By Lewis Willis
In the long ago, Jeremiah wrote, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Even though it is not possible for man to direct his steps, man surely has tried to do so. No amount of warning – no appeal has prevented him from trying.
As people have launched out on their own, they are quite impressed with the course they have devised for themselves. In fact, they are convinced that their way is the best way! Anyone who would dare to question their wisdom is subjected to immediate, harsh criticism. To these folks it is unthinkable that they could be wrong. One is reminded of the words of Solomon in two almost identical passages: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12, 16:25). Convincing folks of this truth is one of the most difficult tasks undertaken by the Church.
Because we cannot devise our own course, and because what would seem right to us would lead to spiritual death, it remained for God to give us the guidance we so desperately needed. Thankfully, that is exactly what he did. Before Jesus went away, he promised to send the Spirit to the apostles. Jesus said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:13). When the Holy Spirit discharged that responsibility, he not only gave the apostles the thought of truth, but he also gave them the words with which to express the thought. Paul said, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:12-13). Therefore, we were given a reliable, true, and God-protected revelation to guide us where we could not guide ourselves.
It is very comforting to read the words of two great apostles as they referred to that divine revelation which God gave us as a guide. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3). These passages tell us that we will be “perfect” if we will follow the direction of the inspired Scriptures, and that “all things” which pertain to living and pursuing the favor of God have been provided for us therein. What we could not provide for ourselves – a proper course – God provided for us in the Holy Scriptures.
Furthermore, we are assured that God gave us this divine revelation only once. Jude wrote, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful of me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). When James talks about the Bible, he refers to it as “perfect.” He said, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty , and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (Jas. 1:25). The Greek word for “perfect” is a form of the word teleios. It means “finished, ended, accomplished.” Thus, the “once delivered” revelation was the finished product of God which he delivered to us to be our guide. It was and is a complete, perfect, and all-sufficient guide which God has provided us. It will save the soul (Rom. 1:16) and keep it saved (Acts 20:32). We have no need of anything else to guide us, except the New Testament Scriptures.
In spite of this information from the Bible, religious men still make two grave errors. They need to at least be mentioned in this discussion regarding God’s guide for our souls.
1. Some people believe they are receiving additional revelations from God – that God is talking to them. Every doctrine has a consequence attached to it. If the Bible is an all-sufficient, finished, once-delivered guide for man as it claims to be, there cannot be additional revelation. If God is saying anything beyond the New Testament, then it is not sufficient and finished – God’s revelation was not given “once,” but many times. Also, that which is given today would necessarily say that previous generations had only “partial” truth. I am not ready to buy into any of these consequences. I will just affirm, with New Testament authority, that the Bible is our all-sufficient guide.
2. Some who are obviously dissatisfied with the Bible as our all-sufficient guide, have taken upon themselves to write many creeds, manuals, confessions of faith, and catechisms to supplement what God has said. Again, a position has its consequences. If these things are permissible and/or needed, the Bible is not our all-sufficient guide and man can direct his own course. The Bible teaches the very opposite, so we, in Churches of Christ, will stay with the Bible and reject human creeds.
We feel confident of the position we hold. We believe that the passages referred to herein are ample proof that our position is true. We, therefore, appeal to men to accept the Bible as our all-sufficient guide, and, we furthermore, plead with people to renounce human creeds and ignore the false claims of those who say God has said something to them in addition to the Bible.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 3, pp. 75-76
February 7, 1991