A Foolproof Test for Every Bible Teacher

How can I know for sure?  How can I be certain what someone is telling me about God, faith, Jesus, and the Bible is really true?  Or can I?

The answer is “Yes, you can be sure”.

The Bible really is about certainty.  It speaks in terms of “knowing”.  The little letter of 1 John (only 5 chapters long) talks about our knowing some 29 times, and even knowing that we know (1 John 2:3).  That is certainty.

No, this isn’t some kind of cocky, high-minded arrogance here.  That type of thing can be more than off-putting.  It’s just that God has made sure that His word and His will are very accessible.  Here is how the Bible says it:

For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Deut. 30:11-14; ESV)

You may be wondering, if that’s the case, then why isn’t there a more uniform understanding of the Bible in the world?  That’s a fair question, and one we’ll tackle on another occasion.  But for now, how is it that I can know?

The Test

How about an example from the Bible of a foolproof acid test for knowing?  It was used on the apostle Paul, of all people, and the ones who did so were highly commended for it.

These people (from Berea) heard Paul saying some things that were different than what they had previously thought and believed (namely that Jesus of Nazareth was in reality God’s Messiah – it was the same message he had delivered where ever he went – see Acts 17:2-3).

What did they do?  Well, they didn’t immediately reject what he said because it was something different.  Neither did they just blindly accept it because it was Paul who said it.  Instead, “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Did you catch that? They examined the Scriptures themselves and tested Paul’s message against what Scripture said to see whether or not it was true.  Simply put, the foolproof, acid test is Scripture itself.

The Challenge

This may seem to be a bit of a catch-22: we want to get good help in understanding the Bible and yet the test for whether or not we can rely on that help is the Bible that we’re trying to get help to understand.

So, how does that work?

We have to realize this is going to be an ongoing process for us.  One of the demands for “accurately handling the word of truth” is that we “be diligent” (2 Tim. 2:15).  As an old professor of mine would say, the Bible is its own best interpreter.  If we do come to a wrong conclusion about the meaning of a given passage, yet we remain consistent and sincere in our study of the word (“be diligent”), then it will eventually correct us itself.  That is, later we’ll come to an understanding of another passage and realize that if this is true, then what I had concluded about that previous text can’t be true, and so I adjust my understanding.

Continuous growth in our understanding and comprehension of the Bible is a must.  Encouragements to grow in knowledge are frequent (2 Peter 1:2-3, 5-5; 3:18; etc.) and the problems of failing to do so are serious (Heb. 5:12).

The Result

When that growth does happen we are no longer at the mercy of wrong teaching (Eph. 4:14) and are able to carry out the frequent exhortations to:

“test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1)

“approve what is excellent” (Php. 1:10)

“test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21)

and “discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:10).

So, absolutely there is a foolproof way to tell if someone is a reliable guide to assist in helping us better understand the Bible.  Just know that time and effort are part of this equation, but the outcomes are unquestionably worth it.

And remember, the point is not that this teacher is right or that one is right.  It’s that the Bible is right…always; end of story.

And, end of post.

God bless,

5 Tips for Finding Help Understanding the Bible

I need to find help with understanding the Bible, but whom can I trust?


Trust can be a hard thing; especially if we’ve ever been burned.  We may be tempted to just rely on ourselves, but again, that’s not really advisable. The Bible says even our own heart isn’t a reliable guide (Jer. 17:9).

Here’s our dilemma, God wants us to read and understand His word ourselves (check this post) knowing that we will need teachers and guides to aid our understanding.  Yet, we have to be careful because not all teachers are trustworthy.

The Bible’s warning is very clear:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1, ESV).

And that is far from the only such warning.  Some will take Scripture and “twist [it] to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16).  Also, some will “tamper with God’s word” (2 Corinthians 4:2).

So, the question is, how does one tell whom they can trust as a teacher or guide for better understanding the Bible?  Here are a few practical guidelines.

1. Don’t go the, “I can just tell” route. No, you can’t.  Remember, our heart is not an adequate guide.

If the Bible is correct (and yes, it is), then listen up when it says you have to be careful here.  The thing about wolves in sheep’s clothing is that they don’t look like wolves – they look like sheep.  Paul says that these people can be disguised as “apostles of Christ” and “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” and his followers as “servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15).   You may think you’re dealing with an apostle or an angel, but you’re not.

If you say, “I cannot be fooled,” then you already have been.

2. Put your ultimate trust and confidence in God’s word, not in any person. Even when you find someone dependable to whom you can turn for help, that doesn’t mean they have somehow become infallible.  Even well-meaning and otherwise reliable people can still make mistakes.  And, if they do, the process of your continued study and reliance on the trustworthiness of God’s word will bear it out.

3. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon. This isn’t a popularity contest.  There may be many reasons that people are turning to this person other than the fact that they are that reliable (see the points below). No, popularity doesn’t mean they’re unreliable, but it is a poor reason, by itself, to jump on the bandwagon.  Sometimes the majority are flat wrong (see Matt. 7:13-14)

4. Don’t seek out the most eloquent or entertaining speaker (or writer). Style certainly has its place, but our concern, as they say, is for substance over style. Heaven knows there are plenty of people who can say nothing and do it very, very well.  Apparently, even the apostle Paul wasn’t much to listen to as a public speaker. He conceded that he was “unskilled in speaking” and his critics claimed his speech was “of no account” (2 Cor. 11:6; 10:10).   Sure, I’d much rather hear a good speaker over a poor one any day.  But that’s a totally separate issue from reliability.  The New Testament’s emphasis is very strong on what someone has to say over how they say it.

5. Don’t be drawn in by the one who says only the things I want to hear. Is it not true that sometimes what we most need to hear is what we least want to hear?  It’s a common pitfall; we naturally latch on to a confirmation of what we already believe and we gravitate toward what is pleasing to hear.

This is exactly what Paul talks about: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

It’s always been that way.  Even longer ago (in Isaiah’s day), people were saying, “You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words” (Isa. 30:10, NASB).

It’s not hard to see why sometimes people end up with a guide or teacher who is not the best.  After all, we’re all attracted to popular, entertaining, and pleasant speakers and teachers.

One critical point remains: a foolproof method to determine whether or not someone is a trustworthy guide or helper.  And, yes, there is one.

Till next time…

God bless,

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