When one disagrees with the newest book, a message spoken from a pulpit or television progam, someone often will come back with…”Did you contact the person first before making your opposing view known, so that you will be in accordance with Matthew 18?”

The Berean Call answers this quite well.

(The following is TBC’s very first Q&A published in February, 1986)

Question: Does TBC follow “Matthew 18” and first go to the authors and/or leaders it critiques in newsletters and books?

by Dave Hunt

Response: Matthew 18:15-17 has to do with private (not public) sin committed by one brother or sister in the Body against another. “Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee…” (KJV). All translations agree that the subject is sin or trespass, not false teaching. Although a few do not specifically state in verse 15 that this is a trespass by one Christian against another, the context makes this clear in all translations. Look for example at verse 21, where Peter, in response to what the Lord has said, asks Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” (KJV); “how often shall my brother sin against me” (RSV); “how many times can my brother wrong me” (Phillips); “how often shall my brother sin against me” (NAS), etc.

The entire context has to do strictly with a personal problem between two Christians, where one has wronged the other, and is therefore to be kept private unless it can’t be resolved in that manner. In contrast, many other scriptures make it very clear that sin which is known publicly is an offense to the entire Body and must be dealt with publicly: “Them that sin rebuke before all that others also may fear” (1 Tm 5:20, KJV). This is both for the benefit of the body of Christ and also to let the world know that the church doesn’t tolerate sin. False doctrine is not the subject of Matthew 18, but something else entirely, and does not come under the instructions Christ gives in that passage. It is impossible for erroneous teaching that is presented publicly ever to be considered a private trespass of one person against another, which must therefore be dealt with privately between the two.

False doctrine is never a private matter and is always to be dealt with publicly. Much of the New Testament was written to publicly correct false teaching. Even the beloved Apostle John named Diotrephes in 3 John and promised that when he came to that church he would publicly correct the Offender in person. Paul withstood Peter to the face publicly for his false interpretation of the law that caused Him not to associate with Gentile believers (Gal 2:11-14). In a day of mass media, particularly when denied access to Christian TV networks, the only method of public correction of false teaching is to write books [and blogs] to call the attention of the Body to errors that affect the whole Body.

In keeping with many other scriptures that could be cited, 1 Corinthians 14:29 clearly states, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.” Clearly the issue is not whether an individual listener is offended by what one of the preachers has said, even if one could stretch that to be a “sin” against his brother. It would be entirely inappropriate for a listener to take aside the prophet he felt had spoken falsely and have a private discussion with him, and only if he refused to hear, then tell it to the church. The issue is the doctrinal purity of the Body, which must be guarded at all cost. And what has been publicly stated must be discussed publicly. It may well be that the prophet spoke truly and the offended listener was wrong. So when he speaks out against what the prophet has said, he himself will be corrected by others. It is this kind of open discussion among believers that the Bible teaches, and that is the only protection against error being introduced and allowed to corrupt the church. Never is it suggested that no one must disagree with what is being taught because to do so would cause “division.” On the contrary, we are told that we must correct error in teaching and do so publicly.

Furthermore, what has been said in books and on TV etc. is part of the public domain, subject to review, analysis, critique of any kind. Anyone who makes public declarations intended to influence large audiences through books, radio, TV etc. ought to know that he is responsible for what he says, and will be held accountable. No one has ever asked me for permission or even discussed with me critiquing any of my many books, and some reviews have been very unfavorable. That is expected.

It is not necessary to talk with a writer or speaker in order to be accurate and fair. It is a rather weak excuse to say that some writer/leader really didn’t mean what he said. Then he should have said what he meant. Unfortunately, there are thousands and, in the case of some, millions who have read and/or heard and taken it at face value, as any reasonable person would. Words have meaning and it is assumed that the normal meaning applies. Even if one of these teachers has changed his beliefs, we must still deal with what has been published for the sake of those who have been affected by it. If a person has changed his beliefs, then he ought to publish just as widely in tape and book form a renunciation of any false or misleading teaching he has given in the past rather than make a private explanation to me.