The above diagram is a way of looking at what happens if an individual or church adopts one or two of the three pillars. A balanced Christian or church includes all three.
Recently I spent a couple of hours with someone I hadn’t met in years. As we spoke together it became obvious that he was struggling with his faith. He is a bright guy and had spent a long time researching the nature of Christ as part of trying to allay his doubts. He did what many intellectuals do, that is, he put too much emphasis on a logical analysis of the Bible only.
As someone in relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ I know the Holy Spirit uses the 66 books of the Bible to speak the truth to me. It is part of what Jesus promises the Holy Spirit will do in John 16:13.
But that is the point I made to my friend. Approaching the Bible without the leading of the Holy Spirit is a waste of time. We cannot by our intellects alone know or find God. It is up to Him to reveal Himself to us.
I knew my friend had had an encounter with God many years ago. Prompted by the Spirit I asked him to go back and recall what it was he had heard or experienced then. I believe that if he could continue in what he had heard from the beginning (1 John 2:24) that he would hear and do what he needed to address his doubts.
Standing on one foot is hard. You will eventually fall over if all that is holding you up is one of the three pillars that God has given us. An objective understanding of Scripture is one of those pillars. If you know the Bible off by heart and can quote any part of it then you have a strong leg to stand on but that is not enough on its own. You must be born again and continue in the relationship that God initiates with you spiritually from that time forward. Intimate, experiential relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit is essential if you are to interpret the Bible correctly and if it is to become a living word not just a deadly letter (2 Cor. 3:6). This is the second pillar.
The third pillar is the Church. When we are born again we are part of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12) and it is foolish not to meet together with those who are your brothers and sisters in Christ (Hebrews 10:25). I believe firmly in the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9) and that no one needs to teach you anything if you are born again (Hebrews 8:11, 1 John 2:20). However it would be arrogant of anyone to think that they can live in this sin and devil filled world in a way that is pleasing to God without the other members of the body supporting and feeding into them.
So read the Scripture and understand it as well as you can but don’t do that on your own, let the Holy Spirit guide you into all truth and let others who love you in Christ encourage you. We all need encouragement. Relationship is at the heart of knowing God.