Jesus Is Better Than the Temple System, Emersonian Self-Reliance, and Winfrey’s “My Truth”

Oprah Winfrey is giving speech

Before Christians were labeled as such, they were known as “Followers of the Way.” Christianity is not another man-made religion, it is the only true WAY, it is THE TRUTH, and it is the only way to eternal LIFE. In the economy of the Old Testament, the way to God was through the Levitical priesthood acting as mediators between God and man, performing repeated sacrifices through an elaborate sacrificial system. When God sent His son, to be the ultimate Priest and Sacrifice, the Old Testament system or covenant ended, and the New Covenant was established.

Jesus’ way is the way of love, humility and service to others. But from an eternal perspective, Jesus’ incarnation eliminated the fragmentation of the Temple system. Under the Old Covenant, righteous behavior was encouraged, or, actually, required by the Law, but forgiveness for sin was achieved by the sacrificial system under the Aaronic priesthood. Christ as the Messiah whose coming was prophesied for about 1300 years brought a unity between personal responsibility and ethics and the removal of sin which required the sacrifice of animals and the priestly system. He was offered as the once-forever sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins through His vicarious atonement at Calvary. In this way, faith alone became central for unlocking the key to obedience regarding righteous behavior by humanity and receiving the forgiveness necessary to spend eternity with God.

Jesus was severely critical of the rulers and priests of His day because they thought way too much of themselves and their supposed goodness. And he revealed that sinful men – sinful just as the rest of the population is sinful – cannot hold the keys to establishing an eternal relationship with a God who requires sinlessness to stand eternally in His presence.  They were not loving or humble, and served themselves above and before anyone else; but above all the priests retained the taint of sin within themselves whatever the outward appearances were. Christ, who was and is the Son of God – meaning God Himself – becomes our true and only High Priest, and thus opened the door to eternal life with God.

Although the Temple sacrificial system no longer exists to distort or challenge the way of Christ,  the proud emphasis of American culture on self-reliance is an ongoing challenge to Christian faith.  The famous American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a landmark essay in the 19th century entitled “Self-Reliance.”  In that essay, there is no mention of Christ, no mention of faith-based and faith-filled following of a holy God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Rather, self-reliance is the end-all and be-all of Emerson’s message.  He had left the Unitarian ministry after his wife died and then took an entirely different path (although to this day Unitarians do not believe that Christ is God as the Son in the Godhead),

However, Emerson’s shift does not change the reality of God in and through Christ.  Jesus calls us to follow Him and deny ourselves.(Matt. 16: 24)  While there is something positive to say about self-reliance as opposed to dependence on the State or others to take care of you, when the “self-reliant” believe, in foolish arrogance, that they did it themselves and either forget or refuse to acknowledge the fact that everything they are and have is totally dependent on their Creator and are gifts from Him, then they’ve lost their way and the Truth is not in them, much like the society surrounding us today.   In the New Testament, the apostle John says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4: 24) The world will tell you that truth is relative. If something is true for you, it might not be true for me. In our culture, Oprah Winfrey started talking about “my truth” in 2018 and since then far too many people are using this phrase.  This is absurd. It is illogical. Something cannot be true and untrue at the same time and in the same manner. This kind of thinking leads to confusion where, “anything goes.”

There is absolute truth and it is found in God. This God, this only God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, has revealed Himself in His Word. To truly know what is right and wrong you need to go to the Source! There is great truth in the Old Testament but, it is often veiled or fragmented. When God Himself became man, in His son, Jesus, everything became clarified, fulfilled, and unified, including the truth. In Christ, all the loose ends come together, perfect harmony is only found in the Savior of the world. Jesus’ command to “Follow Me.” are the greatest words a sinner will ever hear. Do you see the absurdity of turning to other sinners to guide you out of sinning? It can’t happen. Our Lord is sinless.  Obey and follow Him!

Photo: Business Insider

Jeffrey Ludwig and John Hoblin

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About the Author

Jeffrey Ludwig
Jeffrey Ludwig is a semi-retired Pastor of Bible Christian Church who serves as a guest preacher in local churches and teaches philosophy part-time at a university. He is the author of four  books available on and has published over 275 articles online. He has been married for 28 years and he and his wife are proud parents of a grown daughter. Email: