How can I know the spiritual advice I get is from God or man? And does it matter?

(Answered on 09/19/2015 Program)

Consider how the Berean Christians approached this when hearing spiritual teaching:

Acts 17:10-11 10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica,for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.  (NASB)

These disciples were commended for examining for themselves whether the things they had heard were indeed consistent with the scriptures. We are wise when we do the same with advice from someone we trust.  Considering you are reading our commentary on Bible passages on this website, we recommend you too read the scriptures yourselves to verify if these convey an appropriate understanding.

Consider this passage from the Bible about how to handle the God’s word:

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Accurately handling:  from the Greek word orthotomeō, meaning “to make a straight cut or to dissect correctly” (Strong’s number G3718). This conveys the idea that God’s word should be interpreted or expounded on with care.

Context: This is a letter to Timothy from Paul who is instructing him about carrying out his duties to meet God’s approval over any motive to please men.

Here Paul instructs Timothy about the need to work and study in order to properly handle and treat the word. This would be for him to accurately understand what the words are saying and to be sure anything he teaches is truly what God intends. Paul’s practice was also to take care to reason from the scriptures to persuade others:

Acts 17:2-4 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.

Just as we see Paul going directly from the scriptures to reason with others, Philip used the scriptures to help the Ethiopian eunuch understand what he was reading:

Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him

It is the scriptures that are used to teach the truth about Jesus. So we know the spiritual advice we get is from God or man when it comes from the scriptures. There is such a great responsibility given to the teacher to teach scripture correctly, a very strong admonish is given to those that would who would teach the word of God:

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment (NASB)

James indicates that teachers will be held to a higher standard for the important spiritual matters they are teaching others about. Teaching the message of Christ correctly was important because even in the first century Paul cautioned Christians who were embracing a distorted message about Christ:

Galatians 1:6-9  I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (NASB)

Definitions:

  • Distort: from the Greek metastrephō, meaning “to pervert or corrupt” (See Strong’s number G3344)
  • Accursed: from the Greek word anathema, meaning “a thing setup or hung” (See Strong’s number G331). The meaning describes being doomed to destruction just as a sacrifice being kept for an offering was hung on a wall.

Paul describe how serious it is to teach a message that is contrary to what the inspired apostles taught. He also described them as “false prophets”:

2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them–bringing swift destruction on themselves. (NASV)

1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (NASV)

It is important to note that these false prophets were “among you”. The warning for any of us today is the same; we should verify the truth of what anyone says by looking to the scripture. This is especially important when we have heard things preached for years and always assumed they were scripturally correct without our personally taking responsibility to “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” just as the Berean’s in Acts 17 did.

These scripture hopefully have given an answer how we should verify if advice is from God; we should look to the scriptures to confirm it. Of greater importance, it does matter if the teaching we get from others is in keeping with what is taught in the Bible. Those teachers will be condemned and we the listener maybe lead astray from the truth God wants us to know.