Right and Wrong

Many are uncomfortable with the idea that there is an unchanging moral standard. They do not want to think of truth being absolute. They want it to be subjective. They do not like to think of things as being “black and white” but want to believe there is a lot of “gray area.” They think whatever is right should be determined by the individual and be based upon the situation. But the Bible teaches that there is a clear difference between right and wrong. Let us turn our attention to Jesus’ conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:13-29) in which He showed five areas where is a distinct difference between right and wrong.

The Right Way and The Wrong Way

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

The way refers to the direction we are to go and the manner in which we are to walk. There is a right way and a wrong way. Sadly, many will follow the wrong way that leads to destruction. Only a few will follow the right way that leads to life.

Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way” (John 14:6). We need to follow Him even though Jesus said that in order to do this one “must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow [Him]” (Luke 9:23). After telling His disciples that He was going to “prepare a place” for them (John 14:2-3), He said, “You know the way where I am going” (John 14:4). How did they know the way? They knew Jesus. He is the way to the Father and the reward in heaven. We cannot go another way hoping to end at the same place. The way that “seems right” to us “is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). We also cannot expect to be able to follow Christ while living as we wish along the way. To follow Him, we need to “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light” (1 John 1:7). We need to follow Jesus’ example and direction. This is the only right way. Every other way is wrong.

The Right Teaching and The Wrong Teaching

Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

Prophets were ones who spoke on behalf of God. False prophets would be those who would speak about spiritual things, giving the impression that they were speaking the truth from God, when in fact they were not. This is the kind of teaching we are concerned with here – the teaching of spiritual things. For our purposes in this article, teaching refers the message about spiritual things – how we present the word of God.

Many say that truth is subjective. They believe that we can all have our own interpretations of what truth is. Two of us may read a verse and believe it teaches two conflicting things. Can we both be right? No. It is possible we are both wrong, but we surely cannot both be right. But this is the idea that many have. They say we cannot understand the Bible alike. Really? Paul said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4). He did not say, “When you read, you will have your understanding and I will have mine.” He said they could have the same understanding. Yes, we can understand the Bible alike.

God’s word is truth (John 17:17) and is, therefore, right. There is nothing the word of God teaches that is wrong. Therefore, if we “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11, KJV), we are right. That is not arrogance, it is confidence – confidence in God and His word. All teaching that is in harmony with the whole of God’s word is right. Therefore, all other teaching is wrong. If we “distort the gospel” (Galatians 1:7), we are wrong. If we do not “abide in the teaching of Christ” (2 John 9), we are wrong. But if we speak the truth that is contained in God’s word, we are right.

The Right Fruit and The Wrong Fruit

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16-20).

Fruit is that which is produced from our actions and teaching. In our personal lives, we need to be growing in the “fruit of the Spirit… love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). These are produced by doing the things we have already discussed – walking in the right way and following the right teaching.

We also bear fruit collectively in a local congregation. Some may think that all results demonstrate God’s favor. They see the church growing, members being active, and believe that the things they are doing must be right. But not all fruit is good fruit. The fruit must be the result of doing good works (Colossians 1:10). Good works are defined in God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We cannot use the doctrines and creeds of men to cause fruit to be produced (Matthew 23:15). We also cannot use carnal things to produce growth (John 6:26). Remember Paul’s attitude: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). We need to focus on the work, not the results – God will take care of those. If we are engaging in good works and teaching the truth, we will bear the right fruit.

The Right Works and The Wrong Works

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

In this passage, works refers to the deeds that we do in service to God. We do the right works when we do “the will of [the] Father” (Matthew 7:21). We do the wrong works when we “practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). But Jesus said that there were going to be “many” who would be surprised when they are told to depart. After all, they did many things in His name. But not everything we might do in service to God is acceptable to Him. Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). This means we must do things by the authority of the Lord. It does not mean that we can say something is being done “in the name of Jesus” and that be a stamp of approval for the practice. That is essentially what the people that Jesus described were doing (Matthew 7:22). Merely offering service to God is not enough. It must be service that He has directed us to offer.

The Right Foundation and A Wrong Foundation

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

This foundation is that which we build or base our faith upon. In Jesus’ analogy, the two houses were the same; the only difference was the foundation. The right foundation is Christ and His message that was revealed through inspired men (Ephesians 2:20). We are not to base our faith on anything or anyone else. If we do not have the proper foundation, then like the foolish man, all of our labor will be in vain. However, if we are “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” we can be confident that our “toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Conclusion

Ultimately, how do we determine right from wrong? It cannot be determined by the majority. “Many” will follow the path of destruction while only a “few” will follow the way that leads to life. It is not determined by appearance. False teachers may appear harmless, but are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Fruit may be produced that is not the right fruit. A house may appear strong, but if it has no foundation it will fall. Also, right and wrong is not determined by one’s sincerity. Many will do things in the name of Christ because they believe in Him but will be told to depart in the end. So how do we determine right from wrong? Simply this: God’s way is right. Any other way is wrong.

When Jesus finished speaking to the crowds, they were “amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29). Truth is contained in God’s word (John 17:17) and authority is derived from Christ (Matthew 28:18). He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Salvation can only be found in Him (Acts 4:12). Therefore, we must follow Christ and not men.


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