Monday, February 13, 2006

Do Not Exceed What is Written

Today's Herescope post is an excellent devotional prepared by Professor Anton Bosch on the heresy of adding to Scripture. This devotional refers to the heretical doctrine of the "New Breed," which Herescope has been examining the past few weeks. Bosch's specific comments on this doctrine appeared in an earlier Herescope post 2/03/06.

Do Not Exceed What is Written

By Anton Bosch

Do “not go beyond the things which are written” (1Corinthians 4:6, ASV).

Adding to the Scriptures is a very old problem amongst religious people. The Rabbis were particularly adept at adding many books, sayings and traditions to the Word of God. This had become such a problem that Jesus said: “you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition… in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:6,9). In spite of all their knowledge, they had forgotten that written into the Law was the clear command that “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it” (Deuteronomy 4:2). (This instruction is also repeated in Deut 12:32, Proverbs 30:6 and Revelation 22:18-19).

Instead of learning from the mistakes of the Jews, the church perpetuated this trend of adding all sorts of things to the basic Word. These added extras take the form of traditions, church council decisions, creeds and apocryphal books. Then there are the cults who have their own writings that are given the same, or higher, authority than the Word.

Even more disturbing is the trend that has developed over the past 30 years in Evangelical circles of adding prophecies, dreams, visions and the random statements of preachers to God’s Word. Many of these sayings are wild and wacky, and many blatantly contradict scripture, but that does not matter to a generation of Christians who have been trained to simply swallow the rubbish that they are fed without discrimination and discernment.

But is the Bible complete and does the cry of the Reformation: “sola scriptura” (only scripture) have any relevance? We have to turn to the Bible itself for the answers.

As mentioned above, it is a direct command of scripture not to add to it. This command is repeated at the beginning (Deuteronomy), the middle (Proverbs) and the end (Revelation) of our Bible. It is interesting that it is also repeated in each of the major genres of the Word. (Law, poetic books, epistles and prophetic books).

Jude says: “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The words “the faith” refers to the truths that Christians regard as “the doctrine.” It was delivered “once for all,” meaning that it will not be added to or be changed. Thus the body of truth which was committed to the writers of the Bible is complete and final. The book of Hebrews opens with the statement that “God has spoken by His Son.” Yes, in the Old Testament He spoke in many different ways through different vessels, but He has spoken. He is not continuing to speak and neither is there any new thing or any progressive revelation. What He wanted to say He has said through His Son and that is recorded in the Scriptures and all that remains is for us to obey that Word. The notion that people today are so special that they are receiving revelation that God did not give to His Son or Apostles is rooted in sheer arrogance.

When we add to the scriptures our own dreams, traditions and ideas we basically call Paul a liar when he said: “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Of course this does not mean that Paul knew and delivered all of God’s knowledge but rather that everything we need to know for life and eternity has been delivered through those whom he chose to write the Bible.

That men will add their own ideas to scripture is not surprising since many of these dreamers see themselves as superior to Paul and the other apostles. However, what is surprising is that so many Christians are swallowing the rubbish that these false prophets and teachers are spewing. It seems that it no longer matters that they clearly contradict Scripture, firstly because people do not know their Bibles and thus are open to grievous deception. Secondly people are deceived by these teachings because they have elevated men to positions where their words become the very Word of God. No longer is it only the domain of the Pope to claim infallibility, but every second preacher has fallen into the same trap and claims to speak on God’s behalf and to be inerrant.

Of course, when latter-day prophecies, dreams and “words” contradict Scripture, either the prophet or the Bible is wrong and in error. Can you imagine the arrogance of a man who declares that the Bible is mistaken since God has “revealed” the “truth” to him?

One of many examples of this blatant contradiction of Scripture is the "New Breed" doctrine that claims that God will raise up a super-race of Christians in the last days who will have powers and an anointing that even the Apostles did not have. These people will supposedly lead a world-wide revival that will bring over one billion converts into the Kingdom. The Bible’s version of Christianity in the end-times however is very different and predicts a great falling away (2Thessalonians 2:3, 1Timothy 4:1) and people that indulge in all sorts of immorality, who love themselves, pleasure and money have a form of godliness without any power. (2Timothy 3:1-5)

Often these extreme errors are so disjointed, irrational and void of any truth that a rational and biblical response becomes very difficult. Consider the claim of one man that Jesus Himself would appear on his platform during a particular meeting. How do you respond to something so outrageous? (Not surprising, the date set for this “event” has come and gone and Jesus never appeared.)

Believers feel intimidated by these personalities and feel that they are not in a position to argue with someone who claims such a personal revelation from Heaven itself. And, yes one should not argue with those who are so deluded. But, there is one thing every true believer must ask himself and the preacher: “Where is it written?” The youngest believer amongst us can and should ask this question of everyone who claims to speak on the Lord’s behalf.

So the next time someone says something that sounds strange to you – simply ask for proof from the Bible. If proof is not forthcoming then reject the teaching, no matter how wonderful it sounds.

1 Thessalonians 5:20 and 21 says: “Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.” Yes, test everything against the Word of God. God does not change His Word and His Word contains everything that we need to know. If the Word does not support some idea, then reject it outright no matter how good it sounds and what miracles the speaker may provide in order to prove that he has been sent from God.

"The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).