What is the truth about…….?
Ok, so you’d like to know what the Bible teaches about a certain belief or doctrine in order to perhaps check that which is being taught by your own pastor or church? Well done! My only hope is that you are doing so sincerely and not merely trying to confirm your own presupposition or the position that you have grown up to believe in.
The best place to start is first to question your own motivations. I remember many years ago when I had some material that came across my desk teaching something about the last days that where contrary to that which I came to believe as true. I scoffed at the article and did not even want to finish reading it because it simply did not align with my presupposition.
Well that was where the rubber hit the road, I discovered I had a PRESUPPOSITION, in other words I had a belief in a doctrine that I Pre-Supposed to be the correct belief; and this is the clincher, BUT I NEVER STUDIED IT for myself. The people I most associated with at Church believed in the Pre-Millennial Eschatology and a Pre-Tribulations Rapture (If you don’t know what all that means, not important for this point), but I had never read it for myself.
This is where I had to make an honest assessment of my motivations. I had to ask myself some serious questions, such as;
- Did I want to know the truth or do I just want to be right?
- If I believe something to be true does it make it true?
- If I believe something to be false, does all my arguments against it make it false?
- If something is true, is it true irrespective of what I believe or is it subject to my belief? In other words, is it objectively true for all people at all times or is it subjectively true to me personally….like flavored ice cream?
Then I had to think more deeply about how my presuppositions on this matter affect me personally;
If the rapture of the Church is not true prior to the seven years of tribulation, that means that the church, myself and my family will go through the tribulation regardless of what I might believe to the contrary.
Oh no, this is important to get right.
If we are going to go through the tribulation, then I need to get my family prepared if that is true.
So I Picked up the article again and before I read it I prayed that the Lord would open my eyes and my heart and that I would only believe that which is true.
John Bunyan also was confronted with this knowledge concerning the doctrines of a group of believers called Quakers, these are the forerunners of the modern Charismatic church today, he simply prayed; “Lord if this doctrine be of you, let me not forsake it, but if it be of the devil, let me not embrace it”.
NOTE: Now with all this it must be supposed that you have actually read and are reading the Bible, for the desire to forsake or embrace a doctrine does not happen in a vacuum, you must be reading the scriptures regularly, especially the doctrinal teachings of the new testament. Else I can assure you that you will be swayed by “good” teachers who can well convince you of their arguments even “using” the scriptures to back it up.
I cannot emphasize it enough, God will ALLWAYS provides you with the answers but ONLY if the answers have already been received by your minds by reading the Bible in context. No matter how sincere we are we will always fall prey to ‘good words and fair speeches’ if we do not read his words.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (Rom 16:17-18)
So I picked up the particular book and began to read trusting the Lord will either confirm the words or contradict them with his own. This is exactly what he did. The more I read the book, the more the scriptures came to mind that contradicted what it was that I was reading and I became even more confirmed in what I believed to be true.
This is an important truth and is what I have shared with my congregation concerning them checking that which they hear me preach. If they come to me with a concern that I have said something in error, and IF my true desire is ONLY to teach that which is true, then I will either be corrected from the error and never teach the error again, or I will be confirmed with greater confirmation in that which I taught, either way I win.
How Do We Read?
But HOW YOU READ is vital, in short you should read the Bible as if God has something he desires to communicate clearly.
For example; If you wrote a letter ofinstruction, the quality of the writing is determined by the clarity of the instruction written. Now it’s not determined by the ability of the person reading, but by the clarity of the writing. If you are a good writer, and he is a good reader, communication occurs. If you are a poor writer but he is a good reader then there is no communication and visa/versa. That which is in your mind needs to be clearly relayed to paper, and that which is relayed to paper should end up in his mind, this is COMMUNICATION.
God is an excellent communicator, he is so good and so fair that he rightly holds us all to be accountable to know what he has communicated (See John 12:48). So, the misunderstanding can never originate with him, provided you have his words.
Three issues then need to be dealt with if your desire is to know the truth of a certain doctrine;
- Your true motivation for study, is it to KNOW what God is teaching or is it to confirm your own presupposition?
- The source document from which all truth is tested must be known to you. The Bible is the book we are referring to and you must have read it, especially the New Testament. You cannot know an idea is confirmed or contradicted unless you know what to compare it to.
- Lastly, know that what you come to believe will have consequences. Friends there are those of certain faiths who forfeit their lives because they have come to believe what the Bible teaches concerning Jesus Christ. This new found belief has separated them from their families, their communities and even their countries, many have lost their lives as a result. According to the multitude of people who have paid the ultimate consequence for their belief, knowing the truth is worth it.
But where do I begin?
Well, you begin with those three points noted above first. NOT GOOGLE!
Guys, I cannot emphasize this enough. We live in a pronto world with everything available at our fingertips from hamburgers to movies. BUT NOT SO with the Bible and personal spiritual growth, this take your entire life. The worst place you can go to learn a doctrine is the internet….yeh I know, that’s where you found THIS article, true. But suffice to say that anything you want to believe you will find proof for it on the internet.
If, however there is a simple doctrine that you desire to know what the Bible teaches about, then sometimes you can simply plug the main word into your digital copy of the bible and do a word search (or use an old fashioned concordance). How God uses that word is how it is defined. Lets run with one example that you can do your end.
The Study of Tongues
Let’s say you want to know the truth about a controversial issue, say “Tongues”. The Churchyou attend tells you not only that speaking in Tongues is normal for a Christian, but might also teach that you cannot be saved unless you CAN speak with new tongues. Is that true?
You need to first begin with identifying your terms, or what is meant by those terms.
- What does it mean by Tongues?
- Literal tongue or languages?
- Coherent or incoherent?
- What about interpretation of Tongues?
- Does interpretation refer to translating that which is actually heard by the ear?
- Or is it that which is felt from within?
- Are literal words interpreted or is it a feeling?
- Spoken to the hearing or the inner mind?
- Subjective or objectively interpreted?
- What about its nature?
- Is it a gift or learned ability?
- If a gift, what was/is its purpose?
- If its purpose is from God, are they his words?
- If purposeful from God, was it for a specified time period or indefinite?
- For whom are those words intended?
- What are the risks of wrong interpretation?
- Are there people appointed to judge?
These are some questions you might logically consider when researching this issue. Some similar and some different questions could be asked about other teachings. The point is the questions must be logically consistent with what is being taught so you can know what you are looking for. The wrong question will always give you the wrong answer.
Next, plug in the word ‘Tongue’ and see where it comes up in the Bible.
Plug in the plural form also and see where it comes up in the Bible.
Now consider the context of the word and discern what God means by the word/s.
Here you will be treating the Bible as you would a dictionary, no the precise meaning or range of meanings will not be given to you, just the sentence and context examples from which you are to use your own mind to consider.
Is there a distinction in the use of the word forms? What is it?
What does the immediate context tell you of the definition of the word, what is the range of meaning?
Consider now the use of the word; is it always positive or are there some negative connotations also with respect to it? If so, to whom are the negative references given?
Is the word used all through the Bible or is it mostly limited? Is there a notable beginning to the main use of the word? Is there a notable end to its use? Can you place it historically in the narratives?
These are ways that the truth of any matter in the Bible can be known. It’s in Scripture that we begin our studies and it will be the truth of the scripture that will always be confirmed in the end.
Sure, there will be times when you can supplement your studies with historical understandings outside the Bible, but this will only be of benefit to confirm what you have been able to determine from within the Bible.
- Are there uses of the modern renderings of tongues in other religious systems or beliefs?
- Is there evidence of continual use of this modern form of tongues in Christianity from the early Church or did it cease historically?
But this is only to be used as a supplement and not as an authority. If your desire is to know the truth of the matter, and you have determined that the Bible is the final authority on the matter, then use it.
Scripture interprets scripture ALLWAYS. The volume known as The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge contains over 500,000 cross references. Quite incredible for a book that has only 779,000 words!
Let the Bible give you the answer, but be humble enough to receive it and patient enough to learn it.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15)