There are lot of
strange and fad doctrines going around now days, being promoted
from small home-group meetings all the way up to nationwide TV
broadcasts. Some are coming from sincere people who are just not
interpreting the Word of God correctly. Some are coming from people
who are not sincere, and they are promoting their "revelations"
for the sake of personal gain. How can you tell what is really
of God, and what is not?
First of all, the
problem is not new. The Apostle Paul said in Titus
1:10-11, "There are many insubordinate, both idle
talkers and deceivers... whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert
whole households (congregations), teaching things which they ought
not, for the sake of dishonest gain." And 1st
Timothy 6:3-5, "If anyone teaches otherwise and
does not consent to wholesome words... to the doctrine which accords
with Godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed
with... a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself."
of gain" can be personal financial gain. "A means of
gain" can also refer to gaining fame, attention, a following,
control over people, a larger congregation, etc.
Regardless of the
area of life being addressed, the incorrect doctrine is usually
"a" truth, but not "the" truth. A scripture
taken out of context, or to the exclusion of other scriptures
on the same topic, leads to error. And error leads to ineffective
service for God, disappointment, personal losses, backsliding,
and broken lives. For every individual who manages to survive
spiritual error to go on with God, my experience is there are
many that fell away often never serving God again. They
have trouble separating God from God's representatives. (Your
opinion of a company can be formed by your experience with the
salesman.) This is especially true if you have had a very bad
experience, or discover later that you were tricked or deceived.
So how do you tell
what "spiritual error" is. Well, I've been in charismatic,
Spirit-filled services for over 40 years. My father was a pastor,
plus I have personally served in 14 different full-gospel ministries.
I have been in "Spirit-filled" churches all over the
world, from Pensacola to Holland to Russia to China.
(I haven't been to the end of the earth, but I could see it from
where I was at!) And I have been in the 1960's charismatic meetings,
the 1970's teaching movement, the 1980's word of faith ministries,
and the 1990's revival and renewal churches. (I think the Holy
Spirit might have said, "Don't ever take me back there
again" after visiting a few places I won't mention!)
But I know of an
apostle who founded more good churches than anyone else I know
of, and he said the process you use to measure correctness vs.
error in doctrine is like running the bases of a baseball field.
Home plate is the Word of God. You have to start there. Is it
in the Word, and do solid principles of Bible interpretation verify
that particular belief? If you can't get past the Word of God
with a particular strange or fad teaching, don't go any further!
17:11 says the Bereans "were of more noble
character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message
with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to
see if what Paul said was true."
There are 16 principles
of Bible interpretation
that God personally showed me. I have since verified all 16 with
other sources and found God was right! (What else should
I expect.) Everybody has some informal set of "principles"
they follow to decide if they believe some teaching. However,
many of those "principles" are not scriptural! I have
found that if everyone followed these 16 principles of Bible interpretation,
they would not fall into error. Furthermore, we would have a lot
fewer denominations because people would all come to the
same conclusions regarding their interpretation of any given passage
The next issue in
evaluating the correctness or error in a belief, teaching, or
interpretation of scripture is experience. This is "first
base" in the four-part process. Now, we shouldn't form doctrine
just based on our experiences just like you don't start
off in baseball on first base instead of home plate. But neither
should we ignore experience, either! For example, if someone starts
off with an interpretation of scripture that the gift of speaking
in tongues ended with the last of the 12 apostles of Jesus, but
then discovers that two hundred million Pentecostals are speaking
in tongues world-wide on any given Sunday shouldn't that
bear a little more investigation? (My own mother was overheard
praying in tongues from 1st
Thessalonians 5:16-23 in perfect Castilian Spanish at a Full
Gospel Businessmen's meeting in Dallas by two young men from Spain
in the early 1960's.)
The third stop in
the process of detecting error (second base in this baseball analogy)
is common sense. I had a friend that went to a home group meeting
in the 1980's where a couple of guys were laying hands on dimes
praying that God would turn them into dollar bills! I think those
guys were a few French fries short of a Happy Meal. Common sense
would tell you that God doesn't need to create counterfeit U.S.
Treasury notes to help a person prosper. (That would put God in
the same business as organized crime.) There are a lot of truths
in the Word of God, but common sense can expose a lot of deceptions!
Last, the final stop
(third base) in the process and the least important
is church tradition. Just because we have always believed a certain
way doesn't mean we have to keep believing that way. But often
there are time-honored, church-proven reasons that we believe
what we do and we shouldn't abandon that without good reason
to do so. Some people are "flighty" they like
to change just for the excitement of change. These are often the
"cruise-matics" that chase after a different charismatic
speaker all the time. They aren't committed to anything, not even
the Word of God. So they swallow every doctrine that comes along
and some of those doctrines can be fatal! One minister
said you could be like a cow or horse and swallow the hay while
spitting out the sticks. However, a veterinarian doctor once told
me that he got called out somewhat regularly over a period of
years to remove sticks that got stuck cross-wise in the throats
of livestock! The horse or cow knew it was dying, and would stand
perfectly still while the vet would reach his arm down the throat
to grasp the stick to remove it! Actually, good ministers of the
Word are a lot like that vet we teach the truth to feed
the "healthy sheep", and rescue others from wrong ideas
that have gotten stuck cross-wise in their souls.
Advancing the Truth,
P.S. My set
of teachings on the 16 principles of Bible interpretation have
been presented to Bible school classes many times with the same
positive response. These teachings fit on just 6 audio cassette
tapes and would be a great blessing to anyone wanting to know
the truth. I call this series, How to Interpret
the Bible the Way God Does. I know that is a
bold title, but after you listen to these tapes, I think you will
agree. And you will interpret the Bible the way God does! Why
not order them today for yourself or someone you know?