Should We Name Names?
Bible tells us in John 13:35: "By this shall all men know that ye are My
disciples, if ye have love one to another." Does this love mean that we are to
approve sin and wrong in other people's lives (especially among leaders) and
remain quiet? Is it ever right to mention a person's name in print or in public
and point out the sin which was committed? Should the sinning individual be
confronted privately, if at all? These are important questions and we will see
what the Bible teaches in this area.
verse that many use is Matthew 18:15-17: "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass
against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall
hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take
with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every
word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the
church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen
man and a publican."
all, we notice that if a brother sins against another individual, then he
is to be confronted on this issue in private. If he refuses to listen
concerning his sin, then a person is to take 1 or 2 more individuals as
witnesses and once more consult this person about the sin issue. If he still
refuses to repent, the issue is to be taken before the entire church. Finally,
if the person is still obstinate and unrepentant, then he is to be considered as
a heathen man.
sinning individual is to be confronted about his sin, but does a person have to
follow the order laid in Matthew 18 in every instance? The answer to that
question is "Yes" and "No", but it DEPENDS on the circumstances
surrounding the sin. If the sin is committed against AN INDIVIDUAL, then an
individual and private confrontation is needed and Matthew 18 is to be
followed. However, if the sin is a blatant sin, such as teaching false doctrine
publicly, or where a person's lifestyle is inconsistent with God's Word, then
this person does not need to be confronted personally and privately. For
instance, let's look at a number of Biblical examples concerning this subject.
the Bible is full of "name calling." The apostles weren't afraid to put names in
their letters. For example, Paul said: "Demos hath forsaken me, having loved
this present world" (II Timothy 4:10). Paul not only gave a particular name but
he also told where Demos had erred. At one time Demos had been a helper of
Paul's, but now he had forsaken the true way. James 4:4 reminds us: "Ye
adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is
enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy
of God." By loving this present world, Demas became the enemy of God and Paul
called him by name and told about his sin.
interesting to note is that Paul is writing to a young minister, Timothy. Not
only is Paul giving advice about what Timothy should and should not do, he also
informs him about a number of individuals BY NAME of whom he is to be
continues by warning Timothy: "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil...of
whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words" (II Timothy
4:14-15). There is no indication whatsoever that Paul confronted Alexander
personally or that he took the issue to the church before writing his letter.
The sin he committed was evidently one that needed to be confronted publicly and
Paul had written to Timothy: "Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some
having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Hymenaeus and Alexander;
whom I have delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme" (I Timothy
the sin that Hymenaeus committed? Paul answers that in II Timothy 2:17-18: "Hymenaeus
and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying the resurrection is
past already; and overthrow the faith of some" (II Timothy 2:17-18). You see,
these people were influencing others by what they were teaching. They were
presenting erroneous doctrine publicly and, therefore, they could be denounced
publicly without applying Matthew 18:15-17. The sins committed were not
against a particular individual but rather they were affecting many. Private
confrontation in this case was not necessary because more than one person was
involved. In fact, the sin of Hymenaeus and Philetus was causing many to lose
the faith that they once had. When individuals have influence over others, their
sin and counterfeit gospel are to be exposed publicly.
the Bible emphatically warns us: Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of
darkness, but rather REPROVE them" (Ephesians 5:11). This is a two-fold
command. We are not only not to have fellowship with those who are ungodly but
we are also to reprove them. It is not enough just to stay away from
unrighteousness and unrighteous individuals but we are commanded to expose the
wrongdoing as well. Are you following the Biblical commands laid down in God's
continues to warn Timothy: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times
shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters,
proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural
affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of
those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than
lovers of God; HAVING A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENYING THE POWER THEREOF:
FROM SUCH TURN AWAY. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and
lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever
learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes
and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt
minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for
their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was" (II Timothy
see that Paul not only told Timothy what will take place in the last days, but
he also mentioned some more names: Jannes and Jambres.
book of Acts we find that Elymas the sorcerer was specified by name
because he was "seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith" (Acts 13:8).
Paul even called Ananias, the high priest, a "whited wall" in front of others
Peter was acting hypocritically and Paul confronted him "before them all"
(Galatians 2:14) "because he was to be blamed" (Galatians 2:11). Here was a
brother in Christ, yet Paul did not talk to him privately but he openly and
publicly challenged him before others. You see, Peter was influencing others in
what he had done: "And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch
that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation" (Galatians 2:13).
Open sins and hypocrisy deserve open rebuke. In fact, Proverbs 27:5 states:
"Open rebuke is better than secret love."
9:8 also reminds us: "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee." This was true
of Peter for he later refers to Paul as "our beloved brother Paul" (II Peter
3:15). Proverbs 27:6 tells us: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the
kisses of an enemy are deceitful." "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will
be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning" (Proverbs
Paul was not the only apostle to name names. Peter himself did when
he confronted Ananias and Sapphira and rebuked them (Acts 5:1-11). Again, this
confrontation was not done in private but before others. Ananias and Sapphira
lied publicly and they were confronted publicly.
it up well: "Them that sin rebuke before all, that others may fear" (I Timothy
5:20). There is no need for a private encounter with people who are sinning
openly. Individuals who claim that we must always apply Matthew 18 are often
using this Scripture as a "cop-out." When false teachers preach wrong doctrines
and one of God's children opens them up, these false prophets cry, "They should
have come to us privately. They didn't speak to us according to the Biblical
directive." There are several problems with this excuse.
all, when a person teaches incorrect doctrine publicly, there is no need for a
private meeting. The sin is not against one particular individual but rather
against the church of God. Many people are being effected and influenced by the
perverted gospel. Second, have you ever tried getting past the secretary to
speak to some of the "big names" in radio and TV? There is practically no way to
even contact these people to speak with them privately, so they hide behind
Matthew 18 as a way to keep from being exposed for their wrong doctrine. It
makes a convenient cover for them to continue sinning.
however, does not teach that we must contact each individual personally and
privately. The apostle John called out against Diotrephes by name in one of his
letters. He stated: "Diotrephes who loveth the preeminence among them, receiveth
us not" (III John 1:9). He then listed some of Diotrephes' faults: "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"
(III John 1:10).
himself named names. He called Herod a fox in Luke 13:32. Elsewhere Jesus didn't
mention names, but He sure did narrow down the group when He said: "Beware of
the scribes" (Luke 20:46) and "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!"
(Matthew 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29) and "Woe unto you also, ye lawyers!"
(Luke 11:46, 52). Jesus also listed their sins by name. He said the scribes
"desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the
highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour
widows' houses, and for a shew make long prayers" (Luke 20:46-47). Yes, these
scribes had a "form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (II Timothy
3:5) and we are further told "from such turn away." Jesus said that these
scribes would "receive the greater damnation" (Matthew 23:14; Luke 20:47). As
Jesus continues His warning to these scribes and Pharisees, He said: "Woe unto
you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres,
which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones,
and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but
within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matthew 23:27-28). Outwardly
these people appear pious, righteous, and holy to many because they hide behind
the cloak of religion, but inwardly they are ravening wolves trying to destroy
the flock of God.
Corinthians 11:13-15 we find: "For such are false apostles, deceitful
workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel;
for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no
great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of
righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." Sometimes it may be
difficult to tell the true from the false but the Bible gives us guidelines in
this area as well. We can discern these false prophets by watching the fruit
they produce: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing,
but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do
men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree
bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good
tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good
fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into
the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that
saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but HE
THAT DOETH THE WILL OF MY FATHER which is in heaven. Many will say to me in
that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have
cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I
profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity"
false teachers can do miracles, they utter prophesies that were supposedly from
God, and they do wonderful works, yet they are not saved and will not enter
heaven. The fruit they bear is corrupt and those who partake of this rotten
fruit will also be deceived and miss out on heaven as well. This is why it is so
important to call out against the wrong because not only are the false teachers
hurting themselves, they are hurting and leading multiplied thousands, and
perhaps millions, of souls to hell with them.
As a child
of God, we are to: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;
REPROVE, REBUKE, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (II Timothy
4:2). "These things speak, and exhort, and REBUKE with all authority"
writing to Titus, told him: "There are many unruly and vain talkers and
deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who
subvert whole houses, TEACHING THINGS WHICH THEY OUGHT NOT, for filthy
lucre's sake....Wherefore REBUKE THEM SHARPLY, that they may be sound in the
faith; Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from
the truth" (Titus 1:10-13, in part).
this deceptive teaching enter the church in the first place? One way is through
COMPROMISE. Perhaps a wealthy businessman starts attending your church and for
the sake of money, the pastor will tone down the message so as not to offend
him. Little by little the truth is preached less and less and soon false
doctrine is being presented for fear that the truth of God's Word will upset the
teachings are salvation by works alone, the belief that the blood of Jesus
Christ does not atone, and the theory that man is divine or a god.
counterfeit doctrine that entered the church is Unitarianism, a belief that
denies the Trinity and claims that Jesus was only human and not divine. One
author who was sympathetic to the Unitarian doctrine bragged that Unitarianism
was able to survive because of a mood of COMPROMISE. This writer noted:
"THEY LOVED TO EMPHASIZE THE POINTS OF AGREEMENT RATHER THAN THE POINTS OF
DIFFERENCE. THEY WERE WILLING TO MAKE CONCESSIONS FOR THE SAKE OF THE PEACE OF
THE CHURCHES." Isn't that a good description of what is happening in the
churches today? So many will say, "Let's forget doctrine. Let's not discuss
theological issues. Let's just agree on the points we have in common." In a
short time the Bible is practically thrown out so as to keep peace with all
those in attendance.
We are to
endeavor "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3),
but notice that the unity is to be IN ACCORD WITH THE SPIRIT, not with
the world. Jude explained that it was necessary for him to write to the church
to exhort them to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto
the saints" (Jude 1:3). He goes on to say: "For there are certain men CREPT
IN UNAWARES...ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness,
and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:4).
warned Timothy that in the latter times "some shall depart from the faith,
giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in
hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (I Timothy 4:1-2). He
then told Timothy: "If thou PUT THE BRETHREN IN REMEMBRANCE OF THESE THINGS,
thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ" (I Timothy 4:6). In other words,
Paul was commanding Timothy to warn the church about false doctrines. In so
doing, there will be times when names must be mentioned so that the people will
not be led astray. We are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), but we
must warn others against those who are bringing in counterfeit teachings.
we find some sobering words from God: "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt
surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked
from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his
iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the
wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall
die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul....Nevertheless if thou
warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he
shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul"
(Ezekiel 3:18-19, 21).
wrote: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the
which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which
he hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing
shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your
own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples
after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I
ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:28-31).
Furthermore, in I Thessalonians 5:14 we find: "Now we exhort you, brethren,
WARN THEM THAT ARE UNRULY, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be
patient toward all men." Wrong and sin are to be confronted and called out
against. This, of course, means mentioning names at times. Finally, remember the
words of Paul: "THEM THAT SIN REBUKE BEFORE ALL, THAT OTHERS ALSO MAY FEAR"
(I Timothy 5:20).
Articles by Dr. Cathy Burns