I was watching a talk show dealing with salvation. There were representatives from different denominations and churches. The Catholic priest gave his opinion on Christ's statement:

I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

He felt it wasn't all inclusive. He believed Christ is the best way to go, but all who seek truth and right, through Buddha or whoever, would make it to heaven. After the retort from the others, he basically replied, "That's your interpretation."

Many feel that God's Word can mean whatever its readers would like. They think it's like the clouds that appear to each as he imagines, or the freedom inkblots allow. They might summarize it, "Sincerity, and following your interpretation, is what's needed to be clear before God." The scripture warns otherwise:

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. Proverbs 14:12

Sincerely Believing

Many misconstrue Romans chapter 14 in this issue. They get the impression that everyone's free to interpret the Scriptures as they want. I'll summarize it here, but would suggest you read the chapter on your own. It states there are Christians who don't feel free to eat some foods. Others feel one must keep a certain day set aside as holy. This versus those who feel all foods are clean and all days are equal for service to God. Those who were weak in faith were those with limitations:

Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Romans 14:22,23

The "weak in the faith" weren't those who searched the scriptures finding it showed, to their interpretation, something to be sin. They were those who thought something might be a sin, and hadn't discovered what the scriptures said about it yet. Since they doubted, they couldn't do the things mentioned in the chapter. To do them would have been sin, since their actions wouldn't have been based on God's Word. Our faith, as a Christian, is based on God's Word. Since they didn't know God's Word on the subject and their conscience troubled them, their faith was weak in that area. When they found out what God said about the issues, their faith would be established and made strong:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

There's a reasoning which goes:

"Christians must agree on basics: salvation by grace, the Trinity, adultery is sin, topics the Bible is easily clear on. Unclear topics such as 'flee all appearances of evil' are relative to each person. In these we can't judge our brother."

I've found that those with a dishonest heart believe lies on issues of right and wrong because they desire the wrong. The corrupt reasoning allows them to continue in godless pursuits, without facing the hardness of their hearts.

Romans 14 says it's wrong for those who understand our freedoms in Christ to criticize brothers or sisters who don't, and for conscience sake, won't do certain things.

I remember questioning the Sabbath issue. For a few years I kept it from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. I'd read the scriptures relating to the subject, heard opposing views, but was still confused. God brought me to the light and I gained my freedom. If a brother had freedom in this and tried to coerce me saying, "Hey, don't worry, it's fine", it would have been sin if I just stood on his "don't worry, it's fine". That's the type of situation discussed in Romans 14.

Ignorance Is Not Deception

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Acts 17:30

God winks at ignorance. If we come to God as he has said, yet have sins in our lives which we're ignorant of, God winks at them. God will endeavor to reveal them to us:

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Philippians 3:15

If we've been shown the truth but can't see it, we're no longer ignorant but deceived. Deception's a whole different case. If we've been shown the truth but can't see it, we don't believe we're deceived. If we were to say, "Yea, I'm deceived" then we obviously wouldn't be deceived. There's a test. Deception has set in when we're firm in our belief, yet when confronted with scripture, we're unable to soundly and clearly harmonize the different passages from the Word. Our hearts in a deceptive state, since it's not properly founded (Matthew 22:29).

If we're seeking the truth and our spirits broken before God, we won't be firm in our belief until we've seen what the scriptures say. We won't reject any verse, and be at rest, until we understand all the references we find. Anything less is fleshly weakness, leading to sin. We may even have a willing spirit, but still go into sin. We could find ourselves unable to see through deception, if we don't prepare our hearts before God (Mark 14:37,38).

It's a fleshly weakness to look at appearances and feelings. It's wrong to let these be our guides, and not know by God's Word. If we come to a decision before understanding by all the scripture, depends on whether we're lazy with God's Word or not.

Perverting The Scripture

As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. II Peter 3:16

The Greek for "wrest" can also be translated: to pervert or to twist. This shows the deceived will pervert the scriptures to their own destruction. Just because someones unable to see the truth from God's Word, doesn't mean accountability won't be required (Luke 12:42-48).

Let's look at a sample of perverting. I gave a short speech and the audience was talking after. Someone says I said 'such and such'. Someone else says I said 'this and that'. Well the 'this and that' wasn't what I said at all. 'Such and such' was right, however he didn't pick up every aspect of what I said. The person who said I said things I didn't, was perverting my speech. It's also this way with God's Word.

Faulty Interpretation Leads To Sin

There's a right and wrong way to interpret. Wrong interpretation leads to ungodliness and departure from the faith to different degrees:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. II Timothy 2:15-18

Faulty interpretation on issues that are a matter of sin, doctrine of Christ, or the Gospel, (Luke 12:47; II John 9; John 17:3; Galatians 1:6-9; 5:1-6; II Thessalonians 1:8) need to be repented of. Those who are "wresting" the scriptures are in the snare of the devil:

In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. II Timothy 2:25,26

The Way To The Truth

Jesus often spoke to His disciples in parables. When they misunderstood, and took His sayings literally, they were rebuked for not understanding. Jesus said, "have ye your heart yet hardened?" (Mark 8:14-21). On the other hand, when told plainly and literally, they couldn't understand because they thought it must be a parable (Luke 18:31-34). They were confused!

A softened heart will understand what's otherwise confusing. We have an assurance of coming to the truth: the Lord promised in Matthew 5:6 that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled. All truth is after righteousness. Fully attaining righteousness will bring things contrary to the flesh's ease (Matthew 26:41). The hunger has to be stronger than the flesh's tendency to resist. If we have a true and deep hunger and thirst for righteousness, the Lord will meet that need. The Lord will not despise a broken spirit (Psalms 51:17).

The Tough Responsibility of Confrontation

Some hold to a doctrine no matter what. You show them scripture and they have an explanation. Their interpretation is based on assumptions. If you point that out, they prove their hardened heart by their lack of earnestly searching the scriptures to find the truth.

When the issue deals with sin and the person's hard, we have to conclude the heart has been hardened by the god of this world. He won't see, no matter what (II Corinthians 4:3,4).

When a confrontation must occur, we must always come to God saying, "Could I possibly be wrong?!" We must ask God to show us, and search His Word. We must reexamine the scriptures, from the viewpoint of the person the confrontation is with, to see if they could be right. Having a heart in fear and trembling before God, realizing our ability to err is the only way to keep ourselves open to God's truths (Philippians 2:12). A truly hungering heart will stay in the way of righteousness.

Some Questions To Search The Heart

1) How open are you to new teachings people present from the Bible? Do you hear them out before passing judgment?

2) Do you search for people who teach things you want to believe? Is your attitude one of, "I'm so glad, I didn't want to believe that other teaching"?

3) Is the only kind of Christian literature you read that which teaches what you already believe?

4) Do you seek to hear the opposing side of an issue (scripturally speaking) before you conclude your decision?

5) Do you search the scriptures trying to find answers to problems you come across? Is there a thirst for righteousness, or does such an endeavor sound boring?

6) Do you care what the scriptures have to say, or is your Pastor's teaching enough?

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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