A Better Bible Study Method, Book Two
Be Not Deceived
How to Know the Truth – According to the Scriptures
© 2017 by J. Phillips
All rights reserved. Free at ABetterBibleStudyMethod.com
Scripture quotes from the Holy Bible, KJV.
"Whom the Lord loveth he correcteth" (Prv 3:12).
"Reproofs of instruction
are the way of life" (Prv 6:23).
"The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life" (Prv 14:27).
"Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth" (Ps 86:11).
"O Lord: give me understanding according to thy word" (Ps 119:169).
"The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility" (Prv 15:33).
"Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name" (Ps 96:8).
"Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name" (Ps 138:2).
"The word of our God shall stand for ever" (Is 40:8).
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps 119:105).
"The entrance of thy words giveth light" (Ps 119:130).
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tm 3:16).
"He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much" (Lk 16:10).
"A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (Gal 5:9).
"Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge" (Prv 19:27).
"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Ps 119:9).
"The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe" (Prv 29:25).
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps 111:10).
"The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (Ps 145:18).
How should we go about determining what is true on biblical matters? We should do so according to the scriptures. Proverbs 30:5 tells us, "Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him," and the evidence herein will show how God's word can correct errors in our understanding or prevent them from occurring in the first place. For instance, the following example shows how terms used in scripture can be easily misunderstood if they are not defined according to a biblical standard.
At another time, Jesus said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves" (Mt 23:15). He did not rebuke those missionaries for their missionary zeal, but because they did not lead people to trust in God. Rather, they produced converts who would follow them in trusting in the teachings of men (i.e., adopt their belief system; join their group).
A high regard for the name of the Lord is encouraged in scripture, as we see in these words, "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name" (Mt 6:9, Lk 11:2). But Psalm 138:2 also tells us this about the Lord, "thou has magnified thy word above all thy name." So, one should be diligent to always have the highest regard for his word.
"Founded Upon a Rock"
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge"
"Trust in the Lord"
This chapter looks at some principles for a better Bible study method – starting with "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Prv 3:5-6). Along with every other admonition in the Bible, those words should influence one's approach to scripture (because the counsel that is in the word of God also teaches us how to rightly divide God's word).
The words "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding" contrast the source of truth with a person's current views and assumptions. Whenever we let our understanding serve as our measure of truth, we are not trusting in the Lord with all our heart. So, we need to be diligent about obeying this passage.
"Lean not unto thine own understanding" does not mean we should lean on the understanding of other men. If other men should not lean on their own understanding, then we cannot assume it is safe for us to rely on their understanding! The passage then says, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths," and the examples in this book show how God's word works to lead people to the truth.
Profiting from Biblical Correction
Paul urged Timothy to strive to be "a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tm 2:15). "Rightly dividing the word of truth" takes diligence, but it also takes humility, because we have to stand corrected when God's word shows us we have been wrong about something.
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tm 3:16). Profiting from scripture comes at a cost. If we want to profit when it comes to "doctrine," "reproof," "correction," or "instruction," something must change. While it is easy to say we want to 'go deeper in God's word' or to 'grow in grace and knowledge,' two things are true:
If we find out something we believed is not in line with God's word and subsequently change our thinking to be in accord with scripture, then that would be an example of "correction." This cannot happen unless we are willing to admit we have been wrong. Yet, no one likes having their judgment called into question. This is why we need to be conscious of the tug of war which goes on between pride and humility (because pride naturally tends to lead us to resist correction).
"God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Pt 5:5), so if we want "grace," humility is a good first step. We will come back to this verse in a minute. For now, though, realize we have to admit we have been wrong in order to profit from biblical correction, and this humbling process can also help us to receive the grace of God.
Many people have had the experience of reading a verse and getting a new insight that corrects their understanding. In such moments, a key benefit of biblical correction is lost if we do not realize correction teaches us more than just the truth on a particular issue.
Correction on Two Fronts
A common saying tells us giving a man a fish helps him for a day, but teaching him how to fish helps him even more. This idea can help us to see the two different ways we can benefit from biblical correction. Learning the truth on any issue is good. If we stop there, however, it is like taking the fish and skipping the fishing lesson.
A teacher can give a student the answer to a math question. But to help the student grow, the teacher needs to show the student how to derive the answer. Biblical correction can do both! God's word can move us from error to truth on a given issue, and it can also teach us how to rightly derive the answer. This is why we can profit more from biblical correction if we identify what caused us to be deceived when it turns out we have believed something that was not true.
This book does not merely put a new spin on certain verses. Rather, it will show how unbiblical methods cause people to be deceived, and it will also show how God's word provides us a reliable measure for discerning truth on biblical issues.
Jesus told his followers, "Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you" (Mk 4:24). This indicates we must be careful when it comes to what we hear because what we "hear" affects the "measure" we use, and the measure we use affects how we perceive things.
If we believe what we hear, then that becomes part of the measure we use when we are deciding what is true. If something we believe is actually not true, then that false belief will lead us to be deceived on other matters.
"The Wisdom of this World"
"Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1 Cor 3:18-19). The words "let no man deceive himself" were written "to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 1:2), so we should not think believers today are impervious to being deceived.
If scripture says, "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God," we should realize people who apply worldly wisdom to their study of God's word are likely to be led astray. This question, "hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (1 Cor 1:20) and this statement, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty" (1 Cor 1:27) suggest the same thing. But sadly, "the wisdom of this world" is the foundation which underlies many of the ideas which are presented as biblical truth in our day.
The public is taught to esteem men with degrees and titles. Yet men with the same status or level of training often contradict each other. So, the honors men bestow upon other men offer no guarantee that the truth will always be taught by the ones who receive such honors. This is why we need to subject every teaching to biblical scrutiny.
"Measuring Themselves by Themselves"
It goes against the advice of scripture, but measuring truth by looking at what others believe is a common practice. In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul and Timothy wrote, "we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." Thus, looking to what others think and conforming our mind to some groupthink measure is not a wise thing to do. Nevertheless, people today are often urged to assume 'the consensus' is where the truth lies.
If the beliefs of men and popular ideas (i.e., 'the consensus') are not good ways to measure the truth, then what measure should we use? We should look to scripture as the standard of truth on biblical issues. Acts 17:11 tells us the Bereans "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so," and this offers us a good model.
A good investigator does not base his conclusions on the conclusions of others. Instead he will base his conclusions on the evidence, and when we are considering biblical issues, our conclusions should be dictated by the evidence in scripture. Being driven to a conclusion on a biblical issue because of what is said in God's word is not the same as holding a belief because others hold that belief. Still many simply adopt the beliefs that are taught to them and assume those ideas are in line with scripture. But if we trust what people say about scripture before we look to scripture itself, are we honoring God by doing so?
If someone says the Bible says 'x,' how would you know if that is true or not? Often people say 'the Bible says…' and then state their beliefs on an issue. No doubt they do so because they assume their beliefs are true, but what if they are wrong? What test can a person use to know if someone has misconstrued or misrepresented God's word? God's word is the authority on biblical issues. If we let the authority of non-Bible sources serve as our measure of truth, then the authority of God's word is undermined. If we want to know what is scriptural, we need to use scripture as our measure. Period!
"Written for Our Learning"
Jesus frequently confronted those who substituted their own ideas and teachings for the truth found in God's word and a few of those exchanges will be cited to show how we can learn from the correction Jesus offered them. In Jesus' day the only scripture they had was the portion of the Bible which we call the Old Testament. Some think the Old Testament has little to say to the followers of Jesus. However, the New Testament lets us know this is not the case.
1 Corinthians 10:11 says, "Now all these things happened unto them for examples and they are written for our admonition." Romans 15:4 says, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning." So, the followers of Jesus can learn from the things written in the Old Testament. For example, consider what we can learn from this report about Naaman the leper from 2 Kings 5:1 & 9-14:
"Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper… Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."
What strikes you from the foregoing account? A Bible passage can teach many things, but one of the most striking things in this passage has to be Naaman's near-miss. First he turned away from the truth the messenger had delivered. Then he obeyed, and he was healed as a result. What can we learn from this episode?
How to Get Grace
"God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble" (1 Pt 5:5). The contrast in this verse shows how the choices people make can affect their relationship with God. At one point, Naaman was on the wrong side of that formula, and the benefit of a humble response to the truth is highlighted by what happened after he humbled himself.
Naaman was a key man in his country, but he had leprosy. He heard of a prophet in Samaria who could help him recover and his pursuit of a healing led him to Elisha's house. Naaman arrived "with his horses and with his chariot" and, no doubt, an entourage befitting a man of his status, which explains the presence of "his servants." We are told, he "stood at the door of the house of Elisha." Scripture does not say how long he stood there, so we cannot tell if he had to wait a while or if he got a fast response. What it does say, however, lets us know Naaman was not happy with the way things transpired.
Elisha did not come out to greet Naaman. He "sent a messenger unto him." The messenger told Naaman, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee and thou shalt be clean." Naaman did not say thank you or rush off to wash to see if it worked. Instead, "Naaman was wroth, and went away."
Clearly, Elisha's communication via a messenger and his prescription for healing did not fit Naaman's view of what should have happened:
"I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage" (2 Kgs 5:11-12).
At that point Naaman, leaning on his own understanding, decided he knew better than the word which was spoken by Elisha's messenger. Does this, along with his anger and his boast of "better" rivers in his own country, indicate pride was what led him to storm off in a rage? If so, then we need to consider the episode in light of this verse: "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
Sound Reasoning Exposes Unreasonable Thinking
What was the result of Naaman's decision to reject the truth that was presented by the messenger? It brought him no blessing. Contrast this with the result of his later decision to submit to the logic that was used to prove he was not being reasonable. "His servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?"
"Wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean" was a promise of healing, so it made sense to try it. It was unreasonable to ignore the message simply because it was delivered by a messenger and/or it did not conform to his view of what was "better."
Elisha's reputation brought Naaman to his door. Still, Naaman did not believe the promise, for if he had, his desire to be healed would have led him to obey. Because the promise came via a messenger and/or because Naaman did not like the prescribed remedy, he concluded the offer in those words did not deserve respect. However, when his servants presented a logical argument that proved he was not being reasonable, his humbling response to their correction enabled him to receive the blessing