By S. Leonard Tyler
One day Jesus went into the temple and while He was teaching, the chief priest and the elders of the people asked Him, “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” (Matt. 21:23) This was and is a most important question. In fact, is there any question more important in matters of religion? Have you ever stopped long enough to examine your own doctrine to see if it is from heaven or men? It might be wise for all of us to do that.
What does it mean for something to be from heaven? It means that the teaching originates with and comes from God. And to be “of man” means to originate with and come from man. If it is from heaven, one can and must find it in the word of God. If one cannot find his beliefs sustained in the divine record, it is “of man.”
Jesus turned their question on them. He asked, “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” (Matt. 21:25) They reasoned, “If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe?” They were afraid to say, “Of men,” because of the people’s reaction. They said, “We cannot tell.” It was not because they did not know-they did-but because they did not want to be caught in their own trap.
This seems to be the reason so many religious people are reluctant to answer today. They recognize the teaching of Jesus as being from heaven-but will not accept it. They also understand that one has every right to ask, if they say, “From heaven,” “Why do you not accept it?” There is not a reason under heaven that can offset such an argument. Or could it be that many recognize their doctrine is not in the Bible? It did not originate in heaven and they are ashamed to admit that it is of men. So, be honest with yourself in your search for the answer, “From heaven, or of men?”
The Standard Of Measurement Used Classifies The Individual
Paul writing to the Corinthians said,
“For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10: 12). It has always been a human weakness to measure and compare himself with others and endeavor to adjust his own practices by that standard. Style is a good illustration. However, it is not the only thing impressed upon us by what other people do. Our own children use the argument, “Everybody is doing it,”.or “I feel like an outcast, an odd ball, a square, or just ‘out of it’ if I don’t accept it.” But all of us know full well that such reasoning will lead further and further away from a straight course in, life. It will lead one into whatever goes or wherever the wind blows or the tide flows. People are fickle, changing, and there is no end to the corruptions into which this philosophy of life will lead. We cry and rightly should, “No, son or daughter, you cannot be governed by what others do. You must act upon principles — what is right — not on what others do or say. Think for yourself, you will surely have to accept the consequences of your own actions.
But what about it in religion? Must we act upon what others are doing? Or must we not act upon divine principles, yea, truth itself? Because it is one thing for sure-we will reap what we sow. We must, in the final day of the Lord, the day of judgment, accept the consequences of our own lives.
Some Questions To Be Answered
The doctrine of faith only — is it “from heaven, or of men”? The Bible teaches faith and no believer will even question that. But does it teach faith only? John 3:16 teaches that God’s love demands faith but not “faith only.” Romans 5:1 says, “justified by faith” but it does not say “faith only. ” James 2:24 states, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Paul said, “Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). Therefore, the “faith only” doctrine cannot be from heaven and has got to be from men. Yet, you say, “But so many people teach and believe it.” True, but are you going to be governed by what man thinks and does, or by what God thinks and teaches? Are you measuring yourself by others or by God’s eternal standard?
Is the doctrine of salvation before baptism “from heaven, or of men”? Jesus is the Savior, all agree. What does He say about it? He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you . . . for the remission of sins,” and, “The like figure, whereunto, even baptism doeth also now save us” (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21). Paul wrote that “all spiritual blessings” are in Christ, and he said, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:4). One is made free from sin after he obeys or at his obedience, not before (Rom. 6:17-18; 1 Pet. 1:22). Christ is the author of salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9). So the doctrine of salvation before baptism is not from heaven-then it must be of men. By which standard are you living?
Is sprinkling from heaven or of men? The New Testament teaches one is buried with Christ in baptism and is raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Every illustration given in the Bible proves this same truth. Then neither sprinkling nor pouring is from heaven, but of men. The word baptism means immersion. It is from the root bapto and means “to dip.” This is from heaven! Why will you not accept it?
Is the doctrine of one church is just as good as another from heaven or of men? Christ said, “I will build my church.” The inspired writers said, “He is the head of the church which is his body,” or “He is the head of the body, the church,” and also said, “There is one body” (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:15; Eph. 4:4). Then to emphasize it a little more, Christ is the foundation of the church (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 5:23). Does this sound any way like “one church is as good as another”? No, that is not from heaven but of men.
Are The Organizational, Centralized, And Sponsoring Church Arrangements From Heaven Or Of Men?
Heaven’s divine arrangement for the church is the local church with her elders, deacons, and saints through which the Lord’s people are to function as such (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:1-13). This is the highest, biggest, and only Divine organization revealed in the Divine Volume and is a manifestation of the wisdom of Almighty God (Eph. 3: 10-11). The church of Christ is to endure throughout all ages, world without end and through it God receives glory (Eph. 3:21). The local organization is the divine plan to sustain the Lord’s people and in which they become the sustainers and promoters of the Truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
The church of Christ functioned in her completeness in the first century within this divine arrangement without any human attachments. (1) She preached the gospel to the whole world by sending out preachers and supporting them directly (Col. 1:23; Acts 11:22; Phil. 1:5; 4:15-16; 2 Cor. 11:8). In this sense, the church was her own missionary society-no human setups. (2) She edified or built herself up in the most holy faith without human organizations (Eph. 4:16). (3) She cared for her own needy or did her benevolent work so long as she was capable (Acts 2:44-45; 4:35-37; 6:1-7). If one church was unable to support her own, other churches helped the needy church (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8-9; Rom. 15:25-28). This was accomplished within her own God-ordained arrangement.
This divine arrangement worked in the first century. The church held the identical relationship with God then as she has today. She had the same work to do and, I might add for emphasis, more than she could accomplish so far as man could visualize — the need for the gospel was everywhere, the church was young and needed building up, and the poor saints were waiting to be helped. Isn’t it strange that God did not design, Christ establish, nor the Holy Spirit reveal a single one of the human church — sponsoring, organizational, and centralizing arrangements through which to do the church’s work? Do you believe, if the Holy Spirit were here today revealing and confirming the Word, He would reveal and confirm these organizations and arrangements? Are they from “heaven, or of men?”
Why do we have these human arrangements through which the church functions now? To me, it is simple. We are using the wrong standard of measurement. The denominations have their big “set-ups” through which to work, and we believe that we should have the same. Yes, we are measuring ourselves by others. Brother J.F. Dancer, Jr., who preached for the church of Christ, 3474 Winchester Rd., Memphis, TN, had this paragraph in an article under “Double Sunday” in 1971:
The same reasoning led brethren to get the church engaged in acts not authorized in God’s Word. Some reasoned, “We have the Lutheran hour, the Catholic hour, Oral Roberts and Billy Graham, so we need a ‘church of Christ’ hour”and up came the Herald of Truth and World Radio. Others said, “We have the Baptist Hospital, the Methodist Hospital, St. Jude, etc., so we need a Church of Christ Hospital,” and we have some! Some reason that since we have the Salvation Army with the soup kitchens, the Good Will, and the various “downtown missions,” then we need some of our own-and we have them! Not much really care as to whether they were authorized by God, but since we heard of others who are religiously involving themselves in such we ought to do likewise! The ways of the world are not the ways of the Lord (Isa. 55:8-9; 1 Jn. 4:4-6) and the sooner brethren learn this, the better.
Are we not becoming like Israel of old and crying figuratively, “Make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5,20)? We say as they said, “It is working for them. It should work for us.” But we forget the real question, “Will it work for God.” The answer is — no! It will never work for God when man leaves God’s revealed way for his own (Jer. 10:23; Prov. 14:12).
I beg you to take time out to search the Scriptures daily and examine carefully your own beliefs to see if they are “of heaven, or of men.”
By what standard are we going? God’s revealed standard? Or, are we comparing ourselves with others and thereby deriving a standard of our own. Please remember that “God’s way is equal” regardless of what others try. It was equal in Ezekiel’s time although the people rejected it. “Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?” (Ezek. 18:25)
The standard of measurement used classifies or identifies one. Those who study, believe, and obey the Message from heaven are of God, God’s children. Those who disregard God’s heavenly message and go about to establish their own righteousness, ignorantly or otherwise, are not of God. Any group who keeps itself within the doctrine of Christ belongs to Christ, Christ’s people, His church. But if and when any group or individual leaves the word of God and follows after the traditions, commandments, and doctrines of men, in that they cease to be of God (Matt. 15:9; Col. 2:18-19; Tit. 1:13-14).
Are you being directed from heaven, or of men? Are you measuring yourself by others or by the Divine Standard revealed in the Bible? By this we can know the children of God and the children of the Devil. He that is of God hears, believes, and obeys His will (Matt. 7:21).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 17, pp. 513, 534-535
September 5, 1985