Bible Basics: The Sin of Substitution

By Earl E. Robertson

When one is dissatisfied with God’s ways yet seeks to be religious, he will make substitution here and there to placate his conscience. Religious people are constantly engaged in substituting the human for the divine. However, one has never been able to arrogate unto himself the power necessary to make nay changes in what God wants in the human family; one’s efforts so presumptuously displayed only call for divine displeasure and judgment. Saul’s substitution (1 Sam. 15) well illustrates this fact.

God teaches us to be holy and righteous. Paul says God’s grace teaches us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Tit. 2:12). There are some who feign this character of living while actually living otherwise. This particular “Christian” will usually attend the Sunday morning service and give nominal service to God. This duplicitous and hypocritical service only salves one’s conscience making it possible for him to continue to lie, cheat, fornicate, dope, and fit into general society while at the sam time “holding to God’s hand”! One cannot substitute a life of lust for the life of purity that God demands.

Prayer is a wonderful blessing but it is often abused and misused. Solomon wrote, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be an abomination” (Prov. 28:9). There is no value to saint or sinner in substituting prayer for the doing of what God says. Prayer was much of the life of Jesus and the early church. The apostles gave themselves continually to prayer (Acts 6:4), and the early Christians prayed without ceasing (Acts 12:5; 1 Thess. 5:17), because praying by the righteous was effectual (James 5:16). Alien sinners are taught by preachers to pray for salvation, but the word of God does not so teach them. Faith, repentance, confession and baptism are the essentials for salvation given by the Lord. Contrary to this plainly states plan, people are trying to “pray through” for salvation. It is a rejection of what God says and a substituting for it. While at the same time some claiming to be Christians flagrantly disobey God – even in the contemplation of it fix prayer in their mind as an escape from God’s judgment. All such substitution is rebellion and disobedience to God. Blessings are to be had in doing his will, not substitution for it. God must have His way!

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 11, p. 338
June 7, 1984