Publicly Identifying Backsliders and Other Trouble-Makers

Purpose:

The purpose of this article is to present the Scriptural merits of intentionally naming backsliders and other trouble-makers, so that their identities can be made public to the church at large.

Introduction:

There is great Biblical precedence for the use of personal names in the Scriptures. The Bible is replete with tens of thousands of names, some famous, some infamous, some mentioned hundreds upon hundreds of times, some only mentioned once.

Since we know and affirm that the Holy Scriptures is the Word of God and so, is inspired by Him for our benefit (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we must conclude that all names, as preserved in the Word, are there for an ordained purpose.

It just so happens that some of the names written therein, being that the Word is “forever settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89), are placed in the Bible to be eternal reminders of those in whom the Lord had no “pleasure” (See Hebrews 10:38).

Precedence:

The following section will show ample Biblical precedence for the public identification of those unfortunate souls who, for whatever reason, forsook the Lord and His Kingdom (All examples will be from the New Testament). Following the Scriptural references, some comments will be made.

1 Timothy 1:18-20,

18. This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;
19. Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
20. Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Note verse 20. These two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, formally men of Christian faith, where delivered over to Satan. Why? Because they had become blasphemers.

In some way not revealed by the Apostle, Paul fully expected that turning these two men over to Satan was going to “teach them a lesson”, as the saying goes.

And look what he did in the process of writing this passage. He called these two out by name, making their sin and their given course of discipline on account of their sin, public. In Paul’s eyes, blasphemy (either against Christ or others) is a sufficient reason for publicly naming backsliders.

2 Timothy 1:15-18

15. This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.
16. The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:
17. But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me.
18. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.

Note the distinction. Even as God said in the beginning chapters of Genesis, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door” (Genesis 4:7).

Onesiphorus did well in maintaining a righteous fellowship with Paul, who was, at this point in his life, a prisoner in Rome. But compare that to Pygellus and Hermogenes.

While we know nothing else of these two, sadly, we know enough. They, along with many others in Asia Minor, abandoned Paul. We don’t know the reasons why, but we ought to ask ourselves: why would two true men of faith forsake an Apostle of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ?

(A side note: “turned away from” is one Greek word, namely apostrepho. It means to turn away from, to tempt to defect, to dissipate allegiances, to desert. The use of this word strongly suggests that these two men didn’t depart from Paul on amicable terms. They cancelled their brotherhood with Paul, literally turning their backs on him.)

2 Timothy 2:16-18

16. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.
17. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus;
18. Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.

Is it the same Hymenaeus? We can’t be sure, but we also have no reason to assume it’s not the same man. And what if it is? This is the second letter Paul wrote to Timothy, and it’s also the second time Hymenaeus has been publicly indentified. This also means this time around, this naming of names has occurred after Paul turned Hymenaeus over to Satan as a blasphemer.

So now look at him. Blaspheming wasn’t enough. Being turned over to Satan for some form of spiritual punishment wasn’t enough. Now he’s gone in with someone named Philetus, and they’ve both become false teachers. Not only did Hymenaeus backslide from the faith through unrepentant sin, he stayed on pretending to be a Christian, a teacher of the Word of God no less, but in his deception, he began to ruin the trust other believers in the Christian community had in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the hope of resurrection from the dead His appearance would usher into the world .

Clearly, we see why Paul made the effort to publicly identify these men: they were backslidden, false teaching, trouble-makers seeking to destroy the temple of the Holy Spirit of God.

2 Timothy 4:10

10. For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica…

Here, Paul announces a formerly faithful man of God as a backslider (See Colossians 4:14 and Philemon 1:24 for proof that Demas used to be a Christian minister and laborer for the Gospel).

Note, too, the strong language Paul uses, chiefly “forsaken” and “loved”. Forsaken is the Greek word egkataleipo. It is a severe word. It means “to abandon, desert, leave in straits, leave helpless, totally abandon, utterly forsake” and etc. In contrast, the same word is used in Hebrews 10:25, as in not “forsaking” the assembling of ourselves together, and also in Hebrews 13:5, which promises us the Lord will never “forsake” us.

Demas, because he loved (i.e. agapao, meaning to love dearly, to be well-pleased or content with) the present world, even in the face of 1 John 2:15-16, left Paul high and dry.

1 John 2:15-16,

15. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

Demas ditched Paul the Prisoner in Rome, right before his martyrdom. He loved the world more than he loved a soon to be beheaded-for-the-Gospel brother in the Lord. The love of the Father was no longer in Demas.

He backslid, and he was publicly identified, with his sin publicly announced in the Scriptures.

3 John 1:9-12

9. I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
10. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
11. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God.
12. Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.

Again, notice the contrast:

One man, an obvious trouble-maker and antichrist (he who receives the Apostles receives Christ, right? So what about someone who rejects the Apostles?), frequently and falsely accused New Jerusalem’s foundation (See Revelation 21:14) of whatever hurtful nonsense he could invent (“prating against” means to utter non-sensical, baseless claims, while “malicious words” means statements intended to inflict pain or be hurtful), and not only, but also rejected brothers sent to him by the Apostle, even to the point of ex-communicating those in his assembly who dared to receive and fellowship with Apostle-approved brothers in the Lord.

Now note what John said: He wasn’t about to forget Diotrephes’ evil deeds any time soon. What does this mean? Well, note how John, after publicly denouncing Diotrephes to the church, commended and showed approval for a man named Demetrius. We cannot know for sure, but it looks like the man “who love[d] to have the preeminence” was disposed by the Apostle and another, like Matthias with Judas, was set up to take his place.

Conclusion:

We have just read five different Biblical accounts, written by two different Apostles, in which seven different men, all formerly Christian disciples of Jesus, with some at least having been ministers, were publicly identified as backsliders and trouble-makers to the church at large.

The Holy Spirit inspired that these names would forever be settled in heaven. Whether these men ever repented or not, we do not know. But in the pages of the Bible, we can only come to one conclusion: these men were fallen, not just lost sinners, but backsliders who forsook the Lord, forsook His Apostles, forsook the Word, and in the process, caused much personal and corporate damage to the Church.

We see therefore a sound precedence in which we, in our day and age, have a right and a duty to do the same as Paul and John. We must make the church aware of any and all backslidden, fallen, false teaching, trouble-making, soul-harming, Christ forsaking former brethren who no longer are saved.

We are not talking about someone walking away from the faith for mere carnal reasons. Many give up on Jesus. But some not only give up on Him, they actively pursue a course of action that detrimentally affects those who have remained faithful.

If someone wants to jump ship, but isn’t causing anyone in the church any problems, they need not be publicly identified. But those injurious persons who, having left the faith, intend to continue to cause problems for the believers, must be named, their sins must be proclaimed, and the church in general must be commanded to keep no company with such, for the sake, not only of their own soul, but for the Church, as well who is a Holy Bride unto the Lord.

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~ by votivesoul on 04/05/2014.

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