Some Standards of Authority (1)
Jesus said, "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18). Not all men, however, behave in harmony with this declaration. In their relation to God, many people accept religious laws which Christ never authorized. The tragedy of the whole matter is that so many sincere people honestly believe error. Truly men should be concerned about the authority behind what is practiced in religion. But what are some standards accepted by men?
The ability to pass judgment on one's thoughts and actions belongs peculiarly to man among the creation. Conscience means knowing together with one's self. The judgment is passed on one's thoughts or actions in the light of the standard which one accepts. A Moslem would not have the same concept of right and wrong as that held by the Christian. Their standards of right and wrong are different. The authority behind the standards is likewise different. The Christian accepts the Bible as the only revelation of the mind of God; the Moslem accepts the Bible plus the Koran. Each might be sincere and honest but certainly their concepts would be and are totally different. A pagan believing in the existence of idol gods would have a good conscience in worshiping those images made by men's hands; a Christian could not have a good conscience and so worship. An orthodox Jew denies the Son of God and does so with a good conscience.
The fact that one's conscience is good does not mean he is right because of that fact. Jesus said that except one believe that he is the Son of God, he will die in his sins (John 8 :24). Since the orthodox Jew does not believe this, he will die in his sin but his conscience is good! We must make certain that we both believe the right thing, the truth, and that our conduct is in harmony with the belief.
The way of man is not in himself for it is not in man that walks to direct his steps (Jer. 10:23). Rather we walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). And faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). The New Testament is the expression of the will of Christ, as we learned in the former article. (See December issue.) We must be certain that our religious beliefs are founded on His word and not the doctrines of men. Having ascertained the proper foundation of our beliefs, we should then keep a clear conscience in doing what God revealed.
Conscience aids one in his living, because it is able to make judgments. Sometimes this judgment keeps us from making a wrong choice; sometimes we are goaded for having done wrong. Yes, conscience is valuable and must not be violated. But we must make sure that its judgments are based on the right standard-the Word of God. Christ is the authority for what we do. His will, expressed in the New Testament, is the standard for our behavior. Once we learn this will and believe it, our conscience can pass judgment on our conduct.
When he was a devout Jew, Saul of Tarsus confidently believed that he should do many things contrary to Jesus of Nazareth which things he did (Acts 26:9), and was the chief of sinners (I Tim. 1:13). But all these acts against Jesus were done in a good conscience (Acts 23 :1). Teaching men to obey Christ, edifying the church of which he once made havoc, and suffering for Christ whom he once persecuted, Paul was no less conscientious (Acts 23:1 ; Phil. 3 :1-14). What happened ? Paul had a good conscience when he was Saul, the persecutor, and when he was Paul, the apostle of Christ. His authority changed, and so did his standard. He accepted only the Old Testament as Saul, the persecutor, and as Paul, the apostle, he accepted Christ and the New Testament as the expression of His will. This man clearly shows the danger of a man's trust in his good conscience alone. He must have both the right standard and a good conscience.
It is necessary to have a good conscience. It is also necessary to believe the right things. What is your standard ?
Truth Magazine III:6, pp. 1, 14