What is Your Standard of
Authority in Matters of Religion?
It seems increasingly common to find men today who deny there is such a thing as absolute truth. These men often deny that a specific belief can be positively defined as truth or error. Sadly, this is many times the case even in matters of religion. Perhaps you have heard someone say, "It doesn’t really matter what a person believes, as long as he is sincere." Or maybe you have heard someone remark, "It doesn’t matter what church you are a member of. We’re all going to heaven; we’re just going down different roads." Consider still another commonly expressed thought, "It doesn’t really matter what we call ourselves, just as long as we all consider ourselves to be Christians."
Whether a person believes absolute truth exists or not is determined by what standard of authority he uses in determining truth. Consider some of the false standards that are so predominant in the minds of many. First, many people use human creeds as their standard. But consider Paul’s words to Timothy, "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" (II Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible provides us with all things that pertain unto life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). Human creeds are unnecessary and can only serve to lead men astray.
Second, many people often go to their parents as a standard of authority. But this too, is a false standard. Though it’s unimaginable that any parent would willingly lead his (or her) children astray, it’s possible for a parent, albeit with good intentions, to cause his children to believe error. Paul wrote "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12). When my life on earth is over and this world comes to an end, I will not be judged according to my parents’ beliefs and behavior, but according to my own beliefs and behavior (Ezekiel 18:20).
Third, many people often go to the majority as a standard of authority. "Surely," they say, "If the majority thinks something is right, it must be right." But this too is a false standard of authority. The Bible teaches we are not to follow a multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2). In reference to following a majority, Jesus said, "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" (Matthew 7:13-14).
Fourth, many people often use their preachers as a standard of authority. "I can trust my preacher. He knows more about the Bible than anyone else I know." But this too is a false standard of authority. John wrote that we are to, "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). We ought to have the attitude of the Bereans who searched the scriptures daily to see whether the things they heard were so (Acts 17:11).
Fifth, many often go to their own preferences, desires, or feelings as a standard of authority. They may ask, "If I feel saved, how can I possibly be lost." They may be members of a particular denomination because it makes them "feel so spiritual." But this too is a false standard of authority. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). Men have often foolishly departed from God by choosing to do that which was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).
The only correct standard of authority is God’s word, the Bible. The Bible, being inspired by God, completely furnishes us unto every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17). Paul wrote, "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. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-10).
Because God’s word is our only authority in matters of religion, it must not be added to, subtracted from, or altered in any way. "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).
Because God’s word is our only authority in matters of religion, we will all one day be judged by the word. Jesus said, "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" (John 12:48). John wrote, "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Revelation 20:11-12).
We can never be united until we accept God’s word as the only standard of authority in matters of religion. Friends, what is your standard?
By Rod Halliburton
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