In the 1980s, Cyndi Lauper popularized the song, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” I’ve never listened to the song in its entirety, nor do I intend to do so. But from what I understand from briefly looking it up (so that I’d spell Cyndi Lauper’s name correctly) it’s about a young woman who resists advice to be sensible about her life. She reasons that she can be sensible later in life; at her age, girls just want to have fun.
Yet the apostle Paul instructed Titus that older women should encourage younger women to (among other things) be sensible:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASSB95)
Okay, then what does it mean to be sensible? After reading several Bible Dictionaries, I learned that it pretty much means having the wisdom to control one’s passions (or emotions). Interestingly, most women’s Bible Study materials these days not only ignore this part of the text, but often encourage women to let our feelings dictate our behavior.
Quite often, you’ll hear Christians quote the phrase, “speaking the truth in love” (a phrase from Ephesians 4:15), as if it was a fully fledged point of doctrine. Moreover, you’ll hear them emphasize love, almost as if it truth holds little consequence. By implication, love requires us to make truth palatable, even if it means changing truth or covering it up.
In the early 21st Century, love demands that we never hurt someone’s feelings.
And that’s where discernment bloggers (even the legitimate ones) get in trouble. We call out false teachers and/or identify unbiblical practices, trying our best to be charitable. And even when we manage to be charitable enough that some people accuse us of fence sitting, we still have readers calling us self-righteous and arrogant. According to most people, speaking the truth is the antithesis of speaking in love.
Maybe we should look at Ephesians 4:15 in its context to see what the apostle Paul meant.
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. ~~Ephesians 4:11-16 (NASB)
Doesn’t it sound as if Paul emphasizes truth in this passage? He concedes that truth must be presented lovingly, but actually love compels us to present truth and refute error.
Obviously, you can speak truth unlovingly. We’ve all read discernment blogs that, although they pointed out the errors of a given false gospel with extreme accuracy, evidenced no desire to see either that teacher or the followers of that teacher repent and receive God’s mercy. We must acknowledge the sad reality that sometimes the truth is spoken without love.
Usually, however, we don’t detect the love that inspires a blogger to say the truth about a given false teacher. Many times, our anger and hatred toward falsehood — an anger and hatred that Christians should feel and express — makes it difficult to see the love for truth that motivates the blogger. Although their demeanor certainly appears unloving, love very much compels him or her to call out that false teacher.
It’s easy to throw brickbats when a discernment blogger names a false teacher. It’s much more difficult to investigate that blogger’s claims by measuring the false teacher against God’s Word.
Most discernment bloggers have done their research, and consequently know why a teacher threatens the doctrinal purity of the Church. Rather than vilify someone who loves Christ’s body enough to warn them about dangerous teachers. perhaps we ought to appreciate their courage. Perhaps we should thank them for loving us enough to speak the truth.
I pretty much knew what I wanted to say, so I started writing the introduction to my latest post on Titus 2:3-5 Monday. My back hurt from having to spend the weekend in bed due to a lack of Personal Care Attendant coverage, so typing was slow and painful. I knew I needed to check the Greek for the word translated as “love” in verse 4, although I’ve always assumed it was “agape.” I promised myself I’d look it up Tuesday, when my back would feel better.
Tuesday my PCA didn’t feel well, and didn’t want to come in case she had COVID. (Thankfully, it’s just a very mild cold, so she came back Wednesday.) My backup PCA had car troubles, so I spent Tuesday in bed, mentally revising part of my introduction. Of course, Wednesday I had pain from spending another day in bed, and unexpected company ate an hour that I’d planned to use for blogging. When I finally got to my blog, I chose to rewrite my second paragraph before looking up the Greek. Again, the pain slowed my typing, and consequently I was simply too exhausted to do research.
Thursday, I actually did look up the Greek word rendered “love” in Titus 2:4. To my surprise, Paul used two Greek words — one for loving husbands and one for loving children. That’s very interesting, and I will restructure my article according to the correct definitions of those words. But of course I’ll need to first think through the proper application of the verse in light of those definitions.
Here in the United States of America, our collective attention centers on the midterm elections. Inflation and abortion dominate as the two major issues, causing this election cycle to be a referendum on (respectively) the Biden administration and the Supreme Court. It’s quite appropriate that Christians, in our desire to be salt and light to a culture that thumbs its nose at God’s laws, would be deeply concerned about what happens on November 8.
As critical as the midterm elections are, it troubles me that very few Christians have any concern about what happened in Germany on October 31, 1517. Actually, most Christians think of October 31 as a reason to debate whether or not to participate in Halloween. When you mention the Protestant Reformation, they give you a quizzical look and hasten to change the subject.
I admit to once being indifferent to the topic, even as for a Christian. During my Freshman year of college, my Political Science professor covered it briefly, pretty much attributing it to Martin Luther’s chronic bouts of constipation. For decades, I knew little about Luther beyond his digestive problems. Furthermore, I didn’t really think the Protestant Reformation had much to do with me. I believe most Christians share that indifference.
Several years ago, John and I sat in an adult Sunday School class where the teacher asked if anyone could explain the Gospel. The church heavily emphasized evangelism, and sponsored a food pantry for the specific purpose of sharing the Gospel along with groceries. They also regularly visited a local nursing home as an evangelistic outreach. The wall of that Sunday School classroom sported a poster detailed the Romans Road. And those who had gone through the membership class had been required to share the Gospel with a friend or relative outside the church.
You would think people in that class would be stepping all over each other to answer the teacher’s question.
The silence was awkward, if not embarrassing. Finally someone answered, correctly using 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as the basis for her response. The teacher expressed his relief that somebody knew the answer, though later he confessed to me his discouragement and frustration over the obvious confusion people exhibited when he asked a question that he assumed each of us could readily answer.
Sometimes I wonder whether or not most evangelicals could explain the Gospel. Frankly, I seriously doubt they could. Popular teachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore have mangled it so badly with false teaching and worldly additives that few professing Christians remember what the Bible says.
I’ve included pages entitled Statement Of Faith and What Is The Gospel, Anyway on this little website, and I pray you’ll look at them once in a while. Before ladies can develop discernment, or even grow in doctrine, we need to understand the Gospel basics.
In What Is The Gospel, Anyway I wrote:
In order to understand the Good News of the Gospel, we must first understand the bad news that all human beings (except Jesus) are sinners by nature and by choice (Romans 3:10-20, Ephesians 2:1-3). As such, every person rightfully deserves to spend eternity in hell (Revelation 20:15).
God, to rescue us from His own wrath, came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ and shed His innocent blood on the cross to atone for the sins of all who trust in Him (1 John 4:9-10, John 3:16). But He rose again, displaying His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).
The Lord calls us to respond to His death, burial and resurrection by turning from sin (Acts 2:38) and by placing our faith in Him (Romans 10:9). Jesus bore all of God’s wrath on the cross so that we could be considered righteous (Romans 5:6-11).
Once someone becomes a Christian, we can expand on the Gospel by teaching the doctrines of election, the Incarnation and so forth, helping her grow in her application of the Gospel. We can join her in studying the variety of implications involved in receiving the Gospel, sharing our wonder at God’s incredible grace. Truly, the Gospel launches innumerable topics to explore and apply!
Sadly, we can often get so caught up in the glorious ramifications of the Gospel that we lose sight of the Gospel itself. We mention it on social media and in conversations rather casually, without considering whether or not our readers and hearers understand what we mean. I know that I refer to it in nearly every article on this blog, but I seldom take time to make sure my readers know what I’m talking about.
Of course I can’t explain the Gospel in every post I write. Especially if I link to every Scripture that teaches it. Most of the time, I need to operate on the assumption that my readers know the Gospel themselves and can pull up their big girl panties. And that’s usually true.
But I get emails notifying me of new readers all the time. Occasionally, these new readers are clearly not believers, and I suspect some might be false converts. These women may have never heard a solid presentation of the Gospel, particularly if they follow people like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore. They may need help understanding their need for salvation, and what the Lord has done in order to provide that salvation. Consequently, it doesn’t hurt to go back and reiterate the Gospel from time to time.
Romans 1:16, the theme verse for this blog, calls the Gospel “the power of God to salvation.” With that being the case, Christians had better know what the Gospel really is and how to articulate it accurately. All sorts of people make reference to it — including false teachers. Good discernment, as well as good evangelism, therefore depends on understanding it well enough to explain it to other people. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to bring sinful souls to new life in Him.
Talking about the Gospel is wonderful. All of us should do it more often. But in so doing, all of us must explain it now and then.
As the Internet shrinks the world, exposure to false teachings grows more common than ever. Just Google “Women’s Bible Study” and you’ll immediately be hit with Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and Anne Graham Lotz. There are also lesser known teachers whom I haven’t researched, many of whom more likely than not mishandle God’s Word at some level. I’m not saying that all women Bible Study teachers are false teachers (Susan Heck and Martha Peace are certainly trustworthy women), but by and large it’s much easier to find doctrinal error than to find solid teaching.
So it’s more crucial than ever to follow Jude’s example of contending for the faith (please see Jude 3). Offering correction when we see doctrinal error, although it usually seems harsh and unloving, is really one of the most compassionate acts a Christian can perform. Sometimes we’ll actually convince someone to turn away from heresy and embrace Scriptural truth.
In no way should we minimize the value of contending for the faith!
At the same time, we must recognize our potential to contend in an argumentative attitude. All too often, I’ve been guilty of feeling my oats to such a degree that I have sought out devotees of Beth Moore simply so that I could pick a fight. I stayed in those verbal battles, determined to show my opponents my superior debating skills. In short, I contended with impure motives.
My pastor used to frustrate me! I knew, from my personal interactions with him, that he was well aware of the celebrity evangelical teachers who taught false doctrine. I don’t doubt that he knew that some women in the church practiced evangelical fads that contradicted solid teaching. I used to pray that he would find ways to call out false teachers from the pulpit because I thought it was the only hope of convincing those women of the dangers. Once, and only once, he actually named someone briefly. Otherwise, he just preached faithfully through the Bible, trusting the Holy Spirit to correct our wrong thinking through the power of God’s Word.
As I saw it, teaching the Bible never corrected error in the other churches I’d belonged to. Those pastors also preached through books, and home Bible Study leaders taught through books. So they took verses in isolation much of the time, emphasizing application over interpretation, and their interpretation often ignored context. They still used the Bible, didn’t they? And they encouraged us to read our Bibles daily, looking for things to jump out at us. Like my current pastor, they assured us that familiarity with Scripture would protect us against false teaching. But we still wandered into all sorts of error, including a few errors that our pastors endorsed.
This past Wednesday night, our pastor gave an overview of 2 Peter, a letter written in response to false teachers who had infiltrated First Century churches. Chapter 2 presents a blistering description of false teachers, showing no pity. Winsome, Peter was not!
Although I will rarely identity false teachers by name anymore, I believe in the importance of training my readers to guard against such people. Every New Testament book except for Philemon deals at some level with the subject, and many Old Testament books address the problem. From that we can surmise God’s deep concern that His people not turn aside to deception.
Most of us believe that Christ’s return, and thus the end of this world, is imminent. Since I’m not as well-schooled on eschatology as I ought to be, I’ll refrain from making dogmatic remarks based on the evening news. But Scripture indeed draws a connection between the last days and the increased proliferation of false teaching. Notice, for instance, Paul’s warning to Timothy:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, 3 men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. ~~1 Timothy 4:1-5 (NASB95)
Let me begin by assuring you that I have nothing against discernment ministries and blogs that call out false teachers. Especially when those discernment ministries and blogs balance their critiques with clear Biblical teaching. Elizabeth Prata serves as one of the best examples of Biblical discernment ministry precisely because she emphasizes Scripture and doesn’t write about false teachers unless she has reason. Justin Peters, though famous for exposing false teachers, always maintains his purpose of proclaiming the true Gospel. Other trustworthy discernment leaders include Chris Rosebrough, Steve Kozar, Amy Spreeman and Michelle Lesley.
When people call out false teachers for the purpose of leading others to sound doctrine and therefore pure devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s a good work they do. So much of the evangelical world falls for deception because they don’t receive solid instruction in the Word of God. Consequently, the need for discernment ministries has mushroomed in recent decades. Young and poorly taught Christians often need to hear the truth about popular teachers on the evangelical landscape.
The Bible commands us to be aware of false teachers to the point of calling them out.
An online friend recently warned against a popular false teacher on her Facebook page, only to have one of her personal friends harshly castigate her in a comment. It’s a familiar scenario. I’ve been through a similar experience, so I definitely sympathize. Women can become downright brutal towards anyone who dares to challenge their favorite false teacher.
As happens nearly every time, my friend’s critic didn’t address any of the actual objections to the teacher, despite the ample documentation that my friend provided. Instead, the critic argued from emotion, twisting Scripture in an attempt to shame my friend for raising valid concerns. That common tactic often works well to silence those who call out false teachers because no one wants to step on someone’s toes. Outbursts of emotion make us want to smooth things over so that everyone feels good. It also avoids having to really think through the relevant issues from a Biblical perspective. Emotion shuts down a challenge quickly and (in the mind of the person using emotion) effectively,
So I found the avoidance of addressing my friend’s points a bit telling. I wish she had responded with more maturity, countering objections from properly handled Scripture. (Of course, Scripture really only would have validated my friend’s position.) But as troubling as the appeal to emotion was, several people were even more troubled by the women’s claim to be discerning.