Test All Things

Paul’s instruction to the Roman church to “mark and avoid” those teaching differently from what he had taught them, was not an universal instruction to all Christians concerning all teachers that would follow him generations afterward.

Paul had established his role as an apostle,[1] and his right and authority to teach authoritatively in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom he was personally selected and from Whom he directly learned the doctrine that he taught.[2] Subsequent teachers in subsequent generations, even centuries after he had died, do not have the authority that Paul had and are not to be accepted as authoritative by anyone, but are to be tested against the Scriptures that the Lord has graciously provided to the church of Jesus Christ which enable to do as Paul instructed the saints in Thessalonica and commended the Bereans[3], to test all things, and as repeated admonitions throughout the New Testament by multiple authors are to test the spirits, be warned of false teachers, to verify that the things we are told are in accordance with the written Word of God. In fact, Jesus rebuked against following “doctrines of men”(Mt 15:9); rather each of us is personally responsible to ensure that the doctrines we adopt are written clearly in the Word of God by those whom He chose to communicate the deepest truths of God and of His gospel to the rest of the world. The foundation of the doctrine is built upon the apostles and prophets, not elders, pastors, or other teachers following after them.[4] None of those teachers are entitled to an unequivocal loyalty from those who belong to Jesus Christ, but are subject as are all other persons, to have their teaching tested against Scripture, being rejected or accepted solely on their conformance to God’s Word.

Anyone instructing you to “mark and avoid” others who come to you teaching differently from what they claim is true, is wrongly claiming apostolic authority for themselves. They should be “marked” and their doctrines minutely compared to the writing of Scripture. And if when someone questions you or challenges a doctrine you believe, you rely on such a teacher instead of being able to examine the Scriptures to demonstrate the truth for yourself, you are allowing someone else to determine what you believe. The likelihood of following a cult increases with the reliance on another person to tell you what the Bible means. Reliance on a single or small group of approved teachers is the hallmark of a cult, and most members are unaware that they are in one.  

Harsh as that may sound, false teachers abound, as Jesus and His apostles warned would happen after they had gone. Those false teachers will combine a few words of truth with words of error, making the errors harder to spot. Some errors are more serious than others because some of them impugn the character of God, deny the deity of Christ, or malign and manipulate the true gospel of God. The need to be vigilant and to test for yourself according to the Scriptures, applies to every teacher and every system that claims to present God’s truth. And you need to listen to those who warn you that what you have been told is wrong; God uses watchmen to warn and call His children out of error. If God is using one of those people to warn you to flee, you will be accountable if you refuse to listen and test what you are told?

The Romans lacked the benefit of the New Testament Scriptures by which to test what they were told by those claiming knowledge of God. They relied on Paul and those whom Paul sent to them, to confirm or refute any teachings they would hear elsewhere. The modern church lacks the personal presence of those original twelve apostles and their direct disciples to verify what we are taught. Rather, God has graciously left us the abundance of their writings, authoritative because He directed their composition,[5] by which we are to “test all things” and “hold fast what is good”, an universal principle that every Christian is accountable to follow for themselves, and against which we will individually be held accountable if we choose to rely on others to tell us what is true rather than learning from the Lord Who has given us “everything we need for life and godliness.”[6]


“For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or ye receive another spirit which ye have not received, or another gospel which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with (it).”        2 Corinthians 11:4 

[1] 2 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 15:9

[2] Acts 9 & 26; Ephesians 3:3

[3] 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11

[4] Ephesians 2:20

[5] 2 Timothy 3:16

[6] 2 Peter 1:3