To get into my topic, I've got to introduce a neat couple who both blog: Jason and Brandy. They're already linked on my sidebar. Jason recently wrote about false teaching, and his sweet wife brought up a question I hear a lot. She wrote,
"Did the Lord really name names, Mike? Think about that before you answer. Did He really name specific names? Groups of people (Sadducees and Pharisees) yeah sure. But specific people's names? And Paul? Did he? By all means, if they did, please provide the Scripture. I make no claims to my memory being the greatest, so if I'm all for learning if I'm correct or not.....I just never remember either Jesus Christ nor Paul (not that they are on the same level) naming specific names as you are suggesting that they did. Oh, yeah. Would you mind posting the Scripture or Scriptures that back your point -- the one saying it's ok to point out specific people and to name them by name and to point them out as false teachers."
It's an excellent question, because often people do not think you can name names. This particular thread had an interesting discussion about Benny Hinn, but he won't be my subject today. Let's examine the Scripture to see whether false teachers can ever be named specifically.
Certainly there are many general warnings against false teaching. Jesus' Olivet Discourse and Jude come to mind immediately:
Matt 24:11, 23-24
And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray....Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Here the Holy Spirit did not name names. There are times to give general warnings, especially when many teachers, perhaps, are spreading a particular false teaching. It's always the principalities involved with whom we are at war, not a person, so we should take care to direct our ire at the lies of the enemy.
However, we'd be missing part of the scripture, and an important tool for keeping the body of Christ clean and safe, if we skimmed over the verses where Paul does mention a couple of people--by name for the purpose of warning the flock against their teaching.
2 Tim 4:14-15
Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
2 Tim 2:16-18
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.
1 Tim 1:19-20
Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
It's not like these verses are preached a lot, so I can totally understand why Brandy would have the questions she did.
I gave an example in the comments section of their post that I want to expound on a bit (some of you have probably heard it before!). If I found out that there had been a psycho putting cyanide in bottles of Tylenol, and those bottles were headed for a CVS near your house, would I tell you, "Hey...you might want to watch out. I heard some pain relievers might be poisoned or something"? Or would I say, "There are bottles of Tylenol poisoned with cyanide headed for your neighborhood CVS!"?
You guessed it...I'd tell you specifically what the problem is, why, and how to avoid it. That's what I see Paul doing here.
As for Jesus, honestly, since the Sadducees and Pharisees were known to everyone and taught more as a group than as individuals, I think He was kind of calling them out when He taught the disciples about them:
'How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.' Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Brandy correctly pointed out that Jesus specifically warned against them. I think we have the same heart on the issue, but I just wanted to clarify, for anyone who wonders about this, that from the Word of God you can support exposing false teachers.
We can never support doing things--even 'righteous' things--out of spite or hatred, and God knows our hearts anyway. Naming names should be done in a way that is grounded and reasoned from the Word of God, with the purpose of helping God's children not to be led astray from the truth, as Jude wrote. It should not be done simply to humiliate, to threaten, or cast a pall on someone with whom we simply disagree in the Lord. We must, though, know the Truth well enough to know when it is being attacked, and defend it without compromise. Paul is a good example of this love and firmness in action.