John 7:16-18 MKJV Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. (17) If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself. (18) He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
Each of the three verses we are considering today contains a world of truth! These three verses are of great utility when it comes to assessing the various truth claims of various Christian spiritual teachers.
v. 16 - Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.
Jesus had great reverence for Truth that lay beyond Himself, beyond His own thoughts, and beyond His human cognitive processes. He did not “make things up” for the sake of novelty, or to impress people but rather received and spoke eternal truth to which He also submitted.
Having a holy reverence for established truth and a humble regard for one’s own intellectual powers is the mark of a true teacher. A certain televangelist a few years ago said the ‘anointing” told him there were nine gods, a trinity of the Father, a trinity of the Son and a trinity of the Holy Spirit! Fortunately he was promptly rebuked my many and made to submit to doctrinal correction. We cannot play fast-and-loose with the Scriptures and with the fundamentals of the faith.
Those who seek to establish “new” approaches to Christian truth mainly end up in the wilderness or in heresy. You simply CANNOT redefine morality to make it more acceptable to some elements of the media. We are not allowed to have personal doctrines of our own idiosyncratic construction – though we may indeed explore the Word, but should we find something we think is new, we should cautiously bring it to light before others and see how it fits with other Scriptures and the main doctrines of the faith.
The apostle Peter puts it this way: 2 Peter 1:20-21 ASV knowing this first, that no prophesy of scripture is of private interpretation. (21) For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit.
In other words we cannot just cook up our own private doctrines must wait on God, who generally will also reveal the same truth to others also. If Jesus did not make up His own theology – but instead listened to the voice of the Spirit, then surely we should also! Humility before God, and listening reverently to and for eternal truth, rather than always trying to invent new things, is the mark of the true Christian teacher.
v. 17 - If anyone desires to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or I speak from Myself.
This verse tells us that the first step in finding out the Truth is being wiling to obey it and live it! God does not give Truth to us for us to write a thesis about, or to admire, or for the sake of intellectual curiosity. Truth is to be lived.
If we really want to follow God, and do His will, then we will be properly aligned with God the Holy Spirit, who will empower us and give us wisdom and discernment so that we will be able to know “of the doctrine, whether it is of God”. By contrast, disobedient people will go astray, because if they do hear the truth, they will just disregard it.
v. 18 - He who speaks of himself seeks his own glory, but he who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
People who are always cooking up new teachings are basically vain – and seeking their own glory and their own theological significance. The urge to “say something new so I can get my book/paper published” is very strong in academic circles. Some of these theological innovations are simply horrendous attempts at self-glory with little regards for the facts or the consequences – the Da Vinci Code being a case in point. I have just finished reading a book that claims to totally reinvent religion and philosophy – of course it just falls into more than a dozen old errors!
But someone who is carefully seeking the “true Truth’ and the glory of God, and diligently seeking to find out ‘what is really so” rather than chasing the latest ideas of men, is truly a good person. As Jesus said such a person: are true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
Arriving at Truth is always a slow, humble process involving great reverence and caution. Scientists take a dozen years to find out one small set of facts about a drug combination or the ecology of a certain species. Theological truth is certainly no easier to come by. The mark of a good teacher of the Word is a deep and prayerful reverence for the text and a love of the facts – even if those facts are difficult, socially unacceptable or “traditional and boring”.
Just as a physicist does not make up the laws of physics that he or she personally prefers – but simply discovers those that are actually in existence, so we cannot make up spiritual laws just because we like them, but must humbly and obediently seek to find out those spiritual laws that are real and are true.