Yesterday, I preached from Mark 8:14-21 in our series through Mark’s Gospel. The passage was a stern warning to the followers of Christ regarding their hardened heart and blind eyes. As I stated in the sermon, if we had no other record of the disciples and if Mark ended his Gospel at chapter eight and verse twenty one, we would be left to believe that the disciples were not disciples at all. By their attitude and unbelief, they appeared to be unbelievers. Thankfully, we have much more information in the New Testament about the disciples and we see that they were genuine followers of Christ – except one – a man we know as Judas. Apparently Judas didn’t hear the warning of Jesus. He allowed the leaven of the Pharisees to enter his heart. Today, Judas is in hell, but we see that Jesus warned him.
How exactly did Jesus warn Judas and the other disciples? Jesus called out the names of the Pharisees and Herod (subsequently calling out the Herodians). In other words, Jesus was not a milquetoast preacher who was afraid of naming names of wolves that were a threat to the flock of God. In fact, in the same bold spirit, Jesus called out the name of Herod just as John the Baptist had done previously. If we look back at the sixth chapter of Mark, we see that Herod was trying to discern the identity of Jesus as His popularity was growing. Some said He was John the Baptist, others Elijah or one of the prophets. Mark records Herod’s response to the different theories in Mark 6:16, “But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’” Jesus’ identity was confused with John the Baptist which gives us some insight into the boldness of Jesus’ preaching. Was that insensitive of Jesus to call out the names of these groups of false teachers?
Why Did Jesus Name Names?
- Jesus loved the disciples and didn’t want them to be led astray by the false teaching (he used the example of leaven) of Herod and the Pharisees.
- As the Good Shepherd, Jesus desired to call out the danger and make it known rather than remaining ambiguous.
- Revealing the danger of the Pharisees and Herod is the demonstration of true love.
- Jesus’ called out their names with pure motives.
Questions to Ask Before You Name Names
- Is this person a brother or sister in Christ?
- Is this person’s teaching open and public (national or international audience)?
- Are you a member of this person’s local church?
- How did you come across this person’s teaching?
- Is the teaching false? Is this a Galatians 1 issue?
- Are you desiring to harm the person’s name or protect the people under your care?
- Do you have any personal agenda or stake in exposing the person?
- Do you believe that people under your care may be in contact with the person’s teaching?
I believe naming names of false teachers is what Jesus would have us to do. Not only did He do it, but the apostles likewise practiced that same method. However, before we approach the pulpit in a rage and start spouting off names in our sermon and calling them false teachers, it would be helpful to examine our own heart and motives before we enter the pulpit. As Jeremiah 17:9 reveals, our hearts are deceitful and even preachers of righteousness need to have the light of truth to shine within our hearts. Motives matter, and as we see in Jesus’ method of calling out the Pharisees and Herod, His motives were pure.
Let us also consider the reality that even people who sit in the average evangelical church on a weekly basis can be tangled up in a web of doubt, confusion, and unbelief. Light, heat, clarity, and compassion are all needed to untangle that web. Most importantly, it takes a work of God and His grace. If Judas refused to believe Jesus, how many people are in the average church each week who are on their way to hell too? The truth must be proclaimed, and like Jesus and John the Baptist, it must be proclaimed boldly.
J.C. Ryle said, “False prophets and false teachers within the camp have done far more mischief in Christendom than all the bloody persecutions of the emperors of Rome. The sword of the foe has never done such damage to the cause of truth as the tongue and pen.” 
1. Mark: Crossway Classic Commentaries, Crossway, 116.