Religious Authority
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus," Paul suggests in Philippians 2:5-7, "who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men."
Jesus leaves His place in heaven to come to earth. With only three decades of life behind Him, He begins His ministry. He heals the physically sick and calls the spiritually dead. He selects a dozen men and then spends the next three years molding their lives and souls. They are changed for eternity. Then He does something unexpected. He allows Himself to be arrested and crucified.
"And being found in appearance as a man," Paul continues in Philippians 2:8, "He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
But the grave can never hold the Son of God. Within three days He is once again touching the lives of His followers.
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received," Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. "
In harmony with God's plan, the Lord leaves His followers to build and nurture His kingdom, His body, the church.
"Husbands, love your wives," Paul urges in Ephesians 5:25-27, "just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless."
The Master leaves behind a kingdom which is stronger than death itself.
"Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it," Jesus states in Matthew 16:18 of Peter's confession of Him as the Christ.
Nothing can conquer the kingdom. But there is no promise that it would never suffer damage. There is no promise that apostasy would not occur. There is no promise that the Devil would be unable to lead many astray. In fact, the New Testament warns against apostasy. Nearly every book in the New Testament contains a caution against false teachers.
"Preach the word;" Paul charges in 2 Timothy 4:2-4, "be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but {wanting} to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths."
"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you," the Ephesian elders are warned in Acts 20:29-30, "not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them."
Do the Christians in Ephesus heed Paul's inspired warning?
"But I have {this} against you," Jesus cautions the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4-5, "that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place-- unless you repent."
Before the first century draws to a close, the Lord's followers have started to forget the admonition He gave while still on earth.
"You hypocrites," Jesus cries out in Matthew 15:7-9, "rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'"
Jesus leaves heaven and comes to earth. He lives and dies to establish the church. As soon as He is gone, people begin to abandon His instructions and substitute their own ideas.
Satan may inflict great damage on the Lord's church. But He can never destroy it. Through the centuries, there have been those who have insisted on shunning man-made innovations in favor of the pure, simple truth of God's Word. And it is in this spirit that we make a sincere plea. In the grace of God, through the Lordship of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit and the inspired Word, we appeal for you to abandon all of the man-made doctrines which separate those who would seek to serve God. As we have discussed many times, there can be no God-approved union without unity, and there can be no unity without agreement on God's Will. We cannot agree to disagree doctrinally and still be pleasing to God.
Such a step might not demand great changes in your lifestyles. You're good people. But, sadly, a good lifestyle will save no one.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Paul writes in Romans 3:23.
Such a step might call for little change in lifestyle, but it would still require great strength and courage on your part. It would demand that you re-think what you have been taught about salvation, about worship and about the organization of the church. It would expect that you start by giving sincere thought to biblical authority. Have you noticed any changes recently in what is commonly referred to as "Christianity"? Are you aware of changes being made in various denominations? Have you experienced any in your own? We will never achieve unity through these changes. Worse yet, we will never draw closer to God. We will only drift farther away.
We already know what denominational leaders have to say about Biblical authority. While claiming to follow the Bible, their actions betray them. When asked about a particular doctrine, their responses involve theology and changing times. But what does the New Testament reveal about Biblical authority? Consider the following thoughts along with the supporting passages.
Some claim that the Bible is simply a collection of human writings. Others suggest that the Bible is contaminated by the biases of the human writers.
"These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you," Jesus states in John 14:25-26. "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."
"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth;" the Lord adds in John 16:13-14, "for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose {it} to you."
"If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual," Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:37-38, "let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize {this}, he is not recognized."
"But know this first of all," 2 Peter 1:20-21 warns, "that no prophecy of Scripture is {a matter} of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."
Some would suggest that God never intended for us to use the Bible as a rule book.
"Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me," Paul instructs in 2 Timothy 1:13, "in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus."
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth," the apostle commands in 2 Timothy 2:15.
"You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of," Paul stresses in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, "knowing from whom you have learned {them}; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."
"Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes," we read in 1 Corinthians 4:6, "that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other."
Some say that God's will is constantly changing and evolving.
"But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed," Paul responds in Galatians 1:8-9. "As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed."
"Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation," we find in Jude verse 3, "I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints."
Some maintain that it does not matter what we teach, as long as we claim to love God.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven;" Jesus indicates in Matthew 7:21, "but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven."
"Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God;" we note in 2 John verses 9-11, "the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into {your} house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds."
Some would even propose that our eternal destiny does not hinge on our dedication to God's Word.
"Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy," Revelation 1:3 promises, "and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near."
"I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book," Jesus declares in Revelation 22:18-19, "and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book."
We have dedicated other studies to examining what the Bible has to say about critical topics. But now is the time to make a commitment.
"And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord," the Hebrew leader appeals in Joshua 24:15, "choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
Do you have the strength? Do you have the courage? Will you take a stand for the Lord? Are you willing to join in abandoning man-made doctrines which enslave us and following only the Truth which sets us free?