Last week, we discussed how to properly look at the Bible. We left off with how do we find reliability in scripture if there are disputes among interpretation?
One of the most trustworthy ways in which a layperson can obtain proper interpretations of scripture is through attending a church or Bible study through a respected church denomination.
While it is often said that denominations do more harm than good due to divisiveness and/or too much emphasis on outdated traditions, well-respected church denominations have given us good examples of tried and true Biblical teaching; and we have come to learn what to expect from particular denominations—that is, places where there are similarities and dissimilarities.
Having been a voting member of a Baptist church, a Wesleyan church and a Pentecostal church, one could assume I would have some stories to tell. But in all honesty, there has been very little dissimilarity between the churches of which I have been a part. Each denomination’s long tradition of Biblical ethics and scriptural doctrines brings cohesiveness to their combined practices, which means we can usually trust each of them with a correct study of the scriptures.
While there are differences among churches in some teachings—the women in ministry subject, for example, or the chronological study of the end times—each of us has grace from God to be wrong on these subjects. Therefore, if we have grace from God, we should impart this same grace to those with whom we disagree. What is important to remember is that we are in agreement with the more vital subjects of theology.
From my own personal experience, the gospel presented by and lived out from my friends and family has brought another sense of cohesiveness to my Christian learning. I have had excellent examples throughout my life, all of whom—again from varying denominational backgrounds—have brought a remarkably consistent spiritual development to my life.
There have been differences among some, which has challenged me to look at things from another perspective. For example, should Christians drink alcohol? I was challenged with this issue because I had never seen or met Christians who drank until I was an adult. Previous to that, I was told it was wrong. Is it unscriptural? That subject is up for debate—and for another blog post.
When one studies scripture through a diverse yet balanced blend of churches, friends and family, it is then easier to find grace for the disagreement; and pick out the false prophets whether they are pastors, television talk show hosts; evangelists, authors or the man on the street. But the true test of validation is the inner work of the Holy Spirit who guides our hearts during this faith formation process (Rom 5:5; Rom. 15:13; Eph. 1:13; 1 Thess. 1:5; Titus 3:5; Heb. 2:4).
Therefore we can rest assured that our faith is true and solid when we have given it all to God. For we have more than faith, but also experience in our relationship with God. This is where everything gels together—our Biblical teaching and experiences through church, books, music and other instruction, and our personal relationships through family and friends—all placed in our path by God the Father and the working of The Holy Spirit, through our free will to want to serve Him and know Him more.