(Psalm 1:1)

Mike Johnson

Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

In this passage, we see what we cannot do if we want to be blessed by God.  Besides not standing in the path of sinners and sitting in the seat of the scornful, we are not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly.

What is involved in this admonition?  To “walk” means to conduct one’s self, to follow a particular course of action. (Note also Ps. 15:2, 81:12-13.)  It is not surprising to see the word “walk” used because life on earth can be referred to as a journey (Gen. 47:9).  What is the “council of the ungodly”?  It involves the advice of people who will typically have different philosophies, goals, values, and outlooks than those taught in the Scriptures.  When godly people need advice, they should not go to ungodly people for it— they must not walk in their council. The word translated “council” means “advice; by implication, plan; also prudence” (Strong).  It can involve “specific advice,” but the term may be used in a broader sense to refer to a philosophy or outlook, which determines the advice given.

Consider some statements often made today which reflect a philosophy foreign to God’s Word.

  1. It depends on the situation.” A person who says this believes in an approach called “Situation Ethics” or “Situationalism.”  These people say right and wrong are determined by the situation.  They may say, in one situation an action may be wrong, but the same action may be right in another situation.  This position may even lead to saying adultery is acceptable at times.  The Bible certainly does not teach this viewpoint as sin is sin no matter what the situation.
  2. God would not want you to be unhappy.” A person might say, “After all, God has given us the capacity to feel pleasure.”  This often occurs to justify unscriptural divorce.  A person may have no right to remarry according to the Scriptures (Mt. 19:9, 5:32).  However, as a single person, he may be very lonely and unhappy.  An advisor might say to him, “God would not want you to be unhappy, so it is acceptable for you to remarry.”
  3. “If it feels good, do it.” (Sometimes added is, “Unless following the course of action hurts someone else.”)  This attitude, in more recent times, emerged in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Consider the case of Esau in the Old Testament (Gen. 25:29-34).  He sold his birthright for a bowl of stew.  At the time, he did what felt good, but the consequences were devastating for him in the end.

It is important to remember that something may feel good, hurt no one else, and yet be a sin, and it can still have bad, immediate consequences and then, most importantly, eternal consequences.  Eternity must always be taken into consideration.

  1. Look how much good it does.” Sometimes, this might be said when a person is unable to defend a particular endeavor from a Scriptural standpoint. This person is saying the end justifies the means. King Saul made this mistake when he did not obey God’s instructions to completely destroy the Amalekites (I Sam. 15:19-23). Not obeying, he tried to justify his actions by appealing to this viewpoint, i.e. he said, “The animals spared can be used for sacrifice.” Today, the good we may think is being accomplished is not the basis for determining whether a particular practice is Scriptural.  All that matters is what the Bible says.
  2. The Bible doesn’t say not to.” In the religious world, it is common for a person to say this when asked for Bible authority for a particular belief, practice, or action.  For example, people might respond this way when asked for the authority for instrumental music in worship. (The Bible specifies we are to “sing” in passages such as Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16.) They say, “Well, the Bible doesn’t say you can’t use a piano.”  People who say this are not respecting God’s Silence (Heb. 7:14, Rev. 22:18-19).  It is important to understand that all else is eliminated when God specifies.
  3. We do a lot of things we don’t have authority for.” For example, we might ask someone where the authority is for a church to provide recreational activities and facilities.  They might say, “We do a lot of things we don’t have authority for.  Where is the authority for a water fountain? The Bible doesn’t say anything about it.”  Sadly, this response indicates the person does not even think one has to have authority.  Biblical authority is essential (Col. 3:17, I Pet. 4:11, Gal. 1:6-10). Generic authority authorizes a building to assemble which necessities a furnished facility with such items as lights, pews, and water fountains. There is no generic authority for the church to provide recreation.  Thus, the water fountain is not parallel to the fellowship hall.
  4. The majority must be right.” Some think the number of people who believe a particular doctrine has a bearing on whether it is right or wrong.  A person might say, “Surely so many people can’t be wrong.”  Actually, the Bible teaches us most will be lost and few will be saved (Mt. 7:13-14).  The number of people who believe or practice something does not determine truth.  If so, truth would change as we change locations as the views of people vary from place to place.

Consider Proverbs 12:15, which says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.” Proverbs 19:20 points out, “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.”   It is important to seek council from others, but we must be careful about whose advice we listen to and follow. A righteous person will not go to the ungodly for advice, as they ignore Scriptural teaching.  Even denominational people have a different approach to the Scriptures and to biblical authority.  Thus, go to the godly for council, but, even then, we must make sure their advice is biblically based.