Teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men

We are all familiar with how often Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees about his teaching and habits. Recall when they questioned him about his disciples' eating without first washing their hands. Certainly in today's culture we all understand that it is just good hygiene to wash before we eat; however, they had taken the teaching of their fathers before them, and made it as though it were a commandment of God. Jesus' response to them was:

Matt. 15:7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Here, Jesus quoted a prophesy from Isaiah 29:13, declaring that God's own chosen people would be hypocritical in that they would give lip service in praising God, but in actuality will have separated themselves from Him because of their doctrines, which were nothing but inventions of their own. This rendered whatever worship they offered completely useless; a waste of time; vain. So it is today when men try to substitute their own doctrines in place of New Testament teachings regarding God's plan of salvation, the way to worship Him, and the organization of the church.

Why is it wrong to substitute the commandments of God with those of man?

Jer. 10:23 O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.

Of all the marvelous things God has given us, and made us to be, He has not given us an innate sense of right and wrong: this must be learned from His word. God, indeed, has given us a powerful tool to sense when something may be wrong (the conscience), but as we must train our minds, we also must train our conscience. We must rely upon God's revelation to mankind: the Bible.

Prov. 14:12 There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

Why is it that, in addition to there being a right way to go, there are so many wrong ways: and, why is it that the many wrong ways are so easily believed? As the wisdom in the Proverbs teaches us, there are ways of living that seem like the end will be life, but instead are only fast tracks to spiritual death. Jesus taught us that more people will be lost than will be saved.

Matt. 7:14 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: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

So, if it is so easy to go the way of destruction (hell), then it stands to reason that there are more people going that way than the strait and narrow. And if is difficult to enter the way which leads to eternal life, then in like reasoning, fewer people will be saved than lost. There is no wiggle room for the strait and narrow way that leads to life; but oh, so easy, to perish everlastingly.

It is the gospel which saves.

Rom. 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

The latter part of that verse is a quotation from: Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Note that those who are just (or justified) shall live by his own faith. This is not to say that whatever one believes, and abides by, will be acceptable to God. Consider how one's faith is acquired and grows. Rom. 10:17 teaches that one's faith comes entirely from the word of God. That being the case, one who lives by his faith is living by that which he has learned from God's word . Therefore, one who lives by his faith lives according to the truth of God's word, not from “every wind of doctrine” which comes along through the ages which contradict sound Biblical teaching.

Substitutions do not suffice.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul was exhorting him to continue in the things Paul had taught him. He was doing so because “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). How bad has it become since those days of which Paul warned Timothy? How much worse can evil men get in their seductive heresies, which on the surface sound good, but when compared with the authoritative word of God, are exposed for what they are: falsehoods which do not deliver salvation, but condemnation instead. Therefore, Paul qualified those “things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” by reminding him that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Tim. 3:14, 16).

That is why it is essential to hear and abide in the word of God, and reject any extra-Biblical doctrines invented by men, such as creeds and disciplines which essentially are meant to be a substitute for the all-sufficient, verbally inspired word of God: the Bible. That is why we speak where the Bible speaks, and where the Bible is silent we remain silent. We do not add to nor take away from the word of God (Rev. 22:18-19). That is why we must appeal to the Bible to answer Bible questions, and to teach us what we must do to be well pleasing to God. That is why we are Christians only, and only Christians. That is why we are members of the church of the New Testament: the church of Christ; not denominated (named) by men who use names which are not in the Bible, and which serve to divide, rather than unite (1 Cor. 1:10-13, Jno. 17:17).

Curtis A. Little, Royse City, TX

Curtis A. Little
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