Is naming names a New Year resolution for us? We don’t really make New Year resolutions like losing weight, or any other of a number of things around here. There is probably not a week that goes by that I don’t receive an email or note contending that it is wrong to name names when dealing with false teaching or false teachers. Perhaps we can’t even be Christians if we engage in such a thing. A recent email began:
It took me a few minutes to realize that I was on a website operated by a group that claims to be Christian. How could you claim to be a Christian and write the things you do?”
Most often statements like this are followed up with a claim like “Jesus never named names and we shouldn’t do anything that Jesus wouldn’t do.” As we begin the New Year it seemed very appropriate to reaffirm a resolution we have made on this issue. In thinking it through it occurred to me that in order to agree with the above position I would have to begin by only accepting the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as inspired. How do I come to that conclusion you ask? The litmus test as given assumes that Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, only spoke in the gospels. This is further affirmed when I point out that we find the Apostle Paul naming names and I am told, “But that was Paul. Jesus didn’t do that and we should want to live like Jesus.” In this view, at least for all practical purposes, the gospels are the only books that carry any authority, The Old Testament and balance of the New Testament may be interesting but are not on a par with Matthew, Mark, Luke or John since they don’t contain the red letter words of Jesus. No, in this view, Jesus was kind and never called out false teachers in public. After all niceness is the closest thing to godliness and publicly pointing out false teachers would not be nice and therefore ungodly and Jesus would never do something ungodly. But wait! We read in the gospels Jesus saying in public:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.(Matthew 23:27)
Hypocrites? Whitewashed tombs? These are pretty unkind words. And Jesus said them publicly where others in His religious community would know who he was talking about? What about this one:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell[a] as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)
Again with the hypocrites. Twice as much a son of hell? Definitely not nice and in public too! What was He thinking? However could He act in such an ungodly way?
Clearly Jesus was concerned about exposing false teachers within the community of faith. We can see by His own red letter words and actions that He did it during His earthly ministry and taught His followers to do likewise. One can hardly read Matthew 7:15-23 and not recognize His concern about guarding the flock from false predatory teachers. At times that requires giving their names. Why is that? In order to respond we need to be reminded that God refers to His people as sheep. That is not really a term of endearment. Sheep are not careful and not overly bright. Mostly they just graze, graze, graze and unless watched and protected, fall into a ravine or wander into the path of a predator and pretty soon, zap, no more sheep. But, back to the question of inspiration and how this bears on my resolution.
I would hold that the 66 books we have in the Bible are all inspired or God breathed. In addition, I believe that Jesus is fully God as well as fully human. Why is this important you ask? Because Jesus as God spoke in the Hebrew Scriptures before he incarnated and continued to speak after His resurrection and ascension through the apostolic writers. Everything that was penned was directed and overseen by God. So, when Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit named names that was God naming names. It was done at God’s direction and under His supervision. Paul’s letters were publicly read and passed around from church to church and copied to be sent to yet other churches. Not quite the Internet or modern print media but the first century equivalent.
As we read the Old Testament we see God using satire as in the case of Elijah and the prophets of Baal:
And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”(1 Kings 18:27)
More examples could be given but are only important if we believe the Old and New Testaments are inspired and that God spoke to and through the various writers. If only the red letter words in the four gospels carry any weight we are talking with someone who is functionally a liberal as far as their view of Scripture goes. Even so, that doesn’t really help their case since Jesus publicly pointed out false teachers and called them names. All we do is state their names. I wonder why Jesus acted in what they must regard as such an ungodly and unchristian way. I believe I will follow the biblical practices and stay resolved to warn the flock of false teachers and let them know to whom I am referring.Ω
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