The Bible is a marvelous body of knowledge. It is, literally, the word of God. It provides us vital understanding of God's will The Bible gives us abundant instruction as to how to live our lives in a godly manner. Those instructions cover both the positive and negative. Some teach us how to act, what to do. Others instruct us as to what not to do, that from which we should abstain.
The Bible also gives us insight as to how to evaluate somebody who claims to be teaching God's word. First, we need to understand that God holds each one of us personally responsible for knowing what we believe and why we believe it: "...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). Second, 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 be our attitude toward somebody who claims to be a spiritual teacher? What about one who claims to be a worker of miracles? John is direct in 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 "test" are we to run to check the truthfulness of someone who claims 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 comes 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 a supposed prophecy is not fulfilled, that prophecy did not come from God.
If somebody does something that seems impressive, something that might appear, on the surface, to be supernatural, supposedly demonstrating his authenticity as a teacher of God's word, even that should not be blindly accepted as being valid. A teaching that clearly contradicts God's word, even if it is accompanied by what somebody claims to be a miracle, is to be rejected (Deut. 13:1-5). God will not contradict the truths He has already revealed to us in the Bible!
How can we know what is right and who is right? The Bible is God's word, its teachings are true. We are to believe and live by God's word. We will not go wrong by so doing. Now, this brings us back to the beginning of this article. Obviously, in order to be able to distinguish between truth and error, we are going to have to have a reasonably good working knowledge of God's word. 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, in some way, 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