Does the Church have to interpret the bible?
In this era of redemptive history, God has chosen to preserve his truth within the universal Church that he established with his blood; and hence he calls the Church “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), and exhorts believers to obey the Church's elders who labor in the word and doctrine (1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17); however, the bible also indicates that it is necessary and honorable for individual believers to be studying the scriptures daily, to see if the things taught by the Church leaders, no matter how prominent they might be, are according to the bible (Acts 17:11).
Furthermore, although we acknowledge that the truth is preserved in the holy and universal Church, we must realize that it takes biblical discernment even to recognize what the true Church is; for the bible speaks of many false prophets and false doctrines arising up in the midst of the Church, and even indicates that entire churches may become apostate (1 Tim. 4:1-4; 2 Tim. 3:13-17; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; Rev. 2:5; 13:11); so that, to recognize what constitutes the Church in which the truth of the bible has been preserved, one must understand what the bible teaches, and realize that no “church” which denies the gospel proclaimed in the bible is a true church at all. Thus, the apostle Paul exalts the gospel which he had proclaimed of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone, far above any other authority, whether earthly or heavenly, saying that if any apostle or teacher or angel from heaven, or even himself should proclaim a different gospel, he would be eternally accursed (Gal. 1:6-10); and to this list, we may add any falsely-named “church”.
Thus, recognizing that God has superintended the preservation and formulation of the doctrinal truths of the bible through the history of the Church, no individual believer ought to be so presumptuous as to go lightly against the clear doctrinal statements of the early ecumenical councils on such doctrines as the Trinitarian conception of God and the acceptance of the several books of the canon; but neither will any believer find it a legitimate excuse that they are submitting to the authority of the “church” when they accept any of the blasphemous and unbiblical teaching that has sprung up in many corrupt false churches, according to prophecy. For any so-called “church” that has corrupted the gospel is a false church, and ought not be obeyed even for a moment.
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