How you interpret the Bible matters. It’s not enough to just believe that the Bible is God’s word. It’s not enough even to just believe that the Bible is God’s living word. That’s all good, but it’s not good enough. You need to know how to interpret that word, and you need to know how to interpret it correctly. Why? Because a messy interpretation of the word brings strange and false and divisive teachings into the church—it allows anyone to propound almost any doctrine. A good interpretation brings right and true and unifying teachings into the church—it forces us to propound only the doctrines the Bible actually contains. And while many Christians would agree on the importance of this truth, many are wrong in the way they interpret the Bible.
So many Christians die believing the form of Christianity that they were introduced to, whether true or false. And as I grow to see the many different forms of the gospel that seem to exist in our day, I find myself creating a special category when dealing with certain believers—so many, in my opinion, are sincerely wrong.
Not everyone who attends a church that teaches dangerous doctrines does so because they love being in error; not every pastor who teaches a different Jesus does so because he longs to be a false prophet. Many Christians I know who are in error (and I know a lot!) are actually concerned with truth. I was sincere in my pursuit of truth and still embraced false teachings for the major part of my Christian walk.
Growing up in a deliverance ministry, I matured as a believer under a heavy charismatic atmosphere. Every meeting was almost always aimed at the exorcising of demons and the breaking of demonic chains and bondages on church members. I never saw anything wrong with that, and many people who attend such ministries all across the world do not. I think it’s partly because they have never known a different kind of Christianity. Again, so many Christians die believing the form of Christianity that they were introduced to, whether true or false.
I have been growing increasingly concerned with the Christianity I see around me. The church is Nigeria is currently plagued with serious maladies; from the false prosperity gospel, which exists in different forms, to the growing obsession with church services that are heavily entertaining. Perhaps we have never been in greater need of the gospel being preached to us afresh. Like the church in Galatia, we need to be taught afresh the fundamental principles of our faith; we need the old gospel preached to us.
Paul, in addressing the issue of salvation with the Roman church, had asked, “How will [the unsaved] hear without a preacher?” In other words, someone must tell them what to believe. And with all the strange doctrines and practices currently thriving in the church, we need godly, sound men and women to teach the true gospel to Christ’s church; someone must tell us what to believe, not minding the fact that we’re saved and holy.
Apollos was a devout Jew, described in Acts 18 as eloquent, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in the Spirit, and instructed in the way of the Lord. Having gone to Ephesus to preach, we find Apollos’ understanding of the gospel incomplete. He was right with his message, but not completely right. He needed someone to tell him what to believe. Aquila and Priscilla spent some time with Apollos and filled the gaps in his understanding of the gospel. As a result, Apollos went out a better witness of the gospel (Acts 18:28).
Did Apollos know that he needed someone to instruct him better in the way of the Lord? I would answer in the negative. And how could a man as gifted and fervent as Apollos be wrong? Because no one had instructed him rightly, or no one knew he had gaps in his understanding of the gospel. The moment more matured believers heard him, they saw his error and took him under their wing to teach him the complete truth.
Because false teachers abound in our day, and many Christians have gaping holes in their understanding of the gospel, matured believers should not be scared of shouldering the responsibility to teach younger believers the complete gospel. I say, teach, because that was what Aquila and Priscilla did; they did not criticize or accuse him—they “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:26)
May we be quick to teach and instruct erring brothers, and slower to criticize.