Authority in Religion

George W. Toland

We approach our subject with the greatest of caution, because we are deeply sensitive of the vast amount of indifference extant in the world today in the matter of authority in religion.

To say that such indifference leads dangerously near the borders of skepticism and infidelity is perhaps putting it but mildly, because such indifference has given rise to a multiplicity of religions, doctrines, and creeds that only confuse the minds of earnest seekers of the truth, and in many instances turn men aside from this most blessed quest in life—that of finding and obeying the gospel of our Lord.

Because of the gravity of the matter, it seems that the subject is a deserving one and should be carefully considered and studied by every lover of truth.

Then too, it’s true that men deal with religion more loosely than with any other thing in life, and anything that bears the name of religion is accepted without investigation or thought, just so it is called “religion.”

This very thing has led to the conclusion that many seem to have reached that “It doesn’t matter what we believe, just so one is religious. God will accept us at the last day because we were sincere.”

Such things have led many to formulate their own religion, and their own conception of things is to them final and conclusive, so that the word of God has little room in their thoughts. There is no doubt that this form of skepticism is at this very time one of the greatest obstacles to the progress of the truth and the church of the Living God.

From the very beginning, God has required of men a recognition of His wisdom, his power, and his authority. When God said, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it” (Gen. 16-17), He spoke authoritatively, and it was expected of man that he should so understand.

A religion existing without divine authority is not unlike the shifting sands, so that one can never know what it may be on the morrow. It is no wonder that Jeremiah the prophet said, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself” (Jer. 10:23). Man can never by his own authority and wisdom make a religion in which there is the slightest hope of eternal life.

Again, when God delivered Israel from the Egyptians and their cruel bondage, Moses called them and said, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them and observe to do them” (Deut. 5:1). God has ever required this of man. A religion that does not observe the authority of God is not worthy of serious thought by the earnest seeker, and is to be rejected by everyone who sincerely desires the guidance of our heavenly Father.

In Deuteronomy 5:1-5, Moses said,

Jehovah spake with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire (I stood between Jehovah and you at that time, to show you the word of Jehovah: for ye were afraid because of the fire, and went not up into the mount), saying, I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt.

There he gave them the law and that law was their sole authority for every act of worship and service.

That covenant which God made with them, when Moses stood between them and God, continued until a new one came into being, in which all nations could participate and benefit. In Jeremiah 31:31, God declared he would make a new covenant, not like that one, in which there would be forgiveness of sins. “A new covenant… not like the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.” That law and that covenant was their law and their covenant, and their authority in the matter of religion.

But now we are living in a new dispensation in which the law they had has been fulfilled, brought to an end and taken away by the death of Christ. Paul declares the law of Moses was “nailed to the cross,” that Christ “took it out of the way” (Col. 2).

Just as Moses stood “between” the Israelites and God, so does Christ stand between all men and God in our day, the age of grace, the gospel age.

But now [in the gospel age, at this time] hath he [Christ] obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so much as he [Christ] is also the mediator [one who stands between] of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises” (Heb. 8:6).

That old covenant was to a nation, but the new covenant of which Christ is mediator is to all nations, to all people of all the world. Therefore, Jesus our mediator said in Mark 16:15-16, “Go… preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” In Matthew 28, the command is to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them… teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

Just as Israel was taught to observe and do the things required of them in their covenant, so all men today are taught to observe all things Jesus commanded and taught. May we realize that Christ and Christ alone, his word and it alone, is now, in this gospel age, our sole authority in religion, and that only where the Bible speaks should we speak. We are commanded to speak only as the oracles of God speak (1 Pet. 4:11).

Our life on earth is only a span and in judgment we shall all be judged by Christ’s word (John 12:48)—not by what Christ doesn’t say, but by the things which he has commanded. He is our sole authority today and he has spoken through the New Testament, from which there is no appeal.

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Author: Editor

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