The Scourge of Private Biblical Interpretation, The Holy Spirit, the Truth, and the Making of Cults
What should one do who sincerely wants to receive something from God? Should the sincere seeker expect to receive everything for which he prays, before, or directly after he rises from the prayer in which he has petitioned the Lord of heaven and earth? Or does the Lord God expect the petitioner to do considerably more in his part of the process of requesting and receiving material and spiritual blessings? Did not Jesus exhort his true disciples to seek actively in order to find what is sought, and to knock for the door to understanding and knowledge to be opened? It was the Apostle James, in James 1: 5, who said that God gives wisdom liberally to all who ask him in faith, with no doubting. And in the same chapter James also says that the doubting person cannot expect to receive anything from the Lord. Hence, when wisdom is properly defined as the wise use of knowledge, and not knowledge specifically, one ponders whether James was actually referring to seeking wisdom only through prayer or through searching the scriptures; since spiritual wisdom is basically how to apply the knowledge contained in the scriptures.
If a child of God is pondering the true meaning of a particular scripture of the Holy Bible, he certainly must be in doubt and perplexed about how to apply the scripture in his own life. So he should earnestly seek an answer, in proper biblical context, by looking at the scripture as it appears as a verse in the chapter of the particular book in which it is contained. Let’s say, for instance, that someone calling himself a prophet has created a sect, a church, around one verse in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 15: 29, “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?” The sect is called, “The Church of Baptism for the Dead (COBFTD).” Let’s also say that the person calling himself a prophet, who has created the sect, is endeavoring to persuade other people that they should leave the Christian congregations where they worships and join the COBFTD, because it is the only correct church that teaches baptism for the dead. What are the struggling Christians to do? The prophet tells them that all they has to do is pray for wisdom, per James 1: 5, and that God will, either, give them a burning in their bosoms indicating that they should join the COBFTD, or will give them stupors of thought telling them to keep on praying. The people are told to just read 1 Cor. 15: 29 and pray about it. But is this the extent of what they should do to know the truth?
Well, let’s examine the course of action taken by certain Jews of Berea, in Acts 17: 1-11, who, in a Jewish synagogue, listened intently to the Christian preaching of the Apostle Paul and his companion Silas about Jesus. Now, it is important to understand that Paul taught them the gospel of Christ contextually from the scriptures of the Old Testament, and proved, by the scriptures, that the prophecies about Jesus had been fulfilled by his coming to the earth, and by his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. After hearing these things, did these Jews just pray about what Paul and Silas told them in order to receive answers from God about the truth of Jesus’ gospel? Or did they do much more than pray? In verse 11 of Acts 17 (NKJV), Luke the writer says, “These (Jews) were more fair-minded (the word noble is used, instead of fair-minded, in the KJV) than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” The next verse, verse 12, provides the result of the Berean scripture search. “Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” Consequently, these Jews did much more than merely pray for wisdom; they searched the scriptures to find the truth about Jesus Christ.
Therefore, though the self-proclaimed prophet of the COBFTD, a cult, has told his prospective disciples to “just” pray about the truth of his assertions about 1 Cor. 15: 29, the individuals seeking the real truth about the matter follow, instead, the example of the Bereans and search the scriptures of the New Testament to discover that there is no other contextual scripture mentioning baptism for the dead in the New Testament, and that the Apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 1: 19-21 (NKJV), gave instructions about such things. He said, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy (teaching) of the scriptures is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” “Private interpretation” in this scripture in 2 Peter, has, therefore, been fully accepted by Bible scholars though the ages, since the 1st Century, to mean that no verse, or verses, from a particular chapter of a particular book of the Holy Bible may be used privately, or alone, out of scriptural context to mean something that it was never intended to mean. In the case of 1 Cor. 15: 29, the writer, Paul the Apostle, recorded only a question that he asked, a question about baptism for the dead that he never answered there or anywhere else in any of his other writings. It was a question that denoted an oddity that he was observing, or about which he had been told. He never answered his own question approving, or disapproving, baptism for the dead. That is why that particular verse should be regarded as insignificant when considering what New Testament Christians should regard as Christian gospel doctrine.
I sincerely believe that God almighty, through his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, sent the Holy Spirit to the earth in order to confirm, in the minds of Christians, the answers sought after by those earnest seekers of truth. The Father wants us to know the ultimate truth about everything that the Son, or the Word, Jesus has provided to get us to heaven, and he will answer all of our questions through the scriptures and fervent prayer. That searching the scriptures always precedes the act of praying for wisdom about them is a fact that has been established by God as an essential part of discovering the truth. You just can’t pray asking the Lord to reveal the truth about the scriptures of the Bible to you, and expect the Lord to sweep you off your feet with a dramatic booming voice out of heaven, or in your head, or a burning in your bosom, conveying the answer. If, you a father, desperately pray to the Lord for a sturdy house to shelter your family from the elements, and then sit and wait for the Lord to build it for you, you will never have a house. If you, a student, ask the Lord to help you score high on an academic test, but never arduously study for the test, how can you expect the Lord to help you? Remember that Jesus said, in Matt. 7: 7-8 (KJV), “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Asking involves the active process of seeking, and seeking involves knocking at the Lord’s door in order for the door of truth to be opened.
You might say that searching the scriptures is, in a way, working, but receiving the free gift of salvation from Jesus does not require anything more than understanding from the scriptures that faith, alone, in Jesus Christ’s saving grace, without doing anything else, is all that is necessary for salvation. Searching the scriptures and praying leads one to Christ and his salvation, Request prophetic word not merely praying. After one receives his salvation, working to study the scriptures to learn more about the Savior is a work of pleasure to please the Lord, not the get to heaven.
From this point in this article, it is pretty clear that the five prerequisites necessary for discovering truth from God are the following: 1) normal human intelligence (God does not expect people born with less than normal intelligence to seek their salvation, because their salvation is assured, as is that of a small child); 2) a willingness, and the common sense, to accept the facts about history, archaeology, anthropology, and valid science as they are presented by reputable Christian scholars (such as the indisputable fact that horses were not on the North and South American Continents until the Europeans brought them in ships across the Atlantic Ocean); 3) the willingness to accept biblical facts as they are revealed in the scriptures by the writers of the Holy Bible (such as the fact that Jesus died on the cross of Calvary to forever remove the need for temples and human priests); 4) the humility and meekness of the seekers to accept what the contextual meaning of the scriptures of the Holy Bible convey in answer to the questions posed, as confirmed by the Holy Spirit; and 5) the realization that the Holy Spirit will never confirm a proclaimed biblical, historical, or archaeological fact to be true that is, according to common sense and valid science, utterly false. Such an example of this would be a person who believes that the Holy Spirit is telling him that an extra-bibilical 19th Century book, detailing a civilization in Central America during the 1st Century A.D. that had great herds of horses and the ability to smelt and refine iron ore to make millions of fine steel weapons, is the true word of God. The Holy Spirit will not confirm fiction and lies as God’s holy word. Human emotion might make it seem so, but the true Spirit of God will not confirm in the mind of sincere seekers that which mortal humans have deceptively created and called holy scripture and the word of God. The devil, Satan, has been given the power by God to appear as an angel of light to deceive human beings into emotionally believing that false doctrine is the word of God; but the Holy Spirit always has the power to thwart the devil’s power. Deception is usually based upon feelings and burning physical sensations, while truth is delivered by the Holy Spirit to the mind of all people truly seeking to know God’s holy word.