Step #1 — Read the Bible cover to cover, over and over.
Step #2 — Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit.
Here is Step #3:
Know, and hold fast to, the core doctrines of the Christian faith.
Some Scriptures are hard to understand, and the best of Bible scholars disagree on how to interpret them. Really, there are not multiple meanings. Scripture says what God meant it to say, but people still don’t always agree on what they think He was saying!
However, some beliefs are non-negotiable — God’s eternally perfect nature; the deity of Christ; Jesus’ virgin birth; His perfect and complete atonement for our sins at the cross; salvation by grace, not works; Jesus’ bodily resurrection; our future bodily resurrection; and the physical return of Christ. There are others. If you are fuzzy on the core doctrines of Christianity, a place to start educating yourself quickly is the Apostles’ Creed. Denominational statements of faith, while not always perfect, are usually based around core doctrine as well. But do go on to see what the Bible says for yourself. The basic teachings of the universal Church are repeated throughout the Scriptures, and are especially clarified in the New Testament.
Core doctrines were considered by the first apostles to be of the utmost importance. Paul exhorted his young protégée Timothy to teach the main beliefs of the faith: “And the things which you have heard of me among many witnesses, commit the same to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). John made a similar statement: “Let that therefore abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).
Paul further warned Timothy to beware of those who wished to teach “fables”:
… Charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith. — 1 Timothy 1:3, 4
But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself rather unto godliness. — 1 Timothy 4:7
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables. — 2 Timothy 4:3, 4
I rather think some of the teaching circulating today which draws on Jewish legend, apocryphal books, and extra-biblical phenomena could easily fall into this category of fables which bring more questions than edifying.
Basic tenets of the Church since the days of the first apostles must never be subtracted from or added to. This is why belief in the “catching away” of the Church (commonly called “the Rapture”), revealed in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, must never be discarded, no matter who says otherwise.
A repeated exhortation of the first apostles and Jesus Himself was to hold fast to sound doctrine:
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. — 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle. — 2 Thessalonians 2:15
Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. — 2 Timothy 1:13
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for He Who promised is faithful. — Hebrews 10:23
Behold, I come quickly: hold fast that which you have, so that no man takes your crown. — Revelation 3:11
If we will return to the basic teaching laid down by the original apostles of the New Testament Church, we can be confident of standing in truth.
Next time, we’ll talk briefly about some current popular erroneous teaching.