The Folly of Directing One's Own Steps
"0 Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps" (Jer. 10:23). This statement from the pen of Jeremiah declares the inability of man to chart his own course religiously. The recorded history of God's dealing with man demonstrates the truthfulness of this statement. Whenever man humbly submitted himself to the will of God and walked in his way, he was abundantly blessed. Enoch was translated that he should not see death because he committed his steps to the direction of his Creator and thus was said to have "walked with God." But whenever man rejected any or all of the directions of God and sought to be the master of his own steps, he was cursed. Cain refused to worship as God commanded him and his worship was rejected. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire which God had not commanded and were destroyed on the spot.
The religious world today operates more in the realm of substitution than in the realm of revelation. Almost every phase of God's plan for the doctrine, faith and practice of the church has been changed by substitution in the denominational world. Such alterations in God's plan for the church indicates clearly that those who make and accept them are more interested in directing their own steps than in being well-pleasing unto God.
Churches of human origin have been substituted for the one true church for which Christ died. Christ never built but one church. "And upon this rock I Will build MY CHURCH: and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). This was according to God's eternal purpose "which he purposed in Christ Jesus Our Lord" (Eph. 3:10-11). God purposed none other than the one Christ built and he gave no authorization for the building of any other. In fact, God has warned against and declared the foolishness of any attempt made by man to build any other. "Except Jehovah build the house, they labor in vain that build it" (Psa. 127:1). "Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15:13). It matters not how much labor and sacrifice goes into the building and maintaining of a manmade church, the Lord pronounces it "vain" and foretells its inevitable destruction.
Doctrines of purely human origin have been substituted for the authority of Christ set forth in the New Testament. All authority belongs to Christ (Matt. 28:18); and his word, the New Testament, is all-sufficient as the standard of authority in religion (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Whatever is done, therefore, in the realm of religion, must he done by his authority or by the New Testament's direction. "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17). Every denomination has its own peculiar doctrines which are unknown to the New Testament and are, for that reason, foreign to the authority of Christ. These doctrines originated with men, were set forth in creedal form by men, and were accepted as the standard of belief in churches founded by men. For instance, the doctrines of Luther were the basis for the Augsburg Confession which became the official Confession of the Lutheran Church. And the doctrines of John Calvin were formulated into the Westminster Confession and became the guiding light of the Presbyterian Church. The foolishness of accepting human doctrines is evident from such passages as these. "But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema" (Gal. 1:8). "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God" (2 John 9).
Close akin to human doctrines as authoritative in religion are human traditions. Many substitutions have been made in religious matters solely on the ground of human tradition. Religious leaders of Christ's day sought to bind the traditions of the elders such as washing the hands as a religious act. Concerning this thing Christ said, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 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" (Mark 7:6-7). These people were making laws out of human tradition and were condemned for so doing. Innovations become accepted things through human tradition. Someone recently pointed out three stages of innovation. (1 ) There is the practice with mutual consent before and without examination. (2) It is defended when opposition arises. And (3) it becomes bound on the church as an essential. This is the route of instrumental music and the missionary societies. The religious observance of special holy days such as Easter and Christmas are without scriptural authority and have been accepted by tradition. For one to allow his steps to be guided by human tradition rather than the Word of God is wrong because it violates the authority of Christ.
As an outgrowth of the acceptance of human doctrines and traditions as guides in religion, many substitutions in practice have been accepted. Humanly devised names have been substituted for the name of Christ. We hear it said that there is nothing in a name. But the Bible says the very opposite. "And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Christians are commanded to glorify God in the name Christian. "For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or in evildoer, or a meddler in other men's matters: but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name" (I Pet. 4:15-16). When the saints at Corinth started the practice of wearing human names, saying I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas," Paul condemned the thing and declared it was an evidence of carnality (I Cor. 3:1-5). If it was carnal to wear the name of Paul or Apollos, by what reasoning can men wear such names as Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian and think it pleasing to God?
Faith only and praying for salvation have been substituted for gospel obedience. Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Matt. 16:16). James declares that justification is "not only by faith" but requires works of obedience (James 2:20-26). No sinner was saved in New Testament times by faith only. This is a doctrine that originated with man and will damn the soul of those who are deceived thereby. Nor was any sinner ever pardoned of alien sins through prayer. In every instance obedience to the gospel was required by the inspired preachers. Saul was praying when Ananias came to tell him what he must do. He was not told that his prayer saved him but rather "And now why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16). Salvation by faith only and salvation by prayer without obedience to the gospel rest on no authority higher than man. They are manmade substitutes and will not be accepted by the Lord. "Not every one that saith onto, me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven" ( Matt. 7:21 ).
"It is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps." Therefore, God has provided him with complete instructions as to the way he should go. It is the height of foolishness for man to disregard what God says and substitute his own will. God will not accept such. Substitution of our will for the Lord's is rebellion and disobedience, and those guilty of such are not well-pleasing to God. What God authorizes we must do; what he does not authorize we dare not do.
Truth Magazine III:9, pp. 18-19