If it was good for the first disciples to hold up the teaching of the Apostles against the rule of Scripture, then how do we make sure we commend rather than condemn those who do the same today?

A vital part of growing in maturity as a Christian is learning how to be more discerning with the teaching we receive. If we lack discernment then we can be like spiritual infants “tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching.” (Ephesians 4:14).

A child hears and trusts implicitly what their parents tell them about life and the world, but as they grow into maturity, they begin to rightly question all that they have learnt and received. If the parents’ teaching is good and right, the child ought to grow into adulthood and find themselves believing and knowing the same things they did as a child, but now with the added conviction of having tested them and found them true in a deeper, richer and more personal way. So it is with healthy growth into spiritual adulthood.

When the Apostle Paul taught the Jews of Berea about the Christ, they were commended for not just accepting the teaching, but they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11) If that examination and testing is admirable when the one teaching is the Apostle Paul, how much more so when we hear the Word being taught today. They also tested this teaching, even though they had already “received the message with great eagerness.” They loved what they heard, it connected with them and the truth resonated in their hearts, but that was not enough. They would only be truly convinced if what was being taught by Paul was actually what the Word of God teaches.

It is only when the Word is faithfully taught that it is backed by the authority of God himself. Each word needs to be tested by the Word before it is received and applied to anyone else. A sermon, a book or a bible study can be true, wise and even helpful, but it only has the authority of God if God’s Word is being taught.

I recently heard a talk on 2 Corinthians 3 about the veil over Moses’ face after he had met with God and was bringing the people the Word. Paul’s point is that as new covenant believers we see and are transformed by the full glory of God in Christ in a way that was never true for Israel. The sermon however was all about the veils we put up to hide our true selves from each other in the way we talk, present ourselves and use social media. It was full of useful insights, but to claim the authority of God for those insights is dangerous and deceptive. A more honest approach would have been to simply present the content of the talk as a series of wise suggestions and make no implicit claim to the authority of God.

It is a dangerous thing to stand before the people of God and claim the authority of God. It is only safe to do so if you are speaking the words of God.

The way to safely navigate the path from spiritual infancy to maturity is through consistently hearing the truth spoken with loving authority within a church fellowship (Ephesians 4:15-16).

So as we encourage people to weigh truth of the teaching they hear urge them to pay attention to three F’s.

  • Foundation: is this word consistent with the foundation laid in God’s Word?
  • Fruit: will this word produce fruit consistent with the work of God’s Spirit?
  • Fellowship: seek the advice of wise saints in a healthy Christian fellowship.

Gavin Perkins