There are several long-forgotten teachings that used to be simple orthodoxy, known by all but the least educated Christians. For Protestants today, the Bible is a hodge-podge of competing verses, and which verses one prefers depends on which denomination he or she chooses.
These teachings answer some of the most puzzling questions Bible readers face.
Before we cover these teachings, I should tell you a little bit about myself.
I was raised Roman Catholic. At age 12 or 13 it was time for “Confirmation.” At Confirmation, I was supposed to receive the Holy Spirit and become a soldier for Jesus. I even had to choose a new name for this great event. (I chose my birth name, Paul, because it was the name of an apostle.
I was probably the only child in my catechism class that was excited about this earth-shaking event. The rest of my class was there, as far as I could tell, because their parents made them be.
When the fateful day came, I waited in the pew for my turn before the bishop. My insides shook like my organs were dangling on rubber bands.
Finally, my turn. Quietly, I approached the jovial bishop, trying to hide my excitement.
Nothing. It was a flop. Epic and crushing fail.
Over the next few days, I hoped that something would be different even if I didn’t feel anything. Instead, I was the same shy, terrified kid I had been before Confirmation. I remember plucking up some courage one day to tell someone God sees what we do, but spiritual thoughts had not even captivated my own heart.
The final disappointment, the one that struck me deep enough to make me lose hope, was leaving my Jr. high school one day. I stepped out into the Kansas sun, looked up, and realized I had not thought of God all day long.
My mom tried to help me along. She bought me some Christian Archie comics (remember those) and the book The Cross and the Switchblade. She even got me some Chick tracts (now infamous because I think Jack Chick snapped and lost his mind). Back then, though, he had not digressed into bizarre conspiracy theories, and his tracts had the fundamentalist view of salvation in them.
The Cross and the Switchblade won me over completely. I wanted to be like David Wilkerson.
To do that, I knew, I had to ask Jesus to come into my heart. I prayed the prayer in the Chick tracts over and over again. At night I would lay on my back with my arms wide open begging Jesus to come into my heart.
I just couldn’t convince him to respond.
One tract said that Jesus was knocking at the door of my heart, but the knob was on the inside; only I could open it. That tract made me angry. “Where’s the stupid doorknob? I would open it if I could. What kind of stupid advice is that?”
After a month or so of torturing myself, I gave up. I ran across Dick Sutphen’s You Were Born Again To Be Together, and I became a New Age reincarnationist.
Really Born Again
In 1982, at age 20, I ran across a Christian who didn’t just talk, but prayed with power. God came after me from every direction. Overwhelmed, knowing that I had some huge changes of life in front of me, I gave up and admitted Jesus was God’s Son.
The whole world changed. The sky got brighter, the air got cleaner, the trees were greener, and I was filled with an indescribable joy. I asked God what he had done to me, and this matter-of-fact voice inside of me said, “I just baptized you with the Holy Spirit.”
I promised God that day I would never forget that miracle and that I would serve him forever.
I was born again on a Wednesday night in an Assembly of God church, talking with a member who had asked to talk to me privately. Suddenly, I was a Protestant.
I had only been to a Protestant service three times. The first time was in Jr. High with a friend while I was still a Catholic. My friend Skipper took me to a Baptist church. I was so mesmerized by the ushers, who stood the whole service, shouting “amen” throughout the sermon that the amens are all I remember.
The second time, I was in college, and I dropped in on a Baptist church one Sunday morning just out of curiosity. What a shock! This pastor shouted most of his sermon, and he had the audacity to call St. Paul by his first name like they were friends or something. He threatened hell quite a bit, and I thought he was a very unlikeable fellow, not the sort of person one would want to listen to at all. As my daughter likes to say in a high, lilting voice: “Kah-reepy!”
The third time was the Protestant service at the chapel during Air Force tech training. All I remember there was that I found out I couldn’t clap to a beat. I was with a friend who was a drummer, and he said I was the first person he’d ever met who couldn’t clap to a beat.
I have since found out that most Catholics can’t clap to a beat. If you see a Catholic clapping to a beat, you have found a convert from Protestantism.
I, however, was a convert to Protestantism. I not only had to learn to clap on time, I had to learn everything else, too. Protestant rules and customs were a mystery to me.
One thing I did know is that the Protestants follow the Bible. They weren’t like the Catholics, who told you exactly how to interpret the Bible. I was a very small child when Vatican II ended, so I don’t remember masses in Latin except on Christmas and at Easter. We were encouraged to read our Bibles when I was a child, though I didn’t know anyone who did. My parents bought me records (albums, remember those?) with Bible stories on them, and I’m sure we had children’s Bibles, too, but as far as I knew, Catholics didn’t actually read the Bible, even though we listened to passages from it every Sunday.
So I was excited about following the Bible and the Bible only.
Every week when the pastor preached, he would say, “Look in your Bible and see if what I’m saying is true. You should only believe what the Bible teaches.”
I wish he had been telling the truth. It would have made my life so much easier.
It is a rare Protestant, of any denomination, who cares much what the Bible says. Quote the Bible all you want as long as it agrees with them. if it disagrees, then it better not touch any pet doctrines, and there are a LOT of those.
If you transgress those two rules, you’ll be fighting like a deep sea fisherman with a blue marlin at the end of his line. Maybe I should say with a Great White on the line because only on the rarest of occasions will you land a Protestant that you’ve got on the hook—no matter what the Bible says or how clearly.
What do I mean? Well, let’s try the simplest one of all. Most Protestants I know believe in salvation by faith alone. Yet the only verse in the Bible that mentonis faith alone is this one:
So we see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. (Jam. 2:24)
What does wriggling like a blue marlin on a line look like? Just watch the comments if anyone is brave enough to comment. I think I’ve scared off most of the rabid “faith alone” crowd from my audience.
After a year of experiencing the disregard, and often contempt, for the Bible from my fellow “Bible believers.” I thought I’d better start over.
What I really wanted was not to start from scratch. I not only began to devour the Bible, but I went to bookstores and bought church history books, one after another.
These church history books were so pitiful that after reading about ten over seven years, I had no idea that we had collections of writings from people who not only were in the apostles’ churches, but some who actually knew the apostles!
How can you write a church history book without mentioning something that important?
For me, it didn’t matter that much. I had adopted a strategy to get back to apostolic teaching that worked exceptionally well. By the time I ran across David Bercot’s book, Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, and found out that I could read the writings of these earliest Christians for myself, I had already discovered many of their teachings on my own.
They must have used the same Bible study method because every one of their teachings stands up to my Bible study method.
My Bible Study Method
Here’s my Bible Study method:
- If you find one verse in the Bible that clearly disagrees, in its plainest wording, with something you teach, then learn everything you can about that verse to find out why it disagrees.
- Until you find out that one verse means something that can be aligned with what you teach, then consider your teaching suspect. You can only disregard the verse if it seems that everyone everywhere doesn’t know what it means (e.g., 1 Cor. 15:29).
- If you find two verses in the Bible that clearly disagree with something you teach, then throw the teaching out. Say you don’t understand the subject until God gives you something that does fit the Bible without verses that disagree or even seem to disagree.
- Until you are teaching something that fits all the verses of the Bible, say you don’t understand that topic even if you don’t understand it for years and even if the topic is critically important.
These rules are not impossible to implement. In fact, they get easier and easier the more you implement them.
Of course, if you’re a Protestant, these rules will demolish numerous doctrines that are critically important to you or your denomination. You’ll probably lose friends, possible be cut off from family, and there will be a lot of churches that will not let you attend if they find out about you.
It can’t be helped. That’s what happens when error is so rampant.
Teachings That Must Not Be Lost
The teachings that we will be covering will fit my rules. They will leave you with no difficult verses, and they will be found clearly stated in the writings of the early church, often enough to indicate that they were universal beliefs of the apostles’ churches. I’m not going to cover anything that is not so.
If you’re like me, this is going to be an adventure, even if it costs you friends.
If you’re not, you might not want to read the posts that are coming.