We live in a time where men will call on the name of the Lord and glorify Him with their lips while still having idols in their hearts (Ezek. 14:1-3). As a result, division, divisiveness and contention plague the religious world. Where is all of this coming from? Why the division? Because men who do not love the truth claim to serve God but have no desire to know or do the will of God (2 Thess. 2:9-12). With their lips they praise Him, but their hearts do not seek Him. In short, we live in a time where men want to put the name of Jesus on everything that they do, but are unwilling to seek authority for anything that they do. We live in a world where man's religion is motivated by the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life, instead of a love for God.
However, if we want to be pleasing to God, if we want to prove ourselves separate from the world and therefore free from the condemnation that is in the world, then we must follow in the steps of Jesus Christ who lived on this earth by the simple rule, "I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him to sent Me" (John 6:38). In this lesson we are going to discuss our need for finding Bible authority for all that we do. Let us keep in mind throughout this study the fact that if Jesus, as the Son of God, did only that for which He had been given authority by the Father, how much greater need we have to seek that same authority!
Our Souls Depent On It
Those who claim to do God's will but do not seek His authority are working very hard to convince us that we do not need God's express permission for everything we do. Many have said, "God just wants us to worship Him, He doesn't care how we do it." But, what would Cain have said to these people if they had told him God is happy with any worship (Gen. 4:3-7)? What would Nadab and Abihu have said if we told them God does not care how we worship Him, seeing that they were struck dead for offering "strange fire which the Lord had not commanded" (Lev. 10:1-3). What would Jesus have said if we told Him that the Father does not really care how we worship Him? The Bible tells us exactly what He would have said, because He already said it in Matt. 15:9: "In vain they worship Me teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."
In John 4:23-24 Jesus tells us that it does matter how we worship God, "for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth" (emph. mine, DP). Jesus also tells us what He will say on the judgment day to those who will not respect God's authority, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" (Matt. 7:23). Why do we need authority for what we do? Because our souls depend on it! No matter how sincerely men preach that God is pleased with us as long as we believe, God give us a very different picture! "Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17).
Deliverance from Self-conceit
In this day and age men have become so conceited that we actually believe we are more enlightened than any generation before us. So much so that it is claimed that even the Bible is "outdated" by our progress. Sadly, men today believe that our level of human reasoning has surpassed even that of God. When pointed to a Scripture that condemns homosexuality during a discussion on the issue, one woman plainly said, "God is just wrong." But we must not fail to see that it is this sort of arrogance that Bible authority is able to deliver us from. "Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for 'God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.' Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Pet. 5:5-7).
We think that we have gone a notch above God, but God tells us, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12). We think we have outwitted God, but He assures us, "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their own craftiness'; and again, 'The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile'" (1 Cor. 3:19-20). We think that we have more wisdom, more enlightenment and more righteousness than God even though He assures us saying, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isa. 55:8-9).
Why do we need Bible authority? To save us from our own conceit and arrogance. That is why we are told, "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other" (1 Cor. 4:6). How do we avoid exalting ourselves above the wisdom of God? By submitting wholeheartedly to His word. By not allowing our minds to wonder beyond the realm of divine revelation when it comes to spiritual and religious matters. By seeking Bible authority for all that we do. We have been warned, lest we begin to thing that we have achieve a higher level of understanding than that revealed in the Bible, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled" (2 Cor. 10:4-6). This punishment will be upon us if we exalt ourselves against the knowledge of God. God created us. He will also judge us.
Unity Requires It
One of the great benefits of establishing Bible authority is that it helps keep the unity in the church which Jesus so earnestly prayed for in John 17:20-23. Unity is something that we all can appreciate. Indeed, most people in the religious world seek unity. Their efforts in this, however, often conflict with their lack of obedience to God's will. As a result we see doctrines such as "unity in diversity" and "agreeing to disagree" spreading like wild fire.
By appealing to these doctrines men are not trying to find the unity that Jesus prayed for, but a way to do what they want without being condemned by anyone else. Paul tells us, however, that the only way to have true unity in the church is by "speaking the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10). The only way any group of people is able to "speak the same thing" and "have the same mind" is if they all appeal to one standard. In this case, the Bible. "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commands of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37).
Nevertheless, there are some who blame the Bible for the religious division found in the world, saying, "The Bible is too complicated, we cannot all understand it alike." God, on the other hand, promises that when we read the Scriptures we can understand (Eph. 3:4). Along with this promise, we are also commanded to understand (Eph. 5:8, 10, 17). If we are willing to apply diligence to truly knowing and understanding the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15), then we can come to the unity of the faith. But we must first put on humility and the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10; James 4:7-10). "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21).
Necessary for Pleasing God
If it has not already been made clear in each of the previous points, let it be made clear here, that in order to be pleasing to God we must have authority for all that we do. If we love God, then we will obey His commandments (John 14:15). If we want to know God then we will obey His commandments (1 John 2:3-6). If we want to have Jesus with us "even unto the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20), then we must learn to "observe all that (He) commanded." Finally, if we want to have fellowship with God and to have God in all that we do, we must avoid going outside of His doctrine. For it is written, "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him" (2 John 9-10). If we want to abide in the Father we must have authority from the Scriptures for all that we do; for our worship, for the work that the church does, for our personal attitude, for our good works. If anything we do is not authorized by God's word then it does not please God.
"Failure to recognize the need for authority in religion shows that we have failed to learn a basic Bible principle governing acceptability with God. We may act without authority from God, but we cannot do so and have God's approval and fellowship (2 John 9-11)" (Moore, A Study of Authority, pg. 6). If we want to be God's children we must strive to please Him and to make ourselves right with Him. In order to do this, we must learn to fear God (have a healthy respect for Him) enough to submit to His will. Let us not be led astray by the philosophies of this world which say we should be able to do whatever we want. That is the same attitude that led Israel into captivity (Isa. 1:19-20). Authority is not a bad thing. The entire universe retains its organization because it follows a set of unchangeable laws. The same God that organized the universe gave us the Bible. We can have salvation for our souls if we are willing to appeal to that standard.