Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word
Posted by Michelle Lesley in Discernment
I hate having to warn women against false teachers. I really do. I would like nothing better than to write Bible studies all day long, but, like Jude said, sometimes contending for the faith is more urgent at the moment. Today, as it was in the New Testament church, false doctrine is rampant. You can hardly throw a rock out the sanctuary window without hitting a false teacher, particularly female false teachers.
Invariably, when I warn against a specific popular false teacher I get a few responses from disgruntled readers jumping to that teacher’s defense. (I understand where those feelings come from. I’ve had to hear hard, biblical truths about teachers I’ve followed, too. It’s no fun.) I tend to hear the same arguments over and over (which is one reason I wrote this article). But there’s one thing all of these arguments have in common:
They’re not based on rightly handled Scripture.
Sometimes they’re not based on Scripture at all.
As Christians, we are supposed to base everything we believe and teach upon the truth of Scripture. And the women defending these false teachers aren’t doing that. They’re basing their defense of a false teacher on twisted, out of context Scripture and/or their own opinions, feelings, experiences, and preferences.
Sometimes these ladies will try to appeal to Scripture to defend the false teacher. I applaud them for that. Genuinely. At least they know that we’re supposed to be basing what we say and do on the Bible. That’s a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, most of these attempts only reveal how poorly they’ve been taught the Bible by the false teachers who have trained them.
“Did you meet privately with this teacher before writing this article?”
“You’re just judging! The Bible says not to judge!”
“You’re creating division in the church!”
Most of the time these women have no idea where those Scriptures are found, or even precisely what they say, much less the context of the verses they’re appealing to. (In order not to misunderstand their intent, I usually have to respond by saying, “Are you referring to Matthew 18:15-20?” or “I’m sorry, could you tell me which verse you’re talking about?”) They don’t know or understand the Scripture they’re alluding to, they’re just repeating what they’ve heard from the false teacher (or her other followers) defending herself and lashing out at those who call her to account.
Nothing More than Feelings:
Perhaps more disturbing are the near-Stepford gushings of some defenders:
“I’ve never heard anything so mean! How could you say such things about this wonderful teacher?”
“I just love her and the way she teaches!”
“You’re just jealous of her success.”
“She’s been such a help and encouragement to me!”
These ladies don’t even attempt to bring the Bible into the discussion, and their loving support for the false teacher is often coupled with vitriolic, completely un-Christlike, devoid of any fruit of the Spirit, attacks on those who dare to question the false teacher. I like this person. I’ve had a positive experience with this person. I have good feelings and opinions about this person. And that – not the Bible – is what I’m basing my decision to follow her upon. How dare you speak against her?
And is it any wonder? When women sit under the teaching of pastors and teachers who skip through the Bible ripping verses out of context and twisting their meanings, who say “the Bible says” followed by their own agenda and imaginings, who point women back to themselves as their own authority, rather than Scripture, by basing their teachings on their own ideas and life experiences instead of the Bible, what do we expect?
Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-20:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (emphasis, mine)
Ladies, look at the fruits of these false teachers: women who believe false doctrine because they are unable to properly read, understand, and handle God’s word, and who base their belief system on their own feelings rather than on the authority of Scripture. That is bad fruit from a diseased tree.
Christian women must be properly trained in the Scriptures. How? By eradicating false teachers and all their sundry materials from our churches, homes, and Bible study classes. By properly training Sunday School and Bible study teachers. By teaching the women of our churches proper hermeneutics and sound doctrine. By exercising biblical church discipline against false teaching. And most of all, by reinstating the authority of Scripture to its rightful preeminence in our lives and in our churches.
It is imperative that we train Christians to understand and embrace that Scripture alone decides what we believe, which teachers we allow into our churches and our lives, and how we are to worship and practice the Christian faith. Basing these things on our feelings, opinions, and preferences is folly, a house built on the sand, because our hearts are deceitful and desperately sick, and we will always trend toward having our ears tickled with smooth words rather than having our souls pierced by the sharp two edged sword of God’s word. “Sanctify them in the truth,” Jesus prayed in John 17:17, “Your word is truth.” And, indeed it is. It is the only trustworthy basis for life, faith, and doctrine that will never lead us astray. When our feelings and opinions rise up against God’s word, God’s word wins.
May we hold high the banner of Sola Scriptura, training the precious souls of women to understand and submit to the authority of God’s word, that one day, bad fruit and diseased trees might become a thing of the past.