A Personal Testimony by
Gary Ray Branscome
Although the epistle to the church at Ephesus was addressed to "saints," and thus to those who had already received the Holy Ghost, the Apostle Paul was earnestly praying that those "saints" would receive, "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation." Furthermore, he expected that gift enlighten their understanding and strengthen their faith so that they would know the riches and glory that are our inheritance in Christ. And if he prayed for believers to receive that gift, we would do well to seek it. I know that when I received it, it changed my life. [Ephesians 1:1,11, 16-17 and 3:14-19, Colossians 1:9-11, John 14:21-26.]
A PILGRIMAGE OF FAITH
Even though I grew up in a Christian home where I was taught that I was a sinner in need of Godís forgiveness, I was blind to my own sins. While I did many wrong things, as a child and a teenager, I always came up with some excuse to justify my behavior. In other words, in my eyes it was always the other guyís fault. Therefore, in spite of my sins, I was so blind that I thought of myself as a righteous person. In fact, I really expected God to be pleased with me, yet because of my self-righteousness I felt spiritually empty, cold, and dead.
In order to counter the spiritual deadness that I felt, I sought emotional religion. I wanted church to be exciting and fun. I also sought revelation outside of Godís Word, for such revelation seemed much more exciting than written words. At the same time, I sought Godís favor through works. I tried to earn it by tithing, or by following the "leading of the Holy Spirit." However, none of those things satisfied the emptiness in my heart or brought me peace with God.
Then one day the thought came to me, "What if God has a higher standard of righteousness than I do? How could I be saved if His standard is so strict that I would be condemned as a sinner no matter how hard I try to be righteous?" I then realized that if that were the case, my only hope would be to throw myself on Godís mercy. Suddenly, I understood that Godís grace is His mercy. We are saved by Godís mercy because His standard is so strict that we could never be saved by our own righteousness. The words, "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags," then came to my mind, and with it a feeling of peace (Isaiah 64:6). At last, I had assurance of salvation, and that assurance came hand in hand with a willingness to look at my own sin.
Sometime later God answered my prayers for understanding, by giving me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. However, actually receiving Godís Spirit was quite different from what I had imagined it would be like. While I had expected the Holy Spirit to give me information that is not in Scripture, He caused me to realize that every false religion contains ideas that are not in Scripture, and that the devil wants nothing more than to lead people away from the written Word of God. Then, through such words as, "If you continue in My Word, then are you My disciples indeed," and "Add thou not unto His words lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar," He taught me the importance of excluding unscriptural ideas from my theology (John 8:31, Proverbs 30:6). There was a certain amount of excitement connected with that gift. However, it was not the carnal excitement of the whoop and holler crowd, but the kind of excitement that makes you enjoy reading Godís Word, and look forward to being in church.
During this time, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see the guidelines for interpreting Scripture that are clearly stated in Scripture. [Isaiah 8:20 and 28:9-11, John 8:31, 1 Corinthians 2:13, Romans 12:6, 2 Peter 1:20, 1 Corinthians 11:31, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Galatians 6:4, Proverbs 3:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, Galatians 3:17, 1 Timothy 1:9, 1 Corinthians 8:2, Isaiah 28:9-10, Jeremiah 23:26, Jeremiah 17:5&9, Proverbs 23:4.]
In revealing the meaning of those passages the Holy Spirit did not add to His Word, but let the passages explain each other. For example: Since Isaiah 28:10 and 1 Corinthians 2:13 are both speaking of the way God reveals doctrine, the words "comparing spiritual things with spiritual" mean that we compare what the Bible says "here" with what it says "there," "here a little, and there a little." Applying that rule to the words, "a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," the Bible tells us what faith is when it says, "Abraham believed God" and it tells us what it means to be justified when it says, "and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (Romans 3:28 and 4:3, Galatians 3:6). The Bible further explains our justification when it tells us that, "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Those who are truly being guided by the Holy Spirit simply bring together what the Bible explicitly says, "here a little, and there a little" without reading any unscriptural ideas into the text (John 8:31).
Instead of getting me all keyed up with emotional energy, the Holy Ghost used such passages as, "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" to teach me the importance of discipline, self-control, and persistent effort (1 Corinthians 14:32). There was a certain kind of excitement, but it was more like being in love, or being interested in a hobby, than the excitement of a football game. During that time I learned the value of being calm, level headed, and responsible. I was also able to see that emotion could never be a reliable motivation for evangelism, Christian living, or church attendance, because emotional highs never last long. That should be self-evident since emotions are of the flesh and the flesh is notoriously fickle, experiencing highs and lows.
Some time after receiving the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, my curiosity was aroused by a hearing a Pentecostal preacher on the radio. As a result, I began to visit a local Assembly on Wednesday nights. However, even though I went there expecting to find people that had received the same gift of wisdom that I received, it soon became evident that such was not the case. Aside from a number of divorces and other things that plague most congregations, they were interpreting the Bible the same way that I interpreted it before I received the Holy Spirit, or before I was even saved. In other words, they would read unscriptural ideas into the text, explain away passages that did not fit their own theology, ignore the plain meaning of the words, and pass off their own ideas as the teaching of Scripture. In many cases the literalistic meaning they placed on the words, and the ideas they came up with were downright childish. They saw no problem with adding to the Word of God, or with reading unscriptural ideas into what was said, and they seemed totally unaware that the "Spirit" they claimed to be following was leading them away from the truth of Scripture (1 John 4:1).
The pastor of that Assembly once returned from a convention in which his denomination had endorsed the "gap theory." That "theory" tries to harmonize the idea that the earth is millions of years old with the Bible by claiming that there were millions of years between Genesis verse one, and Genesis verse two. That is, between the time when "God created the heaven and the earth," and the time that "the earth was without form and void" (Genesis 1:1-2). It also claims that the devil and all of his angels evolved during those millions of years. Of course none of that is in the Bible! In fact, it contradicts the Bible, by denying that "The LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is in six days" (Exodus 20:11). Since the Holy Spirit had clearly taught me the importance eliminating unscriptural ideas and any interpretation that contradicts Scripture from my theology, I was horrified. I can still remember thinking, "Are you so blind that you cannot see that you are reading unscriptural ideas into the text and interpreting Scripture to contradict itself ?" When people claim to be led by the Spirit yet interpret it like false prophets, they are false prophets (2 Peter 1:20, Isaiah 8:20)!
By the time I stopped visiting that Assembly I was thoroughly disgusted with Pentecostalism. For example: When Holy Spirit plainly says that He teaches doctrine, "line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little," that is where they should be looking for doctrine (Isaiah 28:9-10). Yet they are so blind to what is being said that they quote from that section of Scripture over and over again without understanding what the Holy Spirit is saying. In fact, they cannot seem to get beyond the words "stammering lips and another tongue" (in verse 11) which they interpret to support their bogus gift of tongues [they had me "speaking in tongues," and it is just mouth noise, not a legitimate language]. Furthermore they interpret the phrase "another tongue" to contradict the words, "line upon line," and that is the way false prophets interpret Scripture, not the way those led by the Holy Spirit interpret it (Jeremiah 23:28, Isaiah 8:20).
Cult members are notorious for interpreting Scripture to support their own doctrine. In fact, that is what we would expect those who lack the guidance of Godís Spirit to do. However, if you really want the truth you need to look for passages that contradict your own theology, for theological ideas that contradict Scripture are of the devil, and eliminating such contradictions is one aspect of submission to the Word of God. [Isaiah 8:20, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Galatians 6:4, 1 Corinthians 11:31.] If there are passages that make you feel uncomfortable, or which you feel a need to explain away, then you have not fully submitted to the Word of God (1 John 4:6).
[NOTE: When you look for passages that contradict your theology, do not create false contradictions by reading works-righteousness into the text. Since works-righteousness is bound in the heart of man, that is easy to do. However, one aspect of allowing Scripture to interpret itself has to do with interpreting it in light of the fact that Christ, not works, is the source of our righteousness (Romans 3:22 and 10:4). For example: Most people who read the words, "Whosoever is born of God sinneth not," assume that obedience to the law is the only thing that can make someone sinless (1 John 5:18). However, that assumption contradicts the Bible, for the Bible says, "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight" (Romans 3:20). Nevertheless, Scripture reveals the true meaning 1 John 5:18 when it tells us that "Abraham believed God [i.e. was born again], and it was accounted to him for sinlessness [i.e. righteousness]" (Galatians 3:6).]
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH
Before I received the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, Satan blinded me to what the Bible said, by causing my imagination to run wild, by causing me to look for hidden meanings, by causing me to read unscriptural ideas into the text, by leading me to interpret the words of one passage to contradict other passages, by leading me to read works-righteousness into the text, and by leading me to look for explanations not found in the text (such as the "gap theory"). However, when I did receive the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, my eyes were opened to see what a fool I had been. He opened my eyes to see that the true doctrine consists of what we can know as fact that the Bible says. Truths that are so plainly stated that there is no dispute as to the fact that the Bible teaches those things. That does not mean that everyone will accept them, it just means that they will not be able to deny that they are in the Bible. For example: While many people reject what the Bible says about God creating the world in six days, no one can deny the fact that the Bible says, "in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested" (Exodus 31:17). Therefore, that is what we should believe and teach. Likewise, while many people want to believe that Christ will set up a literal kingdom on this earth, they cannot deny the fact that He said "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). Therefore, that is what we should believe and teach. In fact, the Bible tells us that anyone who interprets Scripture to contradict such truths is in darkness (Isaiah 8:20).
When the Bible tells us that "God is not the author of confusion," it is telling us that if people are confused as to what the Bible says it is not Godís fault. He not only plainly stated those truths that He wants us to believe and teach, but also plainly tells us how His Word is to be interpreted. The carnal mind is just too rebellious to listen (Jeremiah 17:9, 1 Corinthians 14:33).
Sometime after I received the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation, I was browsing in a Christian bookstore when I ran across a copy of "Christian Dogmatics" by Dr. Francis Pieper. As I paged through that book, certain words seemed to leap out at me because they clearly revealed that the author was following the same rules of interpretation that the Holy Spirit had shown me in Scripture. In fact, he is one of the few theologians that does follow Godís rules for interpreting Scripture. Moreover, after purchasing the book, I found that it contained a chapter on Bible interpretation that agreed perfectly with what the Holy Spirit had revealed to me from the very words of Scripture. There may be a couple of minor points where I feel that he was not fully consistent with those rules, but because he follows Godís rules for interpreting Scripture most of what he wrote is simply the truth of Godís Word.
When you follow Godís rules for interpreting Scripture, you will gain a peace, joy, and certainty as to what the Bible says that those who are in darkness cannot imagine. As the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see what was written, He bought to mind passages that I had forgotten, one passage casting light upon the other. In fact: the Old Testament seemed to come alive as my eyes were opened to see the testimony of Christ and the salvation message clearly set forth in the text.
Since I fully understand that much of what the Holy Spirit taught me is diametrically opposed to what is taught by those sects that emphasize the Holy Ghost. I am offering this testimony as an indictment and Biblical alternative to their scandal-ridden history, cultic approach to Bible interpretation, and intemperate excesses.