“where did you get [these] beliefs from?
Can you HONESTLY and sincerely say that they came from scripture alone PRIOR to receiving any teaching along those lines from any outside source?”
Unfortunately at the time I missed the significance of his reply:
“As far as your comments regarding why I believe [this] to be true, it is because I heard it taught directly from scripture and it makes sense to me”.
“I HEARD IT TAUGHT” and “IT MAKES SENSE TO ME”.
Which is exactly as I suspected. The person came to his beliefs through someone’s teaching (allegedly directly from scripture) – and his judgement of the validity of the teaching was “it makes sense”.
As I have written so many times before, ANYTHING can be taught and supported from scripture. It is easy to pick out select verses to support a teaching – EVERY false religious group claiming to be Christian does it. That is why it is necessary to emulate the Bereans and search the scriptures for ourselves to assess the teaching. We should NOT rely on a teaching making sense. MOST teachings will “make sense” if presented by talented and persuasive teacher.
We cannot afford to put our trust entirely in what a teacher tells us. We have a serious responsibility, and we hold the ultimate accountability, for the things we believe. We also have a degree of accountability for the things that others come to believe through our influence.
This matter is far too serious for us to be complacent.
But how do we “search the scriptures”?
May I offer a few suggestions?
1) Become familiar with the overall content and themes throughout the whole of scripture. The Bereans mentioned in Acts were members of a Jewish synagogue and would therefore already have a good general grounding in the scriptures as all Jews of the time would have. Unfortunately most of us (especially as young Christians) start our search with the disadvantage of not having that kind of background knowledge.
2) Do not limit the search to the verses quoted by the teacher. Make sure that the surrounding verses are also considered to ensure that the teacher used his chosen texts IN THE CORRECT CONTEXT.
3) Seek out other places in scripture that address the same or similar issues being taught. If the teaching is on God’s mercy, find as many references to God’s mercy that you can track down. The same goes with any other matter. And again make sure that context is taken into account when you look through those references.
4) Realise that each biblical book was written for a particular reason and to address a particular readership. This is most evident with the letters in the New Testament. The letter writers were addressing real life situations and real people. They were not writing a mere theological text. They wrote to address particular issues being faced by everyday believers of their time.
5) Scripture comes to us in a variety of different literary forms that were written in their particular way for a particular purpose. For example, the book of Proverbs is a book of Wisdom literature – it is not a book of collected promises. It helps to recognise those different types of literature and understand their application according to their literary type. Something written in poetic form may use exaggeration to express an idea, or it might use symbolism that may cause misunderstanding if taken literally.
Well, I’ve given enough of my own thoughts on searching the scriptures. The most important thing is that we all treat God’s word with respect and integrity and have a desire to receive GOD’S revelation rather than the ideas of man.
As a final note I’ll add that it is good to maintain a healthy scepticism – meaning, don’t be afraid to doubt the things you are taught until you are completely satisfied that it is consistent with the nature and purposes of God. Don’t be too eager or impatient to adopt new “truths”, whether they are taught by others* or whether you discover them for yourself through your own reading of scripture. No matter how right they may seem at first, seek God for confirmation from another (preferably unrelated) source.
The most trustworthy teacher of God’s truth is the Holy Spirit. If you sincerely seek His aid He will not disappoint or mislead. Learn to recognise His voice.
* Additionally do NOT allow yourself to be bullied into accepting anything. Many teachers claim to have a special “anointing” that places them and their teaching above reasonable criticism. If your teacher displays that kind of attitude then do NOT submit yourself to him/her and their teaching under any circumstances.