It is evident from the religious condition of our world that many are unconcerned about what God has spoken. Jesus taught that there were some in His day who were more concerned about the traditions of men rather than the commandments of God. It had become so bad that the religious teachers of His day would "transgress the commandment of God" by their traditions (Matthew 15:3). Thus, they "made the commandment of God of none effect" by laying aside the commandment of God, while holding the tradition of men (Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:8). The problem in Jesus' day and in our day is an improper regard for the authority of God's word.
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
In Luke 8:5-8, Jesus taught the parable of the sower. "A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
After the disciples questioned Jesus as to the meaning of this parable, Jesus explained that "the seed is the word of God" which was sowed upon the hearts of men (Luke 8:11-15). Each of the four cases began with hearing the word of God. However, the reaction in each case was quite different. Some would not believe. Others believed and because of trials fell away. Still others believed and were choked with the "cares and riches and pleasures of this life." In contrast to these reactions, there were some "honest and good hearts" who, having heard the word of God, obeyed it. After this explanation, Jesus made application with these words, "Take heed therefore how ye hear" (Luke 8:18).
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Within any kingdom there are certain components that must exist. First, a kingdom must have a king. In the kingdom of God, the king is Christ (Luke 19:38). Second, a kingdom must have citizens. Christians are the citizens of the kingdom of God (Ephesians 2:19). Third, a kingdom must have a law. The law of the kingdom of God is the New Testament (James 1:25; Hebrews 7:22). The citizens of a kingdom must live according to its law or they must suffer the consequence of disobedience. So, it is in the kingdom of God. Christians must serve Christ, the king, according to the "law of liberty" which is the New Testament.
THE FINAL AUTHORITY
God's word clearly teaches that absolutely no one is to add to it or take from it. The last words that were inspired of God which are those recorded by the apostle John contained the following warning. "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19) Thus, the words contained in the Bible are the final authority since no one can add to them or take from them without suffering the consequence of disobedience.
In Galatians 1:6-9, we learn that some in the churches of Galatia were "soon removed" by "another gospel." The text says: "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
Here Paul stresses that the gospel should not be changed or perverted by anyone, not even "an angel from heaven"! Again the consequence of such a change is accounted—"let him be accursed." The responsibility to keep the gospel pure should weigh heavily upon all who preach and teach. However, the specific responsibility spoken here in Galatians 1 is for the listener. As a listener, we should want only and be willing only to accept what the Bible teaches, for all else is perversion which leads to being accursed.
By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter wrote, "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue" (2 Peter 1:3). Since God has given us "all things that pertain unto life and godliness," there is no need for any supplement. Further, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 the apostle Paul recorded, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Since the word of God will "throughly furnish" the man of God, there is no need for anything else.
In 2 John 9 the Bible warns, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son." "Whosoever transgresseth" means "whosoever goeth onward" (American Standard Version). It is the responsibility of each person not to run ahead or go beyond the doctrine of Christ. In our practice of religion, we must do only that which is authorized in the Holy Scripture.
In John 12:48 Jesus taught, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." In Matthew 7:21 Jesus also taught, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." In both passages we see that obedience is necessary and the standard for obedience is the word of God. Since we will be judged according to the word of God, God's word must be the final authority.
OBEDIENCE—FAITH AND LOVE
Obedience is a demonstration of our love for God. Jesus instructed, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). There is a vast difference between loving in words and loving in deed and truth. The apostle John proclaimed, "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). Earlier in the epistle John said, "whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him" (1 John 2:5). Therefore, we understand that if we truly love God, we will obey His will.
Obedience is a demonstration of our faith in God. James penned, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:17-20)
Further, James 2:24 says, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." To conclude this thought James recorded, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26). The statement "show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works" clearly shows that obedience is a demonstration of faith.
A reason for needing divine authority in all matters of religion is as Isaiah wrote concerning God, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8). Since man's ways are not God's ways, men must bring their wills into submission to God's will. In Proverbs 14:12 the Bible informs us of the end of man's ways, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Therefore, when it comes to matters of religion, man must always remember the exhortation of the apostle Paul, "whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name (or by the authority) of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17).
Questions for Lesson 14
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