FIFTEEN PRINCIPLES FOR UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE

by Daniel Keeran, Victoria, Canada
While the author cannot speak for churches of Christ, common among them are unique ways of understanding holy scripture,
believed to have been written by apostles and prophets of the Lord before the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.) and circulated
among the early Christian communities, then collected as a volume by the self-identified Christian community of the second century
A.D., e.g. the list of Marcion.
1. We believe a concept is informed by all scriptures that speak of the concept. – “The sum of Your word is truth” (Ps.119:160).
2. We do not elevate personal experience, zeal, or sincerity above God's revealed will in scripture. – “For I testify about them that
they are zealous for God, but not on the basis of knowledge. Because they were ignorant of God’s righteousness and sought to
establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:2-3).
3. We do not count the number of times a concept is mentioned in scripture to determine its truth. - (E.g. stated only once: "on the
first day of the week we came together to break bread" (Acts 20:7).
4. We believe a matter of Christian faith and practice is approved only if it is stated in Christian writings given by the apostles and
prophets of the Lord. The only means of knowing what the apostles and prophets taught is by reading what the apostles and
prophets wrote. – “Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of God’s
household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).
5. We believe the writings given by the apostles and prophets of the Lord (the new covenant), take precedence over the writings
of the old covenant which is obsolete. – “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete
and outdated will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:13).
6. If a teaching seems to enjoin a crime or vice, it is figurative. E.g. “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in
you” (John 6:53).
7. A biblical practice is only culturally-related and not universally commanded if there is no eternal spiritual principle or meaning
attached to it. E.g. “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that
they might go to anoint Jesus' body” (Mark 16:1).
8. We aim to teach only the language of the text without extending the meaning. E.g. when David speaks of his personal remorse in
Psalm 51 “in sin did my mother conceive me,” we do not extend this to include all humanity from conception.
9. If a specific kind of a thing is prescribed, all other kinds are excluded. E.g. “sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord”
excludes playing a musical instrument to the Lord. This principle is sometimes stated as: “Whatever is not expressly enjoined, is
prohibited, as Paul says, "Do not go beyond what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6), as opposed to “Whatever is not expressly forbidden
is permitted.”
10. The onus is upon the individual to distinguish truth from error. “Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God
does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6).
In Acts 20, we learn that apostasy occurred among those who were taught by the apostles, which means traditions, teachings, and
writings presented as the word of God must be compared and agree with writings believed to have been authored by the apostles
and prophets of the risen Lord.
11. Metaphorical language given by inspiration should not be given meaning unless the inspired writer reveals the meaning. E.g.
Peter is “rock” and given “keys to the kingdom of Heaven” in Matthew 16:16. If it means Peter was made head of the church, it must
at least be stated in one subsequent passage.
12. Test your understanding of a text, against the faith and practice of Christians who lived after the text was written. E.g. If Jesus
cleansing the temple or telling his apostles to buy swords, means followers of Jesus can make a violent defense, one should be able
to see this understanding believed or practiced by early Christians.
13. When trying to understand the meaning of scripture intended by the writer, consider parallel passages. E.g. “made alive with
Christ” in Ephesians 2:5, is a promise associated with baptism in Colossians 2:12-13.
14. Some teachings carry more weight than others, and the Lord requires obedience to all His teaching. E.g. “You give a tenth of
your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness.
You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matthew 23:23).
15. Full obedience does not make one worthy: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We
are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” – Luke 17:10
HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN https://www.academia.edu/11778382
JESUS OF NAZARETH https://www.academia.edu/27774929

Search the
Scriptures
a comparison of the apostles’ teaching
with the traditions of denominations

prepared by Daniel Keeran, MSW
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Prepared by Daniel Keeran, MSW, Victoria,
Canada.
No rights reserved. Print and distribute freely.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture
references are from the New International
Version.
Date of Publication: August 17, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1516948765
ISBN-10: 1516948769

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Dedicated to
The Word of God

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Search the Scriptures
a comparison of the apostles’ teaching
with the traditions of denominations
“They worship me in vain; their teachings are
merely human rules.” - Matthew 15:9
“They continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching,
the breaking of bread, and in prayer.” – Acts 2:42

Directions: Followers of Jesus desire to
follow the apostles’ teaching rather than
human rules and traditions. Read the
scripture passages for each numbered set
below, then decide which statement is the
Truth of God’s Word and which is false
human tradition. Enter (T) for the Truth of
God’s Word and (F) for human tradition.
Remember that other scriptures may also
be relevant.

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JESUS
1. ( ) Mary is a mediator between God
and man.
( ) Jesus Christ is the one mediator
between God and man.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 2:5
2. ( ) Mary remained a perpetual virgin
and had no children other than
Jesus.
( ) Jesus had other brothers and
sisters, the children of Mary.
Scripture: Mark 6:3; Matthew 13: 55, 56
3. ( ) Jesus Christ was God in the flesh
or God in the form of a man. As
deity, He is to be worshipped.
Christians can pray to Jesus.
( ) Jesus was only a man with
special wisdom and power. He had
a special relationship to God, but he
is not God and should not be
worshipped.
Scripture: Matthew 1:23; John 20:28;
Hebrews 1: 6; John 1:1, 14; Acts 7:59, 60
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THE CHURCH
4. ( ) Jesus’ followers are called
Christians.
( ) Jesus’ followers are called
Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans,
Pentecostals, etc.
Scripture: Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4: 16
5. ( ) Christians should assemble
regularly together.
( ) A Christian need not meet
regularly with other Christians.
Scripture: Hebrews 10:25
6. ( ) There is one church, one body of
Christ. Divisions are sinful.
( ) It is good to have many
denominations among professing
Christians.
Scripture: Ephesians 4:4; Colossians 1:24;
1 Corinthians 1:10

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7. ( ) Women are to be silent in the
church assembly and may not have
authority over men.
( ) Women may preach to the
church and may be leaders in the
church and have authority over
men.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:34-3; 1
Timothy 2: 11, 12; 1 Timothy 3: 1-13
8. ( ) The church can be called the
United church, Anglican,
Pentecostal, Orthodox, Roman
Catholic, Baptist, Mennonite, etc.
( ) The church should be referred to
as the church of God, churches of
Christ, the body of Christ, the
household of faith.
Scripture: Romans 16:16;
2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 6:10;
1 Corinthians 12: 27

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9. ( ) One does not have to be a
member of the body of Christ, the
church, in order to be saved.
( ) Jesus bought the church with his
own blood. He is the Saviour of the
church and gave himself up for her.
Scripture: Ephesians 5:23-25; Acts 20:28

CHURCH LEADERS
10. ( ) Saints are a special group of holy
ones among God’s people.
( ) Every follower of Jesus is a saint.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1: 2; 14:33;
Romans 1:7
11. ( ) All of God’s people today are a
royal priesthood.
( ) Only a special class among God’s
people may be called priests.
Scripture: Revelation 1:6; 1 Peter 2:9

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12. ( ) The title “Reverend” belongs only
to special church leaders.
( ) All of God’s people are to be holy
or reverend.
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:15, 16
13. ( ) Jesus is the head over everything
for the church, and the church
headquarters is therefore in heaven.
( ) The church may have a human
head such as a pope, patriarch, or
other appointed individual, and the
church headquarters may be on
earth.
Scripture: Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians
1:17, 18

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14. ( ) The terms bishop (overseer),
elder (presbyter) and pastor
(shepherd), refer to one office in the
church.
( ) A bishop is higher than a pastor
who is higher than an elder.
Scripture: Titus 1: 5-9; 1 Peter 5: 1-4; Acts
20: 17, 28
15. ( ) A bishop is a ruler over several
congregations.
( ) A bishop is one of a plurality of
bishops who rule one congregation.
They are served by deacons.
Scripture: Philippians 1:1; Acts 14:23; 1
Timothy 3:1-10; Titus 1:5-7
16. ( ) Bishops must not be married.
( ) Bishops must be the husband of
one wife.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 3: 2, 4, 5; Titus 1: 6, 7

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17. ( ) Peter alone was given power to
bind and loose.
( ) All the apostles had power to
bind and loose.
Scripture: Matthew 16: 16-19;
Matthew 18: 1, 18
18. ( ) Peter held first place among the
apostles and was the recognized
head of the church.
( ) There was a plurality of leaders in
the Jerusalem church including
James, Peter and John. James
gave the final judgment at the
Jerusalem council. Jesus is the
head over all things for the church.
Scripture: Galatians 2:9; Acts 15: 13-21;
Ephesians 1: 22

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BAPTISM
19. ( ) Baptism does not save us.
( ) Baptism saves us. It is the pledge
to God of a good conscience. It
saves us by the resurrection of
Jesus Christ.
Scripture: 1 Peter 3:21
20. ( ) We are baptized so that our sins
may be forgiven and that we may
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
( ) We are baptized to show that our
sins have already been forgiven.
Scripture: Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16
21. ( ) He who believes, is saved and
should then be baptized.
( ) He who believes and is baptized
shall be saved.
Scripture: Mark 16:16

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22. ( ) Baptism is a sprinkling or pouring
of water.
( ) Baptism is a burial or immersion
in water.
Scripture: Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4
23. ( ) To be forgiven after baptism, one
should confess his sins to a priest
who will pray to the Lord.
( ) To be forgiven, a Christian should
repent and confess his sins directly
to the Lord.
Scripture: 1 John 1:9; Acts 8:13, 22

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24. ( ) Salvation is obtained by praying
to receive Jesus as Lord and
Saviour.
( ) Salvation from sin is obtained by
believing the gospel, plus
repentance, plus confessing Jesus
as the Christ and Son of God, plus
being immersed into Christ and His
death in order to receive the
forgiveness of sin. By baptism one
pledges to keep a good conscience
toward God.
Scripture: Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38;
Matthew 10:32, 33; Romans 6:3,4;
1 Peter 3:21

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25. ( ) Babies and little children need to
be baptized.
( ) Little children are innocent. No
one inherits the sins or guilt of an
ancestor. Only older people who
have sins of their own need to be
baptized.
Scripture: Matthew 18:1-6, 10, 11;
Acts 8:12; Ezekiel 18:19-32
26. ( ) After believing the gospel, people
should be baptized immediately.
( ) After believing the gospel, people
should wait until the church can be
assembled or until relatives can
observe this special occasion. One
should wait for a special day like
Sunday or Easter.
Scripture: Acts 2:41; Acts 8:35-38;
Acts 16:32,33; Acts 22:16; Acts 19:4,5

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27. ( ) One does not have to be
baptized in order to enter the body
of Christ, the church.
( ) In order to be united with Christ
and His body, the church one must
be baptized.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:13;
Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27
28. ( ) In order to enter the kingdom of
God one only needs to be born of
the Spirit. Water is not necessary for
salvation.
( ) Unless one is born of water and
the Spirit, he cannot enter the
kingdom of God.
Scripture: John 3:5

Stari Grad, Hvar, 6th century A.D.

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29. ( ) We receive salvation and
forgiveness simply by praying for it
and asking Jesus to come into our
hearts.
( ) We receive salvation and
forgiveness by being baptized into
Jesus’ death so that we may live a
new life.
Scripture: Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3, 4;
Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16

THE COMMUNION
30. ( ) The practice of the early church
was to take communion or the
Lord’s Supper on the first day of the
week.
( ) The communion or Lord’s Supper
may be taken quarterly or annually.
Scripture: Acts 20:7

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31. ( ) In the communion or Lord’s
Supper it is the real flesh and blood
of Christ that we eat.
( ) In the communion or Lord’s
Supper, it is bread and fruit of the
vine (the cup) that we eat and drink.
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:25,26;
Matthew 26:29
32. ( ) Only the priest may drink the cup
in the communion or Lord’s Supper.
( ) All Christians are to receive both
the bread and the fruit of the vine
(the cup).
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 11:23-28

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THE HOLY SPIRIT
33. ( ) Special gifts or manifestations of
the Holy Spirit were given by the
laying on of the apostles hands.
( ) Gifts of the Holy Spirit were
received through prayer with any
Christians laying on hands.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 1:6; Romans 1:11;
Acts 8:14-18; Acts 19:6
34. ( ) The baptism of the Holy Spirit
was received simply by praying for
it.
( ) The baptism of the Holy Spirit
came unexpectedly and was never
prayed for, did not save anyone, nor
was it a sign that the person
receiving it was saved.
Scripture: Acts 1:4,5; Acts 2:1-4; Acts
11:13-17; Acts 10:44-48

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35. ( ) The gift of tongues was the ability
to speak a foreign language without
learning it. This was to be a sign to
unbelievers that the gospel was
true.
( ) The gift of tongues was the ability
to make ecstatic sounds, not a real
human language but a prayer
language that could be received by
human prompting.
Scripture: Acts 2:4-12; 1 Corinthians 14:22

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36. ( ) God is the same yesterday,
today, and forever. This means His
Will has never changed and that He
still performs miracles like those
recorded in the Bible.
( ) God’s Will for man has changed.
The old Will or testament has been
replaced by the New Testament.
Miracles were for the purpose of
confirming the word of God, the
message of salvation. The record of
miracles in the Bible is given so that
we might believe in Jesus.
Scripture: Hebrews 8:7, 13; Hebrews 9: 1418; Mark 16: 20; Hebrews 2: 3, 4; John
20:30, 31

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SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE
37. ( ) Any additions to or deletions from
the Bible are forbidden. The
scriptures are sufficient.
( ) Inspired prophecy and
revelations are still being given and
can be added to the New Testament
as instruction in righteousness.
Scripture: Revelation 22: 18, 19
38. ( ) The tradition of the church is just
as true as the Word of God. The
scriptures are not adequate to
explain everything a Christian must
believe and do.
( ) The tradition of the church may
nullify the Word of God. The
scriptures thoroughly explain what a
Christian must believe and do.
Scripture: Matthew 15:3,6-9;
2 Timothy 3: 16,17

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39. ( ) The apostles were given all the
truth we need, and this faith has
been delivered once for all.
( ) Additional truths of the faith are
still being given and revealed to
special men who God has chosen.
Scripture: Jude 3; John 16:13; 2 Peter 1:3

OLD TESTAMENT RULES
40. ( ) God’s people today must observe
the Sabbath day, Saturday, as a day
of worship and rest.
( ) God’s people today worship on
the first day of the week. The
Sabbath kept by Jews was a
shadow of a reality found in Christ.
Scripture: Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2;
Colossians 2:16, 17

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41. ( ) Christians should not eat pork
and certain other meats.
( ) Everything God created is good,
and nothing is to be rejected if it is
received with thanksgiving.
Scripture: Colossians 2:16; 1 Timothy 4:3-5

BEFORE AND AFTER MARRIAGE
42. ( ) Divorce should be granted for
incompatibility or any other good
reason.
( ) Divorce should not be permitted
for any reason.
( ) Divorce for any reason, except
for the cause of fornication, should
not be practiced.
Scripture: Matthew 5:31,32;
Matthew 19:3-9

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43. ( ) Sex before marriage (a life
commitment) is healthy and may
help a couple discover if they will be
compatible in marriage.
( ) Sex is good and honourable but
belongs only in marriage. Sex
before marriage (fornication) is
condemned.
Scripture: Galatians 5:19-21; Hebrews 13:4
44. ( ) Marriage to the one you love can
last through eternity in heaven.
( ) In heaven no one will be married
but will be like the angels.
Scripture: Mark 12: 24, 25

OTHER RELIGIONS
45. ( ) It doesn’t matter what you believe
as long as you are sincere.
( ) One may be zealous for God yet
still be wrong about what he
believes and not please God.
Scripture: Romans 10:1-3
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46. ( ) All world religions are true and
teach basically the same thing. It is
not absolutely necessary to believe
in Jesus to be saved.
( ) Unless one believes that Jesus is
who He claims to be, the Word that
was God and became flesh, one
shall die in his sins and not see
eternal life.
Scripture: John 3:36; John 8:24; Acts 4:12
47. ( ) A person should not try to change
his religion but should die in the
religion he was born with.
( ) Both the Jews and the Gentiles
had to change their religion in order
to be saved.
Scripture: Romans 10:13-15;
1 Thessalonians 2:16

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48. ( ) People who have not heard the
gospel, would not need to hear and
obey it in order to be saved.
( ) Unless someone takes the
gospel to those who have not heard
it, they will not be saved.
Scripture: Romans 10:13-15;
1 Thessalonians 2:16

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FINAL CONSIDERATIONS
49. ( ) Everyone must die once, then
face purgatory.
( ) Everyone must die once, then
face judgment.
Scripture: Hebrews 9:27
50. ( ) Most people will go to heaven.
Only a few really bad people like
Hitler or Judas, will go to hell.
( ) Most people will go to hell.
Punishment for not obeying God’s
Word will be never-ending.
Scripture: Revelation 20:11-15;
Matthew 7:13, 14; Matthew 25:45, 46;
2 Thessalonians 1:8-10

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51. ( ) Hell is only the misfortune and
suffering that people experience in
this life. There is no hell after death.
( ) There will be a final judgment of
all people and many will then suffer
eternal punishment.
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46;
Revelation 20: 11-15
52. ( ) After becoming a child of God, a
Christian is unable to sin to the point
that he would be lost eternally.
( ) After becoming a child of God,
one may be severed from Christ.
The possibility always remains that
a Christian may so sin that he would
be lost eternally.
Scripture: Luke 8:13; John 15:1-7;
Romans 11:19-22; Hebrews 4:11;
Hebrews 6: 4-6, 12; Hebrews 10: 26, 27;
Hebrews 12:15-17; 2 Peter 2:17-22;
2 Peter 3:17

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53. ( ) There is no forgiveness for sins
committed after baptism.
( ) If we repent and confess our sins,
God will forgive us even after we are
baptized. But shall we sin knowing
this is true?
Scripture: 1 John 1:9; Acts 8:13,22;
Romans 6:1-3

HOW TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN
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