While most of us realize that we should use the Bible to examine all doctrines, false teachers always refer to something other than Scripture as their final authority. While they claim to believe the Bible they also claim that the Bible can only be interpreted within their organization. They reject the truth that each Christian can and should be able to understand the Bible on their own. Let us look at a few examples:
The Jehovah's Witnesses claim that the only the Watchtower Society is capable of understanding the Bible.
"...Only this organization functions for Jehovah's purpose and to his praise. To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book." (The Watchtower; July 1, 1973, pp. 402.)
The Mormon Church states that their prophets job is to interpret the Scripture
"A prophet speaks for God, with divine power and authority. He:...Teaches the gospel and interprets the word of God" (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Website - Learning About God - Prophets)
The Catholic Church claims the job of interpreting God's Word has been left solely to them.
"The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him." (Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 100)
With these claims of authority, how is the average Christian supposed to test their doctrines to see if they are true? The Bible is clear that we are supposed to stay away from false teachings and to beware of false teachers and prophets. How can we do that if a church is teaching that they alone can understand and know if they are teaching correctly or not? The answer is that we cannot.
The claim to be the only group that can understand and interpret Scripture is itself a contradiction of Scripture.
2 Peter 1:20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.
The Bible says that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful enough to equip us thoroughly for every good work.
2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible never says there must be a prophet who interprets the Word of God or that it is only useful if interpreted by those to whom it was "alone" "entrusted".
Jesus along with all of his apostles, including Paul taught from the Scriptures. They used the Scripture to prove that their teachings were true. It is clear that they "reasoned" from the Scriptures expecting people to know them and understand them.
In the Old Testament there were prophets and a priesthood, but instruction of God's Word was the responsiblity of each person. Parents were instructed to teach their own children. (Deut. 6:4-9) Every child, woman and man was expected to know God's commands. Never was there an indication that the Scriptures were not understandable to the average person.
Jesus would ask the people, "Haven't you read this scripture?" (Mark 12:10) Peter's sermon in Acts 2 quoted many Old Testament passages to prove his message. Paul often did the same. Paul "reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving." that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 17:2-3) We are even told that some people "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (Acts 17:11)
That is a major problem with these organizations. When you use these Scriptures to prove they are wrong they will say that we are simply not interpreting these Scriptures correctly.
These groups tragically avoid another great Scriptural command in determining if these teachings are true. The leaders of these groups are usually followed blindly no matter how evil or vile the leadership becomes. They are told that the fruit of the leadership is not important. The illicit and evil behavior of their leadership is explained away. The Catholic Church, for example, claims that their infallibility "does not require holiness of life, much less imply impeccability in its organs; sinful and wicked men may be God's agents in defining infallibly."(New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia) What does the Bible say?
Matt 7:15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."
Heb 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.
We can and should examine the fruits of our leaders. We should consider the outcome of their way of life. That outcome should be consistent with the teachings of God's Word. God's Word can and should be understood by every believer. Every teaching should be examined against the Scriptures to see if what we are being taught is the truth.
So, whom do we believe? We believe those who, when we examine the Scriptures, we find they are teaching the truth. We believe those whose fruits are consistent with their message. We believe those who encourage us to read and Study God's Word apart from their interpretation and manipulation.
In order to test a doctrine we must have a standard to test it against. It is our prayer that everyone will use God's Word as the sole standard of truth.1 Thess 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.