RECOGNIZING THE SPIRIT OF ERROR


A Study By
Gary Ray Branscome
 


“We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1John 4:6).

    When it comes to understanding the Bible one of the most important distinctions that you can learn to make, is the distinction between what a passage actually (explicitly) says and what it is interpreted to mean. That distinction is vital to a correct understanding of Scripture, because without it you will not be able to separate man’s word from God’s Word, or differentiate between fact and opinion.

    Those who lack the ability to make that distinction often wind up explaining away something that the Bible says, because it contradicts a particular doctrine or interpretation that they have accepted. In other words, they explain away God’s Word, because it does not agree with man’s word. Moreover, because anyone who explains away the words of Scripture is refusing to hear what the Prophets and Apostles have said, the passage quoted at the beginning of this essay is telling us that those who explain away God’s Word have a spirit of error (1John 4:6).

MAKING THE WORD OF GOD OF NONE EFFECT


    When those who have not learned to distinguish between explicit statements and interpretations come to a statement of Scripture that they are unwilling to accept, they usually look for a passage that they can interpret to say the opposite. Upon finding such a passage, they then assume that their interpretation somehow negates what the Bible says (Mark 7:13). However, as far as God is concerned, the opposite is true. It is the Word of God that negates their interpretation (Isaiah 8:20).

    In order to clarify what I am saying, let us compare the passages that explicitly address the role of women in the church, with some interpretations are commonly cited in opposition to those passages.

1Timothy 2:11-14 “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
1Corinthians 11:10 “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.”

1Corinthians 14:34-37 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church… If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.”

[Comment: 1Timothy 2:11-14 tells us that Paul did not allow women to teach or hold authority in the congregation. Moreover, the reasons he gives have to do with God’s order of creation, and the problems that Eve caused when she took the lead, not culture. Furthermore, 1Corinthians 11:10 implies that when women take the lead it causes a problem for the angels. 1Corinthians 14:34-37 expresses similar sentiments in a little stronger language.]

    Those who are unwilling to accept what is said in the verses just quoted, often claim that Galatians 3:28 says the opposite: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” However, since that passage is talking about salvation, not women in the ministry, the doctrine that they claim to get from that passage consists of a conclusion, not what the passage actually says. Therefore, what they are doing is placing their own idea (conclusion/interpretation) in opposition to explicit statements of Scripture.

    While they imagine that their interpretation somehow negates what 1Timothy 2:11-14 says, the opposite is true. 1Timothy 2:11-14 negates their interpretation, because whenever the word of man contradicts an explicit Statement of scripture, the word of man must yield to the Word of God (Romans 3:4, Isaiah 8:20, 2Peter 1:20). Furthermore, by trying to replace God’s Word with their own word (conclusion), they are attempting to exalt themselves over God, and that is the sin of self-deification (Isaiah 14:12-14).

    The story of the woman at the well, and the fact that she told her countrymen about Christ, is also interpreted to contradict what the Bible says about women in the ministry (John 4:28-42).  However, as with the previous example, they are placing a conclusion (interpretation) in opposition to what the Bible explicitly says, when they should be rejecting that conclusion because it contradicts the Bible. The fact that the woman at the well was never in the ministry, and that she never taught in a church, does not seem to faze those who have hardened their hearts to what God says.

    While other passages could be listed, none of them explicitly say anything about women in the ministry, instead they are interpreted to contradict 1Timothy 2:11-14 and 1Corinthians 14:34-37.

[Note: I know of one denomination that maintains a special teachers college for women who desire full time Christian service. Congregations then call the graduates of that college to teach in their Christian day schools. However, great care is taken to see that everything is done in accord with 1Timothy 2:11-14 and 1Corinthians 14:34-37.]

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS


    On at least two occasions, I have told someone that they should not be explaining away what the Bible says, only to have them say “You explain away passages such as Luke 14:26,
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

    Therefore, I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not explain that passage, or any passage, away. In each case, the person in question simply assumed that I would have to explain away that passage, and then falsely accused me of doing it. The way that I deal with Luke 14:26, is the same way I deal with any other passage. First I accept what it says, and then I reject any conclusions that contradict what the Bible says. For example, if someone told me that he thought that Luke 14:26 was telling him to kill his parents, I would tell him that his conclusion was wrong, because Bible condemns murder and specifically condemns those kill their parents (1Timothy 1:9). In fact, one way that we eliminate false interpretations, is by eliminating interpretations that lead to conclusions that contradict Scripture. [Converts to Christianity are often accused of hating their families.]

    What I have said about women in the ministry applies just as well to those who want homosexuality to be accepted as normal. Although the Bible clearly and explicitly condemns homosexuality, those who refuse to accept what the Bible says interpret certain passages to contradict what the Bible says. They then act as if their interpretations negate the passages that condemn homosexuality, when the opposite is true (Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26, 1Corinthians 6:9). The Word of God negates the word of man (Isaiah 8:20).

    Whenever, a church is going contrary to what the Bible explicitly says, every member has the right to stand up and say, “That is wrong and I am not going to allow it.” Furthermore, because the one who speaks out is speaking the Word of God he has the authority of God behind him, and those who oppose him are opposing God (Luke 16:10). Nevertheless, because the carnal mind tends to get things backwards, he will most likely be condemned by those in authority, called a troublemaker, and persecuted. On the other hand, no one has the right to insist that their own interpretation or opinion be followed (Matthew 23:8).

    In some cases, pastors who know that they should take a stand against women in the ministry or homosexuality, wind up trying to assert their own personal authority instead of standing on God’s authority (see preceding paragraph). As a result, they do not limit their stand to what the Bible says, but wind up placing themselves in opposition to the will of God by imposing their own interpretations and opinions on the congregation (1Peter 5:3).

CONCLUSION


    Much of the confusion and controversy that exists in modern churches stems from the fact that many believers lack the ability to distinguish between what the Bible explicitly says, and interpretations. In many cases, entire doctrines are created out of interpretations, while any statements of Scripture that contradict those doctrines or interpretations are explained away. However, the Bible makes it clear that those who twist Scripture in that way have a spirit of error, and should be shunned as troublemakers (1John 4:6, Isaiah 8:20, Mark 7:13, Romans 16:17).