Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!
Can Christians Really Know What is
Doctrinally True, and what is not?
-by Tony Warren
Not only can we know what is truth, it's imperative that we know! For it is to some degree of knowing the truth, that we avoid the error wherein people are deceived by false teachings. i.e., how can you even know for certain what is false, if you don't really know what is true?
1st John 4:1
You cannot try or test the spirits if you do not know what is the truth. Any misguided person can claim that he is a Christian and teach you every false doctrine known to man. But if you know the truth, you will know his falsehood. We test the spirits by comparing their words with the authority of the unadulterated word of God. If what someone is saying is in total agreement with the scriptures, then it is true. If it is not what scripture actually says, then it is an interpretation. This is the exact process by which those Jewish men in Berea tried Paul's testimony to see if it was biblical (in agreement with the Bible) when other Jewish leaders simply condemned him. And as a result, they found it to be true and believed. That is the faithful example for us today.
- "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many False prophets are gone out into the world."
How did these noble or honest Jewish men know what the truth was? It was simple--they read the scriptures to compare what God had said, to what Paul was claiming, in order to discern whether or not what he said was the truth. That is how we try the spirits (1st John 4:1). We don't blindly follow our Church leaders, or trust in tradition or rites, or simply believe what theologians say is the truth. We compare what they say to the authority, which is the word of God. If it is in agreement with the whole of God's word, then it is true. If it is contrary, then it is false.
- "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
- therefore many of them believed; also honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few."
1st Thessalonians 5:20-21
Again, the word encourages us to prove or test all things. We are to examine them to see if they are good teachings or not, and then hold fast to that which is good. That is how we can know for certain what is absolutely true.
- "despise not Prophesyings.
- Prove all things, hold fast that which is good."
As a practical example, if someone were to teach that we are saved by works and not grace, the only way we would know if that were true or not, is to read the authoritative writings of God. Not our Pastor or a book author or Televangelist, but God. We read His words, and we find that God says we are saved by Grace, and that not works lest any man should boast. Therefore, we must receive what God has divinely inspired written, and not man. For He is the ultimate authority over doctrines and practices. We have then tried the spirits and found them to be wanting, so hold fast to what is written.
Likewise we are to try all teachers by the Word of God to discern if it is in agreement with the whole of scripture. In this way, the Holy Spirit of God works within us to reveal what is true and what is false.
Here God not only tells us that we can know the truth, but that the truth will set us free. And indeed, if we couldn't know the truth, how could we be held "responsible" for believing false teachings? This Church Philosophy of, don't worry about it because "we'll understand it all by and by," is is a dangerous way to look at the question of doctrines. It is specifically because the truth is there and written down and witnessed to us, that those who will not receive the love of this truth (or truth in love), will be condemned of God.
- "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
2nd Thessalonians 2:10-12
Those who want to privately interpret scripture for their own agenda, or who make claims that we can't really know what the truth is on this side of the grave, don't really demonstrate much understanding of Christianity. The truth is what is written in the scriptures, and those who will not receive the love of it will be damned by God because of their neglect. And no one is going to be able to stand before God and say, "I didn't know where truth was". For man can kid himself, but he cannot kid God. God is a discerner of even the intents of the heart, so that all hidden agendas and secrets are made manifest or revealed to him.
- "And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the Love of the Truth, that they might be Saved.
- And for this reason God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie;
- that they all might be damned who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
You can't fool God by saying, you didn't know where truth was. You will generally find that those claiming that one cannot really know for certain where truth is, are those who aren't really looking for it. They are those who profess love for Christ, but who really don't have time for Him. They don't really want to conform to the teachings of scripture, and so feign it ambiguous, confusing and understanding a non-essential. In other words, they refuse to "receive" the truth for one reason or another. But calling ourselves Christian doesn't really mean that we are regenerated and really are. The truth is, Christians are born from above a new creation, wherein they have the "Spirit of Truth" dwelling within them that they might know the truth. They don't pretend that they cannot know it, they know God and are known of Him. God is their comforter and revealer. We know the truth because we are loved of God, and therefore love His Word. By Grace of God we accept it and receive it as the ultimate authority over the Church in matters of faith and doctrine. We know the truth because it lives within us, and has ever since Christ comes to make His abode there. So it's not that man can't know what is truth, it's that man doesn't want to receive what is written. It's not that it is so unclear, it is that man wants to make the clear, unclear, the better to hide his rebellion. As Christians with a conscience, we should understand that it's not in how we work the scriptures, it's in how the scriptures work us.
- "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
- Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
- "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."
May the Lord who is gracious in all things, move His Spirit within us to receive truth, that we might humbly walk in His statutes and keep His judgments.
Copyright 1998 Tony Warren
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