GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
August 18, 2020
DOES ANYBODY HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE WRONG?
A riverboat captain asked the riverboat pilot, “Do you know where every sandbar and rock is in this river?” “No, I don’t,” the pilot said. “Then how do you dare to pass yourself off as a pilot?” “I do not have to know every rock, sandbar, and other hazard on the river. I know what I need to know – I know where the safe channel is.”
I do not know everything, about anything. I don’t even know a little bit about everything. There are many things about which I know nothing, nothing at all. I am not an authority, even on Bible things. I do not know all there is to know about the church, the plan of salvation, worship, qualifications and work of elders, deacons, and evangelists – not even everything involved in living a faithful Christian life. But I do know and understand some things that are essential to one’s life in Christ. I know the way that is safe and cannot be wrong. I may not be able to tell you everything you ought to avoid, but I can tell you what you must do to be saved and stay safe.
Nobody has the right to be wrong – at least not in religion. Do not confuse the ability to choose with the right to be wrong – saying “the right to be wrong” implies there will be no negative consequences, no penalties or punishments. Nothing wrong can be defended or justified. Nothing wrong or invalid is worth having.
THERE ARE MANY BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING RIGHT AND NOT BEING WRONG.
WE WILL LOOK AT TWO OF THEM.
The first example: Noah and the ark (Genesis 6:14-16, 22). If Noah had only been told to “build an ark” he could have built any kind of enclosed floatable boat without being wrong. But he was given specific instructions: gopher wood. Any other kind of wood, even that which was more plentiful and easier to work with, would have been wrong. Pitched (covered with pitch, resin) inside and outside. Caulking the seams and joins on the outside might have been effective water-proofing, but by neglecting the inside it would have been wrong. Size: 300 by 50 by 30 cubits (about 450 x 75 x 45 feet, about 150 X 25 X 15 metres). A flat square box with ten foot walls – easier to build and divide into rooms – would be wrong. Provide space and food for pairs of all creatures. Excluding provision for the snakes would have been wrong. Leaving it up to God to provide the food would have been wrong. During the hundred years or so that he was building God’s ark Noah was also preaching God’s righteousness to the people – he made no converts (Gen. 5:32 and 7:6, 2 Peter 2:5). Did the people have a right to disagree with Noah? Did they “have the right to be wrong”? They certainly had a right and ability to choose for themselves. All but Noah, his wife, their three sons and the sons’ wives made the wrong choice.
When the flood came there was only one right place to be: in the right ark, the one designed by God, built and furnished to His specifications. Perhaps some folks tried to build a boat to preserve themselves. They could even have built bigger and better-looking boats than the one Noah was in. But only God’s ark and its contents came safely through the storm. All those outside the ark died (Gen. 7:21-23) – by their own choice. If they repented during the storm it was too late. They had chosen to be wrong, and they suffered the consequences of their own choice. I don’t have to tell you what was wrong with any alternative boats or plans for survival. I can tell you the only safe one, the one that could not be wrong.
The second example: Rahab the harlot and the fall of Jericho (Joshua 2:18-21). In order to escape the destruction that would come upon the rest of the city, God’s agents instructed Rahab to: Hang a scarlet cord (rope) from the window of her own house, and stay inside the house, no matter what was happening outside. She had no right to substitute anything. Any place but her house and any sign other than the scarlet cord hanging from the window would have been wrong. Ordinary rope would be easier to find or make than a scarlet one, but it would have been wrong – meaningless to those who were looking for a scarlet one. Taking refuge in a larger and more substantial building might have seemed wiser than staying in her own house, but it would have been wrong. If she had ventured outside the house to encourage God’s army while they were destroying the ungodly inhabitants of the city, that would have been the wrong thing to do. She would have been killed too. Did she have the right to specify the conditions of her safety? NO. Did she have the right to choose whether or not to accept the Lord’s specifications? Before you say yes she had the right to do so answer: who gave her that right or privilege? She had the ability and the obligation to choose, and she would have been allowed to obey or disobey the instructions of God, but if she chose wrong she would have to accept the consequences – it would have meant destruction not salvation, for herself and all those affected by her choice. Rahab believed in God and trusted His messengers. She did what was required, and her faith saved her (Joshua 2:9, Hebrews 11:30-31).
Do not make this a question of semantics. Do not equate ability to choose with the right or permission to choose in which the choice would be accepted by he authorities, ultimately by God.
IN JOHN 8:31-32 JESUS GAVE A CHARGE TO ALL PEOPLE FOR ALL TIME.
“If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed” (8:31b). There are several ways to fail in this, but only one way to succeed. To go beyond it or add to it would be wrong (Revelation 22:18). To ignore or leave out parts of would be wrong (Revelation 22:19). To pervert it or change the meaning of it, or even to obey it by compulsion and coercion rather than agreement and desire would be wrong (Galatians 1:6-8). The only way to abide in it is by receiving it gladly and obeying it from the heart (Acts 2:41, Romans 6:17). Does one have “the right to be wrong” in his response to the word of the Lord?
Of course every person has the ability and the freedom to choose whether he will or will not abide in the Lord’s word. But if he makes the wrong choice, he will have to suffer the consequences of his own choice. John 8:32-34 explains and clarifies it. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (8:32). By their actions you would think people to not understand this at all. Notice carefully what Jesus did not say. He did not say that denying the truth and lying about it would make one free. He did not say one could reject the truth and expect his errors to make him free. He did not say, “You shall be true to your conscience, true to whatever you believe, and your sincerity will make you free.” He did not say, “If you are deprived of the truth ignorance will make you free.” He did not say, “If you really want to know the truth, honesty will make you free.” He did not even say, “If you know the truth, knowledge will make you free.” Knowledge is an indispensable necessity. “You shall know the truth.” Desire is not enough; one must actively seek the Lord and his truth. Honesty tests and proves everything and keeps only what is true. Ignorance is never an excuse when truth is available. One is never justified in ignoring the truth of the evidence which supports it. Denying or rejecting the truth does not change truth into a lie, or a lie into truth. Truth is true whether or not anyone accepts it and no matter who contradicts it. One can reject the truth or exchange it for a lie, but to do so is to give up God and be given up by God. That is the necessary consequence (Romans 1:20-25). Does anybody have the right to refuse the word of the Lord or depart from it? Of course everybody has the right and the ability to choose for himself in this matter. But if one makes the wrong choice about the word of God, he will suffer the consequences of his own choice (John 12:48, John 5:28-29). One does not have either the right or the ability to choose and specify what the consequences of the choice will be.
SOME POPULAR PERVERSIONS OF TRUTH (GALATIANS 1:6-8).
DOES ANYBODY HAVE THE RIGHT TO BELIEVE AND ACCEPT THEM?
“One church is as good as another. There are good Christians, saved people, in them all.” Those who say this do not really believe it. Practice proves the point. Missionary activity proves it. One denomination does not preach the creeds and doctrines of another. Each one tries to convert people to its own group. Fellowship (or denial of fellowship) proves it. If one insists that a certain thing is required for salvation, how can he accept those who deny it or refuse to do it? An analogy to civic and social clubs will help prove the point. Do Civitans, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lion, Elks, and VFW accept each others members? Suppose Civitans offered $1,000 reward for joining? Would they still be equal? The religious clubs prove the point too – the Masons and the Knights of Columbus are the best known (some Masons deny that they are a religious entity, but they are). Masons would probably accept Catholics, but the Knights of Columbus would not allow Masons or non-Catholics to join them. Those who know the truth of God would never join either of them! Scripture specifies that there is only one Savior and only one church. (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 1:21-23, 4:4, and 5:3). All who follow some other supposed savior will not find God or heaven. All who are members of invalid churches are simply wrong. They can remain wrong if they want to – their privilege. But they must accept the consequences of their choice.
Here are some examples of commonly accepted but completely erroneous beliefs: “There are may different ways to be saved. We are all trying to serve the same God and get to the same heaven. We just do it in different ways.” Prove that by scripture if you can. Give a scripture reference and not an assumption or logical inference, that any accountable person was or can be saved without faith in the God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 11:1-6, Romans 1:16-17, Mark 16:16). Prove by scripture that anybody was or can be saved without repentance (Luke 13:3-5). Prove from scripture that anybody after the day of Pentecost (Acts2) was or can be saved without baptism (Galatians 3:26-27). Can anybody be saved outside and apart from Jesus Christ? Fact: there are many who claim salvation by faith only, grace only, without works and without baptism. But they are wrong. Would the Lord say they have “the right to be wrong,” that He will save them anyway? One may feel saved and safe without obeying the Lord, but that is not enough.
“Love, grace, and mercy make law-keeping unnecessary and irrelevant.” This is the easiest to disprove, but the hardest to convince people of. Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15, 1 John 5:3). “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10, James 2:8-10). “The grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust and live sober, righteous, and godly in the present world . . . being zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:11-12, 14). If you think God’s love and grace will get you mercy no matter what you do, try explaining this: Judgement will be without mercy to those who have shown no mercy (James 2:13). If you will not forgive others their sins against you, God will not forgive your sins against Him (Matthew 6:14-15).
“God wants us to be happy, so sometimes the rules have to be changed.” This is how people try to justify divorce without acceptable cause and remarriage without stipulated freedom. But God’s word says only adultery (which is a sexual sin, and not merely breaking a covenant or agreement, not even looking lustfully at another person) committed during marriage allows remarriage after a divorce, and then only for the one not actually guilty of or complicit in the adultery (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-12). Those who disagree with God and try to change His rules on this will not be accepted by God. How could that make one happy? Changing the rules for the deviant, abnormal, and unnatural life of style of homosexuals may make them feel happy, but the scripture is clear: practicing homosexuals cannot enter the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Romans 1:26-28. Publishers may be sued for using the word “homosexual” in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which says homosexuals cannot enter heaven. But the person and the sin are identified whether or not the word homosexual is used. What about drug use and abuse, lying, cheating, and exploitation of others, etc? Scripture says you have to prove whether a thing is good or not, and then give it up if it is not good. Don’t do it if it is doubtful. Avoid it if it has even a hint or suspicion of evil about it (Romans 14:9, 22-23; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
I am not condemning anyone if I point out what God’s word says and point out their errors. To show that they are condemned by God does not make me the judge or the condemner. I am not driving people away by preaching the truth of God. Noah was right and all others were wrong. Would you rather have been with Noah or the others? Rahab was right, all others were wrong. Would you rather have been with Rahab or the others? The Lord has only one church and will save only the faithful in that one church. All others are wrong. Would you rather be right or wrong? Those who learn, accept, and obey the word of the Lord as set forth in scripture are right. All others are wrong. Would you rather be right or wrong? The right will be with the Lord in heaven. All the wrong will be in hell. Would you rather be right or wrong?
Churches and religious movements often misquote God, claiming He said or says something He has not, does not, and will not say. They are wrong, not right. Many claim that if God were to speak today He would update and revise His words to conform more to the evolved culture of mankind and accommodate the revised desires, goals, and aspirations of mankind – some claim that if God wants to be accepted by modern man He must “get in step” with those who follow Him. They are wrong, not right. All of them are seducing spirits preaching doctrines of demons (1 Timothy 4:1-4). They will end up with the demons. They will not end up with God.