Everyone has the right to their opinions of earthly things, but no one has the right to any opinion contrary to sound doctrine and be right with God. 2 Tm 4:3 ff; Tit 1:9; Tit 2:1 Some refuse to accept the truth because they believe they already have it. Anyone or any group, whether large or small, can be honestly mistaken in their religious beliefs and convictions and still be dead wrong. An honest heart can be ignorantly wrong, but can never knowingly continue in the wrong once they are presented with the truth.
The Eunuch in Acts 8 well illustrates this point. This man was deeply religious. He had gone to Jerusalem “for to worship” and was returning home. He was a Bible reader, he was honest, but he was still wrong! When Philip the evangelist taught him the truth, he not only believed it, but obeyed it before he got home. He told no experience of grace, and no church voted as to whether he might obey Christ in baptism for the remission of his sins. Up to the time of Philip instructing him correctly, this man thought he had the truth.
Paul persecuted Christians; he laid waste the church of our Lord and gave consent to Stephen’s death, but he was honest (Acts 8; 23:1). He thought God wanted him to do exactly what he did, i.e. “many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9-11); notwithstanding, he was wrong. Thinking a thing to be right does not make it right, regardless of how honest one may be. Paul tells his own story in 1 Tim. 1:11-16. He said, “I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” Ignorance does not justify, excuse or make right, any more than unbelief in this statement. Acts 17:30 However, if and when one acts within the bounds of his own knowledge, thinking that to be right, he acts honestly. However, when one learns the truth, honesty demands that he accept it. Paul did that with readiness of mind and heart and fully committed himself to Jesus Christ. The one he once ignorantly persecuted, he now lovingly and faithfully proclaimed as both Lord and Christ (Gal. 1:13-24).
God’s truth establishes what is right spiritually (2 Pet. 1:3). Jesus told those who would abide in His word, “Then are you truly my disciples; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jnp. 8:31-32). Paul was honest and gladly gave up all things “for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Acts 22:16; Phil. 3:8).
Some are dishonest when it comes to receiving God’s Word. Such was the case of Felix with his wife Drusilla. As Paul reasoned upon “righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come.” Felix trembled, and answered, “Go your way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for you” (Acts 24:25). He wanted money and the convenient season never came. Dishonesty is deadly and unending.
Agrippa with Bernice, in great pomp, heard Paul’s appeal and responded, “Almost you persuade me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28). His heart was not open to truth and he declined the Lord’s invitation. Paul pleaded, “I would to God, that not only you, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds,” to no avail.
Only God can determine the hearts of men. However, the actions of those who are presented with the truth gives us some insight to the honesty and dishonesty among men. As Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.” Mt 7:16 According to denominations, all faithful brethren are wrong. According to faithful brethren, all denominations are wrong. All opposing views of the scripture can honestly accuse one another of being wrong, but the final decision is based upon God’s Word and God’s Word only, and not the opinions of men. Jn 12:48 f; Rom 2:16 To assure that man of all generations might be saved, Jesus left his apostles for us as our examples to follow. What the apostles commanded and what they did, except the miracles they performed, we are to imitate. 1 Cor 11:1 f; 2 Thess 3:7 They commanded all to believe and confess Jesus to be the Christ. Rom 10:8-10 They commanded all to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. Acts 2:38 They commanded all to continue in the doctrine of Christ faithfully unto death. 2 Jn 9 f; Rev 2:10 They worshiped on Sunday to remember the Lord’s death by partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Acts 20:7 They gave of their means on this same day. 1 Cor 16:1-3 They preached, they prayed and sang without the use of instruments. Acts 20:7 ff; 1 Cor 14:15; Eph 5:19 They studied to be approved of God. 2 Tim 2:15 They proved the Word by the scripture. 1 Thess 5:21 They earnestly contended for the faith. Jude 3 These are not my opinions but are biblical facts.
The apostles left us a grave warning not to go beyond that which was written. 1 Cor 4:6 They commanded us to speak the very words of God. 1 Pet 4:11 Anyone who does not obey the gospel of Christ once they are presented with the truth are dishonest. Mt 10:14,15 Anyone who does not continue in the apostles doctrine are dishonest. Acts 2:42 f; 2 Jn 9 Anyone who contends with the commandments and examples of the apostles are dishonest. Philp 3:17 Anyone who follows the commandments and doctrines of men are dishonest. Mt 15:7-9
Honesty is a good thing, unless we be honestly at odds with God’s Word. Yes, we must examine ourselves with God’s Word whether we be in the faith, and if we differ from what was written, we must change. 2 Cor 13:5 If we change not to conform to God’s Word, God’s Word will judge us come the day of judgment. Rom 2:12 f; 1 Cor 11:31,32