A Believer Has Knowledge of the Truth (On pages 133-135 of The Salvation Meter Book)

INTRODUCTION

Pages 133-135 of The Salvation Meter book describe the “A Believer has Knowledge of the Truth” test of salvation.  This test is in Chapter 6, which deals with a believer’s post-conversion spiritual condition.  This article at https://thesalvationmeter.com website is a revision of the discussion and questions in the book that pertain to this test of salvation.  There are two basic reasons I wrote this revision.

First, a sermon is never finished merely preached.  In the same way, there will always be ways to revise and improve the discussion of the “A Believer has Knowledge of the Truth” test of salvation.  Second, I hope this revision will assist anyone who reads, teaches or preaches, or merely considers the substance of this test to appreciate better the principles taught by this test of salvation. 

The “A Believer has Knowledge of the Truth” is a revealing test of salvation that indicates a person’s spiritual condition.  Here, in a broad sense, the truth is the fact that Jesus is the Christ.  In a more detailed sense, the truth comprises Christological facts that comprise those set forth on pages 42-68 of The Salvation Meter.  It is meaningful evidence of a lost condition if a person does not have knowledge of the truth.  On the other hand, it is meaningful evidence of salvation if a person has knowledge of the truth. 

REVISED DISCUSSION

1 John 2:18-21

The Apostle John presented the “A Believer has Knowledge of the Truth” test of salvation when he wrote 1 John 2:18–22 (ASV 1901), which reads:

18 Little children, it is the last hour: and as ye heard that antichrist cometh, even now have there arisen many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they all are not of us. 20 And ye have an anointing from the Holy One, and ye know all things. 21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, even he that denieth the Father and the Son.

John begins verse 20 by contrasting the lost people who left (see vv. 18-19) and the saved people in whom the Holy Spirit has taken up residency through Christ.  John then wrote that those indwelt by the Holy Spirit “know all things” (v. 20b) and “ye know” the truth (v. 21) about the fact that Jesus is the Christ.    

In verses 20-21, the ASV 1901 translates the three usages of the Greek verb oida as “ye know.”  Oida means to comprehend the meaning of something, with focus upon the resulting knowledge.  See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 379). United Bible Societies.  In these three usages, oda is in the perfect tense which is the verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present “state of affairs” resulting from the past action.  See Heiser, M. S., & Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.  A believer has existing knowledge, and that knowledge is of the “truth.”

The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun alētheia as “truth.”  The Logos 9 sense is gospel of Jesus ⇔ truth – the good news about Jesus Christ, especially as a message that conforms to (and answers) the nature of reality.  It means the content of that which is true and thus in accordance with what actually happened—‘truth.  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 672.  In light of verse 22, the “truth” in its broader aspect is that Jesus is the Christ.  In a narrow aspct, the “truth” comprises Christological facts about Jesus.  Haas et al. (Haas, C., Jonge, M. de, & Swellengrebel, J. L. (1994). A handbook on the letters of John (p. 68)  United Bible Societies) writes:

For the truth see 1:6, but the reference here is to christological facts. This is shown by the next verse: the truth John’s readers know is the fact that Jesus is the Christ, as revealed in the Gospel.

Another commentator (Kruse, C. G. (2000). The letters of John (p. 104). W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos) agrees:

The truth to which the author refers in this context is the truth about Jesus Christ, that he is the Christ (Messiah), something the secessionists were denying and thus revealing themselves to be antichrists (2:22–23).

John taught that “no lie is of the truth,” which means if a teaching is true it comes from God.  If a teaching is false, it comes from the devil. Therefore, a believer can discern the truth that Jesus is the Christ. 

Expanding upon the truth that Jesus is the Christ, there are three Christological facts about the Person of Jesus Christ.  These three truths comprise the preexistence of Jesus Christ with God the Father, Jesus Christ is the “Son of God,” and Jesus is the Christ.  There are seven Christological truths about the role and work of Jesus Christ: (1) Jesus was sent into the world by God the Father, (2) Jesus came into the world to take away the sins of the world and destroy the works of the devil, (3) Jesus Christ had to 100% God and 100% human, (4) Jesus Christ had to live a sinless life, (5) Jesus Christ had to die a physical death, (6) Jesus Christ had to experience a physical, bodily resurrection from the dead, and (7) Jesus Christ had to ascend to God the Father.  Discussions of these Christological facts are on pages 42-68 of The Salvation Meter.

Conclusion

The “A Believer has Knowledge of the Truth” is a revealing test of salvation that indicates a person’s spiritual condition.  Here, in a broad sense, the truth is the fact that Jesus is the Christ.  In a more detailed sense, the truth comprises Christological facts that comprise those set forth on pages 42-68 of The Salvation Meter.  It is meaningful evidence of a lost condition if a person does not have knowledge of the truth.  On the other hand, it is meaningful evidence of salvation if a person has knowledge of the truth. 

QUESTIONS

1 John 2:18-21 teaches “A Believer has Knowledge of the Truth” test of salvation which raises the following questions for you to answer.  In answering these questions, please keep in mind the above three truths about the Person of Christ and the above seven truths about role and work of Jesus Christ.  There may be overlap between your following answers and those set forth with respect to the substance of a believer’s beliefs about Jesus Christ on pages 42-68 of the book.

Question 6-25:  What is your level of knowledge (e.g., excellent, good, fair, poor) about the truth that Jesus is the Christ?  Please explain your answer.  Are you satisfied with your current level of knowledge?  Please explain your answer.

Question 6-26:  Is your knowledge about the truth that Jesus is the Christ remaining the same, increasing, or decreasing?  Please explain your answer. 

Question 6-27:  Are you taking action to increase your knowledge about the truth that Jesus is the Christ?  Please explain your answers.

Question 6-28:  Do you believe you satisfy the “A Believer has Knowledge of the Truth” test of salvation?  Please explain your answer and include evidence that supports your answer.  Do you strongly agree, moderately agree, moderately disagree, strongly disagree or are neutral about the statement that you satisfy “A Believer has Knowledge of the Truth” test of salvation?  Please record your answer at Indicator 6-D of your Personal Salvation Assessment in the Appendix.

A Believer Has Been Given Understanding (On pages 130-133 of The Salvation Meter)

INTRODUCTION

Pages 130-133 of The Salvation Meter book describe the “A Believer Has Been Given Understanding” test of salvation.  This test is found in Chapter 6, which deals with a believer’s post-conversion spiritual condition.  This article at https://thesalvationmeter.com website is a revision of the discussion and questions in the book that pertain to this test of salvation.  There are two basic reasons I wrote this revision.

First, a sermon is never finished merely preached.  In the same way, there will always be ways to revise and improve the discussion of the “A Believer has Been Given Understanding” test of salvation.  Second, I hope this revision will assist anyone who reads, teaches, preaches, or merely considers the substance of this test to better appreciate the principles taught this test of salvation. 

The “A Believer Has Been Given Understanding” is a meaningful test of salvation that indicates a person’s spiritual condition.  A believer is given understanding so that they may know God the Father, who is true.  The much of the understanding a believer receives is through the menō (i.e., abiding) relationship between God and a believer.  It seems safe to say that the “A Believer has Been Given Understanding” test falls within the scope of the “A Believer Abides in God” test.  Yet, if a person has not been given understanding, it is indicative of a lost spiritual condition.  On the other hand, if a believer displays having been given understanding, it is evidence of salvation.

REVISED DISCUSSION

1 John 5:20

In 1 John 5:20 (ASV 1901), John set forth the “A Believer has been Given Understanding” test of salvation when he wrote:

20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

The ASV 1901 translates the Greek verb didōmi as “hath given.”  The Logos 9 sense is to grant a request – to allow someone to have what the person has requested.  It means to give an object, usually implying value—‘to give, giving.’  See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 565). United Bible Societies.  Didōmi is in the perfect tense which is the verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present “state of affairs” resulting from the past action.  See Heiser, M. S., & Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.

The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun dianoia as “an understanding.” The Logos 9 sense is disposition – a natural or acquired habit, feeling, or characteristic tendency in a person or thing.  It refers to the psychological faculty of understanding, reasoning, thinking, and deciding—‘mind.  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, pp. 323–324.

The purpose of this Christ-given understanding is for a believer to continually “know” God the Father.  The ASV 1901 translates the Greek verb ginōskō as “we know” and typically means gaining knowledge through first-hand experience (e.g., observation or the senses).  See the Logos 9 sense.   One commentator (Kruse, C. G. (2000). The letters of John (p. 196). W.B. Eerdmans Pub.; Apollos) writes:

Two elements of the work of the Son of God are alluded to here, his coming as the historical Jesus, and his giving understanding to people when they became believers. The word translated ‘understanding’ (dianoia) is found only here in the Johannine writings, but the context makes its meaning clear enough: he has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true. The understanding which the Son of God gives is knowledge of God the Father himself.

Still, another commentator (Womack, M. M. (1998). 1, 2 & 3 John (1 Jn 5:20). College Press) writes:

In his concluding remarks, John hits repeatedly on the theme that the Christian has knowledge that is directly contradictory to the mystical knowledge the Gnostic claimed. Christ brought to us both understanding of God’s nature, and eternal life, because he not only came from God, but is the true God.

            The Amplified Translation (taken from preceptaustin.org) reads:

Amplified – And we [have seen and] know [positively] that the Son of God has [actually] come to this world and has given us understanding and insight [progressively] to perceive (recognize) and come to know better and more clearly Him Who is true; and we are in Him Who is true—in His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah). This [Man] is the true God and Life eternal.

Wuest (Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 13, p. 184). Eerdmans) translates this verse as follows:

Translation. We know with an absolute knowledge that the Son of God has come and is here, and that He has given us a permanent understanding in order that we may be knowing in an experiential way the One who is genuine. And we are in the Genuine One, in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the genuine God and life eternal.

            God has given a believer understanding (dianoia ) so they can better continuously know God the Father through experience over time.  It is apparent that this test of salvation relates to the “A Believer has Experiential Knowledge of God” test of salvation (pages 114-118 of The Salvation Meter).   

Conclusion

The “A Believer Has Been Given Understanding” is a meaningful test of salvation that indicates a person’s spiritual condition.  A believer is given understanding so that they may know God the Father, who is true.  The much of the understanding a believer receives is through the menō (i.e., abiding) relationship between God and a believer.  It seems safe to say that the “A Believer has Been Given Understanding” test falls within the scope of the “A Believer Abides in God” test.  Yet, if a person has not been given understanding, it is indicative of a lost spiritual condition.  On the other hand, if a believer displays having been given understanding, it is evidence of salvation.

QUESTIONS

1 John 5:20 presents the “A Believer has Been Given Understanding” test of salvation that generates the following questions for you to answer.

Question 6-21:  Do you have an understanding so that you know the true God?    How have you come to know the true God?  Would it include your ability to reason, think, and decide?  Would you please explain your answer?

Question 6-22:  While there may be stops and starts, would you say that overall you have come to know the true God better over time?  Please explain your answer.

Question 6-23:  What emotions, if any, are triggered when you ponder the fact that you have been given understanding whereby you have knowledge of the one true living God?  Are you appreciative of this gift?  Does your life reflect that you have knowledge of the true God?  Please explain your answer.

Question 6-24:  Do you believe you satisfy the “A Believer Has Been Given Understanding” test of salvation?  Please explain your answer and include evidence that supports your answer.  Do you strongly agree, moderately agree, moderately disagree, strongly disagree or are neutral about the statement that you satisfy the “A Believer Has Been Given Understanding” test of salvation?  Please record your answer at Indicator 6-C of your Personal Salvation Assessment in the Appendix

A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment (On pages 124-130 of The Salvation Meter)

INTRODUCTION

Pages 124-130 of The Salvation Meter book describe the “A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment” test of salvation.  Chapter 6, which deals with a believer’s post-conversion spiritual condition, contains this test..  This article at https://thesalvationmeter.com website is a revision of the discussion and questions in the book.  There are two basic reasons I wrote this revision.

First, a sermon is never finished, merely preached.  In the same way, there will always be ways to revise and improve the discussion of the “A Believer Possess Spiritual Discernment” test of salvation.  Second, I hope this revision will assist anyone who reads, teaches, preaches, or merely considers the substance of this test to appreciate better the principles taught in this test of salvation. 

The “A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment” is a revealing test of salvation that indicates a person’s spiritual condition.  Spiritual discernment increases the longer a believer is in the menō relationship with God. Therefore, it is evidence of a lost condition if a person does not possess spiritual discernment. But, on the other hand, it is evidence of salvation if a person possesses spiritual discernment.

REVISED DISCUSSION

Discussion of 1 John 4:1

When he wrote 1 John 4:1, the Apostle John presented the “A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment” test of salvation.  A believer possesses spiritual discernment to scrutinize whether teaching or doctrine comes from God.  In other words, a believer has sufficient spiritual discernment to ascertain if a teaching is consistent with the Bible.   1 John 4:1 (ASV 1901) reads:

1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

In verse 1, John gave his audience two commands and the underlying reason.  The underlying reason was numerous false prophets in the world vying for followers.  This condition exists in the 21st Century, where there is a lot of spiritual “noise” trying to divert believers from the truth and entice them to follow many lies. 

John first commanded his audience “believe not every spirit.”  The ASV 1901 translates the Greek verb pisteuō as “believe.”  It means to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance—‘to believe in, to have confidence in, to have faith in, to trust, faith, trust.’  See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 375). United Bible Societies.  The Logos 9 sense is to believe (trust) – to have faith; put one’s trust in something.  The verb is in the present tense, which is the verb tense where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being with no assessment of the action’s completion.  See Heiser, M. S., & Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.   The verb is in the imperative mood which is the mood that normally expresses a command, intention, exhortation, or polite request.  Heiser et al. Id

When he wrote 1 John 4:1, John intended to convey to his audience that they were to continually not believe (i.e., trust or rely on) every spirit meaning every teacher or doctrine.  They were not to  be gullible and accept as true every slick teacher and fall into the error described by Paul in Ephesians 4:14, which falls within the block of text comprising Ephesians 4:11–14 (ASV 1901) [emphasis added]:

11 And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: 13 till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error;

To be tossed about here and there upon hearing every new doctrine paints a picture of being at the mercy of the waves of a strong storm.  It represents the result of spiritual instability, as well as spiritual immaturity. 

Because of the deceptiveness of “every wind of doctrine,” irreparable damage occurs to those who adopt a “theological flavor of the month” approach to spiritual matters.  A brief word study reveals the evilness of “every wind of doctrine” of Ephesians 4:14.

The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun kybeia as “sleight.”  The Logos 9 sense is trickery ⇔ dice-playing – any type of misrepresentation intended to take advantage of a person in some way.  It means trickery that results from craftiness (κυβεία literally refers to dice playing)—‘trickery, craftiness.  See Louw et al. supra at Vol. 1, p. 759).  The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun panourgia as “craftiness.”  It means trickery involving evil cunning—‘craftiness, treachery.  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 770.  The Logos 9 sense is cunning – deceitfulness usually characterizing an especially wicked character. 

The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun methodeia as “wiles.”  It means crafty scheming with the intent to deceive—‘deceit, scheming.  See Louw et al., supra at  Vol. 1, p. 759.  The Logos 9 sense is method – a way of doing something (deceptive), especially in a systematic way; implies an orderly logical arrangement (usually in steps).  The ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun planē as “of error.”  The Logos 9 sense is deception – a misleading falsehood.  It means (derivative of πλάνηa ‘to deceive,’ 31.8) the content of that which misleads or deceives—‘misleading belief, deceptive belief, error, mistaken view.  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 366.

Paul’s use of methodeia and planē reveal the intentional deception on the part of the crafty tricksters who are kybeia and panourgia.  These people profess to proclaim the truth, but, in reality, advance false teaching.  These people are especially evil.

In 1 John 4:1, after giving his readers a negative command, John gave them the contrasting positive command to, “but prove the spirits.”  The ASV 1901 translates the Greek word alla as “but.”  Alla is an adversative conjunction which is a conjunction used to express contrast between the immediate clause and the one (“believe not every spirit”) preceding it.  See Lukaszewski, A. L. (2007). The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament Glossary. Lexham Press. 

The ASV 1901 translates the Greek verb dokimazō as “prove.”  It means to try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing, often through actual use—‘to test, to examine, to try to determine the genuineness of, testing.’  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 331.  The Logos 9 sense is to examine (check out) – to observe, check out, and look over carefully or inspect.  Like with pisteuō, dokimazō is in the present tense and imperative mood. 

By his second command, John intended to tell his audience that they were to continuously examine the substance of the teaching to see whether it came from God.  They were to examine or test or prove the spirits to ascertain their source by actual examination and testing like a metallurgist assaying metals to determine their purity.  John’s second command is along the line of Acts 17:11 (ASV 1901):

11 Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.

If their analysis confirmed that God was the source of the teaching, then they were to accept it.  But, if their examination disproved the truth of the teaching, they were to reject it.  

Discussion of 1 John 4:6

            John elaborated on the “A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment” test of 1 John 4:1 by what he wrote in 1 John 4:6 (ASV 1901):

6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

The ASV 1901 translates the Greek verb ginōskōas “he that knoweth.”  It means to indicate that one does know—‘to acknowledge.’  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 368.  The Logos 9 sense is know (experientially) – to know or have knowledge about (someone or something); normally as acquired through observation or the senses.  The verb is in the present tense.  The ASV 1901 translates the Greek verb akouō as “heareth.”  It means to believe something and to respond to it on the basis of having heard—‘to accept, to listen to, to listen and respond, to pay attention and respond, to heed.’  See Louw et al. supra at Vol. 1, p. 372.  The Logos 9 sense is to listen – to hear with intention. 

By 1 John 4:6a, John intended to convey to his audience that a saved person would accept the substance of what they (John et al.) were saying.  By 1 John 4:6b, John intended to convey to his audience that a lost person would not accept the substance of what they (John et al.) were saying. 

            The ASV 1901 translates the Greek preposition ek as “by.”  Here, ek is a preposition of means, which uses a preposition to express the means of an action.  See Lukaszewski, Id.  It functions as a marker of cause or reason, with focus upon the source—‘because of.  See Louw et a., supra at Vol. 1, p. 779.  John intended to tell his audience that those who accepted the message they were proclaiming could discern between “the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”

For a 21st Century believer, the reference to “us” in 1 John 4:6 correlates to the biblical authors of the Bible and those persons who accurately proclaim the Word of God.  To accept the biblically accurate means to believe the message and accept it and respond to it.  These actions demonstrate possession of spiritual discernment, and hence, salvation. 

To reject the biblically-accurate message reveals an absence of spiritual discernment, which indicates that a person is lost.  A lost person does not have the ears to hear.  Paul’s description of Israel in Romans 11:8 (ASV 1901) characterizes lost people in the 21st Century:

8 according as it is written, God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, unto this very day.

The ability to discern allows a believer to know the source of a teaching.  Spiritual discernment is a revealing test of salvation because the substance of what a person believes very often reveals whether they are saved or lost.

Discussion of 1 John 2:26-27

The Apostle John again articulated the “A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment” test of salvation when he wrote 1 John 2:26–27 (ASV 1901):

26 These things have I written unto you concerning them that would lead you astray. 27 And as for you, the anointing which ye received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teacheth you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, ye abide in him.

Verse 26 described a dangerous situation for John’s audience; namely, there were people “that would lead you astray.”  It was vital for his audience to realize that some people spoke lies and not biblical truth.  The same is true today.  Each believer must be on alert for those people who promote an unbiblical theology.  An evaluation of a teacher must include their practice of spiritual disciplines (e.g., Bible engagement, prayer, etc.).  Also, do these teachers treat people in a way consistent with biblical guidance?  

            In verse 27, the ASV 1901 translates the Greek noun chrisma as “anointing.”  It means (figurative extensions of meaning of χρίω and χρῖσμα ‘to anoint,’ not occurring in the NT) to assign a person to a task, with the implication of supernatural sanctions, blessing, and endowment—‘to anoint, to assign, to appoint, assignment, appointment.’  See Louw et al. supra at Vol. 1, p. 483.  The ASV 1901 translates the second occurrence of the Greek verb didaskō as “teachest.”  It means to provide instruction in a formal or informal setting—‘to teach, teaching.’  See Louw et al., supra at Vol. 1, p. 412. The Logos 9 sense is to teach and impart skills or knowledge.  Through verse 27, John counseled his audience that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit taught them the basics of the Christian faith.  Therefore, these believers possessed a spiritual filter (i.e., the Holy Spirit) to discern what was biblically true or false.  In other words, these believers possessed spiritual discernment.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not mean that a person is to not listen to faithful teachers and pastors.  Otherwise, it would not make sense for there to be a calling of a teacher for the church per Ephesians 4:11 (ASV 1901), which reads:

11 And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

To disregard a faithful teacher would run counter to the admonition of James 3:1–2 (ASV 1901) that teaching is a serious role in church:

1 Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment. 2 For in many things we all stumble. If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

1 John 2:26-27 should never be used to downplay Bible teaching because faithful teachers and Pastors can help a believer spiritually grow in many ways. 

Examples of Unbiblical Teaching

Possibly, the most common characteristic of false teaching is to undermine the authority of Scripture.  This error can deny the authority of parts or even all the Bible or advocate an additional source of truth.  It is error to contradict 2 Timothy 3:16–17 (ASV 1901), which reads:

16 Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: 17 that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.

            In his book The Truth War – Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception [(2007), Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, Tennessee 37214], Dr. John MacArthur discusses the religious movement called the “Emerging Church” (see pages ix-x) [italics in the original]:

Who would have thought that people claiming to be Christians – even pastors – would attack the very nature of truth? 

But they are.

A recent issue of Christianity Today featured a cover article about the “Emerging Church.”  That is a popular name for an informal affiliation of Christian communities worldwide who want to revamp the church, change the way Christians interact with their culture, and remodel the way we think about truth itself.

**

One dominant theme pervades the whole article: in the Emerging Church movement, truth (to whatever degree such a concept is even recognized) is assumed to be inherently hazy, indistinct, and uncertain – perhaps even ultimately unknowable.

Each of the Emerging Church leaders profiled in the article expressed a high level of discomfort with any hint of certainty about what the Bible means, even on something as basic as the gospel.

The gotquestions.org website (link: What is the emerging / emergent church movement? | GotQuestions.org ) discusses the emerging church movement:

False doctrine seems to abound within the emerging / emergent church movement, though, as stated previously, not within every group espousing emerging / emergent church beliefs. Because of this, care must be taken when deciding whether or not to become involved with an emergent church group. We all need to take heed of Matthew 7:15-20, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

            Another church movement is the “progressive Christianity” movement.  The basic principles of the “progressive Christianity” movement are found at the website https://progressivechristianity.org/the-8-points/.  These eight points (2012 version) are:

One: Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life;

Two: Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;

Three: Seek community that is inclusive of ALL people, including but not limited to:

Conventional Christians and questioning skeptics,

Believers and agnostics,

Women and men,

Those of all sexual orientations and gender identities,

Those of all classes and abilities:

Four: Know that the way we behave towards one another is the fullest expression of what we believe;

Five: Find grace in the search for understanding and believe there is more value in questioning than in absolutes;

Six: Strive for peace and justice among all people;

Seven: Strive to protect and restore the integrity of our Earth;

Eight: Commit to a path of life-long learning, compassion, and selfless love.

While they may use the word “Christianity,” in no way, shape, or form does the “progressive Christianity” movement encompass what the Bible teaches about salvation through repentance and trust in Christ’s finished work on the Cross.  The “progressive Christianity” movement does not promote biblical sexual morality. 

            Some who profess to be “Christian” use a flawed hermeneutic to justify their acceptance, and essentially, promotion of sin.  For example, the Rev. Adam Hamilton, the Pastor of a large UMC church that is pro-LGBTQ, presents a hermeneutical approach that pigeonholes Scripture into one of three “buckets.”  According to Rev. Hamilton, the three buckets into which Scripture falls are: (1) Scriptures that express God’s heart, character, and timeless will for human beings, (2) Scriptures that expressed God’s will in a particular time, but are no longer binding, and (3) Scriptures that never fully expressed the heart, character or will of God.  According to Hamilton, the issue about homosexual practice is “whether the handful of scriptures that condemn same-sex sexual activity belong to bucket one, two, or three.”  See his March 11, 2014 blog entitled “Homosexuality, The Bible, and the United Methodist Church” [ link: Homosexuality, The Bible, and The United Methodist Church · Blog from Author & Methodist Minister Adam Hamilton · Homosexuality, The Bible, and The United Methodist Church · Adam Hamilton].  

            Per Rev. Hamilton’s  April 27, 2016 post entitled “The Bible, Homosexuality., and the UMC – Part One” [link: https://www.adamhamilton.com/blog/the-bible-homosexuality-and-the-umc-part-one#.YeLFxNHMIdU], the pro-LGBTQ faction does not adopt an evangelical hermeneutical approach: 

But in truth, I don’t believe that we are picking and choosing. I think we’re appropriately interpreting; we’re asking the question, “What was the historical and cultural setting of these words, and do they appropriately express the heart of God for us today?” And how do Christians make that determination?  We consider the words and actions of Jesus, we think of what he described as the great commandments, and we consider the major themes of Scripture. Then we bring our intellect and experience of the Spirit to bear on our reading of Scripture.

Also, his book Making Sense of the Bible – Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today advances the “three-bucket” approach.  In essence, the “three-bucket” approach permits a person to accept what parts of the Bible they like and discard what parts they do not like. 

A believer has sufficient spiritual discernment to recognize error of the magnitude of the errors practiced by the “Emerging Church,” “progressive Christianity”, and a church that adopts the “three bucket” approach.  These groups challenge, diminish or recast the Scripture to suit their needs.  These groups embody the “itching ears” mentality of 2 Timothy 4:3–4 (ASV 1901):

3 For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.

If a person attends a church that challenges the authority of the Bible, and wants to remain, they ought to revisit their conversion.  No matter how many friends a believer has at such a church, spiritual discernment will motivate them to leave.    

Another common trait of unbiblical teaching is to boast about special revelation or secret truth.  Such “revelation” can take the form of a book in addition to the Bible and said to be on par with Scripture.  This “revelation” may be outside of the Bible like the “Book of Mormon,” or comprise a distorted corrupt interpretation of a biblical text.  No matter how it is packaged, such a false teaching contradicts biblical instruction and orthodox Christian doctrine.  Sometimes, it can move away from or diminish Jesus Christ per Colossians 2:8 (ASV 1901):

8 Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ:

A believer must be careful not to be deceived by a teaching that requires works to be saved or keep one’s salvation.  For example, if water baptism is an absolute requirement for salvation, you are in the wrong church!  Instead, you need to move on to a church that teaches the truth about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, to teach that water baptism is essential to salvation runs counter to the teaching of Ephesians 2:8–9 (ASV 1901), which reads:

8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not of works, that no man should glory.

            Finally, the same warning exists with respect to groups that deny the Trinity.  These groups teach heresy about the very nature of God and contradict a plethora of passages that support the doctrine of the Trinity.  For example, the Trinitarian baptismal formula Jesus gave in the Great Commission per Matthew 28:18–20 (ASV 1901):

18 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

The Apostle Paul described the Trinity in 1 Corinthians 12:4–6 (ASV 1901), which reads:

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all.

            The Apostle Peter described the Trinity in 1 Peter 1:2 (ASV 1901):

2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

            Jude described the Trinity when he wrote Jude 20–21 (ASV 1901):

20 But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

A believer has spiritual discernment.  Spiritual discernment will motivate a genuine believer to depart from a church that denies the Trinity.  A person who remains at length in a church that denies the Trinity should revisit their conversion.

Conclusion

The “A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment” is a revealing test of salvation that indicates a person’s spiritual condition.  Spiritual discernment increases the longer a believer is in the menō relationship with God.  The Bible teaches that a believer has spiritual discernment to distinguish between biblically correct and incorrect theology. 

It is evidence of a lost condition if a person does not possess spiritual discernment.  On the other hand, it is evidence of salvation if a person possesses spiritual discernment.

QUESTIONS

The “A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment” test of salvation raises the following questions for you to answer. 

Question 6-12:  Can you recognize whether or not a theological doctrine is correct or in error?  Please explain your answer and describe the steps you take to evaluate a theological doctrine for biblical accuracy.

Question 6-12A:  Do you adhere to all of the following basic principles: (1) the Holy Scriptures are to be received as the authoritative Word of God, (2) that Scripture, having been given by divine inspiration, is infallible, so that, far from misleading us, it is true and reliable in all the matters it addresses, (3) that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.  If you disagree with any one of those principles, please explain your answer.  Please include any sources you rely on to support your disagreement in your explanation.

Question 6-12B:  Do you (or did you ever) agree with the assumption that truth is inherently hazy, indistinct, and uncertain – perhaps even ultimately unknowable?  Please explain your answer.  Please include in your explanation the sources that support your answers

Question 6-12C:  Do you (or did you ever) possess a high level of discomfort with any hint of certainty about what the Bible means?  Please explain your answer.  Please include the source that helped or encouraged you to have a high level uncertainty in your explanation.

Question 6-12D:  Do you (or did you ever) agree with the totality of the eight points of “progressive Christianity?”  Please explain your answer.  Please include in your explanation the sources that support your answer.

Question 6-12E:  Do you (or did you ever) agree with the second point of “progressive Christianity:”

Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey;

Please explain your answer.  Please include in your explanation the sources that support your answer. 

Question 6-12F:  Do you (or did you ever) agree with the “three bucket” approach as described above?  Please explain your answer.  Please include in your explanation the sources that support your answer. 

Question 6-12G:  Do you (or did you ever) believe that there is “special revelation” on par with Scripture that is outside of the Bible?  Please explain your answer.  Please include in your explanation the sources that support your answer. 

Question 6-12H:  Do you (or did you ever) believe that water baptism is absolutely necessary for a person to be saved?  Please explain your answer.  Please include in your explanation the source(s) from which you learned that water baptism is absolutely necessary for a person to be saved.

Question 6-12I:  Do you (or did you ever) reject the Trinity?  Please explain your answer.  Please include in your explanation the source(s) from which you learned that you should reject the Trinity. 

Question 6-13:  Have there been instances in your life in which you have encountered someone who you considered to be a false teacher?  Would you please explain your answer?

Question 6-14:  Did that false teacher have a good knowledge of the Bible?  Did that person have a surface knowledge or a proof-texting kind of knowledge of the Bible?  Would you please explain your answer.

Question 6-15:  What caused you to conclude that the person was a false prophet or teacher?  Please explain your answer and include a description of the steps you take to evaluate a Bible teacher.

Question 6-16:  Based upon your experience, what are the most common theological areas from which false teaching or doctrine arises?  Why do you think that is the case?  Please explain your answers.

Question 6-17:  What is the root cause of false teachers?  Please explain your answer.

Question 6-18:  In your experience, have you ever been deceived by a false teacher?  Describe the circumstances, including a description of how they gained your confidence and then how you came to realize that person was a false prophet.  What action did you take once you came to realize that person was a false prophet or teacher?  Please explain your answer.

Question 6-18A:  Are you a Mormon?  If you answered in the affirmative, do you believe you are saved?  If so, please explain why you believe you are saved?

Question 6-18B:  Are you a Jehovah’s Witness?  If you answered in the affirmative, do you believe you are saved?  If so, please explain why you believe you are saved?

Question 6-19:  When you first meet “religious” people, would you say you keep them at “arm’s length” until you can discern if they are from God?  What things cause a “red flag” to go up with respect to religious teachers or religious people in general?  Please explain your answer.

Question 6-20:  Are there any “hills to die on” you use to evaluate if a person is a false teacher?  Please describe those indicia.  Are some of the indicia weightier than others?  Please explain your answers.

Question 6-20:  Do you believe you satisfy the “A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment” test of salvation?  Please explain your answer and include evidence that supports your answer.  Do you strongly agree, moderately agree, moderately disagree, strongly disagree or are neutral about the statement that you satisfy “A Believer Possesses Spiritual Discernment” test of salvation?  Please record your answer at Indicator 6-B of your Personal Salvation Assessment in the Appendix.

A Believer Hungers and Thirst for God (Pages 120-124 of The Salvation Meter)

INTRODUCTION

Pages 120-124 of The Salvation Meter book describe the “A Believer Hungers and Thirsts for God” test of salvation.  This test is found in Chapter 6, which deals with a believer’s post-conversion spiritual condition.  This article at https://thesalvationmeter.com website is a revision of the earlier discussion and questions in the book that pertain to this test of salvation.  There are two basic reasons I wrote this revision.

First, a sermon is never finished merely preached.  In the same way, there will always be ways to revise and improve the discussion of the “A Believer Hungers and Thirsts for God” test of salvation.  Second, I hope this revision will assist anyone who reads, teaches, preaches, or merely considers the substance of this test to better appreciate the principles taught by this test of salvation. 

The “Believer Hungers and Thirsts for God” is a significant test of salvation that indicates a person’s spiritual condition.  While a believer’s “hunger and thirst” for God can be intangible, demonstrable evidence establishes the existence of such a hunger and thirst.  A person who does not have a hunger and thirst for God may very well be lost.  On the other hand, it is persuasive evidence of salvation if a person displays a hunger and thirst for God. 

REVISED DISCUSSION

Introduction

Most of us can recall something we hungered and thirsted after.  The object of our craving became a significant focus of our life.  I won a sectional qualifier many years ago to gain entrance in the USGA Mid-Amateur golf tournament.  It was a thrill to tee it up in a national-level competition on a golf course, the difficulty of which was over my head.  Even though I missed the cut to make match play, I left the tournament with a hunger and thirst for more tournament golf.  The following season I played in several events with less than stellar success. My enthusiasm waned so that my golf “career” became history.  Yet, I still recall my intangible hunger and thirst for more and more. 

Upon conversion, many things change between God and a believer.  One significant change is the existence of a menō (abiding) relationship between God and a believer.  See the “A Believer Abides in God” test of salvation on pages 106-110 of The Salvation Meter book.  The longer a believer abides in God, the greater their hunger and thirst for God should be. 

Upon conversion, there is fellowship between a believer and God the Father and God the Son that should bring about a desire to know God better.  In addition, God has done and still does so much for believers that their natural reaction is to want more of God.  God is infinite, so a believer’s quest to know better and want more of God is never-ending.  There will always be a need for God in a believer’s life that relates to the “A Believer Hungers and Thirsts for God” test of salvation. 

Psalm 42:1-2 and Psalm 63:1

The Psalmist focused on his craving for God when he wrote Psalm 42:1–2 (ASV 1901), which reads:

1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God?

Psalm 42:1-2 described the Psalmist’s insatiable intensity for God.  The Psalmist wrote that his soul “panteth” after and “thirsteth” for God who is “the living God.”  The ASV 1901 translates both usages of the Hebrew verb ʿrg as “panteth.”  The Logos 9 sense is desire ⇔ pant – to strongly desire something, conceived of as panting.  Another way to characterize the verb s to long for.  The ASV 1901 translates the Hebrews verb ṣmʾ as “thirsteth.”  The Logos 9 sense is to yearn ⇔ thirst – to yearn for something, conceived of as thirsting for it.

            His metaphor that a deer pants for streams of water carries with it a picture of extreme thirst and desire.  For a thirsty deer, water was necessary to sustain life.  The Psalmist expressed his desire to “come and appear before God.”  He was willing to make the necessary effort to satisfy his hunger and thirst.  For the Psalmist, God was necessary to sustain his life.  A hunger and thirst for God is the natural consequence of knowing one’s desperate need for God.

David expressed a similar need for God when he wrote Psalm 63:1 (ASV 1901), which reads:

1 O God, thou art my God; earnestly will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee, In a dry and weary land, where no water is.

Looking at this verse, we first see that David characterized God as “my God,” reflecting his fellowship with God.  David wrote he shall seek God earnestly.  The ASV 1901 translates the Hebrew verb šḥr as “earnestly will I seek.”  The Logos 9 sense is seek – to try to get or reach something one desires.  His efforts to seek God were not half-hearted but earnest and intense.  David’s efforts to seek God were similar to the request in Psalm 42:2b of, “When shall I come and appear before God?” 

When David wrote, “My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee” he referenced the entirety of his being.  His soul was his immaterial part, and his flesh was his material part. In his quest for God, David was going to “leave it all on the field.”  By acknowledging that he was in a dry and weary land where there was no water, David understood his vital need for God, i.e., spiritual nourishment.  He understood that only God could satisfy his need.  

For the 21st Century believer, God is essential to maintain their spiritual life so that they must hunger and thirst for God.  This is especially true because of the moral cesspool American society has become.

The Mindset of a Believer Per Matthew 5:6

            As a part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the expression “hunger and thirst” as recorded in Matthew 5:6 (ASV 1901), which reads:

6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

The ASV 1901 translates the Greek verb peinaō as “they that hunger” and the Greek verb dipsaō as “thirst after.”  In reference to both usages, Louw et al. says they are, “figurative extensions of meaning of διψάωa ‘to thirst,’ 23.39, and πεινάωa ‘to hunger,’ 23.29) to have a strong desire to attain some goal, with the implication of an existing lack—‘to desire strongly.”  See Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 290). United Bible Societies.  Peinaō and dipsaō are in the present tense, the verb tense where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being with no assessment of the action’s completion.  See Heiser, M. S., & Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.

The Greek noun διψάω (Louw et a. 23.29) means to be in a state of hunger, without any implications of particular contributing circumstances—‘to be hungry, to have hunger.  See Louw et al. supra at Vol. 1, p. 252. The Greek noun πεινάω (Louw et al. 23.39) means the state resulting from not having drunk anything for a period of time—‘to be thirsty, thirst.  See Louw et al. supra at Vol. 1, p. 253. 

            In this verse, the “hunger and thirst” is extreme which, in essence, equates to being insatiable.  Even though the “hunger and thirst” is after righteousness, it describes the mindset of a believer who has a hunger and thirst for God. 

Conclusion

It is in the DNA of a believer to want to know better the One through whom they received eternal life.  Each one of Psalm 42:1-2 and Psalm 63:1 articulates the yearning for God that a 21st Century believer ought to possess.  Matthew 5:6 enhances the description of what a believer’s hunger and thirst for God should look like.    

 Amos 8:11–13 (ASV 1901) describes the hopelessness of God’s silence:

11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah. 12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of Jehovah, and shall not find it. 13 In that day shall the fair virgins and the young men faint for thirst.

One commentator discusses the hopelessness of receiving no word from God:

Worse than strong words of judgment from the Lord is no word from the Lord, an ominous and foreboding silence. To receive no word from God in response to cries for help meant that God had hidden his face from them, rejected and abandoned them to their enemies.

Smith, B. K., & Page, F. S. (1995). Amos, Obadiah, Jonah (Vol. 19B, p. 151). Broadman & Holman Publishers.

A believer should always want more of God.  Therefore, a believer’s hunger and thirst for God should be so extreme that they will “run to and fro to seek God.”

QUESTIONS

The “A Believer Hungers and Thirsts for God” test of salvation raises the following questions for you to answer.

Question 6-1:  What does the expression “hunger and thirst for God” mean to you?  Please explain your answer and include a description in concrete terms of the images that come to mind when you ponder the expression “hunger and thirst for God.”   You may consider the thirsty deer alongside a refreshing stream of water or the weary traveler in the desert who comes upon an oasis.  You may want to factor in a situation like my golfing exploits in which you experienced a huge desire for something. 

Question 6-2:  Do you hunger and thirst for God in the part of you that thinks, feels, and wills?  Is your hunger and thirst for God constant?  Would you please explain your answers?

Question 6-3:  When you hunger and thirst for God, do you describe God as “my God?”  Do you see God as your personal God?  Do you see your relationship with God as personal?  Would you please explain your answer.

Question 6-4:  Are you impatient to satisfy your hunger and thirst for God?  Would you please explain your answer.

Question 6-5:  Is your hunger and thirst for God increasing or decreasing or does it remain constant?  What factors cause your hunger and thirst for God to increase?  What factors cause your hunger and thirst for God to decrease?  Would you say it is normal for you to hunger and thirst for God to remain constant?  Would you please explain your answers.

Question 6-6:  Are you intentional about trying to satisfy your hunger and thirst for God?  Please explain your answer and include a description of actions you take or plan to take to satisfy your hunger and thirst for God.  Are you accountable to anyone to take these actions?

Question 6-7:  Do you feel closer to God when you try to satisfy your hunger and thirst?  Please explain your answer.

Question 6-8:  Do you experience a feeling of remoteness from God when you do not try to satisfy your hunger and thirst?  Please explain your answer.

Question 6-9:  Do you experience spiritual droughts?   Please explain your answer and include in your explanation a cause of the drought and a description of any steps you took (or take) to escape the drought. 

Question 6-10:  Do you experience spiritual monsoons?   Please explain your answer and include in your explanation a cause of the monsoon and a description of any steps you took (or take) to bring on the monsoon. 

Question 6-11:  Do you satisfy the “A Believer Hungers and Thirsts for God” test of salvation?  Please explain your answer and include evidence that supports your answer.  Do you strongly agree, moderately agree, moderately disagree, strongly disagree or are neutral about the statement that you satisfy “A Believer Hungers and Thirsts for God” test of salvation?  Please record your answer at Indicator 6-A of your Personal Salvation Assessment in the Appendix.

© Copyright 2021, 2022. Stephen T. Belsheim.  All Rights Reserved