ABIDING IN THE WORD
to True Discipleship by
GARY RAY BRANSCOME
“Then said Jesus… If ye continue
in My Word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the
truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
The passage quoted above is one of several that warn
us not to add to or take from the words of Scripture. In short, Christ
wants us to continue in His Word, and we do that by not going outside
of it for doctrine. Therefore, true discipleship requires faithful and
unswerving adherence to the written Word of God. Without such adherence
the salvation message could easily be lost. [Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs
30:6, Mark 7:13, Revelation 22:18.]
THE SIN OF SELF DEIFICATION
Because God has included in Scripture everything we
need to know in order to be saved, those who add to or take from what
is written only obscure the truth and hinder the work of the gospel.
For that reason, we need to eliminate all unscriptural ideas from our
theology, and limit our doctrine to what the Bible actually says.
Nevertheless, because of the deceptiveness of the human heart, that is
more easily said than done. In fact, it is all too easy to read
something into the text without even realizing it. However, what most
people fail to understand, is that all addition to the Word of God is
rooted in the desire to make oneself God, and is, for that reason, a
form of rebellion against God (Isaiah 14:12-14).
In other words, because all sin is rooted in the
desire to overthrow God’s authority, anyone who adds to God’s Word is
trying to make himself God (by making his own word into God’s Word)
even if he does not realize it. Furthermore, because those who call
their own opinions the “Word of God” are, in effect, calling themselves
God, you need to be extremely wary of anyone who claims that a
particular passage is teaching something entirely different from what
it actually says. Of course, the people doing it usually have some sort
of excuse. They may claim to have discovered the true meaning, to be
following tradition, or to have received a revelation. Nevertheless,
the fact that they are adding to the Word of God tells us that they are
not true disciples of Christ (John 8:31).
THE SIN OF ADDING TO THE WORD OF
One of the most effective tricks that Satan uses to
divert our attention away from the Word of God, is to get our minds
caught up in speculation or debate as to how various passages should be
interpreted. I call this a trick, because most people wind up reading
their own ideas into the text, thus adding to what is said.
Nevertheless, you can avoid that trap, by learning to distinguish
between what the words actually say and interpretations of what they
say (2Corinthians 1:13).
For example: In some circles, there is heated debate
as to the length of the days in Genesis, chapter one. Some insist that
the entire story is allegory, others claim that each of the days
represent eras, or one-thousand-year periods, and still others claim
that each of the days was only twenty-four-hours long. At the same
time, those who have become fed up with the debate tend to conclude
that the length of the days is all a matter of opinion. However, what
the people involved in that controversy fail to see, is that the entire
debate is over what the Bible does not say, not what it does say! The
Bible does not specify exactly how long each of the creation days was.
Nevertheless, that does not mean that what the Bible says is all a
matter of opinion. On the contrary, even though the Bible is perfectly
clear, nobody is looking at what it actually says. Instead, because
Satan has gotten their attention off of what the Bible says, and onto
speculation as to what it means, the entire debate is about the meaning
of words (2Corinthians 4:4).
If the debate only involved opinions and nothing
more, we could settle the controversy by rejecting all of the opinions,
and agreeing to teach just what the Bible says. However, that will
never happen because the words of Scripture are not neutral. On the
contrary, if we taught what the Bible actually says on the matter, we
would wind up teaching that “in six days the LORD made heaven and
earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day”
(Exodus 20:11). And, that each of those days had and “evening” and a
“morning” (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31). Since those words give us no
reason to believe that the days in question were anything other than
ordinary days, it should be obvious that those who claim otherwise are
adding to the Word of God. In fact, when it comes right down to it,
they have rejected what the Bible says, and want to make believe that
it actually teaches something else (Luke 7:31-32).
Going on to some other ways in which people add to
God’s Word: It is fairly common for preachers to come up with
“principles” which they then expound on as if they were the Word of
God. Moreover, because they associate those principles with morality,
they see nothing wrong with what they are doing. Nevertheless, they are
adding to God’s Word in a way that differs little from what Christ
condemned as, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men (Mark 7:7).
However, while it should be obvious that those who teach man made
principles are adding to God’s Word, in some cases people add to God’s
word by jumping to conclusions that contradict what it says elsewhere.
For example: The words, “I give unto them eternal
life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out
of My hand,” are a great comfort to all who trust in Christ (John
10:28). Nevertheless, those who jump to the conclusion that once
someone is saved they can never lose their salvation, are adding to
what is actually said. We know that they are adding to God’s Word,
because, if they were sticking strictly to what John 10:28 says, their
teaching would not contradict Luke 8:13, “these have no root, which for
a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” In fact, they
could easily avoid contradicting Luke 8:13, if they would simply limit
their conclusion to the fact that is God’s grace, rather than our
works, that keeps us from loosing salvation. That conclusion does not
cause a problem, because it does not deny the fact that without God’s
help we would all lose our salvation (Psalm 22:29).
In the same way, the words “He hath chosen us in Him
before the foundation of the world,” were intended to comfort those who
trust in Christ (Ephesians 1:4). However, those who jump to the
conclusion that Christ only died to atone for the sins of those God
chose, are adding to God’s Word. Not only does that passage say nothing
about who Christ died for, the Bible plainly tells us that “He is the
propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins
of the whole world” (1John 2:2). Furthermore, whenever the conclusions
of men contradict what the Bible explicitly says, those who refuse to
surrender their conclusions, and bring their thinking into accord with
God’s Word, are rebelling against God (Isaiah 8:20, Psalm 107:11,
2Corinthians 10:5). It is God’s Word, not our puny sin-corrupted minds,
that must determine which conclusions are valid, and which are not
In his attempts to lead people away from God’s Word,
Satan often takes advantage of the fact that the human mind arrives at
conclusions by combining bits of information. He knows that if he can
get men to combine premises taken from the Bible with those take from
outside sources, he can lead them to conclusions that are at variance
with the Word of God. For example: I once heard a man try to
water down God’s law, by claiming that only willful acts are sin. In
order to defend that view, he argued that since, “sin is the
transgression of the law” (1John 3:4), and transgression of the law
consists of willful acts, then sin must only consist of willful acts.
However, even though his reasoning may seem logical, it is not
Scriptural, for the Bible says nothing about transgression of the law
consisting of “willful acts.” That is just something that he dreamed
up, and because he dreamed it up it is an addition to God’s Word.
Furthermore, it contradicts what the Bible plainly says. Why, even the
words “thou shall not covet” tell us that transgression of the law
consists of more than just acts. Because sin goes to the very root of
our nature, David could say, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in
sin did my mother conceive me.” And, Paul could say, “by one man sin
entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all
men, for that all have sinned.” [See 1John 5:17, Matthew 5:28,48,
Hebrews 3:12, Matthew 15:19, Romans 5:12-19, Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians
2:3, 1John 3:15, Psalm 51:5.]
Finally, those who change the words, “Render
therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the
things that are God’s” into a command to keep church and state
absolutely separate, are adding to the Word of God (Matthew 22:21).
And, we know that they are adding to the Word of God, because that
passage does not say a word about keeping anything separate. While it
may reflect the fact that the Jewish religion was separate from the
Roman State, it is the answer to a question, not a command, and the
word “separate” is not in the text. [See 2Corinthians 1:13.]
REASON, TRADITION, AND NEW
All additions to God’s Word arise from the
deceitfulness of the human heart, and those who seek to justify them
will appeal to reason, tradition, or new revelations.
When it comes to reason, those who add to God’s Word
often lack the ability to distinguish between what the words say, and
assumptions or opinions that they are reading into the text. In fact,
because our nature has been corrupted by sin, it is all too easy for us
to allow our imagination to run wild, or to confuse our fantasies with
insight. Therefore, if we are to be true disciples of Christ, we must
to use our reason to recognize the ways in which we are adding to God’s
Word, and reject those additions (John 8:31). In short, we must reign
in our minds, subdue our fantasies, and stick to the facts
(2Corinthians 1:13). [2Corinthians 10:5, 1Corinthians 11:31, Galatians
6:4, Romans 12:2, 1John 4:6]
At present the situation so bad that in some
churches blatant myths are being passed off as the Word of God. For
example: One myth tries to explain the fossils that are in the rocks by
claiming that there were millions of years between Genesis 1:1 (“In the
beginning God created the heaven and the earth”), and Genesis 1:2 (“And
the earth was without form, and void”). That myth goes on to claim that
Satan and his angels once lived on the earth, and by rebelling against
God ruined the earth, so that it became “without form and void.” Of
course, none of that is in the Bible! In fact, the words, “For in six
days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is,”
clearly contradict it (Exodus 20:11). Yet, those who believe it distort
a number of other passages by interpreting them in the light of that
myth. Therefore, I want to stress one important rule. We can only avoid
adding to the Word of God, if we interpret each passage of Scripture in
the light of what it explicitly says elsewhere. Those who interpret
passages in the light of interpretations are reading some interpreter’s
ideas into the text, and, thus, are adding to the Word of God (2Peter
Another myth attempts to explain how Christ could be
with the thief in “paradise,” during the time when His body was in the
grave, by making up a story about “paradise” being in hades. Of course,
none of that is in the Bible. It is simply an explanation that somebody
made up. Furthermore, if the people who believe that myth would look at
what the Bible says, they would find that the Bible not only defines
“paradise” as heaven (2Corinthians 12:2-4), but also explicitly says
that Christ was in heaven even while His body was on earth, including
the time it was in the grave (John 3:13).
Far from being benign, myths such as the two I that
have just mentioned, undermine the truth of God’s Word by advancing a
false (and totally ridiculous) method of interpreting Scripture. That
is why I stress the fact that those who add to God’s Word are not true
disciples of Christ (John 8:31).
When we speak of tradition in the context of Bible
interpretation, we are not talking about customs, but about doctrines
and interpretations that are not taught in God’s Word, yet are passed
on from generation to generation as if they were the Word of God
(Matthew 15:2-6, Mark 7:2-13). In fact, any addition to God’s Word that
is passed on from generation to generation, is a tradition.
Furthermore, those who defend traditions that contradict the Bible are
quick to quote 2Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast,
and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or
our epistle.” However, in quoting that passage they fail to grasp the
significance of the word “epistle.” For, any tradition that truly comes
from the Apostles will not contradict the traditions recorded in
Scripture, or anything else that the Bible says (Isaiah 8:20). Nor will
it add to what is written (John 8:31, Proverbs 30:6).
Because the Bible says, “There is one God, and one
mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” we know that the
tradition that calls Mary a mediator is from Satan, not God (1Timothy
2:5, Romans 3:4, Galatians 1:6-9).
Because the Bible says, “He [Christ] is the
propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins
of the whole world,” we know that the tradition that claims that Christ
only died for the sins of the elect, not the sins of the “whole world,”
is from Satan, not God (1John 2:2).
Because the Bible says, “every one which seeth the
Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise
him up at the last day,” we know that the tradition that claims that
Christ will raise up believers before the last day is from Satan, not
God (John 6:40).
When it comes to new revelation, it should be
obvious that the cults are adding to God’s Word, for they all claim
knowledge or insight that no one else has. However, Satan often uses a
very subtle source of false doctrine, which takes the form of an inner
leading, or an idea impressed upon the mind. That form of deception can
be especially insidious, because many Christians regard the impressions
they receive as communication from God. However, in order to avoid
being deceived you need to be wary of interpretations or impressions
disguised as revelation. God will never contradict what the Bible says,
or lead you to look outside of His Word for guidance (Isaiah 8:20, John
8:31, Luke 16:31).
It is also important to acquire a view of
impressions that better agrees with the Bible’s warning against adding
to the Word of God. For example: There have been times when I have
prayed fervently about a burden that was on my heart, only to have a
feeling of peace come over me. However, instead of viewing that peace
as some sort of communication, I see it as God strengthening my faith.
For, it is faith that gives me the assurance that God has heard my
prayer, that He cares for me for Christ’s sake, and that He will do
what is best (Romans 8:28).
There have also been times when, after seeking God’s
help in making a decision, I began to favor one alternative over the
others. However, even though I realize that my favor for one
alternative could be an answer to prayer, I regard it as the
inclination of my heart, not some sort of divine communication. After
all, if God can turn the heart of the king “whithersoever He will,” He
can turn my heart in answer to prayer, but that does not make the
leading of my heart a divine command or communication (Proverbs 21:1).
Likewise, the urge to do something nice could be the
“fruit of the Spirit” or the voice of conscience, but it should not be
viewed as a command that will bring God’s wrath if ignored.
I once heard a preacher say that when God first
called him to the ministry he resisted the call, and God caused his
baby to die because he was refusing to do God’s will. Have you ever
heard anything worse? What kind of ogre does he think God is? The very
fact that he has been slandering God every time he shared that
testimony should tell you that he is under a satanic delusion. Yet, he
goes blithely on, oblivious to the fact that he is teaching the very
heresy that Paul condemned in his Epistle to the Galatians, namely that
God’s favor depends on our obedience. He may not have been telling
people that they had to keep the Old-Testament law, but he was leading
them to believe that they had to obey an unwritten law, and that God
would kill their babies if they did not comply with that unwritten law.
Therefore, let me make it perfectly clear, that there is “no
condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). On the
contrary, because our sins have been washed away by the blood of the
lamb, we do not have to live under the fear of God’s wrath (Romans
10:4). The doctrine that preacher was teaching was straight out of
hell, and the very fact that it was an addition to God’s Word tells me
that he was not a true disciple of Christ (John 8:31, Galatians 1:6-9).
I once pointed out that an interpretation added to
God’s Word, only to have a man tell me that after praying about it, he
received a strong impression (which he believed was from the Holy
Ghost) that the passages could not be explained any other way. What he
failed to realize was that his “strong impression” came from outside of
God’s Word, therefore, it was not of God. In fact, because Christ wants
us to “continue in” His Word, we can be certain that it was of the
devil (John 8:31). And, that should not surprise us, for those who look
outside of Scripture for direction, especially about a matter that is
clearly contrary to God’s written Word, open themselves up to Satanic
“The true visible church acknowledges the written word of the apostles
and prophets as the only and perfect source, rule, norm, and judge of
all teaching. Not reason, not tradition, not new revelations.” (C. F.
THE SIN OF REBELLION
Whenever people add to God’s word, they will, sooner
or later, encounter passages that contract those additions. When that
happens, if they explain away the words of Scripture, instead of
rejecting the things they have added, they are rebelling against God
(Psalm 107:11). Moreover, because they generally take such rebellion
lightly, and think nothing of it, I want to make it perfectly clear
that such rebellion is as “witchcraft” and “idolatry” in the sight of
God (1Samuel 15:23).
Because Christ, after rising from the dead,
specifically said, “handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and
bones, as ye see me have,” those who deny that Christ physically rose
from the dead are rebelling against God (Luke 24:39). And, the Bible
calls them liars (Romans 3:4).
Because the Bible explicitly tells us that Christ
was a descendant of Abraham, those who contradict the Bible by claiming
that Christ’s body was an entirely new creation, not an actual
descendant of Abraham, are rebelling against God (Hebrews 2:16).
[Genesis, 3:15 and 22:18, Galatians 3:16 and 4:4, Romans 1:3.]
Because Christ specifically said that He would raise
up believers “at the last Day,” those who contradict and explain away
what He said, teaching their own ideas as the Word of God, are
rebelling against God (John 6:40). [John 6:39,44,54, John 11:24 and
12:48, 2Timothy 4:1.]
While the world at large sees nothing wrong with
contradicting or explaining away what the Bible says, those who do it
are doing the work of Satan, for that is exactly what Satan was doing
when he told Eve that she would not die if she ate of the tree “of
knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 3:4).
Since false prophets seek to exalt themselves, they
usually claim to have ideas, explanations, or interpretations that no
one else has, and that always involves addition to God’s Word (Jeremiah
23:31-32). At the same time, those who determine the validity of a
doctrine by whether it sounds good or makes sense to them, are making
themselves the authority instead of allowing God’s Word to be the
authority, and that is a form of self-deification. In contrast, as true
disciples of Christ we need bring our thinking into agreement with
God’s Word, and we can only do that if we do not add to, contradict, or
explain away anything that the Bible says (Romans 12:2).
Whenever unscriptural ideas or assumptions are read
into the text of Scripture, they produce unscriptural interpretations,
and those interpretations lead to conclusions that contradict what the
Bible says. Therefore, if we are to be true disciples of Christ, we
must eliminate the human element from our theology (John 8:31). To that
end, we need to critically examine our own opinions, eliminate
unscriptural ideas from our thinking, and reject any conclusions that
contradict what the Bible says (Isaiah 8:20). In short, you must be
your own worst critic, and must be determined to find and eliminate any
errors from your theology before anyone else finds them (1Corinthians
11:31). If you wait for others to find your errors, you will never be
convinced when they point them out (Proverbs 9:8).
In order to avoid error, we need to begin by
learning those truths that are that are so plainly stated in Scripture
they need no interpretation. Once they have been learned, you can use
them as a standard, by rejecting and eliminating any ideas or
interpretations that contradict them. For example: Those who read the
Book of Revelation often jump to conclusions, let their imaginations
run wild, and read into the text things that are not there. However, if
they would begin by learning those truths about Christ’s return that
are so plainly stated that they need no interpretation, they would find
- Christ explicitly said, “Every one which seeth the Son, and
believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at
the last day” (John 6:40).
- In another place He said, “the word that I have spoken, the
same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
- Paul wrote, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the
Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his
appearing and his kingdom” (2Timothy 4:1).
- And, Christ also said, “My kingdom is not of this world”
Because a correct interpretation of the Book of
Revelation will never contradict these plainly stated facts, we know
that the nineteenth chapter of Revelation is not saying that Christ
will return prior to the time appointed for Him to judge the living and
the dead (2Timothy 4:1). Therefore, it is either describing the last
day (compare 2Timothy 4:1 with John 12:48), or it is not describing His
physical return. Here is where it is important not to confuse the
literal [i.e. grammatical] meaning of what is written, with the vision
that is being described. Just because the book of Revelation gives us a
literal description of what John saw, does not mean that John was
seeing physical history, any more than a literal description of
Pharaoh’s dream is a description of physical history (Genesis
41:1-32). Instead, the nineteenth chapter of Revelation could be
describing what Mark was describing when he said, “And they went forth,
and preached every where, the Lord working with them” (Mark 16:20).
Likewise, because Christ explicitly said that His
kingdom was not of this world, we know that Revelation 20:4 is not
saying that He will physically reign on this planet (John 18:36).
Furthermore, chapters nineteen and twenty agree with what I have just
said, for neither of them say anything about Christ physically
appearing, or reigning. Those ideas are simply being read into the
Many people wind up reading their own ideas into the
text because they believe that what it says is all a matter of opinion.
In fact, I recently heard someone say, that the words, “Judge not, that
ye be not judged” could be interpreted a thousand different ways
(Matthew 7:1). However, because most “interpretations” add to what is
written, I would like to show you how you can eliminate false
interpretations, while allowing the Bible to interpret that verse.
First of all, because the Bible says, “we write none
other things unto you, than what ye read,” we need to make a clear
distinction between what the words actually say, and all of the
interpretations that people dream up (2Corinthians 1:13). Once we put
those interpretations out of our mind, the actual meaning of the words
(Judge not, that ye be not judged) becomes perfectly clear. That verse
warns us not to judge others in a way that will bring God’s judgement
down on us (Matthew 7:1-5). Therefore, getting rid of all of the
interpretations is a key factor in understanding the verse. In fact,
one of the ways that Satan blinds people to what the Bible says, is to
fill their heads with so many interpretations that they find the words
confusing. So you need to begin by putting all interpretations out of
your mind. Once that is done, other passages that deal with judging
will cast light on what is written (Isaiah 28:9-10).
For example: Because Paul rebuked the Corinthians
for not judging wicked behavior on the part of their members, we know
that Matthew 7:1 is not telling us that it is wrong to condemn wicked
behavior, or to exclude those who are unrepentant (1Corinthians 5:1-13
and 6:1-9). Likewise, because John the Baptist condemned Herod’s
adultery, we know that Matthew 7:1 is not telling us that it is wrong
to condemn the sins of rulers (Matthew 14:3-5, Mark 6:17-18).
At the same time, the fact that the Pharisee (in the
parable of the Pharisee and the publican) judged in a way that Christ
condemned, tells us that Matthew 7:1 is condemning that kind of judging
(Luke 18:11,14). Furthermore, the fact that Christ directed that
parable at those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous,
and despised others,” tells us what was wrong with the way the Pharisee
judged (Luke 18:9). In short, by comparing himself with others,
the Pharisee gained a false sense of righteousness and, therefore, a
false assurance of salvation, which blinded him to his need for God’s
mercy and forgiveness (2Corinthians 10:12, Psalm 13:5).
Therefore, I have just shown you how you can let
Scripture interpret Matthew 7:1 by saying that it is talking about the
kind of judging that is condemned in Luke 13:1-5 and Luke 18:9-14, but
not the kind of that is approved in 1Corinthians 5:1-13 and 6:1-9.
Furthermore, that is the best way to interpret any verse, because when
we interpret a verse that way, we can be certain that we are not adding
to God’s Word. In fact, even if I was totally wrong, that
interpretation would still be the Word of God because it is plainly
stated in Luke 18:9-14, and 1Corinthians 5:1-13 and 6:1-9.
[Note: Any interpretation that adds to, contradicts, or attempts to get
around what the Bible says, is a “private” interpretation. And,
therefore is of the devil (2Peter 1:20).]
It is important for us to deal with other people in
love, and Christ wants us to be known for our love (John 13:35).
However, He also wants us to be known for our faithful adherence to His
Word, and if we allow men to add to or contradict His Word, the truth
of the gospel will be obscured (John 8:31-32). Therefore, the approach
to Bible interpretation that I have just outlined is vital not only to
sound theology, but to the salvation of souls. The doctrine that God
wants you to get from His Word is nothing other “than what you read,”
and it is plainly stated in Scripture, “line upon line, line upon line,
here a little and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10, 2Corinthians 1:13).
That doctrine needs to be the standard to which all teaching must
conform (Isaiah 8:20).