Thursday, January 31, 2008

False Teachers by Victor A. Sheperd

Whenever false teachers with their false doctrine obscure this truth, deny this truth, diminish this truth, or cast aspersion upon it; whenever this truth is "fudged" in any way men and women are imperilled before God, since they will push away the only saviour any of us can ever have.

When I used to interview candidates for the ministry in Halton Presbytery I let other committee members probe the students' social skills and marital history and career plans. Instead I always concentrated on what the students knew of God's truth, doctrine. When I was told eventually that this was none of my business I resigned from the committee, for then I could no longer protect congregations who would be endangered a year or two later. The danger, after all, is not slight. Jesus himself speaks of those who address a congregation all the while appearing to be warm, affectionate sheep when in fact they are ravenous wolves. They aren't ravenous wolves because they are nasty or cruel; they turn out to be ravenous wolves -- lethal, deadly -- just because they are false prophets (even if, perchance, sincere) who have substituted false teaching for God's truth

For this reason the apostle Jude fulminates against false teachers in his one-chapter book. In the most scorching language Jude tells us that false teachers are "waterless clouds": they promise lifegiving rain but they never produce a drop for spiritually parched people. They are "barren fruit trees": they yield nothing that is of any help to anyone. They are like "wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame": not only are they as destructive as a typhoon, their own lives are shameful. Finally, says Jude, they are like "wandering stars"; today we should say "shooting stars" which fall out of the sky and fizzle out into the darkness. Jude's language, scorching as it is, is no more severe than our Lord's when he says that false teachers appear to be cuddly sheep when in fact they are lethal wolves.

Jude has more to say about false teachers in his tiny letter than any other NT writer. "Recognize them and avoid them", he tells us. They use fancy language, he insists, they are intellectual snobs, they are slick manipulators, and they claim to have the Holy Spirit extraordinarily when all the while they behave shamefully. Recognize them and avoid them.

Whenever I think about my grasp of sound doctrine I recall the word of the apostle James. James, together with all prophets and apostles, knows that sound doctrine is utterly essential to the calling and equipping and strengthening of God's people. Then should every Christian aspire to be a teacher, an expositor of sound doctrine? Not at all, says James, for those who teach are going to be judged with greater strictness.

Since I am going to be judged with greater strictness why don't you do me the favour of judging me now, thereby sparing me something worse later? "What counts is the shape of a person's life." Don't leave me in any ghastly illusion concerning myself one day longer. For I know that the psalmist is correct when he insists that the upright, and only the upright, are going to behold the face of God. (Psalm 11:7)

Victor A. Shepherd January, 1993


restyled home said...

Wow!! Where did you find this?? This is a very profound post, indeed...

I think I can think of a few waterless clouds I've ran into over time...those that proclaim to want to serve, and yet never really do anything for those in need. Shrouded masks would be least then you'd recognize them immediately and give them a wide berth.


onelittlemustardseed said...

Victor Shepherd is Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Tyndale, and Adjunct Prof. of Theology at University of Toronto. At Tyndale Seminary Victor Shepherd teaches courses in the history and theology of the Sixteenth Century Reformation, the theology of Wesley and the spirituality of the Puritans. In addition he teaches philosophy.

Most importantly to me...he writes so that everyone can understand him and he doesn't preach or try to impress you with his intellect.

A friend from my church is taking classes with him and he speaks very highly of him...I have learned a lot just reading his sermons.