I was standing in the auditorium after directing a rousing worship in song in Concord North Carolina when the mother of the cutest set of ten-year-old twin boys I had ever seen approached me. With tears in her eyes, she handed me a visitor's card which one of her boys had taken from the back of a pew and on which he had scrawled a note to me. The mother said, “I have never seen this kind of reaction from him during worship - no coloring, no falling asleep, just eyes glued to the podium and mouth wide open, making melody to the Lord!” The message read: “Good Job up there! Your Singer Bradley!”
Singing praises can have that effect. This is probably what song leaders wish people knew more than anything else: how important singing is because of all it can do! When we “sing with the spirit and sing with the mind” (1 Cor. 14-15), we are moved to proper affections and emotions and godly, courageous living. We are engaged in an activity that is not only God-honoring, it is “therapy for what ails us.” It is not about the quality of our voice; it is about the caliber of our heart. When I think of singing “with the spirit and with the mind,” I think of Wicky Poarch, who illustrates this truth for me and others who know her. Sitting erect in the pew, her shoes off, toes curled, both hands clinched, eyes closed, and voice quivering with emotional praise, she offers her best to the Lord. No one could look at Wicky and wonder what she is doing or if she will feel strengthened when she is finished!
Another benefit of singing praises is that it teaches and admonishes others (Col. 3:16). It is an evangelistic tool that can prepare or condition the heart to receive the word of God and move it to obedience. It can help make a place in the heart for God's word to dwell. I have seen this work in my own life. Up until I was about six years old, we lived in a little two-bedroom house next to my Great Grandmother. She was a native East Texan with a “green thumb” and a rich alto voice. She would set me on her lap, peel us a piece of fruit, and as the juices dripped from my chin, she would rock me to the words of such old-time hymns as “I'll Fly Away,” “We Shall See the King Someday,” and “Paradise Valley.” Her teaching stuck! It burrowed deep in me, set me on a biblical path, and helped to foster my spiritual development. Thanks be to God for His music teachers!
Additionally, effective congregational singing benefits from an acoustically-sound building and cooperative brethren. It is unfortunate that for a long time, concern for acoustics has given way to the popular vaulted ceilings in meeting-house construction. These ceilings, though admittedly beautiful, swallow our heartfelt a cappella music and prevent us from hearing anyone but ourselves sing. (Only the roar of a pipe organ could fill such a cavity!) In most cases this problem, of course, cannot be rectified. Therefore, we must do the best we can with the limitations we have. We must move to the front of the auditorium and sit close together. I know brethren are territorial and we have “our pew,” but sitting close together in the front of the auditorium, with a mind to sit up and sing out enthusiastically, goes a long way in lessening the problem of poor building acoustics.
I have observed that it is only when we acknowledge that singing hymns is as important in our worship as praying, that we give singing the attention it deserves. In places where brethren consider worship in song a priority, it is an honor to be invited to direct them because such singing has heavenly significance. It is a precursor of joys unspeakable. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Many brethren currently admonish us to be very careful in marking or labeling any as a “false teacher” unless there is certain proof that they act with evil intent, ulterior motives or from bad character (Matt Hennecke, Think, Vol. 36, No. 1). They argue that the word “false” applies to both the man and his teaching, so one must have provably bad character in addition to teaching error to be a “false teacher.” And, that without restricting the label “false teacher” in this way, we will end up calling “everyone a false teacher who disagrees with me.”
There might be some intemperate brethren using the “disagrees with me” standard, but limiting use of the biblical term “false teacher” to only those whose motives become “obvious” is far more restrictive than scriptures warrant.
Bro. Hennecke used Strong's definition of “secretly” in 2 Peter 2:1 to establish his “intent to deceive,” “motive becomes obvious” standard. Although this is not the right standard, this verse is the place to go to define the term “false teacher.” Peter says much more about them than just that they work “secretly.” 2 Pet. 2:1 -- “But false prophets also arose among the people, just [even KJV, NKJV] as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” [NASB].
First Peter tells us that “false teachers” will come “just as” (“even as”) there were “false prophets” among the God's people in the Old Testament. Study “false prophets” to begin a study of “false teachers” (Rom. 15:4). The label “false prophet” is never used in the Old Testament, but they are often described, especially in Jeremiah:
Jer. 5:31 -- “The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority”
Jer. 14:14 -- “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds.”
See also Jer. 20:6; 23:25,26,32; 27:15; 29:9,21 and Zech. 13:3.
The problem was the error of their message! Messages not from God led to ruin, just as the “destructive heresies” of today's “false teachers” will lead to ruin. “False prophets” claimed direct revelation for their messages. “False teachers” claim Biblical authority by twisting and distorting the scripture (2 Pet. 3:16).
Secondly, they “secretly introduce destructive heresies.” Bro. Hennecke concentrated on the “secretly” part referring to 2 Corinthians 11:4,13-16. “False apostles” disguise themselves as angels of light. This is parallel to what Jesus said about “false prophets,” “who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).
These passages reveal the weakness of the argument that the teacher's character must become “obvious” before we can label them as “false teachers.” What if their “angel disguise” or “sheep suit” is so well tailored that we never become aware of their true inward nature? What if it never becomes “obvious” that they are really bad people inside? What if we are too loving, too unsuspecting, too wary of impugning motives, or too forgiving of inconsistencies in our brother's conduct (inconsistencies that might be the key to figuring out the true intentions of the “false teachers” heart) to ever mark or avoid him?
Some would reply that we were too trusting since: “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?” (Matt. 7:16). Yet what is the first fruit by which we can know any teacher? Is it not what he teaches? The rest of the phrase that the word “secretly” is lifted from is, “introduce destructive heresies.” We can know “false teachers” by their “destructive heresies” regardless of how well their disguise their character. It is their error, false doctrine, “destructive heresy” the teaching that leads men who follow it into sin that makes one a “false teacher.” Using the “motive” standard instead of the “destructive heresy” standard is to ignore the first and obvious fruit; searching instead for the late blooming (or even hidden) and subjectively judged fruit.
God has better equipped Christians to compare a man's teaching the word (Ac. 20:28-32; 2 Tim. 1:13; 3:16,17; Isa. 8:20) than to know the secrets of another's heart. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him?” (1 Cor. 2:11). God alone knows the heart (Job 10:13; Psa. 44:21; 94:11; 139:23; Lk. 9:47; 16:15; Ac. 1:24; 15:8; 1 Jn. 3:20).
Does the label “false teacher” polarize? Yes. It is intended to polarize the “wolves in sheep's clothing” from the lambs they wish to devour.
Bro. Hennecke concluded by saying that he “feel[s] inclined to avoid a label that only polarizes.” But this label is the one of the ones God gave us for the purpose of polarizing the “wolves in sheep's clothing” from the lambs they wish to devour.
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