OUR STANDARD OF AUTHORITY IN RELIGION
To be able to agree in religion, we must have the same rules to follow. If we follow different rules, we will never be able to be united. We will first discuss what is not our standard of authority. It is not our opinions. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). If our opinions were the standard of authority in religion, there would be more than five billion standards of authority in this world.
It is not what most people think is not our authority in religion (Mt. 7:13,14). Jesus tells us there are only two roads that we can travel. We will travel the broad way that leads to destruction, or the narrow way which leads to life. All roads do not lead to heaven! There is a right way and a wrong way. As the writer Jeremiah said, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). If we want to travel from New York to California, we do not travel northeast. We have to travel the right way to go to the right place. We have to follow the road map. We do not say, “well, it feels all right to me.”
The traditions of our ancestors are not the authority in religion. Jesus said, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:3,6b-9). The apostle Peter added, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1 Peter 1:18-20). Again, if traditions were our guide in religion, there would be thousands of standards of religion.
Zeal or sincerity is not our standard of authority. Paul wrote concerning the Jews, “Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's rightousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:1-3). The apostle Paul was one of the most zealous and sincere individuals who ever lived, but his zeal and sincerity were not enough to save him. He still had to obey the commands of God.
The apostle Paul also helps us to know that our feelings and our conscience are not our guide in religion (Acts 26:9; 23:1; 24:16). This is one of the main reasons that people are divided into many different religions. They follow their feelings and their conscience instead of the word of God. Our conscience is only a safe guide when it is guided by the word of God.
Denominational creeds are not the standard of authority in religion. In fact, denominational creeds cause much of the religious division in the world. If a book has more in it than the Bible, it is too much. If a book has less in it than the Bible, it is too little. If it has exactly the same in it as the Bible, we do not need it because we already have the Bible. The Bible tells us we are not to add to, take away, or change the word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18,19; Galatians 1:6-9).
Our Standard Of Authority - The Word Of God
Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The truth is our standard of authority in religion. Jesus added, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Peter wrote, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and abides forever.... But the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:22,23,25). Paul wrote, “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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17). He added, “To which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Paul also said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes; for the Jew first, and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
It is the truth, the word of God, the gospel, the scriptures that is our standard of authority in religion. It is when we follow the scriptures and the scriptures alone that we please God and are able to receive his blessings.