Tuesday, February 01, 2011

It's That Simple!

By Pastor Anton Bosch

We often get questions relating to some new teaching that a pastor or some book is promoting. Sometimes the subject is a really complex one which flows from different interpretations of various Scriptures. But many times the answer is very easy and very simple.

One recent example relates to a pastor teaching about pyramids and how they supposedly predict certain end-time events. In another case, the pastor was teaching a “Daniel Fast,” which is basically bringing the Catholic Lent into a “protestant” church. In both cases we can wax very eloquent about the meaning of these things, their demonic or humanistic origins and so on. (Many times such doctrines do have real demonic sources.) But the answer to these and most other questions is really very simple: If it is not taught in the New Testament then we should have nothing to do with it.

Yes, it's that simple!

But why do I say the New Testament? Because we have to be very careful about how we use the Old Testament to formulate doctrine. All our doctrine is, and should be, clearly taught in the New Testament because the New Testament is the key to the Old Testament. Now stop before you accuse me of rejecting or minimizing the Old Testament. The Old is just as much part of the Bible as the New, and Jesus Himself said that heaven and earth will sooner pass away before the smallest part of the Old Testament will fail (Luke 16:17). But at the same time, the Old Testament can only be interpreted in the light of the New. In the Old Testament things are shown in shadows and types that could easily be misinterpreted without the explicit teaching of the New Testament.

So, for example, Daniel's fast (Daniel 9:3) must be interpreted in the light of the New Testament teaching on fasting. Yes, Daniel did fast and it was a right thing for him to do. But where in the New Testament do we have an instruction to do the same? Quite simple: Nowhere! So can we form some teaching saying that Christians should fast for three weeks? No. We may fast if the Spirit leads us to do so, but we cannot establish a rule that we must fast. Besides, if you are going to follow Daniel's example then you had better dress in sackcloth and pour ashes on your head, because that is what he did. But Jesus clearly taught that we should not in that manner (Matthew 6:17— “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face” NKJV).

The reality is that we can hardly go wrong by simply following the clear teaching of the New Testament. But the problem is that most Christians have not even begun to obey the New Testament, yet they spend their time searching the world for some esoteric teaching that makes them look clever or feel good.

This is exactly why Jesus was angry with the Pharisees of His day. They had added to the Scriptures, layer upon layer of man-made teaching. So for example, in the Talmud, they added to the simple command “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8 NKJV), hundreds of rules and laws until it consumed a whole tractate consisting of 24 chapters, under 39 headings. All these rules were man-made but became as authoritative as God's Word. Jesus said “you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition” (Matthew 15:6 NKJV).

When we move away from the simplicity of God's Word, we do not get more light, but rather we obscure, confuse and obfuscate the Truth. In the case of the Bible, more is less. And the book of Revelation pronounces a serious curse on all who dare add to the words of the Book. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18 NKJV).

The wonderful thing about the Bible is that everyone can understand it. You do not have to be a Bible scholar to talk to your pastor or teacher about his fancy new theology. All you need to do is say: “Show me where it is written.”

It's that simple!

If he cannot open the Bible and show a clear and obvious teaching that Christians should fast for three weeks a year, or if he cannot find the word “pyramid” (or something resembling the word) in the Bible then he should not even be mentioning those things, let alone build an entire doctrine on it.

It's that simple!

I am flabbergasted by people who have to find material in things other than the Bible. God's Word contains so much vital information, that we could not exhaust it in ten lifetimes, let alone put it all into practice. Anyone who has taken the time to study even part of the Bible will be overawed with the wealth of material contained between its covers. There is simply no need to go beyond it. Any teacher who feels the need to preach from something other than the Bible (including Christian books and Apocryphal books) has obviously never read God's Word, does not love the Word of God and does not fear the Lord.

Such people have fallen into the same sin as the Israelites, who craved the flesh of Egypt and who said of the Manna “our soul loathes this worthless bread" (Numbers 21:5 NKJV). In the New Testament the Lord warns that this is “tempting Christ” and that this could lead to our fall (1Corinthians 10:9, 12). This is a most serious warning because when we despise God’s provision it shows that we are carnal and lust for what is worldly rather than what is spiritual. By no means is extra-biblical teaching a sign of intelligence or of depth; it is a sign of foolishness and stupidity, because we call God's wisdom foolishness and we elevate man's foolishness above God’s wisdom (1Corinthians 1:18-31).

It is exactly this kind of pseudo cleverness that Paul addressed when he said of the Corinthians (and of us) “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3 NKJV). The task of teachers and leaders is not to impress or entertain people with intellectual niceties, it is to teach God’s Word in simplicity and truth.

Just in case I have not been clear up to this point: If your pastor, teacher or guru has to look outside of the Bible for things to preach, he is a false prophet and you are in danger listening to anything he has to say.

It's that simple!

Rather, let's resolve “not to go beyond the things which are written” (1 Corinthians 4:6 ASV).

It's that simple!

[Pastor Anton Bosch is the author of Building Blocks of the Church and Contentiously Contending, both available HERE. This article was published in the Jan/Feb Discernment Newsletter, posted HERE.]