By Roy E. Cogdill
Standards are essential in our complex way of life today. Standards of weight, measurement, time, exchange, etc., eliminate confusion and uncertainty and simplify life for us. They are essential. But by what right and by whom are they established? For each to try to establish his own destroys any sort of standardization. Standards cannot be established by independent groups within the people for they would still vary so much that there would be no standard at all. There is but one way by which standards can be established and receive recognition and that is the function of government –authority-to prescribe the standards by which we are to live.
Each government has the authority and right to establish the standards by which its subjects are to live. They vary from country to country. In Canada, for example, a gallon measurement requires the equivalent of five American quarts. Their quarts, gallons, etc., are a fourth larger than ours in the United States. Why is this true? For the reason that they conduct their own affairs, under their own government, they have the right to establish the standards for their country even as we do for ours.
Religious standards, however, cannot be determined by political power, or human wisdom, or authority. Religion is man’s relationship with God and is therefore regulated by the authority of God and not man. This is the dividing line between truth and error, divine and human authority. Jesus prescribed that it should be so.
In Matt. 16 when Jesus raised the question, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am,” his disciples replied, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.” This shows that confusion existed among the people as to the identity of Jesus and that they were divided in their opinions, as men always are. One of these opinions among the people was just as good as any of the rest,but none of them was any good at all for they were all wrong. Human doctrines in religious or spiritual matters are always wrong. “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). Jesus said, “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:6-9). Human doctrines and ways always conflict with the will and Word of God and make our religion vain.
Again, Jesus, when he was confronted with a challenge by the chief priests and elders of the people in the temple who demanded, “By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?”, drew the line again on the question of authority at exactly the same point-between what God says and what man says. In his reply he raised the question, “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or men?” The universe is God’s domain and man is his creation. Sovereignty belongs to Jehovah and He, alone, has the right to rule over the hearts and lives of men and women. We are responsible to Him and accountable to Him. Our salvation depends upon pleasing Him. We must be directed, therefore, by His will and His Word.
The Standard: God’s Word
The only common denominator in religious affairs is the Word of God. It is the sole standard by which the truth of anything religiously can be determined. Until men are willing to recognize and be governed by it, there will be no end to confusion. False standards are commonly relied upon and they deceive and mislead us. Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” This is the one and only standard by which truth can be determined.
Sometimes men brush the Word of God aside with “But I think thus and so.” They make of their own intellect an idol and reject God when they thus reject His Word. God has not left the thinking up to us, nor are we indeed capable of doing it. God has done the thinking and left it to us to believe! This does not mean that the religion of Christ is unreasonable but that it is unreasoning. We walk by faith and not by the way things seem to us! (2 Cor. 5:7).
Then, often, people want to rely on their feelings. This writer talked with a man and his wife a short time ago, who wanted to testify that they had the Spirit of God dwelling within them and they could tell it by the way they felt. They would not be led by the Spirit through what the Spirit has revealed as the truth in God’s Word. Every passage of scripture offered, they brushed aside and wanted to disprove it’s testimony by their testimony as to what they felt. This is both unreasoning and unreasonable and certainly nullifies faith in the Word of God and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Those who have the Spirit of Christ, and are therefore His, must walk, live, be led by the Spirit and this evidences that the Spirit dwells in them and that they are “in the Spirit and not in the flesh” (Rom. 8:116). Personal feelings could justify anything believed or done by anyone, heathen or Christian, if the individual was sincere.
Many others want to reject God’s standard of truth-His Word-in favor of their inherited tradition in religion. They are sure that the religion of their fathers is also good enough for them and they hesitate not to turn away from the plain declarations of the Word of God to’ stay with what their fathers and mothers taught them. This is ancestor worship, and destroys faith in God and His Word. This means that whatever religion one inherits from his fathers is true and right, whether it is Buddhism, Hinduism, Mohammedism, Catholic or Protestant. Acceptance of inherited religion as authoritative would cause one to conclude that the Jews are justified in their rejection of Christ as the Son of God, the promised Messiah, because their fathers did not believe in Him. No one could ever learn any better or be any better than his ancestors, if such a course is to be accepted.
Catholics believe that the church is superior in authority to the Word of God. The church is first in authority to them. Their traditions are next and the Word of God ranks with them below both of these. This makes it impossible to get them to recognize the truth until they can be taught that authority is not in the church, man, or human traditions, but in God and His Word. In discussing religion with Catholics, this writer has found it impossible to get anywhere until they are willing to listen to what the Bible plainly says. There must be a common denominator or there cannot be unity. Those who do not believe in Catholicism will not accept the dictum of their hierarchy, the voice of the church, or their human tradition, and Catholics will not accept the Bible. So with such an attitude, there is a stalemate until the Word of God can be established as the sole source of authority and the one and only standard of religion.
Truth Magazine XIX: 32, pp. 506-507
June 19, 1975