This post is going to sound like it is attacking the Bible. I’m hoping that my continual reference to the Bible throughout this post will make it clear that I am not attacking the Bible. Please, every time you get offended as you read this, and you want to accuse me of things, look at the way I am using the Bible. It is the way I always use it, as the authoritative Word of God that is the rule and guide of my life.
That said, I never call the Bible the Word of God, and it is not my “sole” rule and guide. In fact, it is not the primary guide for my life, and it should not be yours, either.
If you are going to be a Bible believer, then you should believe that your first and primary guide is the Spirit of God.
As many as are led by the Spirit, these are the sons of God. (Rom. 8:14)
[God] has made us able ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, because the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:6)
Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. … If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Gal. 5:16,18)
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you will find life. However, these are they which testify of me, and you refuse to come to me so that you may have life. (Jn. 5:39-40)
The Bible Does Not Lead, It Equips
The Scriptures are our protection. With them we can teach, admonish, rebuke, and correct (2 Tim. 3:16). They can make us wise for salvation (2 Tim. 3:14). They can equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).
We do not, however, “follow” the Bible. We follow the Spirit.
We keep the commands of Christ. That is part of following him. Paul said that the things the apostles write to us are the commands of Christ every bit as much as the commands we read about in the Gospel (1 Cor. 14:37). If we love him, we will obey him; we will keep Jesus’ commandments.
But we are following the Spirit. He is our guide.
Why the Leading of the Spirit Is Important
There is so much we have lost. We feel comfortable and safe following the Bible, trusting our interpretations of it. But look at what it has gotten us:
- Christians are famous for their divisions. We call them denominations. As Bible followers, we go blithely along, joining and promoting those denominations, doing little to repent for the division we’re showing to the world despite terrifying warnings issued by Jesus and Paul about division.
- Many who leave the denominations fumble along, having no idea what they should be doing. They search the Scriptures, thinking that there will be answers for a situation that did not exist in the first century, but the answers are not there. What they build, they build on new interpretations of Scripture, every bit as unreliable and ineffective as the old interpretations of Scripture because God wants to lead them by his Spirit, not have them figure things out from the Bible.
- People call the Bible their sole rule for faith and practice, yet the majority of evangelicals hold a doctrine of baptism that disagrees with almost every verse in the apostles writings that concerns baptism. It’s a doctrine only about 300 or 400 years old, and was never heard of in church history before that. The misinterpretation of baptism verses is so bad that I don’t have to tell you what verses to look at. Go look up any baptism verses. Go read the baptisms in Acts.
I’m going to stop there because the most important thing is already mentioned. People try to branch out from the errors of the evangelicals, and they don’t know where to go. If division is bad among evangelicals, it is much worse among those who have left. Splintering into individual families is not uncommon.
Why? Because we have based fellowship on unreliable interpretations of the Scripture rather than on the unity of the Spirit of God.
The Unity of the Spirit
Have you ever noticed that we are told to carefully maintain the unity of the Spirit, but never told to carefully maintain unity of doctrine except where that doctrine concerns behavior?
Look around the Bible. It’s so.
We are told that if we maintain the unity of the Spirit successfully, then Jesus will give us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers who will train us to do the work of ministry. Then, as we maintain the unity of the Spirit, he will bring us to unity of faith (Eph. 4:3-16). That will happen, not just as everyone reads their Bible, though they all should (2 Tim. 3:14-17), but because we exercise our gifts toward each other (“every one doing his part”).
The Bible can be and should be our protection. Too often, however, it is not the Bible that we adhere to, but our interpretation of the Bible.
Interpretations of the Bible
I hope if you read this blog that you see how much of the Scripture is misunderstood and ignored by evangelicals. I was one—I probably still qualify as one—and I missed huge portions of Scripture, too. Very little turns the apostles’ writings into as much of a hodge podge of meaningless verses and contradictions as our ubiquitous “faith alone” doctrine.
Knowing that we can get that far off on such a critically important central issue of the new covenant, then why are we not afraid of our own interpretations of the Bible? Why do we think we can search the Scriptures for what we should do when we leave the evangelical denominations and just figure it out?
We can’t, and millions of house churches and radical separatists have proven we can’t.
The one thing very few of them try is a helpless reliance on the Holy Spirit of God who has promised, through the Scriptures, that he will lead them into EVERYTHING, and that his leading will be true and not a lie (1 Jn. 2:27).
“Oh, Paul, being led by the Spirit is not trustworthy. We will go astray. We need something concrete, like the LETTER.”
Yeah, how’s that working out for you?
Our safety is each other, united in the Spirit.
He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers to perfect the saints for the work of the ministry and the building up of the body of the King, until we all come to the unity of the faith, of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfected man, and to the full-grown size of the King. Then we will no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of teaching, by the sleight of hand of men and the cunning craftiness with which they lie in wait to deceive. (Eph. 4:11-14)
I have written these things to you concerning those who are trying to seduce you. But the Anointing which you have received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. That Anointing teaches you everything and is true and not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will remain in him. (1 Jn. 2:26-27)
I’d like to just end with those Scriptures. I apologize for how poorly this is written. I’m packing a lot into a little space, and I left a lot unexplained.
This is so important, so practical, and so potentially transforming of Christendom, that I can only pray that God can get past my meager attempt to pass on his Word and grant revelation to the reader.
- The Problem of Authority: Who Interprets the Bible? (christianthought.hbu.edu)