Refuting False Teachings & Rebuking False Teachers – The Neglected Half – By Rev George Ong (Dated 5 Jan 2021)
As a prelude to this article, please view the short video, titled, “Joseph Prince Rebuked & His Heresies Refuted By Bishop Kuan Kim Seng”
“In Titus 1:5-9, Paul lists the qualifications that an elder or a pastor must possess before he is appointed. In Titus 1:9, Paul teaches that as part of the qualifications of an elder or a pastor, he must first know sound doctrine. Second, he must be able to refute and be willing to rebuke those who oppose sound doctrine (Tit 1:9,13).
While the role of teaching sound doctrine is faithfully carried out by most elders and pastors, sadly, the more unpopular and unpleasant task of refuting false teachings and rebuking false teachers, are often neglected and largely ignored.
It is precisely because elders and pastors only cared to preach sound doctrine, the easier part, and avoided the more difficult task of refuting false teachings and rebuking false teachers that have partly resulted in the proliferation of the Pseudo-grace (or Hyper-grace) doctrine. This has caused many believers to be infected with the deadly doctrinal virus of Joseph Prince.
There are shepherds who have stayed away from the unenviable task of refuting and rebuking in order not to spoil their nice, respectable and loving image. There are others who are of the view that when it comes to refuting and rebuking, they shouldn’t mention the names of false teachers, but the focus should be on the false teachings.
But is that what Paul teaches? – That we just oppose the false teachings and not the false teachers? Of course not. Paul said we are to “refute those who oppose it” (Tit 1:9 NIV), or “rebuke those who contradict it” (Tit 1:9 ESV). Paul also said, “Therefore rebuke them sharply” (Tit 1:13 NIV). ‘Those’ and ‘them’ must refer to the false teachers themselves, not just their teachings. In two other instances (1 Tim 1:19-20; 2 Tim 2:16-18), Paul publicly named them – Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus, and he even delivered two of them to the hands of Satan.
Paul himself had to rebuke Peter by name when he began acting like a hypocrite – as, by Peter’s hypocritical action, the gospel stands the danger of being compromised (Gal 2:11-14). If Paul had the guts to rebuke Apostle Peter by name and publicly because the gospel is being threatened, how much more should we be uncompromising and courageous to do the same with false teachers such as Joseph Prince who is not only corrupting the gospel but also leading the multitudes to hell?
Did Jesus say,
“It would not be good and impolite for me to mention the names of false teachers in order not to be personal, but just to mention the false doctrines they are teaching will do”?
No! Jesus mentioned Nicolaitans and Nicolaitans is a name (Rev 2:6,15). Jesus mentioned Jezebel and Jezebel is a name (Rev 2:20).
So the issue is not about being personal; it is about obeying the word of God. It is not about our personal preference of taking on a more diplomatic approach, but it is about protecting and guarding the sheep against being devoured by the wolves. And to do that, not only do we need to teach sound doctrine, but we must also be prepared to refute and rebuke false teachers.
The trouble is, many elders and pastors are unwilling to do the refuting and rebuking as they do not want to be seen as divisive, censorious and unloving. And because of this wrong attitude, they fall right into the deception of the devil. No wonder, the false teacher, Joseph Prince is running wild, infiltrating and causing havoc to the Church of Jesus Christ with reckless abandon as there are only a few who dare to speak up.
In my knowledge, there are only a few pastors and elders who have the courage to rebuke Joseph Prince and refute his teachings in the pulpits of their churches that Bishop Kuan Kim Seng has modelled for us (see above video). If we do not have the courage to do that, then we are only acting as cowards.
A W Tozer wrote,
“I do not believe in the weak tolerance that we hear preached so often now, the idea that Jesus must tolerate everyone and that the Christian must tolerate every kind of doctrine. When we become so tolerant that we lead people into mental fog and spiritual darkness we are not acting like Christians, we are acting like cowards!”
John Calvin wrote,
“A dog barks when his master is attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God’s truth is attacked and yet would remain silent.”
George Ong wrote,
“The equivalent of inaction to the evil and intrusion of heresy is not indifference but cowardice.”
Indeed, there is no place for cowardice but courage is needed to contend against false teachings/teachers more than ever. Why? – Because the prevalence of heresies is not a hypothetical issue but is happening right in our own backyard of Singapore. It is happening right under our noses in the person and ministry of Joseph Prince. Are we blind to the fact that a wolf – Joseph Prince – helms the biggest ‘church’ in Singapore? Are we ignorant that his false grace theology is influencing the multitudes in the many nations of the world? So, how can anyone deny that false teachings have become a serious threat in Singapore?
The Singapore church has been ‘sleeping’ for too long, and ‘living in denial mode’, allowing the cancer of Joseph Prince’s heresy to eat her up little by little! Remember, we are not dealing with an imaginary situation but with a real and serious issue – with a heretic, called Joseph Prince, who originates from Singapore.
I have many Christian friends from overseas who have asked me why is the Singapore church not doing anything with him. They have often wondered why is Joseph Prince’s church still considered part of the Singapore church when what he is dishing out are clear-cut and destructive heresies that have infected not just Singapore but also the nations they come from. They have expressed to me that if only the Singapore church has dealt with the issue promptly and firmly, the problem would have been largely contained, and they wouldn’t have to be ladened with the same problem as we do, as many of their own church members have been infected with the same doctrinal virus of Joseph Prince’s heresy.
It is perfectly understandable and acceptable for a Singapore pastor to say, “I can’t be refuting false teachings and rebuking false teachers every Sunday as I am a pastor who has to preach the whole counsel of God.”
But it is a different matter altogether if the same pastor goes on to say, “But even if I come across passages that dwell on false teachers and false teachings in my expository or liturgical preaching (and, if one cares to look, there are plenty of such passages in the scriptures), I am not comfortable at warning my local church against heretics such as Joseph Prince and his heresies, even though he is from my nation of Singapore and messing up the doctrines of many churches and Christians around the world.”
Of course, I don’t expect pastors to do what I am doing (in that focussed manner) as this is a special calling from God (for this season). But neither should that be used as a convenient excuse for not doing anything. Every Singapore pastor and elder must answer this question honestly – in their years of preaching ministry, have they ever refuted the heresies of Joseph Prince and rebuked him even once before their congregation so that their flock could be warned against straying into his fold?
There are some Singapore pastors who say, “George, if we deal with Joseph Prince, are you telling us that we also have to deal with all other heretics and heresies?”
I say, “Wait a minute, if we aren’t prepared to take responsibility to clean up the dirt in our own backyard and deal with Joseph Prince, the heretic who hails from Singapore in the first place, why are we talking about other heretics? Isn’t that a copout to exonerate ourselves from what we should have done in the past and what we should now be doing in the present in contending against his heresies?”
There are yet others who say, “George, don’t waste your time contending against Joseph Prince. If God wants to bring him down, He would do it in His time.”
My reply is this, “Then why don’t we apply this same argument to evangelism too – that if God wants to save people from their sins, He would Himself do it as He knows before the foundation of the world who would be saved and who wouldn’t, and He doesn’t need our help to witness to unbelievers. Why don’t we use the same ‘If-God-can-do-why-are-we-doing’ argument and apply it to all other areas of life? Why do we make heretics and heresies the exceptions?
Of course, God could do His part if He wants to. But does this mean we do nothing? What’s more is that the scriptures have clearly stated that pastors and elders are to refute false teachings and rebuke false teachers (Tit 1:9). Don’t these leaders know that not to do anything about heretics and heresies is a serious matter as that is tantamount to disobeying God? And to offer excuses for our inaction and disobedience is even a worse misdeed. To know that such lame and super-spiritual arguments can come from spiritual leaders of churches really saddens me.
Are we not responsible for not doing anything or not doing enough to stop the spread of Joseph Prince’s heresies that have gone beyond the shores of Singapore? As the spiritual leaders of Singapore, do we even feel a sense of responsibility to begin with? Even though we have made honest mistakes in the past, have we woken up now as to what needs to be done to contend against his heresies? The reality and the troubling thing is many don’t. Where are the leaders of courage who are imbued with the conviction to do what is necessary? Why is there such a deafening silence from the spiritual leadership regarding the heretic, Joseph Prince and his heresies? If leaders choose to stay cowardly silent against the onslaught of Joseph Prince’s heresies, the church is in trouble. Silence is not an option. “To stay silent against the onslaught of false teachings is to acquiesce.” (George Ong)
As Singapore pastors and elders, we must bear the corporate responsibility for not doing enough to contend against Joseph Prince’s heresies for all these years – thereby allowing the cancer of his heretic virus to infect not just Singapore but also the world. We owe the world an apology!
“The irony in the modern church is this – pastors and elders who obey the scriptures to refute false teachings and rebuke false teachers are sharply criticised for being unloving, divisive and intolerant. Conversely, pastors and elders who disobey the scriptures by keeping silent and dare not raise a whimper against false teachers to avoid trouble and to protect their respectable image are praised for being loving, tolerant and for promoting unity.” (George Ong)
Some shepherds may say,
“I am more comfortable with preaching sound doctrine. But I am not the type to refute the views of others and rebuke them.”
Friends, it is not about your personal preference but about obeying God’s word. Paul specifically says that he expects you as a shepherd not only to teach sound doctrine but to refute false teachings and rebuke false teachers (Tit 1:9,13).
Other shepherds may say,
“The best way of confronting false teachings is just to teach sound doctrine. If you help people know the truth, they would automatically know how to detect the false. So, just concentrate on the word and don’t worry about those false teachings that these false teachers are churning out.”
Yes, while it is true that knowing sound doctrine is a must and it would certainly help your flock to detect the false, but did the Bible say that that is all that you, as a shepherd, is supposed to do? Absolutely not! Teaching sound doctrine is the first step; refuting false teachings and rebuking false teachers is the next step that Paul expects you to do.
This is more so given the fact that Joseph Prince’s teachings are so deceptive and crafty that experienced teachers of the word are needed to sift out the heresies that are embedded in the truth that many sheep may not immediately discern.
So, exposing and rebuking false teachers is a responsibility of the church leadership that no elder or pastor can run away from.
One must also remember that ‘Speaking the truth in love’ (Eph 4:15) is applicable more to the Body of Christ, and perhaps to heretics who are amenable to correction, but never to unrepentant and defiant heretics who are out to destroy the church. Instead, we are instructed by Paul to sharply rebuke and silence them (Tit 1:9,11,13) and we must never give in to false teachers for a single moment because the truth of the gospel must be preserved (Gal 2:4-5 NLT).
Jesus has already prophesied that in the last days, false prophets will arise and deceive many (Matt 24:2-5,11). The problem of false teachers will not go away, but it will only get worse before the return of Jesus. If false teachings/teachers are not contended against promptly and courageously, they will spread like gangrene and destroy the faith of your flock (2 Tim 2:17-18).”
Rev George Ong