Cled E. Wallace
The word of God represents the wisdom of God, the power of God, and the love of God. God has revealed His will to man in the Bible. He has fully outlined and described man’s duty to God and to his fellow man. No one knows the relationship that man sustains to God so well as God himself knew it. To change His word is to change the wisdom, will, and power of God. No sin has been condemned with more frequency and clearness than the sin of changing the word of God. Faith comes by hearing the word of God, and to change the word of God is to destroy the testimony of God upon which faith is founded. It is a high crime against God for man to change His word.
There are different ways by which man sins in changing the word of God. Man may add to the word of God, he may take from it, and he may make substitutions of man’s wisdom for it. Jehovah gave the warning through Moses to His people and said: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Again, He said: “What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (Deut. 12:32). Again, the Holy Spirit said through John:
I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book (Rev. 22:18-19).
These scriptures show that it was possible for man to add to and take from the word of God. They also teach that it is a fearful sin for man to so change the word of God. The prophet Isaiah warned the people by saying: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isa. 5:20-21). This shows that it was possible for man to make substitutions, and put evil for good and good for evil, and the wisdom of man for the wisdom of God. Again, the Holy Spirit condemned the sin of substituting something else for the word of God by saying: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preach unto you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8).
Some think that the quotation from Revelation applies only to that book of the Bible. Truly it does have direct reference to that book, but it is equally true of all that God has said. No one would claim that God has forbidden men to add to or take from the book of Revelation, but permits him to add to and take from other books of the Bible. Man is not permitted to touch with profane hands the word of God and change or modify it in any way.
The whole tenor of the teachings of Jesus warns men against changing the word of God. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). This means that one cannot reject the word of God and enter heaven; one cannot please God except by doing the will of God. The will of God stands between everyone and heaven. This will cannot be set aside; it cannot be added to nor taken from. The will of God must be obeyed by all who would journey the narrow way. Jesus warned the people of that generation and of all generations when He said: “Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, 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” (Matt. 15:7-9). Again, Jesus asked the question: “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matt. 15:3). This means that all worship is vain that adds to, takes from, or substitutes anything for the word of God. The Holy Spirit said through Paul:
If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances? Handle not, nor taste, nor touch (all which things are to perish with the using), after the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh (Col. 2:20-23).
This warns us against all the devices and institutions of men, against all changing and modification of the word of God. The great end of the Bible is to teach man to give up his own ways, wisdom, and will, and accept and follow the will of God. The commandments of God express the will of God and direct man in his worship in the way and wisdom of Jehovah. The teachings of Jehovah all down through the different dispensations have been to bring man under subjection to the will of God and let Jehovah direct his every step in the work and worship of God. When man can learn to love the way of Jehovah, he has learned the way of life; when he shall have learned to follow in humility and reverence the word of God, he has learned the way of life everlasting.