Gary Ray Branscome
“Do not add to his words, lest he reprove you, and you are found to be a liar.” (Proverbs 30:6)
The formal principle of any theology has to do with the source of its teachings, and thus the authority behind that theology. In keeping with that fact, it should be obvious that no theology containing ideas that come from outside of the Bible can honestly be called Biblical Theology. To be truly Biblical, a theology must embrace only those truths that are clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture, to the exclusion of any man-made explanations. As Dr. Francis Pieper put it:
“The first and foremost duty of the exegete consists in holding the flighty spirit of man to the simple word of Scripture and, where he has departed from it, to lead him back to the simple word of Scripture.” // “The Christian doctrine is not produced by the theologian; all that the Christian theologian does is compile the doctrinal statements contained in Scripture (in the text and context), group them under their proper heads, and arrange these doctrines in the order of their relationship. (“Christian Dogmatics”, Vol. 1, pg. 360 and 52)
In other words, a truly Biblical theology consists of nothing more than what the Bible says. Furthermore, because the Bible tells us everything we need to know to be saved, additions only serve to obscure the gospel. Therefore, if we want to have the truth we must remain faithful to what the Word itself says to the exclusion of everything else; whether it is called reason, tradition, or new revelation (John 8:31-32).
Because the Bible was written to testify of Christ (John ), and faith comes through hearing that testimony (Romans ), the devil is continually trying to lead people away from what the Bible says. All false religion is inspired by Satan for the express purpose of keeping people from the truth (1Corinthians , 2Corinthians 4:4). For that reason, the Bible warns us against those who add to, contradict, or explain away what it clearly and explicitly says (Proverbs 30:6, Isaiah , Mark ). And, whenever anyone contradicts or explains away what the inspired writers of Scripture have said, we can be certain that they have a “spirit” of error (1John 4:6).
The “spirit” of Error
You can recognize those who have a “spirit” of error by the fact that they read unscriptural ideas and assumptions into what the Bible says, thereby producing interpretations that are unwarranted by and at variance with the plain grammatical meaning of the words. Then, on the basis of those interpretations, they draw conclusions that are not warranted by the text, often contradicting what the Bible explicitly says.
Furthermore, when they are told that their opinions contradict Scripture, instead of humbly submitting to God by rejecting their opinions, they rebel against God by trying to explain away what He has said. By trying to replace God’s Word with their own word, they are attempting to exalt themselves over God, and that is the sin of self-deification (Isaiah -14).
Although the rule that we should not add to or take from what the Bible says seems very simple, because of the deceitfulness of the human heart it is hard to find a theology that does not in some way add to God’s Word. In fact, many who call themselves Christian seem almost slipshod in their willingness to mix their own opinions with the truth of Scripture. What they fail to realize is that by doing so they are rebelling against God. Every time they pass off their own ideas as the Word of God, they are trying to make themselves God, by making their Word into God’s Word (Isaiah -14). Moreover, every time they explain away a passage that contradicts their own ideas, they are rebelling against what God has said (Psalm 107:11). And, the Bible makes it clear that such rebellion is just as serious as the sin of witchcraft and idolatry (1 Samuel ).
At this point I am going to make some people angry by exposing their rebellion against God’s Word. But, first let me point out, that those who have the Spirit of truth will always be their own worst critics. They will be eager to find and eliminate their own errors. In contrast, those who have a “spirit” of error will deny that they are wrong, even when they are contradicting what the Bible explicitly says. [1Corinthians , 2Corinthians 10:5.]
Moreover, because the Holy Spirit has told us that “no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation,” we know that the Holy Spirit will never give anyone their own private interpretation of a passage (2Peter ). On the contrary, the only meaning that the Holy Spirit wants us to get from what He has written is the plain meaning of the words themselves. As it is written, “we have not written anything to you, other than what you read” (2Corinthians ). Furthermore, we are warned that adding to God’s Word can make “the word of God of no effect” (Matthew 15:6, Mark , Romans , 1Corinthians ).
Some people rebel against God by interpreting the words of Acts , “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and daughters will prophesy,” to justify having women preachers. However, we know that their interpretation is not of God because it contradicts those passages that explicitly say, “Let your women keep silent in the churches: for they are not permitted to speak // I do not allow a woman to teach, or to have authority over a man,” (1Corinthians and 1Timothy ). Nevertheless, the carnal mind would much rather explain away what God says, than submit to His Word.
Others rebel against God by claiming that the judgement spoken of in 2Corinthians is not the judgement spoken of elsewhere in Scripture. That is not something the Bible says, they just make it up. It is pure addition to God’s Word, and for that reason should be rejected as false (Proverbs 30:6). Nevertheless, Satan makes the people who hold that error very adamant in its defense. If they would only read the passage in context, they would see that Paul is not describing the judgement, he is simply reminding us that we will be judged. And, if we want to know what that judgement will be like, we need to look at what the Bible says elsewhere, not make up fables about what will take place (2 Timothy 4:4). Frankly, I believe that Satan makes the people who hold this error so dogmatic because he uses it to make Paul’s warning of “no effect” (Mark ).
Another way that people make the Word of God “of no effect” is by denying what the Bible clearly and explicitly says about creation. The doctrine that God wants taught is exactly what He said, namely that in “six days” He made the “heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11). No honest person can deny that this is what the Bible says, because if they look up the reference they find it there in black and white. It is not my opinion; it is a fact that anyone can verify simply by looking up the passage. And, the doctrine God wants taught is that doctrine so clearly stated in Scripture that no honest person can deny that the Bible says it. I am not saying that everyone will accept it. I am just saying that whether they accept it or not, they cannot honestly deny that the Bible says it.
Far too many who call themselves Christian have rebelled against God by interpreting Scripture to support “evolution”. Evolution should be rejected because it contradicts Scripture (Isaiah ). It is atheist religion, not science! However, because they have accepted it, they want to make the Bible agree with it. Now since the Bible says nothing about evolution, it should be obvious that they are adding to what the Bible says. They are reading unscriptural ideas into Scripture, instead of letting Scripture interpret itself. Furthermore, it is totally dishonest for them to claim that the days mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis were really long ages when the Bible explicitly says that each one of those days had an evening and morning.
To justify this error, some claim that “God wrote two books, the book of nature and the Bible. But the Bible says no such thing! At most the Bible tells us that God has given us a witness to his existence in nature. However, without Scripture to guide us, that witness tells us little more than that God exists. What they fail to see, is that by explaining away what the Biblical says about creation they make the Word of God “of no effect,” because if God did not create us just like the Bible says, then there is no reason for believing that we are accountable to Him.
Since the Bible plainly tells us that “the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world,” those who claim that Christ did not die for the sins “of the world,” but only for the sins of those He planned to save, are contradicting God’s Word. The Bible plainly tells us that Christ, “is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:2). By explaining away what the Bible says, those who teach “limited atonement” are rebelling against God. And by so doing, they make the words of 1John 2:2 and “of no effect,” thus robbing some of the assurance that Christ died for their sins. God wants us to teach His Word, not man’s word.
Finally, those who interpret the words, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery,” to support the idea that “clergymen” are given some special power at ordination, are adding to Scripture by interpreting that passage in the light of tradition, instead of interpreting it in the light of Scripture, (1Timothy 4:14). The only mention the Bible makes of receiving a gift in connection with the laying on of hands has to do with new converts receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18). There is no “clergy class” in the Bible! All believers are equal in Christ (Matthew 23:8).
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 , Mark , Romans ).