Some Standards of Authority (2)
By what authority something is done should be the concern of every one in matters religious. The last lesson dealt with conscience as authority one might practice in religion. God's word teaches that one should act in harmony with his conscience, but the conscience must have the proper standard, the word of God. One's standard, his training, and environment might lead him to believe error with a good conscience. It is not enough just to have a good conscience. One must also have the truth of God. To what other authority do men sometimes appeal?
The ability to think and to arrive at conclusions (having considered the evidence) are wonderful attributes of man. Reason properly used and guided glorifies God. But human reason unaided by divine revelation cannot bring us into the proper relation with God. It is true that God's power and divinity can be observed in the natural creation, but the desire of God for man (in the way of conduct) can only be learned by a study of the revelation supernaturally given - the Bible.
If one were to devise a plan by his own reason whereby he could be saved, salvation would be a matter of works and not faith. Yet we are told that we are saved by faith and not by works (Eph. 2:8). We are saved by grace through faith. But faith is a work of God (Jn. 6:29). Not that the faith is miraculously produced; it is not. For faith comes of hearing the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:17). When one believes and acts in harmony with the demands of genuine faith, he is following a plan devised by God, and not by human reason. One exercises his reason to understand what God reveals, but not to devise a system whereby he can be saved.
The world by its wisdom did not know God, and it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (I Cor. 1:21). Far too many people now feel that if they think the thing is right then it is. Right and wrong are determined by God, and not by man. The word of God is the expression of the will of God. By it one knows right and wrong. All the thinking one may do cannot change what God said, for scripture cannot be broken or loosed from force once it is bound (John 10:34-35).
Walking by human reason is walking by sight. But those who please God must walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Since faith comes of hearing the word of Christ, it follows that God's word is that which should direct one, and not his own reason. Should one walk by his own reason, the way of man would be within himself, but the way of man is not in himself, for it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps (Jer. 10:23). We need, and we must appeal to an authority above our own minds or reason.
God is the maker of our minds, and the author of the Bible. His word was designed to appeal to the rationality, the mind, of man. This is revealed in Peter's statement concerning the word of God. He says that it is the sincere or reasonable milk (I Pet. 2:1ff). The idea is that the word of God appeals to the reason. In fact, faith is the evidence of things not seen, and the confidence of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1). God intended that human reason be exercised. When one studies God's revelation, his mind is exercised fully. There must be a sifting of the evidence, and a drawing of conclusions based on certain truths. This exercise of the mind by diligent study to learn God's desire, or will, for man is a high and elevated use of human reason. Without this use of our minds, we cannot be saved ( Heb. 5:12ff). But, we should never feel that we can devise our own system of salvation apart from God revealed in His word.
To appeal to one's own reason without reference to the New Testament is to reject God, and to turn to one's own ways. For centuries before the coming of Christ, men demonstrated the folly of such an approach.
Truth Magazine III:7, p. 1