The Bible is a marvelous body of knowledge. It is, literally, the word of God. Thus, through its message we gain some understanding of the mind of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible provides us with abundant instruction as to how to live our lives in a godly manner. Those instructions are both positive and negative. Some of them teach us how to act, what to do. Others instruct us as to what not to do, what to abstain from. The Bible even gives us insight as to how to view someone who claims to be a teacher of God’s word.
First, we need to understand that God holds each of us personally responsible for knowing His word thoroughly enough to know what He expects of us in our daily lives. “...always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). God gave us His word to guide and equip us to live according to His will (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and He expects us to know His word well enough to be able to do that. If someone should lead us astray through false teaching, shame on them for teaching us falsely. But shame on us also for believing false teaching when we should know the truth.
What should our attitude be toward someone who claims to be a spiritual teacher? What about someone who claims to be a worker of miracles? John is direct is his admonition to be careful as to what we believe: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1). What is the test we are to run to check the truthfulness of one claiming to be a spiritual teacher?
The Bible lays out its own test of a prophet: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:22). If someone, supposedly speaking prophetically, predicts that something will happen, but it does not happen, then that prophecy did not come from God.
If somebody teaches something that clearly contradicts God’s word, even if that person supposedly performs some miracle in connection with their teaching, their teaching is to be rejected (Deut. 13:1-5). Teaching from God will not contradict God’s word already revealed to us in the Bible. Paul warned that even if an angel from Heaven were to preach a different gospel than that which has already been revealed to us in scripture, “let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8).
How can we know what is right, who is right? The Bible is God’s word; its teachings are right. We are to believe, go by, live by God’s word. We will not go wrong by so doing. Now, this brings us back to the beginning of this article. In order to be able to distinguish between genuine truth, and error that may be taught as though it were God’s word. we are going to have to have a reasonably good working knowledge of the scriptures. There is no way to get around our need to know the teachings of the Bible. And, there is no way to learn those teachings without, by one means or another, studying God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15).
How can we know? God’s word has the answer. Study the Bible, and you can know...
Gary L. Hutchens