“Those who think that unsound ministers ought never to be exposed and held up to notice, and men ought never to be warned against them, would do well to study this passage. No class of character throughout our Lord’s ministry seems to call forth such severe denunciation as that of false pastors. The reason is obvious. Other men ruin themselves alone: false pastors ruin their flocks as well as themselves. To flatter all ordained men, and say they never should be called unsound and dangerous guides, is the surest way to injure the Church and offend Christ.”
–J.C. Ryle, on John Chapter 10
HT: Crosstalk Blog
This quote is a sound refutation of the idea that criticizing professing ministers only brings division and dishonor to the body of Christ. Yes, sometimes pointing out the wolf among the sheep will create a dividing line where factions will take sides, but Scripture addresses this issue in 1 Cor 11:18-19:
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.
Here, the apostle Paul is addressing a controversy over the Lord’s Supper. It’s interesting that he writes that factions are a necessity when error is introduced into the church. This is to divide the wheat from the chaff. ‘Genuine’ carries the meaning of one tested and approved of God. Believers who have been confronted with a doctrinal error will stand true to the doctrine they have received and speak out in protest. This is the right course of action, even if it causes strife in the body. Allowing error to go unchecked will ultimately bring disgrace and dishonor to Christ and his church.
Think about it. What if Martin Luther had decided to keep peace with the Roman Catholic church instead of drawing the line in the sand over the doctrine of justification? There may have been no Protestant Reformation! With no Protestant Reformation the doctrine of justification by faith alone would have been lost and the church today would be bound up in a works-righteousness system. God forbid!
Wolves that ravage the sheep unhindered are the cause of all the bloody carnage inside the church today. These wolves are strong, able to rend entire flocks with a few snaps of their slavering jowls. Those God has gifted with discernment should shine the spotlight on false teachers, never shying away from naming names and calling out heresy when it is demonstrated. Don’t be afraid of divisions on account of God’s holy word. If these wolves are bold enough to stand before both men and God and proclaim lie upon lie then the sheep should be even bolder in exposing false teachers and their teaching. After all, we are the ones who have the support of both God and his holy writ.
Show yourself tested and approved – a genuine Christian. Make a stand for the one true gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when falsehoods arise. Be assured, they will arise. I can’t promise it will go well. Persecutions and alienation may come, but the grace of God will preserve and uphold you through all trials.