What Authenticates Doctrine and Ministry?
Many diverse voices are clamoring to be heard today. One is reminded of the situation that existed in the early church at Corinth where everyone had a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, or an interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:26). Many of these voices claim to be “Christian” in spite of the fact that they are actually twisting the Scriptures to satisfy their own ambitions. Who are we to believe? Which leaders and organizations are safe to follow and support? Is there any sure way to separate the wheat from the chaff? What criteria must be applied to test every voice that is heard? What is essential to authenticate the doctrine and ministry of any individual or organization?
We believe the Word of God gives a very clear answer to these questions. Isaiah 8:20 says, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The only Scriptural test for any believer’s doctrine and ministry is fidelity to the Word of God. Unless this basis of authenticity is faithfully applied to every situation, the inevitable result will be that man’s values will be substituted for God’s standard; and when this happens, the outcome will always be confusion and loss of spiritual power.
No wonder so many believers are confused today. Too many who claim to be Christian are using a variety of criteria other than the Word of God. In the Charismatic Movement, tongues, visions, dreams, healings, miracles and other “gifts of the Spirit” supposedly authenticate the message of its leaders and organizations, even when their ministries directly contradict the Scriptures. In the Ecumenical Movement, “unity” is the magic word that provides authentication in spite of the fact that the “unity” of the Ecumenical Movement is a false, unscriptural “unity” hated by God. Among Roman Catholics, antiquity and tradition provide acceptable proof, even while they continue to preach a false gospel upon which the Lord has placed His curse (Galatians 1:6-9). As far as evangelicals are concerned (and even some fundamentalists), the key word is “love.” The problem, however, is that the “love” being used to validate the testimonies of many of these ministries is not the “love” described in the Bible at all. When evangelicals join hands with Ecumenists, Charismatics, and Roman Catholics, they demonstrate their disobedience, not their love. God commands separation from those who preach a false gospel, from disobedient brethren, and from the spirit of this world. Disregarding these plain commands of the inerrant, infallible Word on the basis of “love” deceives undiscerning believers, and in the sight of God, it is sin.
Finally, it is sad to observe that most Christians today have swallowed the devil’s lie that “authentication of ministry” is to be equated with popularity and prosperity. True believers who seek to be faithful to God’s holy Word have often observed how the world and unspiritual believers place such high stock in numerical and material success. In the majority of instances when we come into contact with those who are not familiar with our ministry, one of the first questions is,” How large is your church?” or “How expansive is your Foundation magazine subscription list?” And when the inquirer discovers how small we are compared to many other ministries, an immediate lessening of interest and respect occurs. It is sad to say, but this situation also exists among many Fundamentalists who find more authentication for their ministries by the world’s standard (numbers) than by God’s standard— absolute fidelity to His Word!
As biblical Fundamentalists, we must continually accept God’s exhortation to “judge righteous judgment”—judging everything by the eternal, unchangeable Word of God, not by the shifting standards of the world. Although such a stand does not increase one’s popularity, our obligation is still to the Lord and His Word alone. We must not be afraid nor ashamed to “stand alone” from the crowd if need be. Many of the apostles and prophets went through similar experiences. But, let us not forget that our reward in heaven is sure. If we are faithful to the Lord and His Word now, we will one day hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” What a day of rejoicing that will be! Meanwhile, may we say with the apostles of old, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” — M. H. Reynolds, Jr. (1919-1997)
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