Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. - 2Timothy 2: 14-18 (ESV)
Several months ago I had joined a few Facebook groups that piqued my interest. They seemed theological. They seemed to be interested in exposing false doctrines and teachers. In a word, they seemed sound. Looks are not always what they seem to be however beloved. I started to notice patterns in the moderators who all seemed to share one similar trait. They hated church because they had been hurt in church. More sympathetic I could not be. I have seen churches hurt Christians first hand. I have seen sheep wander off never to return to organized church. These abusive shepherds will answer for all wayward sheep.
The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them."'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock,therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. - Ezekiel 34: 1-10 (NIV)
Now this prophecy was given to the shepherds in charge of Israel, not the church but God does not change. This is how serious He considers the task of shepherding His people. There is simply a lack of the reverent fear of the Lord amongst the very people the Bible says will be held to higher standard. Regardless however, these folks in the Facebook groups had clearly been hurt and now they were not really seeking the truth as much as they were sticking their thumb in the collective eye of the bride of Christ. I wrote about it at the time that they surround the bride with stones in their hands and call her a whore. I wrote about the dangers of such a position. One of the prevailing teachings they ascribed themselves to was the notion that somehow everyone is equal in the body. That no one should have titles. That no one should shepherd. That everyone is even in dividing the Word of Truth. I tried to express to them the dangers of such false teaching but to no avail. Their pain drove their theology. I left the groups.
Then I received a communication this week from a friend who had remained expressing concern about one of the founding women. One of the moderators. It seemed she had been researching the story of Lazarus and because of the science of rigamortis, she felt she could no longer believe the raising of Lazarus as a real story. Did you get that? First of all I wouldn't know how to break the news to her that rigamortis actually wears off after 38 hours so it would not have been in effect four days after Lazarus had died! The larger point however is the dismissal of a portion of Scripture due to some kind of human rational or carnal reasoning. So you believe that God spoke the entire universe into existence but that He cannot figure out a way around rigamortis? Seriously? As if this was not all troubling enough she now refers to others as "wasting time citing Scriptures to me" because of her "authentic spiritual freedom." Yikes.
I bring this very real story to you because of this simple fact. Not everyone is called to divide the Word of God. We are even at the foot of the cross, no question about that. He who is least will be first in the kingdom. This is not about ego but about calling. I mean true calling. God is a God of order and He established an order in His church. Jesus wept because the people were like sheep without a shepherd. Beloved, we are all called to do the work of a Berean. We are called to read the Word and hide it in our heart. That is vastly different than thinking there are not people called to lead when it comes to theology and dividing the Word:
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. - 1Timothy 5: 17 (ESV)
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. - James 3: 1 (ESV)
Beloved these verses cannot be clearer. Those who preach and teach will be held and judged according to a stricter standard and because of that they are due double honor. That does not mean they are better. It does not lift one over another. This is not about ego but rather about the Gospel. Take a good look around modern Christianity and you will see it is littered with biblically illiterate preachers who purposefully dumb down theology. Joel Osteen has said he will not apologize for barely using Scripture when he speaks. He says theology is not his "gifting." Perry Noble has referred to anyone who wants to go deeper in the Word as a jackass, during a sermon. This is the same guy who just rewrote the Ten Commandments, proving he is not qualified to divide the Word of Truth. Rick Warren is on record as saying that you should not preach the Gospel on Easter because you want to give your visitors a reason to come back. Andy Stanley has said that the word shepherd should be removed from usage because it is no longer culturally relevant. Joseph Prince has redefined repent as "consenting to be loved." This can go on and on and on.
Beloved if you have a real man of God as your pastor, who preaches the uncompromised Word of the Lord, you ought to cherish him. Because they are becoming fewer and fewer. How did Rob Bell go from running a mega church to thinking there is no hell? He abandoned doctrine. How did this woman who founded four different Facebook groups about theology suddenly abandon portions of the Bible due to a poor understanding of science? Because she fell for the lie that everyone is equal when it comes to doctrine. When left up to her own devices and reason without being shepherded, she couldn't get past rigamortis. Just like two fellows from the days of Timothy named Hymenaeus and Philetus. Our key verses give us some indication of their story and it is eerily similar to what we have been discussing. These verses find Paul instructing his protege Timothy about being a preacher/pastor. He explains that he must present himself to God as an approved worker who knows how to handle the Word of Truth. Note what Paul warns him of here. Avoid irreverent babble that leads to ungodliness because talk like that spreads like gangrene. Avoid irreverent babble such as rewriting the Ten Commandments. Avoid irreverent babble such as theology not being your gifting. Avoid irreverent babble such as there is no literal place called hell. Avoid irreverent babble such as calling people who want to go deeper in God jackasses from your pulpit. Avoid irreverent babble such as changing the definition of repentance. Avoid irreverent babble such as the belief that everyone is equal when it comes to the Word. Avoid it! Come out from among it! Do not touch it! Lest you too fall for its corruption!
What was the false teaching that Hymenaeus and Philetus fell for? That the resurrection has already occurred. The key verses teach us that they once were in the truth because it is described as swerving from it. Yet for some reason now, they no longer believed that there was another resurrection coming. This despite the fact that Jesus Himself said so and Paul clearly clung to this teaching:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. - John 5: 25-29 (ESV)
But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. - Acts 24: 14-15 (ESV)
So Hymenaeus and Philetus once were firmly rooted in the truth but now they have swerved and swerved badly. As badly as someone deciding that the story of Lazarus is suddenly untenable. I am sure that Hymenaeus and Philetus had good reasons. I am sure they had maybe even the science and human wisdom of the day on their side. Their intent is not questioned here because it does not matter. Let me say that again, the position of their heart is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is their doctrine - what are they believing and teaching? I say this because predictably someone defends what is false by offering up the heart of the person who is wrong. It just doesn't matter. Do you want to know why? The key verses teach us - they are upsetting the faith of some. Well that doesn't sound too bad until you hear it in other translations:
"They destroy the faith of some" - NIV