Who do you trust?

Reconciling Many Counselors with Personal Responsibility

By Gary Meredith

The Bible says that when deciding what we believe, we gain knowledge and wisdom from groups, but we're also responsible as individuals to discern truth and live accordingly. Scripture reveals strengths and weaknesses of each source, especially the dangers of relying completely on one or the other. We'll review some of each shortly.

But first, realize that settling on your firm convictions immediately puts you at odds with those who do not share them. While that is unavoidable with unbelievers, Christians must remember that unity is a key part of God's plan for the Church (John 17:23; Ephesians 4:1-16). Satan is eager to divide the body of Christ, knowing that division always equals defeat (Luke 11:18; 22:31). He'll divide us any way he can, whether by arguments over major doctrines or petty disagreements, such as what to serve at a church picnic or what carpet to buy for the hallway. So choose your battles within the Church carefully. Some are worth fighting (1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 2:1-14), while others are not (Matthew 5:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13).

Romans Chapter 14 speaks of accepting other believers with completely different convictions of how they live out their faith. The standard is for each of us to "be fully convinced in [our] own mind" (Romans 14:5) that what we are doing is right and good, because "everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). We must avoid judging (condemning) a fellow Christian for something that is not sin or heresy (Romans 14:10, 13) to promote "a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:5-6).

Benefits of one's own guidance

It is individuals, not groups, who must stand before God's judgment seat (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). So as previously mentioned, each Christian "should be fully convinced in his own mind" about his or her faith and conduct (Romans 14:5).

• "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

• "…we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:16)

• "Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.'" (John 14:23)

• "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth." (John 16:13)

• "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (James 1:5)

• "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (Luke 11:9-10)

• "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)

Dangers of one's own guidance

Individual discernment only works if the individual is personally guided by God. Left to ourselves, our judgment is young and easily deceived.

• "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death." (Proverbs 14:12)

• "Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults." (Psalm 19:12)

• "Jesus said, 'If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.'" (John 9:41)

Benefits of group guidance

God created the church, in part, to provide a place to train His followers (Ephesians 4:11-14). Part of individual discernment means knowing whom to ask for advice.

• "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (Proverbs 27:17)

• "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." (Proverbs 12:15)

• "For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many counselors make victory sure." (Proverbs 11:14)

Dangers of group guidance

It was a religious council, the Sanhedrin, that demanded the greatest evil in history, the execution of God's Son, and the religious leaders got the people to agree (Matthew 26:57-67; 27:20). Just because a group of people agree, it doesn't mean they're led by God (Psalm 1:1-2).

• "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong." (Exodus 23:2).

• "Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit." (Matthew 15:14)

• "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are." (Matthew 23:15)


Then how should we live among Christians with whom we disagree? Paul advises, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18). The Bible is crystal clear on all key doctrines, such as salvation by faith in Christ alone, not by works (John 3:16; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9), and the deity of Jesus (John 1:1; 8:58; 2 Peter 1:1). These are not negotiable. But on many issues, including where we choose to worship and how we live out our faith, there is an extremely wide variety of biblically acceptable practices. Some churches can be very strange to us, while not anti-Christian. Others range from a slippery slope to blatant heresy and denial of the faith.

Christian parents especially are directed to raise their children with discernment gained from Scripture: "These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up..." (Deuteronomy 6:6-8) The result is priceless: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).

In conclusion, while the wise counsel of others is of great value, something to be humbly and gratefully received, it is the individual responsibility of each believer to choose God's truth over human or demonic error.

Image Credit: Name; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Church-Issues  | Personal-Relationships  | Theological-Beliefs

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Published on 5-23-17