Some Standards of Authority (3)

Clinton D. Hamilton
Tampa, Florida

Conflicting standards of authority in religion result in diverse doctrines and practices. Multiplicity of doctrines and of churches cause many people to become discouraged and even disgusted. One of the principal causes of unbelief is the division among those who claim to be Christians.

Jesus prayed that His disciples might be one "even as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee." But why did He pray thus? "That the world may believe that thou didst send me" (John 17:21). One of the most effective arguments for Christianity is the unity of the saints. If each person professing to be a Christian accepted the right standard, and faithfully discharged his duty, there would be unity among God's people. Previously we have studied the appeal to conscience and to human reason. This lesson deals with the appeal made to human creeds formulated bv ecclesiastical bodies.

Creeds of Men

A creed is supposed to be a statement of belief. The New Testament should be the doctrine believed by every Christian, for we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). There is no need for one to formulate a creed or a document expressing certain doctrines. If a creed states only what the New Testament does, there is no need for it. If a creed states either less than or more than the New Testament, then it is wrong. True, we need to study and to teach one another, but to write up something for men to believe is most presumptive, for God has caused to be written the doctrine which He wants men to believe and obey.

Being sent from God and Christ, it was the work of the Holy Spirit to guide certain men in making, of God's revelation (Jn. 14:26; 15:25-26; 16:7-13; I Cor. 2:13 ; I Thess. 2:13). This revelation is in the New Testament. No man nor group of men was ever authorized to add to or to alter this revelation originally given. It was the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). A group of men meeting in an ecclesiastical assembly established by the will of man cannot speak for God. To appeal to the works of such ecclesiastical groups for authority in religion is to leave the pure word of God, and appeal to human wisdom. We have already learned that it is not in man that walks to direct his steps (Jer. 10:23). It is just as wrong to appeal to human authority outside one's self as it is to appeal to one's own reason. Both (one's reason and that of another) are fallible.

God made known an infallible law. We are insured of the infallibility of the New Testament because those who wrote it were guided by the Holy Spirit. They spake from God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), and made known a complete system. There is no need for amendment.

What the apostles revealed had already been bound in heaven. Christ is the lawgiver of the New Covenant; it was His death that sealed the will (Heb. 9:16-17). All that remains so far as man is concerned is for man to obey the will.

Men cannot add anything to that complete law for it furnishes us completely unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). An appeal to an ecclesiastical body established by men and regulated by men's laws is a rejection of the rule of God. We would be in the same jeopardy as those in the day of Jesus who appealed to the traditions of the elders. Those were human authorities whose decrees God did not authorize. Jesus condemned them in the severest language (Matt. 15:lff; Mk. 7:lff). Those who would leave the word of God now, and appeal to the decrees of human assemblies or traditions handed down by ecclesiastics are just as wrong as those who did so in the days of Christ on earth. We should accept no authority except Christ; His will is the New Testament.

Truth Magazine III:8, p. 1
May 1959