Picture the following situation. Two men are told to measure a board. The first man uses a yardstick which is three inches too short while the second man uses a yardstick which is two inches too long. The men would measure the board and get two different lengths for the same board. The obvious reason for the men getting the different measurements would be that both had used a different standard of measurement. Each man might think that he is right and confusion would probably result.
Today, in the religious world, there is much confusion. There are various reasons for this, but perhaps one important reason is that there are too many sources of authority being used. Most of the religious people in today's society believe, at least to some extent, that the Bible is to be our source of authority. However, these people may not accept the Bible as the only source of authority. Further, even when they say they do, they will sometimes turn to other sources of authority when unable to justify something that they are practicing religiously. Let us consider some inappropriate standards of authority that are commonly used today to justify religious practices.
Some people use the concept of the majority as a standard of right and wrong in religious matters. They feel that if a majority of the people are practicing a particular thing, then it cannot be wrong. They might say, "Why, there are millions in the religious group that I am a part of," or "there are many who believe as I believe." Does the fact that a majority believes a certain thing make it right? Is it correct to use the majority as our source of authority or to believe a certain way simply because so many others do?
It should be obvious that the majority is not to be our standard of authority, because, if it is, truth would change as we change locations. The beliefs of the majority about a certain matter may be different in the South than they are in the North. Also, the views of the majority may vary from country to country. Some countries, for example, consist of populations of people who do not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. If a person uses the majority as his standard, it would seem that he would need to change his belief every time that he changed locations when the majority of the people in the new location believed differently than the majority in his old location.
Consider a few Bible principles. Exodus 23:2 warns, "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil...." Also, Matthew 7:13-14 shows the great mistake of this standard as it says, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." In some situations, there is safety in numbers. However, this concept is not correct in spiritual matters. We must not use the majority as our source of authority.
Others use their conscience as their standard of authority. This, however, cannot be a correct standard as it is possible for a person to have a good conscience and yet be in sin. Consider the case of Paul. Paul, previous to his conversion, was a persecutor of Christians. We are told that during this time he had a good conscience. Acts 23:1 says, "...I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." Also, in Acts 26:9, he said, "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." A conscience may be programmed incorrectly, and, thus, a person could have a good conscience and still be in sin. Surely, the conscience, by itself, is not a correct standard of authority. A conscience must be properly programmed according to God's Word.
There are others whose parents are their source of authority in religious matters. These will not accept the truth on certain subjects because their parents did not believe that way. Surely this is a wrong source of authority. We must always honor our parents. However, it is possible that they may have been wrong in their beliefs and practices. We must not reject truth simply because it is contrary to what our parents believed. Matthew 10:37 says, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me...."
There are still others who follow their feelings as their authority. Surely we recognize this as an unsafe guide. How many times have we felt that something would happen, and yet it did not happen? It is obvious that we cannot always trust our feelings. Nevertheless, some people will say, "I know that I am saved because I feel that I am saved." They will say this and just ignore what the Bible teaches about salvation. These individuals might further say something such as, "I would not give up this feeling that I have in my heart for a whole stack of Bibles." Sadly, these individuals have their feelings as their authority. This is a most regrettable attitude.
Proverbs 16:25 states a very important truth. It says, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death." As we have previously noted, Paul felt that he was right when he persecuted Christians.
What is to be our Authority?
So far, we have noticed standards that are not to be our authority. Our authority is not to be the majority, the conscience, our parents, or our feelings. What then is to be our authority? Our authority is to be God's Word. The Bible is to be our guide; it is to be our source of authority.
Consider a few passages. II Timothy 3:16-17 says, "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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." II John 9 says that we must abide in the "doctrine of Christ."
We must accept the Bible, and the Bible only, as our source of authority. These human standards will lead us astray.
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