Only “the church” (that is, the elite/apostolic leaders of it, past or present) or theology/”divinity” “professionals” can hear from the Holy Spirit, and you should accept their teachings automatically as truth.
According to Spiritless Christianity, if the Spirit is revealing something contrary in your heart to what the leaders (ancient or present) of the organized church are saying, you shouldn’t trust the warnings the Spirit is giving you. Only trust convention and human wisdom.
The problem is, many of these leaders in the organized church have studied theology books more than they have studied the Bible and endeavored to know God’s heart in prayer. They’ve become book-smart and “intellectual”, but not necessarily spiritually wise.
Many of them don’t even know Jesus. They’re academic or cultural Christians only.
Spiritual wisdom comes from regeneration through Christ, and often through a life of trial, poverty, death of the flesh, self-denial, pain, and learning more about God through it all.
Spiritual wisdom comes from walking with Christ and being crucified with Him.
Spiritual wisdom does not come from divinity school. It comes only from the Divine Lord Himself.
Therefore, a theology student who does not know Christ does not have wisdom, no matter how many books he reads or how much he memorizes passages of scripture, or how precisely he perfects his execution of the religious ceremony or deeply he ponders the musings of Luther.
With wisdom the earth was made, and with Christ the earth was made.
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth,
By understanding He established the heavens.
By His knowledge the deeps were broken up
And the skies drip with dew.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Yet many of these “spiritual leaders” are more acquainted with the thoughts and teachings of ancient church theologians (Man) or “fathers” (Man) than they are with Christ (wisdom) Himself.
And many selectively deem “inspired” or “correct” those Man-approved beliefs which support their cults’ doctrines.
Every cult thinks its traditions are the “right way” and “of God”.
The test to determine truth must not be “what does the church tradition say”, because each “church” has its own traditions and beliefs, and they can’t all be right.
The litmus test is what the Spirit of Christ (wisdom, the word) testifies is true or false. The Holy Spirit still speaks to His people today.
Tradition should not be considered reliable for its own sake.
Many “church” teachings were developed after the time and teachings of the original first-century church.
Many claim that these teachings are supported by Scripture, and proof texts, quote mining, and cherry picking are conveniently employed in support of these extra-biblical claims.
We must not be daunted by these lofty claims of scriptural basis, but test all supposedly “scriptural” beliefs through the vision the Holy Spirit gives us, and against other scriptures (the written word), and the Spirit (the living Word within us, who will not contradict Scripture but may contradict man-made tradition).
Many academic, learned, and very “religious” church leaders hardly have a clue what God thinks, because they don’t really talk to Him. They don’t study His word for themselves.
They only study and accept what others (so-called Christians, who may or may not have been true followers of Christ) thought about the scriptures.
Many of these church leaders do not know Jesus.
They seek dead men – not the Living God – for counsel.
Many of them have no Spirit within them to testify to the truth or error of the doctrine of these ancient “church fathers”.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Spiritless Christianity is Christianity missing its core (Christ and therefore His Spirit), and therefore a Christianity missing all checks and balances.
Testing and examination of traditions and teachings must come from the Spirit within each member of the church and from the written word (the scriptures).
The scriptures are understood and properly applied through the vision and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Someone without the Spirit of Christ does not have this discernment.
Many messengers of Satan claim to be servants of God. We must not automatically trust the teachings of all who claimed to be servants of Christ throughout history.
We must seek Christ – and Him alone – to know truth. He will never misguide us or contradict Himself.
As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.
1 John 2:27
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
1 Corinthians 14:26
If the “laity” is not permitted to question or examine extra-biblical church tradition and teachings (the doctrines and precepts of men), they are being told to ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit within them.
The Spirit living within these people is the “checks and balances” system which maintains true orthodoxy in the church.
Many denominations and cults claim that their church teachings are “orthodox”, but this is not by default the case.
The fact that their teachings are traditional or conventional (as in, used for several centuries) does not prove or guarantee that they are also orthodox.
Indulgences (including mass cards) was (and is) a conventional practice for the Roman Catholic Church. This does not mean it is an orthodox practice.
And even those denominations which challenge the teachings of Roman Catholicism should also not be automatically released from scrutiny or assumed to hold orthodox views.
The English Church can easily fall into this trap.
Because it broke up with the Catholic Church, it might wish to comfortably assume that its views are orthodox, simply because they are not as unorthodox as those of Roman Catholicism.
However, arguing that you’re on a safe path or that your teaching is orthodox simply because you’re not as deep into something dangerous (such as many traditional Catholic practices) as the Roman Catholic Church is a lame argument.
It’s like saying “At least I don’t eat as much ice cream at every meal as my friend does, so my diet’s fine.”
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
2 Peter 2:1
Notice the word “secretly”. Satan’s plots are rarely executed conspicuously (although they may become conspicuous to the one who knows the Lord).
“Covert” is the name of his game.
Of course false doctrine in the church isn’t going to sound false to all who claim to be Christians.
It will seem “right” and “true” and “trustworthy” and “moral” to many. Especially to the tares – the false bride within the true one.
We must be very careful not to confuse convention with correctness.
Those denominations, leaders, and systems which fear spiritual scrutiny deserve more of it.
Any religion that preaches something other than Christ – or Christ plus something else – is selling you a counterfeit.
The price, Satan hopes, is your soul.
A Final Warning
Let me warn you of second-hand spirituality; it is a rotten soul-deceiving deception. Beware of all esteeming yourself according to the thoughts of others, or you will be ruined. Another man’s opinion of me may have great influence over me. I have heard of a man in perfectly good health killed by the opinion of others. Several of his friends had foolishly agreed to play him a practical trick; whereupon one of them met him and said, ‘How ill you look this morning.’ He did not feel so; he was very much surprised at the remark. When he met the next, who said to him, ‘Oh! dear, how bad you look,’ he began to think there might be something in it; and as he turned smart round the corner, a third person said to him, ‘What a sight you are! How altered from what you used to be!’ He went home ill, he took to his bed and died. So goes the story, and I should not marvel if it really did occur. Now, if such might be the effect of persuasion and supposed belief in the sickness of a man, how much more readily may men be persuaded into the idea of spiritual health! A believer meets you, and by his treatment seems to say, ‘I welcome you as a dear brother’—and means it too. You are baptised, and you are received into church fellowship, and so everybody thinks that you must be a follower of Christ; and yet you may not know him. O I do pray you, do not be satisfied with being persuaded into something like an assurance that you are in him, but do know him—know him for yourself.
For meditation: We should all take it for granted that by nature we are all hell-deserving sinners. None of us have any right to take it for granted that we are heaven-bound saints. Even with the kindest of motives, spiritual flattery is a killer. For God to wound us by telling us the awful truth about ourselves is an amazing offer of friendship (Proverbs 27:6), a merciful warning to flee from the wrath to come by trusting in Christ crucified (2 Corinthians 5:19–21).
– C.H. Spurgeon