Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beware of Deceptive Teachings – Part 3

This is a continuation of a series of posts concerning deceptive teachings. Please see earlier posts on this important subject to understand the basis for my concerns.

III. Know the Bible

Jesus said in John 8:32: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” We can know the truth – God’s truth – by studying the Bible and depending on the Holy Spirit for discernment and understanding. The Bible used to mean nothing to me, but now I rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me, and it all makes much more sense! The Apostle Paul said this about the value of studying the Bible (in 2 Timothy 3:13-14a, 16-17):

But people who are evil and cheat others will go from bad to worse. They will fool others, but they will also be fooling themselves. But you should continue following the teachings you learned…
All Scripture is given by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults, and for teaching how to live right. Using the Scriptures, the person who serves God will be capable, having all that is needed to do every good work.

The Bible conveys God’s truth, tells us the teachings of Jesus, and equips us for every good work. In addition, we can protect ourselves against deceptive teachings by testing anything we hear against Scripture. If something contradicts the clear teaching of the Bible, then it’s false. Here’s an example of using Scripture to test teachings from Acts 17:10b-12:

When [Paul and Silas] arrived [in Berea], they went to the Jewish synagogue. And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men. NLT

The people of Berea searched the Scriptures to verify that Paul’s teachings were consistent with the Bible (in their case, it was the Hebrew Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament). We should always do the same, and it’s a lot easier when we are familiar with the Bible.

IV. Preaching Another “Gospel

Along those same lines, we should test what is being told us to make sure a teaching is consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul warns us about false “gospels” and it’s interesting to note that ancient false “gospels” have actually been found. These false or Gnostic “gospels” were found in clay jars at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945. These false “gospels” were written in the years 350-400, well after Paul’s death in the year 64. However, there were already false “gospels” being preached in Paul’s time, as we read in his letter to the Galatians (Galatians 1:6-7):

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. NRSV

Later in that letter, Paul asks in frustration (Galatians 3:1a): You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (NRSV) So we should know the Bible, especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so we won’t be sucked into false and misleading teachings. We should test anything we hear against Scripture, depending on the Holy Spirit for guidance and discernment. Then, unlike the Galatians, we won’t be fooled or bewitched by false teachings that attempt to lead us astray.

More on this topic in a future post.

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