“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by a prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21)
The reformers paid dearly for their scripturally based understanding of the truth regarding salvation. For many decades, their efforts to restore sound Christian doctrine came at great personal sacrifice and often with persecution. However, the strong assurance of the Holy Spirit’s leading resulted in their willingly paying that price. Historically, most of the emerging groups of protestant believers solidly embraced a unified core of the New Testament’s doctrine.
Their deeply valued doctrinal understanding included:
· The Divinity of God the Father
· The Divinity of Christ the Son
· The Divinity of God the Holy Spirit
· The oneness and shared Divinity within the Godhead
· The virgin birth of Christ
· The bodily resurrection of Christ
· The reality of heaven and hell
· The inspired authority of Scripture
· The continued importance of the Ten Commandments
· The second coming of Christ
· The importance of repentance and God’s call to a holy lifestyle
· The necessity of spiritual rebirth solely through faith in Christ, not works
· The Scriptures as the church’s final authority, rather than tradition
It was primarily the interpretation of doctrines related to church administration and areas of non-salvation related theology that slowly created the diversity of protestant denominations. How and when to baptize, how and how often to observe the Lord’s Supper, and even the specific roles of women in the church became issues of concern as conscientious Christians sought to follow and apply New Testament teaching.
Sadly, in the 20th century, many of those once highly effective denominations departed from their previously sound doctrinal positions. As a result, they are now in rapid decline. This was predicted by the Apostle Paul in His pastoral letters to Timothy. He said, “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and they will turn their ears away from the truth…” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Since the days of the reformation, many Biblical questions of interpretation have been discussed and agreed upon by praying Christians. Those believers have enjoyed living out their faith in pursuit of God’s will while earnestly seeking to bring Him glory through their obedience!
The original theological North American heresy which broke the unified core of Protestant doctrine was the advent of Unitarianism. That early movement was easily recognized as operating outside the truth presented in the Scriptures. In spite of that, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, and other lesser-known cults steadily followed in the wake of Unitarianism.
In the eastern part of the nation near Boston, Mass., Mary Baker Eddy developed a new cult called Christian Science. It denied the reality of hell, sin, and the trinity. Like all other North American non-Christian cults, Christian Science also denied the deity of Christ! Their devoties could not honestly say “God the Son” or confess that Jesus (God’s Word) had arrived in the flesh (See John 1:14). With that in mind, thoughtfully read the following verses.
“…do no believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are
from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This
is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges
that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that
does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist,
which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3)
By Billie Hanks Jr.