WHO DECIDES WHAT IS RIGHT?
The world may be more divided now than ever. Physically, nations are split over numerous things. People within countries are at odds with one another. Ad infinitum.
The world is also divided over religious matters. When this author began preaching in the 1960’s, it was generally thought that there were some 300 different religions. Presently, there seems to be a different religious faith on every corner. Who knows how many splinters of religion there are in existence today?
Each of the various religions today claims that their doctrine is the truth. However, two questions should be asked. First, “What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus this question. (John 18:38). When one gets what is right, those who are right can be just as easily determined. Secondly, one should seek to know who decides what the truth is. Perhaps we should ask a third question, that is, “How many truths are there? In math there are not many answers to the problem of 1 + 1. There is but one answer, 2. It does not matter how honest and sincere a student may be who gives a different answer. Any answer other than 2 will always be wrong. 2 will always be right.
Please take time to study these brief thoughts. If error therein you find, please, please write or E-mail the author with corrections.
First, let us see some who do NOT determine what truth is. Individuals do not determine truth, and that includes the writer. It also includes you and any other person. Eve did not determine truth when she chose to heed the serpent’s lie, “Ye shall not surely die.” (Gen. 3:1-5). God stated His truth when He said, “Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Gen. 3:1-3). There was but one truth, and it was the word of God.
Husbands and wives do NOT determine truth. The fact that Adam followed his wife’s rejection of God’s law for the lies of Satan did not make it right. 1 Timothy 2:14 says, “the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” Obviously, Adam was also deceived for eating what his wife offered to him. The result of their failure to heed God’s truth saw them being condemned and cast out of the beautiful garden. (Gen. 3). Their actions brought sin and death into the world. Paul wrote, “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:….” (Romans 5:12).
Churches are NOT the originators of truth. Witness the number of churches in the New Testament that had to be corrected for teaching error rather than the truth. One example of churches in one general area that needed correction is found in Revelation 2 and 3, the seven churches of Asia. Consider the church at Ephesus which had left its first love. (Rev. 2:1-7). The church in Smyrna had to correct the blasphemy that was there. (Rev. 2:8-11). Consider the church in Pergamos, though faithful in some areas, had false doctrine that needed to be corrected. (Rev. 2:12-17). Read about others in need of repentance. Finish chapters 2 and 3. Read the first letter to the Corinthians, and notice the error in every chapter but one, where admonitions were given to correct wrong. These are but a few churches who did not determine what truth was. Imagine what the situation would be had God accepted as truth what these and others said and did.
Preachers do NOT establish truth. “A certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures…was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly….” (Acts 18:24-26). You have never heard a better preacher, nor will you. However, “when Aquia and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:26), that is, they taught him the truth. Apollos then began to help believers, and mightily convinced the Jews to turn to Jesus Christ. (Acts 18:27, 28). John’s baptism was no longer valid, and he longer taught it. Comp. Acts 19:1-7, where those who had received the baptism of John had to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
Elders, also known as Bishops, Presbyters, Shepherds, Overseers and Pastors do NOT reveal truth. Paul “from Mile-tus…sent to Ephesus, and called for the elders of the church.” (Acts 20:17). Among the things he told them was, “after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29, 30). He then told them to follow the word, the truth (John 17:17), and not to originate truth. Cf. Acts 20:31, 32. That would mean that “in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:9).
Deacons do NOT determine what is right. They were special servants of the church. (Acts 6:1ff). They would do work that was needed to allow evangelists to use their time pray-ing and preaching, rather than serving tables.
Bible teachers, whether as personal workers or in classes, do NOT originate truth. Members of the church, young or old, youth ministers, and others do NOT establish truth. Because someone has “a good idea” does not make it right, does not determine what should or should not be done.
Church committees, boards, creeds, manuals, disciplines, catechisms, and such like, have NO authority to tell the church what it should be.
Neither the world nor governments and/or their leaders have a right to tell anyone what is right in religious matters. Most world governments and leaders have their own ideas about what is right. The Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman governments and their top officials certainly had their ideas about truth. However, God’s truth was right. Such is the case with today’s rulers. It appears that many ruling bodies of our day are trying to change churches to fit their mold, and such laws change with any change in leader-ship. Laws are being passed today to impede churches wanting to follow truth. Examples of this today are the laws regarding so-called abortions, really, murders; marriage between same-sex partners, from Genesis 2:18-25, one man (male) and one woman (female); calling speech that re-proves and rebukes (2 Tim. 4:2) “hate speech.” Yet, Jesus said, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev. 3:19). Warning someone about fleeing a burning structure is not hate speech, but an act of love.
Be careful not to allow your thinking to be influenced by the beliefs of those dear to you, whether it be family, friend, acquaintances, co-workers, or any other. These do not determine truth. Joseph’s brothers were pressured by their blood brothers to sell Joseph for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites. (Gen. 37:18-36, esp. vv. 24-36). Again, Eve was deceived by Satan (1 Tim. 2:24), then deceived her own husband. (Gen. 3:6-12). Adam allowed his wife to lead him from the truth into error.
Question: If none of the foregoing decides what the truth is, who or what does? Jesus told Pilate that He came into the world “to bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” (John 18:37). “Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?” (John 18:37). It is imperative that we ask the same question, “What is truth?” Why ask this question? There are so many varied and appealing doctrines today that sound good, but are not. We must determine what is truth and do that, because it is obedience to the truth that saves. (John 17:17). John also said, “But he that doeth truth cometh to the light….:” (John 3:21). In chapter 4:24, he said, “We must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 8:32 says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus is the truth and the way to God. (John 14:1-6, esp. v. 6). Peter, 1 Pet. 1:22, 23, penned these words, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit…Being born again…by the word of God….”
Jesus pled to His Father, “Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth. (John 17:17). To sanctify is to set apart. This is somewhat similar to becoming a member of the church, Greek, EKKLESIA, the called out. All who become Christians are called out of sin and set apart when we obey God’s word or truth. John the Baptist declared, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). David pled, “Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me….” (Ps. 25:4, 5). Again the Psalmist said the Lord “cometh to judge the earth… with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” (Ps. 96:13). It is the same today, for “His truth endureth to all generations.” (Ps. 100:5; Cf. John 12:48, the word, truth, will judge us in the last day). “My word shall not pass away.” (Matt. 24:35).
A WARNING! God through Jeremiah warned the people of his day that some would “deceive every one his neighbor, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongues to speak lies…. (Jer. 9:5). Paul said some “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18) and “changed the truth of God into a lie….” (Rom. 1:25). The apostle chosen out of season also marveled that some at Galatia had so soon been re-moved from the gospel to error, even asking them who had bewitched them , warning them of their being cut off if they did not repent. (Gal. 1:6-9). That does not sound like things we hear today. For example, some say, “It doesn’t matter what one believes, as long as one is honest and sincere.” Neither does it sound like, “Pray the sinner’s prayer, and find a good church” and all will be well. Cf. Romans 1:18-32.
Throughout the Old Testament, whether under patriarchal or Mosaical law, there were those who rejected God’s will, and they taught and practiced their own. It is no different today. Let us now look at a few changes people have made in God’s truth. The Quran (Koran) is a classic example of a book some accept, rather than the Bible. Their God is called Allah. Muhammad is their prophet. The Koran is significantly different to both the law of Moses and gospel of Christ. Muhammad was not born until “about 570 AD.” (The Koran, p. xi, Introduction). Jesus was born A.D. 1. The Bible was finished in A.D. 70 or A.D. 96, depending, on the dates that are given to the book of Revelation. Which book was changed? The Book of Mormon, The New World Translation of the Jehovah’s witnesses, and many others came later than the word of God, the Bible. These have changed the holy scriptures, teaching doctrines and commandments of men, the doctrines of their authors.
Dearly beloved, please make a comparison for you regarding a few issues presented herein, and determine what the truth of God is. Some teach that we are still living under and bound to keep the law of Moses. Is this truth? God said He gave His law to Israel at Mt. Sinai, not to their fathers. (Deut. 5:1-5). Jeremiah 31:31-34 proclaimed that the days were coming when God would make a new law, unlike the one He made with Israel when they came out of Egypt, the one of Deuteronomy 5:1-5 and Exodus 20. John said, “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17). The Hebrew writer proclaimed that Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled. (Heb. 6:6-13). Paul spoke of the law of Moses and the law of Christ, and concluded that the law of Moses was “abolished” whether it be the moral or ceremonial parts. (2 Cor. 3:1-18, esp. v. 13; Comp. Col. 2:14-16; Gal. 3:23-29). Why then was the law of Moses given? To bring us unto Christ wherein would be justification. (Gal. 3:24). Does the Old Testament have a purpose today? Indeed, Romans 15:4, “for our learning.”
Names are of utmost importance, except in religion. Ask any “fast food” business if it makes a difference what they are called. Ask husbands and/or wives if it is important what their spouse is called. Ask any credit union or bank if it matters what face is on currency, or what name is on a check. Tell automobile makers that you are replacing the name on their vehicle with the name of another company, and see what reaction you get. We all understand this. However, one man on a radio program said, it did not matter what you call the church. He said one could call it “The Jackrabbit Church”, and it would still be the church. Others wear names of those who started them, of doctrines they espouse, and more. Look in telephone directories and see the many names found for churches. Now look in your copy of God’s word to find them. Make a list of each one you find. The New Testament uses the following: “Church” or “kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:18, 19); “kingdom of God” (Mk. 9:1); “body” (Eph. 1:22, 23); “body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27); “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16); “house of God”; “church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15), and more. Question: If we “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11), and neither add to nor subtract from God’s word (Rev. 22:18, 19), what will we call the church? Surely we want to honor God and Jesus, rather than humans and doctrines.
Salvation is spoken of in a number of ways. One says “by faith only.” Another says there is nothing to do, because Jesus did it all on the cross, and said, “It is finished.” Many call on sinners to simply repeat the sinner’s prayer (Where is that found?) after them, and then find a good church. Such said the preacher who said there was nothing to do. If so, why tell anyone to do that? It would be pointless! What is truth? Consider what some in the book of Acts were told when seeking salvation. Those on Pentecost were told to “Repent and be baptized…for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38). Repentance and baptism were for the same thing, that is, to remove their sins. The Samaritans believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12), because Jesus told His apostles to tell every creature to do that to be saved. (Mk. 16:15, 16). Simon the sorcerer did the same thing for the same reason. (Acts 8:13). When the eunuch believed the teaching of Philip concerning Jesus (Isa. 53), he asked to be baptized and was told to believe with all his heart, which he did, after confessing that Jesus is God’s Son, he was led down into the water (Acts 8:26-40), and “buried in baptism.” (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:1-7). Saul the persecutor became a believer and was told what he “must” do to be saved. This now believer was told to wait no longer, but “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 9:1ff, esp. v.6; 22:1ff, esp. v. 10; 26). Acts 26:19 says he “was not disobedient to the heavenly calling.” Cornelius was “commanded…to be baptized.” (Acts 10; 11:1-18; esp.10:48). Lydia heard and was baptized (Acts 16:13-15). The Philippian jailor asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:23-34, esp. v. 30). He was told, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…and was baptized….” (vv. 31, 33). “And many of the Corinthians hear-ing believed, and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8). The 12 Ephesian Jews upon hearing that their baptism (John’s) was invalid, “were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:1-7). Question: Must we use all of these to find out what is necessary to salvation, or may we use only one? For example, does the jailor prove faith only, or does Cornelius prove baptism only? Were any of these told that “faith only” was a most wholesome doctrine and full of comfort”? Were any of them told that Jesus finished it on the cross, and that there was nothing for them to do”? Who was told to “just say the sinners prayer and find a good church”?
Were you born a sinner? Some answer in the affirmative, using Psalm 51:5 to “prove” it. Does that harmonize with Romans 3:23? Were we born sinners, or did we sin and come short of the glory of God? Did we go out of the way, or were we born out of the way? (Rom. 3:12).
Some say that God before the foundation of the world decided that He would allow a few to be saved, and He would not allow others to be saved, and that the number cannot be diminished by even one. They further say that it doesn’t matter what you want, that God has already decided your fate, and you cannot change it no matter how hard you try. Yet, Jesus, the Savior, called “all ye that labour and are heavy laden” to come to Him. (Matt. 11:28-30). Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him come and take of the waters of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17). Someone has rejected the truth for man’s ideas.
Others teach that Jesus died only for those whom He would save. True or False. John 3:16 says God so loved the world—all of it—that He gave His only begotten Son to shed His precious blood so that ALL could be forgiven. (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19). 1 John 2:1, 2 proclaim Jesus to be the propitiation, the one who stood in my place, dying for me, for the sins of the “whole world”.
Many look for Jesus to return to set up His Kingdom, believing that the Jews would not allow Him to do so when He came the first time. How does one know that they would not be able to do the same when He returns the second time? Jesus told some who were standing where He was that they would “not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.” (Mk. 9:1). It either came or Jesus was a false prophet, or He lied. Jesus did not lie, because He “hath delivered us from darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son.” Also, He cannot lie. (Tit. 1:2). That statement was made some 25 years after Jesus promised to set up His kingdom. When He comes again, it will not be to set up His kingdom, but to deliver it up to God. (1 Cor. 15:24). It will at that time be-come the eternal kingdom.
Beloved, the truth (John 8:32), the gospel (Rom. 1:16), the word of God (Col. 1:25), the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9-11), is from God, and it is the truth. We, therefore, need to “declare…all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, “saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come” (Acts 26:22), speaking “as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11), without addition or subtraction. (Rev. 22:18, 19; Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6). Paul said, “And my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4, 5), the gospel. (Rom. 1:16). Comp. Gal. 1:11, 12, 16.
Let us heed the inspired command, “Study to shew thy-self approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15). Also, “and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Col. 3:17). May we be led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14) as we follow His revelations. (2 Pet. 1:20, 21).
My friend, the goal of “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16) thru the years has been to seek unity in matters of faith (1 Cor. 1:10; John 17:20-23), to have liberty in matters of opinion (1 Cor. 8), and in all matters to exhibit love. (1 Cor. 13:4-8; 1 Pet. 1:22; Heb. 13:1).
We sincerely hope these few thoughts have been helpful to you. The author would love to hear from you about any-thing herein, or of other matters. Please do not hesitate to agree or disagree. In the words of Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord….” (Isa. 1:18). The word of God is full of those who came together divided and left unit-ed. This can only happen when two or more are sincerely seeking to know the Lord’s will, ready and anxious to do what the great Creator of all says, and to begin immediate-ly. Cf. Gal. 1:16; Heb. 3:7; 2 Cor. 6:2.
A final word. Amos asked a rhetorical question, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Jesus emphatically stated, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matt. 12:25). The prayer of Jesus for those who would believe on Him, and that includes all today, was for unity. (John 17:20-23). Observe, Jesus did not pray for all to agree to disagree, that we be ecumental, made up churches going separate ways, teaching different things. The Holy Spirit condemned such. (2 John 9-11).
From Psalm 119, “O Lord, I shall not be ashamed of all thy commandments, but I will keep thy statutes” (Vv. 6, 8); “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways” (V. 15); and more. Read the 119th Psalm, dwelling on the law of God and the impact it should have on all.
Who decides truth? God does. It is His word. Read it, study it, meditate on it, and obey it. There is no other way to eternal life. (John 6:68).