Open Rebuke by Paul Proctor

By Paul Proctor
March 23, 2011

The Emerging Church controversy has caught the attention of the mainstream media again and in a big way with the latest book from Rob Bell, entitled, “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” – a “universalist” view from a popular “Christian” author and pastor that has already drawn numerous objections from many evangelical leaders including several sharp commentaries from the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr. – the latest of which appeared in the Baptist Press, titled, “Rob Bell and the (re)emergence of liberal theology.”

As one of many who have spoken out against the Emerging Church’s errant teachings and practices, I find it encouraging to finally hear a chorus of open rebukes coming from a growing number of well known Christian leaders who aren’t afraid to name the names of heretics and false teachers at work among believers – at least a few of them – something that is quite common throughout the New Testament, but, up until recently, has been all but absent from the 21st century Church as if they were either nonexistent or unworthy of mention.

Frankly, false teachers have had a heyday over the last generation or so amassing huge numbers of unregenerate, unrepentant, biblically ignorant and morally apathetic followers that were persuaded through pleasurable feelings, emotions, experiences and appetites that few, if any, are actually going to Hell. Dr. Mohler accurately summed up the Emerging Church movement in his column as being “a mildly updated form of Protestant liberalism.” I would only add that the eastern styled mysticism taught and practiced by many Emergents carries the movement well beyond mere liberal Christianity and into the occult.

Much of these and other false teachings and practices have been aided and advanced by the widely-held assumption that public rebukes among Christians are to be a last resort only, citing Matthew 18:15 as the scriptural source, which, in the King James version, reads: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Underscore added for emphasis)

Thanks to a very small number of inconsistent Bible translations, which now incidentally includes the newest New International Version 2011, a directive intended to restrain and contain church-unity-disrupting personal offenses between two individuals was edited in such a way as to suggest that all initial chastisement and challenges between believers should be kept private, which is not at all what the Bible teaches.

Is there a better way to advance evil, error and confusion in the Church than to shame and silence the discerners of heresy, blasphemy and scriptural confusion? Not only does this undermine the proclamation and proliferation of God’s Word, it is also a great way to unequally yoke believers to unbelievers and steer them all astray with the insinuation that feelings are more important than truth.

You see, Matthew 18:15 in the New American Standard Bible reads: “(M)If your brother sins[b], go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Omitting the words “against you,” or “against thee,” which appears in the vast majority of popular Bible versions including the 1984 NIV, gives heretics a handy hideout to not only do their dirty work but have their inaccuracies, inconsistencies and indiscretions arbitrarily dismissed through obfuscation, negotiation and consensus.

False teaching needs to be addressed as it happens, in front of those who hear it, that the error and confusion not be left to spread unchallenged. Nor should it be left up to some pastor’s public relations team or a bureaucratic boardroom of good old boys to decide if an open confession and correction would be good for the numbers.

Not only did Jesus rebuke the scribes and Pharisees publicly for their self-serving words and deeds, He gave Peter the harshest rebuke of all in front of the other disciples in Mark 8:33, telling him: “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

The Apostle Paul also took Peter to task in front of everyone later in Galatians 2:11,14 for separating himself from those who weren’t circumcised. If anything needed to be dealt with in private, wouldn’t it be this? Paul goes on to tell Timothy: “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” – 1st Timothy 5:20

In fact, the entire chapter of Matthew 18 is largely about personal offences between individuals beginning with verse six where Jesus says: “…whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” and continues on with Peter asking Jesus; “…how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”

Jesus goes on to answer Peter with the story of an unpaid debt between a king and one of his servants and another unresolved debt between that same servant and a fellow servant. And right in the middle of the chapter, between Jesus’ warning against offending a child and Peter’s question about forgiving a brother and the story of personal indebtedness, is verse 15, where Jesus says: “…if thy brother shall trespass against thee…” not, “If your brother sins…” as the NAS claims. In other words, “against thee” is consistent with the ongoing conversation between Jesus and His disciples and context of the chapter.

So, when an errant pastor, preacher, teacher, author or Emerging Church leader publicly distorts, disputes, dismisses or disavows core doctrines of the Bible, he ought to be rebuked and corrected in the same manner he presented them… publicly, because those he mislead and confused with his flawed theology are watching, learning and passing along to others what they’ve been taught. And, if they’ve been taught lies, and the backroom boys and PR team never get around to correcting them for the edification and benefit of all, then those lies live on, the truth remains hidden and repentance never comes.

“Open rebuke is better than secret love.” – Proverbs 27:5

In Light of His Coming, the Promise of Scripture

Paul taught that the Scriptures are the basic historical facts on which the Gospel stands, and which the Scripture, pertaining to the sacrificial system in the Old Testament pointed to the sacrifice of Christ as our substitute. The reality of Christ’s sacrifice was verified by Scriptures. “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will you allow your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalms 16:10), for example. The apostles clearly recognized this verse as forecasting the resurrection of Jesus. Peter quotes this verse on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:27), as did Paul in his early preaching at Antioch (Acts 13:35). By Scripture alone is the sufficiency of Christ’s work realized and the atonement declared:

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”(1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

It is through the evidence of Scripture a person commits themselves to the conviction of faith. “According to the Scriptures” places the witness of Scripture above that of those who saw the Lord after His resurrection. Peter himself verbalized the importance of Scripture as “the more sure word of prophecy” which Peter states exceeds his own personal experience on the Mount of Transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-19). All Old Testament prophecy dealing with the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was fulfilled precisely as predicted by the prophets. “The only infallible interpreter of what we see in nature or know innately in our own consciences is the explicit revelation of Scripture. Since Scripture is also the one place where we are given an infallible account of Christ, the Bible is the touchstone to which all truth-claims should be brought and by which all other truth must finally be measured.”1 We have no greater example than Jesus Himself as He began his Galilean ministry teaching in the synagogue He quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2 boldly proclaiming, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus intentionally and carefully fulfilled all Old Testament prophecy concerning Himself exactly as it was written – Matthew 3:13-15; 5:17-18; Luke 4:16-21; 18:31; John 5:39.

Understanding then that Jesus fulfilled all prophecy concerning Himself as Savior, the atonement of our sins by His blood, His sacrifice as our substitute, all verified by Scripture, it becomes comprehensible that a dependency upon Scripture for salvation should also be taught in the Bible. In fact, the Bible teaches that our heart belief and spoken confession in Jesus Christ is the most foundational lesson found in Scripture. In essence, without Scripture, there would be no faith, nor would the provision of salvation be known. “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” – Romans 10:9-11. Notice “For the Scripture says!” Without Scripture there is no belief unto salvation, no faith by which we make such a confession in Him. John 7:38 substantiates we must believe exactly as the Scripture articulates; “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” The metaphor “rivers of living water” flowing out of our hearts are then contingent upon our belief in Jesus “As the Scripture has said!”

It is clear we must accept the Scriptural account of Jesus Christ in order to obtain the faith to believe. Equally, we must accept that Jesus fulfilled all Old Testament prophecy precisely as it was predicted. So here is the rub, why then do we find many today who do not apply the same rule concerning prophecy centered around His Return? Many teachers too often approach prophecy using the method of interpretation that best suits their own biases or circumstances rather than accepting the clear intent of the biblical authors. Our very salvation hinges on the accuracy of the Scriptural account concerning Jesus and His fulfilling prophecy precisely as it was predicted. How is it that our observations of New Testament prophecy are so different? How is that we don’t embrace the same care for prophecy as that of our Lord who’s motivation was driven to please His Fathers will in fulfilling all? From the crossing of the “T” to the dotting of the “I,” Jesus apprehended to both preserve and fulfill (Matthew 5:17-18).

Nowadays we are confronted with many who scoff at the thought of Christ’s return. They say through the centuries Christians have been convinced of Christ’s coming, either by calculations from Daniel or signs that they believed were conclusive. They speak of the Rapture of the Church as a modern day heresy kept alive by novels. And they contend the signs in Matthew were fulfilled in A.D. 70, and imply that Revelation and Daniel are deliberately cryptic and full of imagery beyond our comprehension. To attempt to comprehend such mysteries (they say) are simply speculation that serves only as a distraction. Rob Bell, recent author of the book “Love Wins” in an interview with Martin Bashir on MSNBC introduced the term “speculation” as it relates to death and ones eternal destiny. Rob Bell was ask “: Is it irrelevant and immaterial as to how one responds to Christ in this life in term of determining ones eternal destiny?” Rob Bell answers: “It is relevant but as to how exactly that works out in the future, we are now when you die firmly in the realm of speculation. Christians have built whole dogma’s about what happens when you die and you have to be very careful that we don’t build whole doctrines and dogma’s on what is speculation.”

What we are faced with today are those who are forming the way we think and view Scripture through the writing of books, television, magazines, etc. Their messages appear to be a Christian message that is cheery, caring and fashionable to contemporary culture but remains unbiblical and historically unreliable. They amend the Gospel message so that its pliable to contemporary people. Similarly, on the subject of eschatology, doubt and suspicion is implanted in the hearts and minds of people when the light of speculation is cast upon it. Even our renowned Bill Johnson will tell you the Revelation cannot be understood, you get extra points for reading it, but you won’t understand it. Unto many of our modern day authors, Scripture is Speculative, especially when biblical prophecy is the topic. So is this what we have come to today? Where the subjects of the Gospel and Eschatology are now simply a matter of speculation, conjecture and theory? If so, what of our eternal state? How can anyone know for certain there is such a thing as salvation? As to the Return of Christ, no hope exist if all that was prophesied is past as some suppose. Was Moses a madman for looking forward to the eternal reward, or Abraham who look for a city who’s builder and maker was God? They followed God with certainty and saw beyond the veil of this flesh looking to the eternal Kingdom of Christ.

Biblical prophecy provides the greatest encouragement and hope available to us today. A hope clearly taught in Scripture, something that every true child of God should know and understand.

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” – Romans 8:22-25.

False prophets and false teachers are known by two things, the fruit that they bare and the Gospel they preach (Gal. 1). They have gifting, they are quite excellent at speaking, dynamic even, and they seem to have some power about them but, their character and message is the key, do they bear fruit, what message do they proclaim? In Peters second epistle he speaks of untaught and unstable people who wrest (or twist) the Scripture to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:15-16.) These verses tie in with verse 9 , where Peter explained why the Lord had delayed fulfilling His promise. God had every reason long ago to judge the world and burn up its works, but in His mercy, He is long-suffering with us, “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Peter is describing those lacking the learning imparted by the Holy Spirit. He speaks of those who are deficient in spiritual learning, and have originated many heresies as a result. Instead of waiting until God by His Spirit makes Scripture plain by comparing Scripture with Scripture, they hastily adopt distorted views. They transfer the authority of Scripture unto themselves over exaggerating their ability to hear from God.

2 Peter 3:10-13 tells us the Lord’s return will be sudden and unexpected. Believers are to still look for His promise despite those who scoff (vs. 3-4). Christian behavior itself hastens the coming of the day of God (vs. 11). In many ways, the timing of the Lord’s return is directly related to the condition and activity of the church.

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” – Acts 3:19-21

As believers we are to steadfastly trust God will fulfill everything he has promised in His Word. Just as all Old Testament prophecy dealing with the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was fulfilled precisely as predicted by the prophets, so to, all that was predicted concerning His Second coming and His Earthly Millennial Kingdom will be fulfilled exactly as Scripture affirms! Jesus said in Matthew 24:25; “See, I have told you beforehand.” He gave and entrusted to us the Scripture which contains all we need to be overcomers and to be completely prepared for the cataclysmic days of the end times, “so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (John 2:28). Jesus has given both the church in general and the world advanced notice of exactly what will occur in the end times. For those who scoff, speculate, and compromise there is only the promise of God’s wrath which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger (Rev. 14:10-11).

1John MacArthur; The Truth War