How Should We Treat False Teachers?

Emmanuel Okpor from Nigeria writes:

Hello Pastor Confex,

In 2 John 10-11 we read, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.”

John’s mood in these two verses always leaves me figuring out how I can apply this stern warning with regards to Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cults, especially the commands, “Don’t receive him into your house or give him any greeting.” What is it that I am not getting here?

Dear Emmanuel,

Thank you for this good question.

If I am getting you right, you are wrestling with what seems as harsh commands. As Africans we generally love to show hospitality by greeting and opening our home to strangers whether they are fellow Christians or not. This culture should always be encouraged because the Bible encourages it too (Heb. 13:2). But there are times when we need to be cautious lest our hospitality and kindness might be interpreted as an approval or endorsement of evil. This is what John has in mind here.

If a false teacher comes to your house and you greet him (a sign of warming up to him) and let him into your house, he and others watching might view it as your acceptance of his falsehood. The false teacher might also take advantage of any hospitality shown to him to pounce on the unsuspecting and vulnerable people with his heresies. This why I believe Apostle John commands us not to greet or receive any false teacher into our home. We should always remember that false teachers are not misguided brothers but enemies of the cross of (Phil. 3:18). Certainly, we should pray for their repentance and graciously challenge them to do so, but we must never smile at their evil words and deeds.


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Peace of Mind is Not an Infallible Assurance of Being in God’s Will

One popular counsel I heard in my early days of walking with the Lord was that the best way to know whether I am doing the will of God is when I have peace of mind. In other ways, if I am walking in the will of God, I will always have peace in my heart. If I am not, my heart will always be restless. 

But this counsel was challenged recently when I was preparing to preach from Jonah chapter one. Jonah received clear instructions from God to go to Nineveh and preach. However, he blatantly disobeyed God and boarded a ship to flee to Tarshish. Evidently, Jonah was not walking in the will of God. Because of his defiance, the Lord hurled a huge storm on the sea. The mariners were extremely afraid and tried every tool in their box to weather the storm. But it was all in vain.

While everyone in the ship was on the edge, Jonah was fast asleep. In Jonah 1:5b we read, “But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep.” One can’t help but compare this with Jesus sleeping in the midst of a storm (Mark 4:35-42). The major difference being that Jesus was doing his Father’s will while Jonah wasn’t. Then the captain of the sheep came to Jonah and said, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish” (Jonah 1:6). Jonah could afford a peaceful sleep while on the run from God’s will. If peace of mind is the barometer for determining God’s will in our lives then Jonah would get a very high score.  

However, peace of mind is not an infallible assurance of God’s will in our lives because sin can also sear our conscience to the extent that it doesn’t bother us even when we are walking in disobedience to God (1 Tim. 4:2). Feelings and emotions can deceive. However, the only infallible assurance is God’s own word, the Bible. We need to constantly examine our motives and actions in the light of God’s word. The Westminister Confesssion of Faith is right when it asserts, “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture” (chapter 1, paragraph 6). So, if one wants to know whether they are doing God’s will they don’t have to look at their inner sense of peace but to the word of God.

Christian Contentment

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.  Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me”Philippians 3:10-13

In this passage, Apostle Paul writes to the church which he planted in Philippi and thanks them for their support.  He then lets them in on his secret for contentment whether he has little or more. He says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Here we notice that contentment is a quality that we learn. None of us is naturally born a contented person. Sin has caused our hearts to be dissatisfied all the time. However, the more we grow in our knowledge Christ the more we become contented. Second, notice also that contentment does not always corelate with how much we have. When we have less, we should guard against the discontented spirit which tells us that we will be happy only when we have more. When we have more, we should guard against discontentment which never says “enough” but “more is better.”

Paul further brings us to the secret of contentment in verse 13, “I can do all things through him (Christ) who strengthens me.” Sadly, this is one of the most abused or misunderstood verses in the Bible. I have seen athletes using this verse to mean that they can excel in sports through Christ. I have heard students who are about to write exams quoting this verse and assuring themselves that they will do well in the exams through Christ. Now it is true that without Christ we are nothing (John 15:5). It is also true that athletes and students can do well only if the Lord grants them success. However, the context of this verse has to do with facing plenty or hunger; having things in abundance or lacking things. Paul says he can thrive in any of these situations through Christ who strengthens him. The secret of contentment is Jesus Christ. 

All of us will pass through seasons in which we have more and other seasons in which we have less. How do we remain contented? It is through Christ alone. When we have little, we can be contented by reminding ourselves that even though we might not have some things we want we have the greatest treasure in Jesus Christ. And when we have more, we can also be contented by reminding ourselves that whatever we have in this life cannot be compared to our greatest treasure, Jesus Christ.  Christ reminds us in Luke 12:15 “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Life consists in Christ and not in possessions of this life.

In addition to knowing that Christ is our greatest treasure, we can also be contented in every situation by learning to differentiate between needs and wants. Sadly, many of us confuse the two. We often tend to view our wants as needs.  But needs are those you cannot live without while wants are those you can live without. Food is a need because we cannot live without it. But dining at that fancy restaurant in town is a want.  We can live without ever eating at the fancy restaurant. Charles Spurgeon put it well, “True contentment consists not in the largeness of our possessions, but in the fewness of our wants” The fewer wants we have the more likely we are to be contented in Christ.