How to engage false teachers

I have had a number of readers ask me about my views on false teachers this week–questions provoked in large part by my writing on recent events. Providentially, my sermon last Sunday at church was on this very issue. I had no idea what would unfold this week as I preached the sermon, but I think the message answers most of the questions that folks have been asking me. You can download the message here or listen below.

I argue that there are two kinds of false teachers: those who repent and those who do not. Those who repent when admonished are those “who come to their senses” and “escape from the snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:26). But those who don’t repent—those who aren’t correctable—are those who suffer “shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered over to Satan, so that they may be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:19-20).

In short, how we engage a false teacher will be determined by how recalcitrant they are in their false teaching. Paul treats the recalcitrant in one manner and the repentant in another. Paul hands the recalcitrant over to Satan. He hands the repentant over to God’s mercy. If you’re interested, you can listen to the rest above.


  • Ted G.

    I think it is dangerous to throw around labels like False Teacher. Especially in a reactionary and quick posture. Stearns was not in a teaching posture when WV made a hiring policy decision. In fact, I believe the original statement said they were not affirming the practice. Stearns and WV have done tremendous work around the work. Work that is FULL of fruit of the Spirit. Claiming Stearns or WV to be a False Teacher is irresponsible and quite honestly feeds those like the 2,000+ who would decide to give up their commitment to support a child in poverty. That decision by those 2,000+ individual is unconscionable. Our seminary leaders need to show more restraint before tossing out labels that don’t stick and quite frankly cause harm to “the least of these” by inciting without merit.

    • Ian Shaw

      Ted, if a Christian organization provides for those in need and never presents the Gospel to those they encounter, is that keeping with the Great Commision or not? If you claim to be serving a need because you believe that you are called to by Christ, but never mention Him, by who’s or what purpose are you doing your works?

      That’s along the lines of people that claim they only need to show Christ in their actions/relationships with others and never speak about Jesus. If you never tell anyone about Christ and the Gospel, but claim to be a Christian, doesn’t that raise serious questions?

  • Ian Shaw

    Feeding thousands without a gospel presentation of any form is doing nothing but sending children and adults to hell with their bellies full. You can claim to be a Christian or Biblical foundationally based organization all you want, but if you don’t mention Christ, you’re at best serving the poor under the guise of a God of your own invention (idolatry) and at worst, you are feeding others because of “social justice”, but without Christ you up promoting the religion of secular humanism.

    People should be aware of which “Christian” organizations actually present the Gospel when helping others in need or not. Compassion International does and I believe Samaritans Purse does as well.

    Providing for someone’s temporal needs may be a noble thing to do. It’s a emotional/heart-strings pulled feeling. But for a Christ-follower, if all you’re doing is providing temporal fulfillment, what you are failing to do, will be much worse spiritually for “the least of these”.

  • Ted G.

    Ian, your statement makes me sad. To not be able to see the good in the work of World Vision means you overlook the power and message of the Gospel. I serve at the Chairman of a an inner-city ministry to the poor. Poverty is all consuming to the person. The power of a “full belly” or changed community is exactly the Gospel of grace that Jesus spoke of.

    • Ian Shaw


      Bottom line. You say you serve in an inner-city ministry. Say you feed and clothe them. That’s great. If you leave Christ out of the conversation, and you were the one person that was supposed to share the Gospel with them and you chose not to. No one ever shared Christ with that person. That person dies. Now what? What was the benefit of the needs you met for that person?

      Good work of world vision? A work apart from Christ is a pretty nasty description of a woman’s menstral cloth in one of Paul’s epistles.

  • Ted G.


    Clearly you have an ax to grind regarding World Vision. Not sure many Evangelicals would call caring for poor children 97 countries a woman’s menstral cloth.

    World Vision trains Christian leaders who live and minister directly in poor communities. They distribute the Bible in those communities. And they partner with churches in those communities.

    Prior to the World Vision dust up last week, most in Christendom would have supported the work of World Vision and called it a strong ministry. Even now, after their reversal, most support and cheer World Vision for the work they do.

    But somehow, you equate the work of feeding poor children to a woman’s menstral cloth. That is what I find sad. Like I said earlier, clearly you have an ax to grind against World Vision.

  • Terry Galloway

    I think Denny demonstrates the courageous believer that obeys what the Bible says about false teachers. Cowards do not get into heaven. If you pay attention to Revelation 21, only one kind of person that doesn’t get in is the unbeliever. Revelation 21:6-8 NLT

    And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

    Also even the demons believe in Jesus. Who in America doesn’t know John 3:16, but how many who call themselves Christians know that the same chapter says a person must be born again and that this produces obedience. John 3:36 NLT

    And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”

    Denny proves his belief by loving Christ and loving His church which has many false teachers even including pastors with large followings. Denny is a voice with the gift of prophecy that speaks God’s Truth. I respect that he had the courage to confront Andy Stanley who is clearly a false teacher with tons of people worshipping him and having their itching ears tickled. Idolaters don’t get into heaven either. Andy preached on the parable of the talents and disagreed with the Master who said that the worthless servant will go to hell. Andy said that outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth did not mean hell but a person being so frustrated they grind their teeth. Liars don’t go to heaven either. Andy has no fear of the Lord to give him understanding. Denny confronted him on his preaching about gay men in church with their wives and children is the microcosm of the church. True for Andy’s church but not for the true church.

    Jude is all about false teaching with verse 4 saying they teach that the grace of Jesus is a license to sin. Ezekiel 2 and 3 say that the born again believer will speak the words that God gives them to say. Denny is doing that, and the Spirit gives me words to say too though I am just a layperson who got born again and brought to repentance 9 yrs ago.

    This is serious business. Read the entire chapters, but
    Ezekiel 2:2, 4, 7 NLT

    The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet. I listened carefully to his words. They are a stubborn and hard-hearted people. But I am sending you to say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign lord says!’ You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won’t listen, for they are completely rebellious!
    Ezekiel 3:18-19 NLT

    If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths. If you warn them and they refuse to repent and keep on sinning, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved yourself because you obeyed me.
    A good word study of the Bible today would be the word “listen”. Pray before doing it and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. Listen and learn. Blessings.

  • Ted G.


    I think your last line is quite frankly my original point. I think Denny rushed to say, “Farewell World Vision” and call Richard Stearns a false teacher. I asked him if he regretted the speed of doing this and I think based on the post he referred me to the answer is no.

    I had never heard of Denny before his tweet and I’m sure he has generated a lot of traffic. To his site since. Maybe that is the reason for rushing to say what he said.

    Terry,I think everything you said in your post is correct. I think, however, it is very LAW focused and I am sure my savior came to redeem me from the curse of the law. Denny’s rush to call Stearns a false teacher drips of a LAW focused approach that failed to listen and pray before acting.

    My concern is, left unchecked,this type of rush to judgement leads to the likes of Westboro. Not sure how you feel about those folks but I think they lack the love and grace that Jesus taught about when picketing at funerals.

    Terry, I think Denny should have followed your last advice and listened and prayed before rushing to throw out false teacher acquisitions.

    • Terry Galloway

      Thanks Ted for your comments. Actually, I have followed Denny’s comments for several years at the recommendation of friends at BSF (not my church). Maybe your recent introduction to him is why there is confusion. There are so many false teachers in the public eye now. I am not familiar with World Vision, so my comments were directed at the biblical importance of confronting false teachers. I have a sensitive radar for false teaching, and Denny over the years has had the courage to speak the truth. The truth is offensive just as the true gospel is offensive.

      That is why there have been so many to make up false gospels and preach them. Denny has also pointed out Rob Bell, Andy Stanley (one that I have lots of experience with) and others.

      As far as Westboro goes, I don’t agree at all with what they do. I personally have witnessed to homosexuals, and I always gently tell them the truth that all sex outside of marriage between one man and one wife including lust is adultery/sexual sin to God. Think of how few churches tell the truth and practice Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5. Those chapters specifically say that we are to confront BELIEVERS and render judgment on believers in sin who refuse to repent. We are specifically told not to judge those outside the church but to leave that to God. But we are commanded (must is said three times in 1 Corinthians 5) to remove the immoral person. Churches have made up new standards to welcome membership to all kinds of people living in immorality without repentance instead of removing them until they give up the sin.

      You bring up a good point about Westboro. I will have to check out what Denny has written about them.

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