After someone gets saved, they need to reach a point that they learn to eat the meat of God’s word instead of being hand-fed spiritual food provided by others. One of the key ways to make that transition is by fulfilling 1 Thessalonians 5:21, which says to test everything.
When we test everything, we look closely at what is said (or written) and compare it against the truth of Scripture. If it aligns with what the Bible says, we hold fast to it (Revelations 3:11). If it doesn’t align, we are to reject it. This is how we build a firm spiritual foundation (Matthew 7:24-27) on our rock, Christ Jesus.
For Additional Reading: How To Trust God When Bad Things Happen
Sadly, many blindly accept what they hear and read. Learning to test everything is a learning process like going from scooting to crawling to walking to running. Nobody takes off running right off the bat but progress is still expected, right? It’s the same spiritually.
For Additional Reading: Baby Steps For Spiritual Growth
In our last post, The Bible Study That Changed My Life, we looked at testing what we read, specifically our Bible. In this post, we look at a sermon I sat through and how I tested what I heard.
Is Biblical Truth Subjective?
Scribbling furiously, I began taking notes as the Pastor spoke about the Bible and its truth. With authority in his voice, he boldly stated, “Truth is subjective, thus the Bible is subjective.” This Pastor went on to explain that he wasn’t saying the Bible isn’t true. However, he believed that the truth of the Bible changes depending on who is reading it and what they need to get out of it.
My heart dropped with each word he spoke. In disbelief, my husband and I looked at each other. How could someone teach such a thing? Surely we misunderstood or he would explain himself in a way that made biblical sense.
But he didn’t. Instead, he explained that what you need from the Bible today won’t be the same as what you will need from the Bible in 5 months (or 5 years) from now. He felt this explained why we can read the Bible and get a totally new revelation from a verse we have read 100 times before.
He stated that every person has their own perspective and spin on life. Because of their unique outlook, God meets them where they are at and tailors what is read in the Bible to be what they need at that particular moment. In this way, the Holy Spirit makes the Bible personal to that person.
According to his explanation, a verse or parable could mean this to you. The same verse or parable could mean that to me. And to a third person, the same verse or parable will mean something completely different. And we would all be correct because the truth as we needed it was revealed to each of us by the Holy Spirit.
Those around us were murmuring encouragement at such profound revelation. They were thanking God for this man’s divine wisdom, awed that only God could reveal such truth. As I sat in my stunned silence, I felt a mighty check in my spirit.
Could He Be Correct?
Right off the bat, I completely agreed that God knows exactly what we need when we need it (Matthew 6:8). I also agreed Holy Spirit reveals as he wills (1 Corinthians 12:11), we are all in a different place spiritually (Luke 8:14-15), and God speaks to us in a way that we can understand (Jeremiah 33:3). God also meets you where you are at and don’t leave you as he finds you (Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus for example).
But that is about as far as I could agree with this Pastor’s message. Have you heard the saying that the devil is in the details? Let’s do as God commanded and test everything, looking biblically at the details to test what was said by this Pastor.
Let’s Break It Down
“Truth is subjective, thus the Bible is subjective.”
Let’s start by looking at what truth is. Truth is a fact that is in accordance with reality. Truth has to be established by someone who has been around since the very beginning, who is not constrained with time or place. Someone who is not able to be deceived or tempted but completely objective. This type of truth is called absolute truth and it is a truth that is true for everyone across the board. There is only one who fits these criteria to determine truth…God Almighty.
How do we know God fits the bill? Because God gave us these absolute truths in his Word:
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1)
Who was “The Word” this verse talks about? Jesus! Jesus was the Word made flesh (John 1:14), the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). Because God established the earth and everything in it (including you and me), God has the right and privilege to establish his truth as THE truth.
But this pastor said truth is subjective, not absolute. What does that even mean? Isn’t truth…truth?Actually, no, it’s not. Let me explain. Subjective truth is something I am willing to accept as my reality when it fits my needs. What is true for me may not be true for another. When it no longer fits my needs my truth changes.
- Subjective truth: There are many paths to God and heaven.
- Absolute truth: There is one path to God and it is through his son, Jesus Christ.
To be clear, something cannot be subjectively and absolutely true at the same time. We can’t have it both ways. Truth can’t contradict itself or it’s not the truth.
“The truth of the Bible changes depending on who is reading it and what they need to get out of it.”
There are many layers to the Bible. As you get closer to God, the Holy Spirit will begin to reveal things to you that you could not understand before. Some compare it to peeling an onion with its many layers. But God does not change. He is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8). It doesn’t matter what you think you need, God isn’t going to change. Since Jesus is The Word and doesn’t change, why would we expect the Bible’s truths to change based on our circumstances and desires?
For example, regardless of your maturity level, knowing what is wrong and doing it anyway is sin. You can read James 4:17 a thousand times as you grow and mature but doing what you know is wrong is still sin. It does not change.
“What I need from the Bible today won’t be the same as what I will need from the Bible 5 months (or 5 years) from now, which is why we can read the Bible and get a totally new revelation from a verse we have read 100 times.”
This is actually a good thing. As Christians, we are to grow spiritually. At one point you were a babe who needed milk and could not eat solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2). Your physical and spiritual needs and understanding as an infant would be different than that of a more mature Christian. But our spiritual food, the Word of God, doesn’t change.
“A verse or parable could mean this to you. The same verse or parable could mean that to me. And to a third person, the same verse or parable will mean something completely different. And we would all be correct because the truth as we needed it was revealed to each of us by the Holy Spirit.”
Again, The absolute truth of the Bible does not change. We are to use the Bible to explain the Bible so let me show you what I mean.
We are given four New Testament Gospels that share about Jesus’ life, words, and actions (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Each gospel is from different authors, with different points of view, and written at different points in time. A few minor details are different. But who Jesus is, what he came to earth for, how he feels about us, what he expects of us…those things didn’t change from one book to another, regardless of the author’s point of view or their place in life.
Now, you might be drawn by Holy Spirit to read one of these books over another but that doesn’t mean he changes them to suit you.
The Danger of Not Testing Everything
I have been told that I have no business testing what a pastor says. He is an anointed man of God and whatever comes out of his mouth is what God intends us to hear. The people around us that morning were awed that only God could reveal such truth. Testing those comments against Scripture shows that none of those are true so it is not sound biblical wisdom!
First of all, we are ALL anointed with God’s gifts. A pastors gift isn’t above anyone else’s spiritual gift. When we give our life to Christ we are as anointed as the person next to us, even if that person stands on a pulpit, writes 1,000 Christian books, or appears on numerous TV shows. The fact that this person was a pastor of a church is inconsequential.
Secondly, not using the Bible to test what someone says as truth is contrary to what Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 and what John tells us in 1 John 4:1. We are told not to believe every spirit but to test ALL things to see if they are of God Almighty.
And finally, we know that Satan uses people (yes, even God’s anointed) all the time to confuse, spread lies, deceive and manipulate. You are deceived and manipulated when you believe what you hear (or see) as fact (truth) when it is not. This leads to discouragement and confusion. None of that is of God our heavenly Father but it is from the father of lies (John 8:44).
When I prayed about how to share this with you, the Holy Spirit gave me the following.
We Can Be Easily Deceived
The monarch butterfly is a very recognizable butterfly. I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about; it’s orange and black. Yeah, that one. I just learned that there is another butterfly called the viceroy that looks very similar; it is orange with black on its wings too!
There are a few differences between the two but physically, the viceroy is slightly smaller and has an extra black stripe on its hind wings. That’s about it! If you wanted to go take pictures of a monarch and didn’t know the difference, you would easily be fooled by the viceroy, the monarch’s imposter, and take it’s picture instead.
What I See Doesn’t Change The Reality Of What Is
The fact that the viceroy looks and acts like a monarch doesn’t make it a monarch. Our enemy is like the viceroy. He appears as a godly person (2 Corinthians 11:14) mimicking God’s truth. Like the viceroy, Satan always looks and sounds really close to a Christian but isn’t exact. If you aren’t looking and listening closely when someone (even the little old lady sitting next to you in church) speaks about godly things, you will be fooled and confuse God’s truth with Satan’s almost truth.
Examine All Things
I pray sharing with you why it is important and breaking down this pastors words will encourage you to begin doing the same with teachings and sermons you hear, regardless of who you are listening to. It is so important we accept that just because someone claims to be a Christian doesn’t mean they really are (1 John 4:1). They could be a viceroy Christian when you think they are a monarch Christian. We alone are responsible for what we accept as truth.
This all comes down to faith. You either believe God and his Word, or you don’t. You either believe the Bible contains God’s absolute truth or you believe biblical truth is subjective truth. It’s one or the other because it can’t be both.
God’s Absolute Truth
As I’ve explained, God’s truth doesn’t change to suit our ever-changing circumstances and desires. If it did, it wouldn’t be reliable and trustworthy. It wouldn’t be something we could count on and sure wouldn’t have the power that it does.
God told us to test everything to protect us from the deception all around. It is up to us to use this biblical tool.
We are to set our standard of absolute truth as the Bible because God is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2). Men will lie and deceive. God CANNOT and WILL NOT lie. Ever. If God says something happened, it did. If he says it will happen, it will. With this being the case, we have to take what we read in the Bible as God’s absolute truth!