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Back in the Dark Ages, the pastor who led my outreach team shared a message about today’s title. I’m not actually that old, but it’s long enough ago that I’d have a hard time finding the notes or the verse references. But a more recent conference I attended brought the subject to mind. Not so much anything specific that was said as the overall doctrinal viewpoint. Let me illustrate.
I belong to a church that I believe is doctrinally correct. Scriptural interpretation lines up with that understanding of what God says. There are a couple of things that need to come into play, if we’re going to have a real relationship with God.
- We need to be clear that what we believe to be Biblically correct is, in fact, proper understanding.
- We need to find pastors and teachers who instruct with that understanding.
- If we’re away from my home church, we need to find churches that preach the same message.
There are good reasons for that. 1Corinthians 14:7-8 says, “And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? “. We’ve written about spiritual warfare. One of the major principles of warfare is that the army needs clear instruction. If there are two different squads or platoons getting different orders, they could be moving against the enemy in ways that are more harmful to each other than to the enemy. Whether it’s the sound of the trumpet, the battle cry, or verbal orders, what we hear needs to clearly let us know the battle has started and how we need to deal with it.
“For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous:”. That’s Proverbs 2:6-7a. That clear, distinct, certain sound comes from the mouth of God. As Romans 10:17-18 tells us, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.”. Wisdom comes from God, through His Word. And that’s where we run into the problem.
All these verses speak of a distinct, clear sound, coming from God. But there are preachers and churches that add requirements beyond that. If we’re looking to start or improve our relationship with God, we could just as easily accept one of these manmade add-ons as what the Word precisely says. Especially if we’ve been mistaught. For example, it’s pretty common, when guiding someone toward salvation, to have them pray aloud. That’s OK. It’s a good way to create a publicly visible symbol of that moment. And it gives us an outward sign of what’s happening internally. But it also has several potential problems.
There’s nowhere in the Bible that says the prayer is necessary. So, the moment we cross that line in the sand that makes saying the prayer a necessity, we’re arguing with God’s statements that salvation comes the moment we believe. Not when we say a prayer. The other problem is that someone can say the prayer just to please a person, no real meaning behind it. And one believes they’re saved despite no internal change, while the other person now thinks there’s no longer a need to share the gospel with that individual.
Baptism has been misused in similar ways. The Bible does support the need for baptism, but not as a tool for salvation. Again, it’s an outward sign that can either be used to symbolize an internal condition or it can be used to please men. But it’s not the instrument of salvation.
Misuse of things like those will muddy the water. Remember that 1Corinthians 14:8 says that if the trumpet “give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”. The things we believe, the things we teach all need to have a certain sound in our spirit, a “sound” that lines up with what God says and what His heartbeat is toward us.
The conference I mentioned earlier highlighted those thoughts for me. The preaching style was different than what I’m used to, the music was also different. But the content from the Word of God was unadulterated and true. That content is what made the music and the preaching just as perfect as the preaching style and music I’m used to.
What are we doing, today, to make sure our beliefs and lives have that “certain sound”?