hear, bring the matter before the church as a body.
  • Fourth, if he refuses even to hear the church, then treat him not as your brother, but as an unbeliever.

Be humble, but alert:

Pastors are humans and make mistakes. A single departure from scripture may simply have been an honest mistake.

Still, it is prudent to keep in mind the words of John Calvin:

Truth is not always nurtured in the bosom of the pastors…

Private situations versus public situations:

Private sins should be confronted privately, while public sins should be confronted publicly.

The risk to souls posed by the public teaching of false doctrine is acutely emphasized by Dr. Elliott:

If someone has persisted in false teaching from the pulpit, or in a Sunday school class, or in a home Bible study, or has persistently written false teaching in books or other publications, this is a public matter. It is not a private sin. And so it immediately becomes a matter to be dealt with by the church as a body, and not on a private basis. That is because there is more than the spiritual welfare of one individual or a even handful of individuals at stake. The spiritual welfare of the entire church is at stake.

There are several Biblical examples of public confrontation, including:

  1. in the epistle of Third John: Apostle John said he was going to publicly confront Diotrephes, the pastor of a local church, about his falsehoods;
  2. and in Galatians chapter two: Apostle Paul publicly confronted the Apostle Peter at Antioch when Peter publicly strayed into legalism.

Expect hostility in return:

If there’s one thing you can count on it is resistance. In fact, the simple act of politely questioning, for example, a popular evangelist, is the one of the easiest ways to make yourself unpopular.

Dr. Elliott even gives real-life examples and probable outcomes to prepare you, which you can read about here.

Remember to be humble and steadfast in your defense of God’s Word. Accept hardship. Remember that souls are at stake.

The Truth is the goal.

Examples of public confrontations:

Public confrontations may take on different forms. Some choose to write, such as myself, others use technology such as Twitter or podcasts. Also, some people may choose local vestry meetings, et al. Continue reading…

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