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What is Truth?
What is Truth?
By Les Sherlock, posted April 2021, but originally c2013
Roman Catholic Teaching
On this rock…
The Main Point
Right in Their Own Eyes
When Jesus said…
“For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth; everyone who is of the truth hears My voice,”
…“What is truth?”
It’s a good question! Everyone thinks their own beliefs are truth, and yet the ‘truths’ of many people contradict each other. Some examples of ‘truth’:
Militant Islamists around the world are currently slaughtering people whose ‘truths’ conflict with theirs, in the belief that by so doing they are pleasing Allah. (ISIS was prominently in the news when this page was first written.)
It was reported in March 2013 that the number of Roman Catholics in the world was around 1.2 billion, and every one of them is taught as truth that they can pray to Mary and be heard by her and answered. If they all prayed to her only once every ten years, then she would be receiving nearly four prayers every second (on average it works out at 3.805175 prayers per second, to be accurate). If they prayed once every year this would make it 38 every second! Since only God is capable of such a feat, Mary is therefore elevated to the same level as God by this teaching, which is quite clearly contrary to Bible truth.
Their teaching on her Immaculate Conception and perpetual virginity is equally spurious.
There are many millions of people subscribing to the teaching of the Church of England, and will ‘welcome into the Church’ a baby following the sprinkling of water on its head, accepting this as truth. Apart from the fact that it is no more logical to call this act ‘baptism’ than it would be to rub a wet flannel on your forehead and then say you have just had a bath, there is no Biblical precedent for anyone becoming a Christian, and therefore part of the Church, as a result of the actions of other people: faith is an essential element, which cannot possibly be found in a baby.
Muslims, Roman Catholics and Anglicans (not to mention all the other Christian denominations and other world religions): one common factor is that there are millions of people subscribing to ‘truths’ held by these different faiths that diametrically oppose each other. At most only one of these belief systems can be true. So clearly, the fact that a lot of people believe something is not a good reason for it being ‘truth’. So what is truth?
Roman Catholic Teaching
Roman Catholic Teaching
There are very many things we could look at, but let’s start by checking the Roman Catholic teaching on Mary’s perpetual virginity. One would have thought the passage in Matthew settles the matter beyond doubt:
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
However, the Roman Catholics have different ideas:
"Scripture’s statement that Joseph “knew [Mary] not until she brought forth her firstborn” would not necessarily mean they did “know” each other after she brought forth Jesus. Until is often used in Scripture as part of an idiomatic expression similar to our own usage in English. I may say to you, “Until we meet again, God bless you.” Does that necessarily mean after we meet again, God curse you? By no means. A phrase like this is used to emphasize what is being described before the until is fulfilled. It is not intended to say anything about the future beyond that point. Here are some biblical examples:
2 Samuel 6:23: And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to (until) the day of her death. (Does this mean she had children after she died?)
1 Timothy 4:13: Until I come, attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching. (Does this mean Timothy should stop teaching after Paul comes?)
1 Corinthians 15:25: For he (Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. (Does this mean Christ’s reign will end? By no means! Luke 1:33 says, “he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”"
(Quote from Tim Staples, Director of Apologetics and Evangelization at Catholic Answers)
The problem with this defence of the indefensible is that it ignores the context in which the word ‘until’ is used. Of course, the word shows the termination point of a particular situation, which is the case in all of the examples given in the above quote; but the context quite clearly shows the difference between them and the case of Mary and Joseph. I’ll look at the examples in reverse order.
1 Corinthians is referring to the period when enemies exist. When they are no longer present a different style of Christ’s reign will begin, since there will be no conflict or rebellion against it. So the ‘until’ here does indeed mark the end of Christ’s reign in the presence of enemies and the start of His reign in their absence.
1 Timothy refers to the end of Paul being away, and it is quite possible - very likely indeed - that when he came back he would take over teaching instead of Timothy. The period of Paul’s absence was a period when Timothy had the responsibility for public reading and teaching. So the ‘until’ marks the end of this role that Timothy had.
The ‘until’ in 2 Samuel is clearly referring to the entire period when childbearing during her earthly lifetime was possible for Michal, after which it was impossible because she was dead! Presumably this was because of God’s judgement on her for her attitude toward David, because 1 Samuel 25:44 tells us there was a period of marriage to Palti while David was escaping from Saul, and she remained barren then as well as with David. However, the ‘until’ tells us how long she was prevented from having the child during the time it might have been expected. After her death the ability to bear children was no longer relevant.
When we bless someone ‘until we meet again’ this clearly means the blessing ends at that moment; at which point we will bless them once again. It is an on-going process of blessing, and is once again a different situation to that of Mary and Joseph.
Since a normal sexual relationship was still possible and would have been perfectly normal for Mary after the birth of Jesus, the two cases are completely different. Furthermore, a sexual relationship is a normal part of marriage, and therefore both Mary and Joseph would undoubtedly have been expecting this. Even though both of them had angelic visitations instructing them about the birth of Jesus, on no occasion was either of them told they were never to have a normal marital relationship after His birth. So what possible reason could either of them have had not to do this? The notion is both illogical and unscriptural, and requires a use of the word ‘until’ never found anywhere else.
So clearly, the Matthew passage refers to the end of Mary’s pregnancy, after which a different situation begins. Why does it mention that particular moment? If it meant what the Catholics want it to mean it would not have mentioned the phrase…
“until she brought forth her firstborn”
…at all, since this would have absolutely no relevance to her virginity. It would simply say,
“Joseph knew [Mary] not.”
The fact that the birth of Jesus has relevance to the situation clearly shows that this was the moment when things changed. Otherwise why not say…
“…until she lost him in the temple at the age of 12;”
“…until he was baptised by John in the river Jordan;”
…or any other event in the life of Jesus? If she remained a virgin for the whole of her life, the birth of Jesus is of no more relevance to her state of virginity than any of these other events.
A clear example of the use of the word ‘until’, used in an identical context to that in Matthew 1:25, would be to say,
“The boy was hungry by the time school had finished, but he didn’t have anything to eat until he got home.”
Does this mean the boy never had anything to eat at all and starved to death? Of course not: it quite plainly means that he ate after he got home, not before. In exactly the same way...
“Joseph… did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son”
...means that Mary and Joseph waited until after the birth of Jesus before then having a sexual relationship.
On the other hand, if it was the case that the boy never had anything to eat after this day at school and starved to death, then you would never, ever, begin the description of his experience by saying,
“…he didn’t have anything to eat until he got home,”
as this quite obviously would be contradictory to what happened. Likewise, if Mary and Joseph never had a sexual relationship, then the Bible would not say,
“…till she had brought forth her firstborn son.”
Another obvious example would be when a mother tells her child,
“Wait until you get home!”
This may be the threat of punishment, or the promise of something the child wants; but either way it means that when they arrive home the waiting will be over and that which mother has just promised will come. Likewise, the state of Joseph not ‘knowing’ Mary was one that ended after the birth of Jesus.
Of course, there are some New Testament verses referring to Jesus’s brothers and sisters.
Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?"
Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.. “But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”
And it was told Him by some, who said, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You."
His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing… For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
John 7:3, 5
Predictably the Roman Catholic response is to say that these terms are sometimes used in the Bible of close relatives not necessarily brothers or sisters as we know them. This may be true, but it is also the case that by far the most frequent use of these terms is the way we would understand them. Once again it is the context that tells us how they are meant.
In the case of Matthew it could not be clearer. The opponents of Jesus were making the case that He was nobody special, just an ordinary person like the rest of them. They pointed out that his father, mother, brothers (James, Joses, Simon, and Judas) and sisters were all living among them. In other words, this was a normal family of parents and children, of which Jesus was a member. They could not have made this claim had Mary and Joseph been living celibate lives.
The passage in Mark is another very obvious example. Here, Jesus is effectively saying, “You tell me my closest relatives are here? My closest relatives are those who do God’s will!” This would not work if the people called ‘brothers’ in the passage were not his brothers. So once again, the context proves the case.
Of course, one reason for this odd doctrine is that they have departed from the clear teaching of the Bible. It is interesting that in his defence of the practice of celibacy, Christopher Kaczor makes not one reference to the Bible.
It is also interesting that the Catholic Answers page explaining the immaculate conception, begins:
“The Marian doctrines are, for Fundamentalists, among the most bothersome of the Catholic Church’s teachings.”
(validated by Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, Quote: ““NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.”)
This derogatory use of the word ‘Fundamentalists’ shows that their teaching rests primarily not on what the Bible says, but on their own reasoning, built up over many centuries. The reason for this can be seen by the final statement on the page:
“The Catholic Church was commissioned by Christ to teach all nations and to teach them infallibly—guided, as he promised, by the Holy Spirit until the end of the world (John 14:26, 16:13). The mere fact that the Church teaches that something is definitely true is a guarantee that it is true (cf. Matt. 28:18–20, Luke 10:16, 1 Tim. 3:15).”
From this quote it can be seen that at some moment, long in the past, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, assuming they were both guided by the Holy Spirit and at the same time incapable of any kind of error, took it upon themselves to go beyond the plain teaching of the Bible and start adding things of their own. The result, as with any deviation, is that they travelled further and further away until today we see doctrine that quite clearly contradicts the plain teaching in scriptures; and they are now struggling to square the circle and distort scriptures into agreeing with what they have decided upon.
One example of error in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, admitted by Roman Catholics themselves, are the abuses they themselves administered through their doctrine of Indulgences. Quote:
“Those who claim that indulgences are no longer part of Church teaching have the admirable desire to distance themselves from abuses that occurred around the time of the Protestant Reformation.”
(This was the opening paragraph of their page on the subject that has now been removed! Emphasis mine.)
Regardless of how one views indulgences as practiced by today’s Roman Catholic Church (and I do not want to be diverted into taking up too much space in showing how they are as unbiblical today as they were then), it is clear from this quote that they accepted the way they were practiced at that time was wrong. The ‘abuses’ in indulgences at that time quite obviously had to be perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church since it was only they who were practising them. So if the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church were wrong then, they can equally be wrong now!
This admission that the manner in which indulgences were practiced at that time were wrong is also the admission that when the Roman Catholic Church teaches something they say is definitely true, this is no guarantee that it is true (to contradict their claim quoted earlier): it certainly wasn’t then! Perhaps that is why they have removed the page? Or have they removed it because they now consider the practices of indulgences that were called abuses were perfectly valid after all? Whatever, adding teaching not supported by scripture to the basics of our faith can only result in error.
Over and over again the New Testament shows clearly that every aspect of the provision God has made to deal with the sin that results from our sinful natures is by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, through God’s grace. There is nothing we can do for ourselves AT ALL! Indeed, to attempt to do anything other than put one’s faith in Jesus Christ is to remove ourselves from the only remedy! See What Does the Lord Require for more detail on this.
The definition of indulgences presupposes that forgiveness has already taken place:
“An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven”
(Indulgentarium Doctrina 1
"Indulgences in no way forgive sins. They deal only with punishments left after sins have been forgiven."
This quote found here (Myth 3).
The above quote shows how the error arose: it is a misunderstanding by confusing ‘consequences’ and ‘punishment’. If sin has been forgiven, then there remains no punishment to be paid for it. If there is a punishment still to be paid for sin, then the sin is not forgiven. This is obvious logic. Sin cannot be both punished and forgiven: it is either one or the other, never both. Since Jesus Christ took all our punishment, there remains none for us to experience if we have put our trust in Him.
All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
However, sinful acts can result in consequences that are not pleasant, and from which we are not immune. For example, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the result of sexual activity the Bible calls sinful. If everyone who ever lived had obeyed God’s law about marriage, STDs would not exist. This is not punishment for the sin (although the Catholic Church would claim it is, calling it ‘temporal punishment’ as in the above quote), but the consequence of it.
There is only one New Testament punishment for sin – eternal separation from God.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This punishment is removed from those who put their trust in Jesus Christ and is a gift according to the above scripture. So trying to do anything, be it paying money in earlier centuries, or saying ‘Hail Mary’ (for example) today, can have no effect on the punishment for sin.
If we repent of a sin (i.e. stop doing it and ask for God’s forgiveness on the grounds of the cross) that causes some kind of physical ailment, as in the case of STDs for example, then this is the consequence of the wrong action, not the punishment for it. There is the possibility of physical healing, of course; but this is a different subject. In any case, healing comes the same way as forgiveness: through faith in the finished work of Christ. There is no place for indulgences of any kind in the scriptures.
Another example of moving away from scripture is the fact that both the Apostle Peter (whom the Catholics consider to have been the first ‘pope’) and the other apostles were married, showing how far Roman Catholics have travelled from Bible doctrine in their insistence on celibacy.
Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever.
Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
1 Corinthians 9:5
Of course there may be certain individuals whom God calls to lead a single life, as was the case with the Apostle Paul. However, this is no reason for insisting that only those who are single can fulfil a particular role: in the case of the Catholics that of ‘priest’. Of course, these ‘priests’ are themselves unscriptural, since there is no example of any New Testament Church being run by a single individual (see Church Leadership for more detail), and Jesus specifically tells us to call no man, “Father.”
Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
On this rock
On this rock
When Jesus said to Peter,
“On this rock I will build my Church,”
…was He referring to Peter, as the Roman Catholic Church claims? Let’s see what the rest of the Bible says. It is interesting to see the word ‘rock’ occurs 33 times in the Old Testament in relation to God. I can only quote a few for the sake of space, but they are:
Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Deuteronomy 32:30; Deuteronomy 32:31; Deuteronomy 32:37; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:2;2 Samuel 22:32; 2 Samuel 22:47; 2 Samuel 23:3; Psalm 18:2; Psalm 18:46; Psalm 28:1; Psalm 31:2; Psalm 31:3; Psalm 42:9; Psalm 61:2; Psalm 62:7; Psalm 71:3; Psalm 78:35; Psalm 89:26; Psalm 92:15; Psalm 94:22; Psalm 95:1; Psalm 144:1; Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 17:10; Habakkuk 1:12.
There is only one Rock
For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
He only is my rock and my salvation…
He only is my rock and my salvation…
Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.' "
Christ is the rock (Greek, petra – see later) of the Old Testament:
and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:4
Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, "THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED HAS BECOME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE," and "A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE."
1 Peter 2:7-8 (Capital letters are quotes from the Old Testament)
See here for 100 truths about Jesus as found in the Bible.
Therefore if the New Testament says Jesus Christ is the rock and yet the Old Testament says there is no other rock but God, this must mean that while Jesus was fully human, He also was God. This is a clear allusion to the deity of Christ, explicitly stated in John 1:1. There is only one rock, as we saw in the four scriptures above); therefore Peter cannot possibly also be the rock on which the Church has been built.
Throughout the Bible we see a play on words: a name being used in two ways as an illustration or to make the case for what is being said. Peter had just said that Jesus was the Christ, and immediately Jesus replies that this is the rock on which the Church will be built – Himself, the Christ/ Messiah/ Anointed One. I would not be at all surprised if Jesus pointed at Peter when he said,
“You are Peter…”
and at Himself when He continued,
“…and on this rock I will build my Church.”
Vine, in his word studies, in the context of this kind of play on words, says:
In the New Testament, a familiar example is Mat 16:18; “thou art Petros, and on this petra will I build my church.”
The commentator Schofield says:
There is the Greek a play upon the words, "thou art Peter [Greek, "petros" -- literally 'a little rock]', and upon this rock [Greek, "Petra"] I will build my church." He does not promise to build His church upon Peter, but upon Himself, as Peter is careful to tell us. (1 Pet 2:4–9).
So in the Matthew 16:18 passage, two different Greek words are used, as Strong’s Greek dictionary shows:
Petros. Apparently a primary word; a (piece of) rock (larger than G3037); as a name, Petrus, an apostle: - Peter, rock. Compare G2786.
petra. Feminine of the same as G4074; a (mass of) rock (literally or figuratively): - rock.
Throughout the New Testament, the English word ‘rock’ is translated from the Greek word ‘petra’, without exception:
Matthew 7:24, 25; 16:18; 27:60; Mark 15:46; Luke 6:48; 8:6, 13; Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:8.
In the 156 verses where Peter’s name is mentioned, it is always translated from ‘petros’. It would be highly inconsistent to claim that in this one verse it meant something different from everywhere else!
If Jesus had meant the Church would be built on Peter, He would have said...
“you are Peter (Petros), and on this rock (Petros) I will build My church…,”
"you are Peter and on you I will build my church..."
...but He didn’t! In Matthew 7:24, 25 and Luke 6:48, Jesus said those obeying His sayings were like someone building on the rock (in both passages, Greek, petra), and when considering the rest of the teaching of the Bible this could only mean building on Himself.
Paul said there is only one foundation (or in other words, rock) of the Church: Jesus Christ.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:10, 11
Changing the analogy slightly, he also said that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, (therefore not just built on Peter) with Jesus as the chief cornerstone.
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
There is no contradiction here because it is perfectly obvious what these two scriptures mean when you take into account what is actually meant by being ‘a rock’. It does not mean that God/Jesus is a lump of stone! That would be ridiculous! Quite clearly it is a metaphor meaning that anyone putting their trust in God/Jesus is basing their life on something (or better, someone) solid, immoveable and that cannot fail. Therefore putting 1 Corinthians 3 and Ephesians 2 together, it is clear the Church stands on that which can never fail – Jesus – and at its heart is the apostles and prophets.
The Main Point
The Main Point
Regardless of whether any of the above is ‘truth’ or not, it is certainly the case that the ‘truth’ believed by large numbers of people, is in fact not the truth at all. One billion Catholics believe one thing, while many millions of Christians of various other denominations believe their teaching to be error for the kind of reasons I have tried to describe above; and only one lot can be correct at the most. Not to mention all the other religious faiths in the world. How can we know what is truth? For that matter, why do errors arise in the first place? After all, Catholics and Protestants both claim to base their beliefs on the same book!
We see the same pattern all over the world in every area of life, be it politics, religion, social activities, and indeed everything in which human beings are involved. In every area of life where one person has an opinion about something, another will take the opposite view; and sometimes when these two opinions meet, the resulting clash can be explosive. Why?
I suppose there could be many reasons. At the purely physical level, modern science is only now making the first tentative steps towards charting the trillions of links that are formed in our brains through our thinking processes. Since these will be different for everyone, this means we are all working with a different physical mechanism for processing data. So it is hardly surprising that the results are different!
However, on the basis of what I read in the Bible, I believe there is something far more fundamental than this. Very often conflicts arise, not because of a difference of motive, intention or moral standard, but through misunderstanding. For example, one person could say something using words or inflections that, by the hearer, are interpreted very differently from what the speaker was intending to put across. When the hearer responds, the same thing happens to his words, and before long an innocent beginning has led to a raging argument. Why?
The Bible teaches us that we have an aggressive enemy, who hates us with a passion, and is doing everything in his power to bring pain, suffering and misery to us.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Satan and his demonic powers are unseen by us, but very real. In the 21st century, many people look upon this topic with derision; but this too is a deception from our enemy. Jesus clearly accepted the reality of their presence and by confronting them brought relief and release to many thousands of people. The fact that this took place almost 2000 years ago does not mean they have now gone away.
We live our lives in a hostile environment, continually surrounded by the forces of the ‘father of lies’.
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
On the other hand, Jesus came to set us free and
‘whom the Son sets free is free indeed’.
The power of God is far greater than that of the enemy; so in spite of all that is arrayed against us, we can live in the comfort of the knowledge that ‘nothing can separate us from His love’.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Even so, the fact that so many Christians come to such radically different conclusions, and can be in conflict with each other, demonstrates that they are not immune from the enemy’s attacks. His most powerful weapon is lies; therefore he can only cause us harm when we believe them. The work of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into all truth, and undoubtedly God speaks to each of us the things we need to hear; but if we are tricked into believing the lies of the enemy are the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then the result is going to be the kind of problems we see all around us, both in and out of the Church.
There is only one infallible source of truth available to us: the Bible. We may know someone who we view as righteous, saintly even, and whose word we consider very highly indeed. We are on a very dangerous road if we take everything they say as ‘gospel’ without holding it alongside the Bible to ensure it is in perfect alignment. At the same time, every contradictory doctrine of every denomination on earth is supported by their ‘believers’ quoting verses out of the Bible. The remedy is to apply ruthlessly the entire teaching of the Bible to all our beliefs, taking due note of context, original language, grammar, etc.; making sure we are changing our beliefs to fit what we read rather than changing what we read to fit our beliefs.
Although the Roman Catholic websites scornfully refer to ‘fundamentalists’, nevertheless they still quote Bible verses in support of their doctrines, thus showing that even they accept the authority of the Bible is final. So where the Bible clearly deviates from what they now teach, it would be inconsistent of them to claim it is the Bible that is wrong, not they themselves. It is also inconsistent to twist the common use of grammar around, as they do with “Joseph “knew [Mary] not until she brought forth her firstborn”” to make it line up with their unique teaching, instead of changing their teaching to line up with the plain words of the Bible.
In John Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, at one point a demonic being crept up behind Christian and whispered so quietly he believed it was his own thoughts. We may debate the degree to which we are exposed to this kind of deception, but the fact that it happens at least occasionally must surely be beyond argument to those who accept the authority of the Bible. We are all human beings. We have to recognise that we are all imperfect, with imperfect reasoning powers. We can never assume, as the Roman Catholic Church has done, that our thinking and reasoning is infallible.
Indeed, one of the things Moses told Israel that had to change was:
"You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes…
(See at the end of the page for a list of scriptures saying we must not do what is right in our own eyes. You can jump there now if you wish, and then RETURN TO TEXT)
Return to Text
We should ignore what is right in our own eyes and follow what is right in God's eyes:
…because you have listened to the voice of the LORD your God, to keep all His commandments which I command you today, to do what is right in the eyes of the LORD your God.
Much later, God said to Israel, through the mouth of Jeremiah:
Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD. They continually say to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You shall have peace" '; and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.' "…"I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
Jeremiah 23:16–17, 21
Many people today speak ‘the vision on their own heart’, including the Roman Catholic Church, as we have seen, and claim it to be the leading of the Holy Spirit; but the Holy Spirit will never lead anyone in a way that contradicts things He has previously said. This is why it is so important to check all teaching against the Bible, and to follow it when it tells us to:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;”
It is true that God has given us the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide us, and He is doubtless continually speaking to us in the depths of our hearts. I, and many (if not all!) other Christians can bear witness to the times when thoughts and feelings have appeared, totally unrelated to anything going on around us, and acting on them has proved their validity. However, we are also subject to human thoughts and feelings, and by no means are invulnerable to the lies our enemy whispers to us. An example of this need for caution is mentioned in Bill Gaither’s autobiography, talking about one of the great songs he and his wife Gloria wrote:
“I’m convinced that “The King is Coming” was one of those “God things” in our lives. I say that carefully, because I know that God gets the credit or blame for a lot of things that were much more human than divine.
“One of my favourite songwriting stories along this line came from Bob Benson. A young writer approached Bob, saying, “God gave me this song.”
“Bob looked at the song and said, “I believe that God gave you the inspiration for this song, and God did a wonderful job on His part. You just haven’t finished your part yet.””
(‘It’s More than Music’, by Bill Gaither with Ken Abraham. Published by Warner Faith, a division of AOL Time Warner Book Group. See here.)
We always, always, must take everything and place it alongside the teaching and principles found in the Bible, and the slightest deviation demonstrates either that the source was not God at all, or that our human understanding and preferences have coloured it to some degree. While the assurance of His guidance means we do not have to be ‘looking over our shoulder’ all the time, worried that we might ‘get it wrong’, at the same time none of us is infallible and no matter how sure we are that we have heard from God, we must always remember we have our own mind-set, which could create some deviation.
Only God knows the truth, the whole truth and everything about the truth, and He has given us His written word in order to save us from our faulty thinking. It would be the height of folly, on the basis of what takes place in our own minds, to dismiss any part of what He has given us as irrelevant or unimportant; or to assume that we now ‘know better’.
Right in their eyes
Right in their own eyes
What God expects of us is to do what He knows is best, and not to do what our own inclinations want - in other words, do not do what is right in your own eyes!
Numbers 15:39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined,
Deuteronomy 12:8 "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—
Judges 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Psalm 36:1-4 An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes, when he finds out his iniquity and when he hates. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not abhor evil.
Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil.
Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.
Proverbs 16:2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirits.
Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.
Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Proverbs 26:16 The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
Proverbs 28:11 The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding searches him out.
Proverbs 30:12 There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness.
Isaiah 5:21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
Isaiah 58:13-14 "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken."
Isaiah 66:3-4 "He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog's neck; he who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine's blood; he who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol. Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, so will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear; but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight."
Jeremiah 7:23-24 But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.
Jeremiah 9:14 but they have walked according to the dictates of their own hearts and after the Baals, which their fathers taught them,"
Jeremiah 11:8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart; therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but which they have not done.'"
Jeremiah 18:12 And they said, "That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart."
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Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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