By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established. (Proverbs 24:3)
Correct Christian teaching begins in the mind of God, it is transferred to earth through the Bible, it is affirmed by God’s Spirit, and it is believed on and acted on by believers. The best Christian teachings are simple, practical, and are proved by common Christians who have simple faith. The job of the preacher and teacher is to make these things plain and simple – not to complicate them. So the real test of all true theology is not whether some theologian in some university thinks it is right, but whether the average Christian can understand it, believe it, and act upon it.
Yet there are some matters that average Christians get confused about. In many things that are commonly said among Christians there is a significant amount of plain old paganism, and they are not founded upon the word of God. For examples:
- When a child dies some say things like “God needed him in heaven more than we needed him here.” Where does such a teaching appear in the Scripture? Or, someone says, “The child died because the mother loved him too much.” Nonesense.
- On Facebook someone will ask people to pray for some need, thinking that if we have thousands of people praying then God will be more likely to grant the request. This smacks of the old pagan belief that God is distant and uncaring, and rather uninformed. We need to wear him down or get him on our side through our petitions. The more petitions the more likely it is that God will answer. Again, where does the Bible teach this? Jesus said, “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 18:19). And we read in James: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). The Biblical emphasis is upon praying according to the will of God, having a righteous life, and agreement only among a few. If you want an answer to your prayer, it is much better to have two or three faithful and deep Christian friends to pray with, people who can discern the mind of God and who believe Him, than having 10,000 on Facebook who press the “like” button.
- Someone says, “You don’t need to make requests in prayer. All you need to do is just praise God,” or “All we need to do is to just let go and let God.” This type of mindless or thoughtless Christianity is an attempt to justify plain laziness and irresponsibility. The word “pray” means to make requests, and Christ taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
And, sadly, we can go on and on with many more examples. This is why it is important to be responsible and biblical in our faith. It is through wisdom that a house is built, not through guess work or just hoping that something might work out in its construction. And it is through biblical knowledge and biblical teachings that our lives are built, not through irresponsible statements that come from someone’s imagination.
The Bible says we are to examine ideas to prove that they are from God. We are also to examine people to see if they are true disciples:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. (1 Tim. 3:10)
Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil. (1 Thes. 5:20-22)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:2)
Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. (1 Cor. 11:28)
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. (Phil. 1:9-11)
So the Biblical emphasis is on knowing the truth and testing other things we hear, those who wish to serve, and especially our own souls against the standard of God’s Word and His Spirit’s voice.
Remember the teaching of Paul about building upon the foundation of Christ:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. (1 Cor. 3:11-13)
He continued in the next chapter of 1 Corinthians to describe himself as a steward of the mysteries of God, placing his emphasis on the biblical teaching as the standard by which to evaluate his ministry (1 Cor. 4:1).