Should Christians judge the teachings of their leaders?
Christians are called to engage with God with the fullness of their minds (Mark 12:30). This includes using critical thinking to evaluate the words of our leaders and teachers. Luke wrote, "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11 NIV). The Bereans did not take the teachings of Paul at face value. Rather, they discerned for themselves whether his teachings lined up with what they knew of God. This is not to say that the Bereans did not esteem Paul or automatically dismissed his teachings. Instead, they were cautious. They did not trust Paul merely because he was a leader of the faith. They examined his words and made sure they were in line with God's truth before accepting them. Christians should do the same today. This concept is confirmed elsewhere in the Bible.
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For instance, John wrote, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). False teachers and leaders are everywhere. We must test what our leaders say in order to ensure they are leading us closer to God. Paul writes to the Ephesians, "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:14-15 NIV). Here Paul is saying that some earthly leaders are really liars. Second Peter 2 speaks harshly against such false teachers. Not all who teach falsely do so intentionally, but the end result of false teaching is uncertainty. When we believe lies, we are robbed of the fullness of life we have been given in Christ (John 10:10).
As Paul instructed Timothy, Christians should "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1 Timothy 4:16). Leaders deserve our respect but not our blind following. Anything we are taught must line up with the truth of God. We can be open to learning new things and understanding God in new ways. Certainly we should not assume that our way of thinking is necessarily correct. However, we should not accept teachings that contradict the Word of God. Nor should we automatically accept everything our leaders say. As the Bereans did, we should approach teachings with eagerness to learn but also wariness about their truth. We must search the Scriptures for ourselves and attune our spiritual ears to the discernment of the Holy Spirit that we might "test everything; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
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