Donald P. Ames
One of the hardest lessons for many to realize is that of the proper authority in religion. Regardless of how easily they may be able to see it in secular matters, many will balk when the same principle is pointed out to be true in matters religious.
Recently, it was my privilege to spend a week-end in Birmingham. While visiting in the office where Driver’s License Examinations are administered, one thing came to my attention. The people would approach the young lady at the desk, desiring their tests so that they might secure their licenses. However, one of the requirements of the state of Alabama is that the applicant must present either his birth certificate, or a statement from the Superintendent of Education, showing he was of the proper age. To many, this seemed utterly useless, and they didn’t see the sense of having to go to all that trouble. Yet, they would recognize it, when it was shown to be in the handbook, and comply therewith. They did not attempt to seek out other states’ books, and claim it wasn’t necessary in them, but accepted the authority under which they were.
So it is in religion. One must recognize the authority under which he is trying to secure the desired goal. In Heb. 5:9, we find, “And having been made perfect, he (Christ) became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation.” So, those seeking eternal salvation, and a desire to live in accordance with Christ’s will, must yield themselves to the authority of Christ. To this, and this alone are they subject.
However, many upon reaching this point, will stop and hold up the religious creeds of denominationalism, and say what is wrong with this? Why can’t I merely comply with the conditions laid down in it? Do you mean it is wrong? For the very same reason that the laws governing the application for Driver’s licenses in Nebraska would not be sufficient in all details in Florida or Alabama, so the creeds and teachings of men are not sufficient in all details for the salvation of the soul. The mere fact they are similar in some points is not sufficient.
You must comply with the authority to which you are subject. In Matt. 15:8-9, 13, Christ points out the error of men seeking their own laws in violation to those he has set forth. Here, he says, “This people honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men…Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up.” So, we learn that Christ will accept no authority, except that which belongs to Him. Again, in Matt. 12:18, we find that Christ now has all authority, and this he delegated fo the twelve apostles (1 John 4:5), who left it for us in the pages of the New Testament. Paul made sure no new points, or new doctrine, would be added later. (Gal. 1:8.)
“Every scripture is inspired of God, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). From this passage we learn that there is no need for any authority other than the word of God, and that regardless of the claims of “good work” done, unless the practice can be found within the pages of the word of God as an authorized one, the Lord will have no recognition of it in the judgment day (Matt. 15:13).
In 1 Cor 4:6 (ASV), Paul cautions them “that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written,” and 2 John 9 adds, “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.” Truly, from these passages we can see the value of learning what the Lord’s will is, and seeking to bring ourselves into subjection to it (Rom. 12:2). Christ has promised to recognize only those who try to so live as to have his authority for all they do (Matt. 7:21). Just as those desiring to secure a driver’s license and become legal drivers, so those desiring to secure eternal life and to become Christians (there will be no “illegal” Christians in Heaven) must comply with the proper authority. May God help us always to be like the Bereans, who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11), for “many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).