[To answer this question, I’m going to be deep-mining the Bible for much-needed Help so you will need some quality time, a spirit of prayer and your Bible to hand for this article to be of most benefit to you. I have spent time ensuring that all scriptures are specifically hyperlinked within the blog (verse by verse) for your ease of reference so please enjoy doing some work with me!]
You Will Know the Truth
Before we go any further, let’s all remember Jesus’ prophetic words, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) Although He was speaking in the midst of a very mixed bunch of Jewish “believers”, and despite a very confused Church today, this liberating knowledge of knowing the truth is at the very centre of our inheritance in Christ. (Ephesians 1:11,14).
Of course, the issue then – and now – is whether or not we are truly abiding in His word, whether or not we are truly His disciples, and whether or not our Father is truly Yahweh in heaven, (John 8:31-38).
Within the chaos of the Church, it is not always immediately obvious exactly who is who. This is why John warns us that many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1) and why Jesus describes their appearance to be akin to harmless, little sheep, (Matthew 7:15).
So, to be clear, our Church landscape is littered with many ravenous wolves that look like Christian sheep.
It follows that some of the most sobering words that have ever been written are found within the pages of the inspired Bible:
There is a way which seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death.Proverbs 14:12 (AMP)
Had Solomon not asked Yahweh for an understanding mind to lead Israel in the ineptitude of his adolescence (1 Kings 3:5-28), perhaps he would have also, in the end, fallen victim to this very same way of deadly self-delusion. (Equally, had Yahweh not told Solomon to ask Him, what hope could there have been? (1 John 4:19)).
Rest assured for any anxious reading mind, Proverbs 14:12 is written primarily with the unrepentant, godless person in mind; the individual who believes it is right to reject Jesus Christ will, in the end, face eternal death. Verse twelve follows the shuddering juxtaposition of the temporary (but lasting) tents of the upright with the permanent (but perishing) houses of the wicked.
Solomon’s proverb primarily separates the righteous from the unrighteous and, dare I say, true disciples of Jesus from false disciples of Jesus.
However, there is also a sense in which this particular proverb is for all humans to memorise, including those of us who have the precious Spirit of Truth. (Please see 1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 John 4:6).
How Do I Know I Am Right?
When asked this question recently, it landed particularly poignantly with me because I had already been reflecting and praying on it for months beforehand. (Serendipity actually forms one part of my best attempt to answer the question, below, although it is certainly not the main point*).
The question at hand, I think, is from an expression of the person’s own felt sense of frustration – perhaps even indignation and anxiety – in observing many leaders within the Church who hold to polar opposite, contradictory theologies but who are also all convinced that they know they are right.
In other words, the question is asking me, how do I make sure that I’m not in that same boat?
To do my best in answering this, in a moment I want to highlight two passages that have come to mind from Scripture as I’ve prayed. (See this principle in Matthew 10:19 & John 14:26).
It’s Not the Wrong Boat
Before that however, most fundamentally, I must do a little ground work to reject the notion that knowing that I am right is somehow an attitude or mindset that’s either not holy (arrogant) or not possible (futile).
If you are a new creation in Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:17), you have been given the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) to enable you to distinguish between the truth (accepting Jesus) and error (rejecting Jesus); this is precisely so that you would know that you are right, that you would know that you are saved! (1 John 5:13).
This ‘arriving at a knowledge of the truth…” (2 Timothy 3:7) is what makes the genuine Christian both truly spiritual and authentically distinct from any other people on the face of the earth (1 Corinthians 2: 14-15).
We certainly should know that we are right.
In his first epistle, John (the son of Zebedee, author of the fourth Gospel) writes,
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.1 John 4:2-3[b] (ESV) [italics mine]
In his Gospel, John also records Jesus’ reassuring promises that,
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…John 14:16-17[a]; 16: 13[a] (ESV)
Our English word, Helper, is from Jesus’ greek word, paraklétos, meaning, ‘the advocate, helper, coming alongside, comforter’. Jesus told His disciples that it was expedient for them (advantageous) that He physically depart so that their personal Paraclete (helping presence) would come, (John 16:7).
So as to emphasise the personal/knowable nature of this Helper, in John 14:17 Jesus said that we in fact personally and intimately know this Paraclete (Spirit of Truth) because he, “…dwells with you and will be in you.”
We certainly should know that we are right.
Why? Because knowing that we are right is the primary result of our being helped by our closest Friend – the Holy Spirit – as He comes alongside us to give us the greatest, unfolding knowledge of all in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
Jesus even said that we would hear his voice and follow Him, (John 10:27).
The personal witness of the Spirit within you is not reduced or marginalised in any way because of the similar-sounding testimony of others. This would be like saying that Christianity can not be true because Islam also claims to have the monopoly on ‘the truth’. Christians have been accused of being arrogant for millennia because of Jesus’ claims to be the only way, (this is why He was killed!); but it also remains enduringly arrogant to claim that Jesus was not telling the truth as He bled and died while praying, ‘Father, forgive them, they know not what they do’.
Our knowing Him – and His knowing us – is central to the gospel; if we couldn’t know that we are right, we would still be dead in our trespasses and sins, (Ephesians 2:1).
Good Men Wrong
But it is important to say that, strictly speaking, this isn’t what our question is about; the question at hand was referring to Christians who concur with what I’ve just explained but who then deviate on other theological issues while remaining very convinced that they know that they are right.
How do I (or you) know that I am right when this happens? (And it does happen all the time, perhaps especially over lockdown).
Having established that it is absolutely essential that Christians know that they are right, this is where I want to refer to two passages of Scripture to answer this question more fully, at least as best as I can!
I don’t believe that it honours our Father to ‘agree to disagree’ over major theological issues that ultimately result in a vast cavern of irreconcilable disunity between professing believers. I think it is a profound grief to Him that, in our our prophetically-stunted condition, the Church barely even realise let alone repent for.
The unwillingness to truly “meet” together in a posture of humility is a profound marring on the corporate Body of Christ and one for which all of us are responsible to varying extents. (You can read more on this in my book, Body Zero, here).
Passage One: Prophetic Accuracy
The second passage that came to mind while praying about this question, How Do I Know I am Right?, (I’ll come to the first one shortly), was the exchange between Jeremiah and Hananiah in Jeremiah 28.
You will see that there was no ‘agreeing to disagree’ between the men. Jeremiah basically declared that the genuineness of what was prophesied (and, therefore, the genuineness of the Prophet himself) would become obvious – known – by the outcome.
In other words, the prophetic genuineness of the Prophet would be gauged by the prophetic accuracy of the Prophet’s message.
Hananiah prophesied peace to the people of God whereas Jeremiah prophesied Israel’s bondage to Nebuchadnezzar, the very captivity that was proven true. Jeremiah rebuked Hananiah for making the people trust in a lie, (Jeremiah 28:15), and returned Hananiah’s chronological prophetic prediction that he would die within the year, (Jeremiah 28: 16 cf. Jeremiah 28:11).
Hananiah was a false prophet who made God’s people trust in a lie and he was killed for it.
Prophetic accuracy is an important part of knowing that I am right. Of course, Jeremiah’s faithfulness to God, (hence the word of the LORD actually coming to him, Jeremiah 28:12), was vindicating of Jeremiah not only before the priests and other people in the house of the LORD, not only before the false prophet, not only before God Himself, but also vindicating of Jeremiah before Jeremiah.
Entirely distinct from all pointless, spurious and denominationally-stylised ‘prophetic’ predictions of the future today, the genuine prophetic voice of divine pathos, (albeit perhaps weakly felt and heard faintly in the wilderness), is vindicating of the prophetic voice itself.
How do I know that I am right?
Well, one part of my answer is that, on Saturday January 4th 2020, during the filming of, The Draft – A Conscription of Conscience, God had given me a prophetic burden to call every church in the UK to close their doors, to repent and to pray. On Friday March 20th, 2020, the exact weekend that Boris Johnson “enlisted” the nation into historic lockdown (and every single church therein), the film was released.
As bewildering as it was/still is for me, how can anyone conclude that this was anything other than vindicating, prophetic accuracy? The Lord was gracious enough to give me a prophetic word (cf. Jeremiah 28: 8), I spoke and the unthinkable call to action then happened.
The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.Jeremiah 28:8 (ESV) [italics mine]
When Jesus returns in glory, the reality is that some people will still, even then, rather have mountains fall on their head than bow the knee to God, (Revelation 6:16), so I fully expect that this part of my answer to our question will continue to be ‘water off a duck’s back’, perhaps even for the majority.
Much more could/should be said about the importance of eagerly desiring the gifts of the Spirit, (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1), testing spirits, (1 John 4:1-2), and fruitfulness not always being an evidence of faithfulness, but, as it is, I am already risking this being too long an article. You can watch our “2020 Review // The Year the Churches Closed” video here for more info.
Passage Two: A Willingness to Lose
But the first passage that came to mind while praying about this question, How Do I Know I am Right?, was not a passage primarily to vindicate myself by looking at my prophetic ‘track record’, nor to underline the obviousness of my faithful exegesis nor the rich mercy of my God-given fruitfulness; it was a passage that I now believe explains what the posture of every single true disciple of Jesus should be regarding these massive points of difference, arguably even primarily regarding the issue of cessationism and continuationism.
Please read 1 Kings 3:5-28 and head back to where we started with King Solomon, the second-wisest man who ever lived.
What do two prostitutes arguing before the King of Israel over a baby have to do with this question?
Everything: Notice both mother’s mutually unyielding defiance of, “No!” – (i.e. conservatives & charismatics); notice Solomon’s God-given wisdom to draw out of the impasse the objective, absolute truth of the matter, (not both can be faithful); notice Solomon’s sword; notice the relevance in this regard of Hebrews 4:12-13; notice the surrendering yearning of the true mother cf. the unmoving deceitfulness of the other.
Most ultimately, notice the willingness of the true mother to lose her baby rather than see him cut in two, contrasted with the other woman’s readiness to actually murder the child rather than to repent. (Had she lived at the end of the age, this woman would have preferred the falling mountains on her head to Jesus’ loveliness).
Perhaps the ultimate answer to our question is to point to both the *serendipity of this question even being in our minds in the first place, (is it in the minds of the deceived and wilfully deceiving?), and the evidence of our being willing to be wrong – not just for the sake of ‘unity’ but specifically for the sake of faithfulness to God.
Because Your loving-kindness is better than life [including knowing that I am right], my lips shall praise You.Psalm 63:3 (AMP) [italics etc. mine]
If our prayers can genuinely be, “Precious Lord Jesus, if I am not right about this, please let me see; like poor old Bartimaeus, Jesus, Son of David, please have mercy upon me if I have got this wrong; above all things, above the knowing to be right, is my desire to know and honour you in all faithfulness.”
Imagine what would happen in the global Body of Christ if this was the prayer of us all; imagine if we were all willing and posturing ourselves at this time in Church history to lose our precious little crying babies of denomination and tradition for the sake of the life of the whole.
“‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”Matthew 15:8-9
Conclusion: The Terror of Error
We absolutely should know that we are right. We have the Spirit of truth and His sheep know His voice.
Accuracy is important, for sure, but being prophetic – and knowing that you are right – is not mainly about being right, it is mainly about being undone.
God does not want us to be confused or double-minded, neither personally or corporately, and it’s high time that “agreeing to disagree” was recognised as the proud, arrogant disgrace that it surely is.
Finally, let me highlight one more point from the 1 Kings 3 passage: one of the prostitutes was noble and one was not and it is true that some men and women in church circles today are in error without deliberately intending to be.
However, there are many ravenous wolves today – again, who look like harmless “christian” sheep – who are most certainly aware that they are deceiving the Church and couldn’t possibly pray the prayer that I have just prayed above and which I will continue to pray every single day.
Watch and pray, Church; watch and pray.
And He said to them, Be careful what you are hearing. The measure [of thought and study] you give [to the truth you hear] will be the measure [of virtue and knowledge] that comes back to you—and more [besides] will be given to you who hear.Mark 4:24 (AMPC)