By Donnie V. Rader
The writers of the Bible used the picture of right paths and by-paths to describe those who follow God’s way and those who depart. For example, Jeremiah said, “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it…” (Jer. 6:16). If we are not on the right path we are on the wrong paths. The Proverb writer spoke of those who “leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness” (Prov. 2:13).
Whether we are following some path through the woods or the inter-state highways, consciously or subconsciously, we will ask ourselves “Where are we headed?” In the course of any trip we ask ourselves some basic questions.
Let’s suppose that we are traveling from Birmingham, AL to Indianapolis, IN. (1) First, we get an atlas to see which road we need to be on. The map shows that we need to be on I-65 all the way. (2) After traveling a while we ask ourselves where we have been. Did we even get on the right road in Birmingham? It could be that we got on I-20 going toward Atlanta. As we reflect on where we have been, we remember seeing signs about Cullman and Athens, AL and Nashville, TN. We are assured we have been on the right path. (3) The next obvious question is, where are we now? Just because we have been on the right road doesn’t mean that we are still there. Someone in the car with us tells us that the last sign read “Jackson, TN this exit.” Wait a minute! Jackson, TN is on I-40. That’s not even close to I-65. (4) Now, we ask where are we headed if we continue on the same road? Following I- 40 will take us to Memphis then to Little Rock and on into Oklahoma. That puts us further and further away from where the map shows that we need to be.
These are the same four questions that we need to ask ourselves as we, the people of God, endeavor to serve him in our journey toward heaven. We must ask: (1) Where should we be in our attitude and approach to the word of God? (2) Where have we been? (3) Where are we now? and (4) Where are we headed if we continue on the present path?
It is imperative that we, the people of God, ask where we (as individuals and churches) are headed. I have be-come concerned in recent years about the attitude I have seen developing among God’s own people toward the word of God. I see an attitude that suggests that we are losing respect for the authority of God’s word. I do not consider myself as a pessimist that “blows a fuse” over ever disagreement and issue, thus making it a bigger matter than it really is. But, neither do
I consider myself as a blind optimist who ignores real indications of danger on the horizon. We must face reality and consider the problems that brethren are facing.
In this series of articles we are going to focus on our attitude toward the word of God. As you will see, that is the heart and core of all the problems we face.
Where We Ought To Be Let’s consider what our attitude toward the word of God should be.
1. The word of God is our authority. Our view of the Bible should be that it is the word of God. When Paul preached in Thessalonica his message was received, not as the word of men, but as the word of God (1 Thess. 2:13). We must recognized that the Bible is the inspired book of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). That is, the words of the Bible were given by the breath of God. That is the idea of inspiration. Even the words used by the writers of the New Testament were chosen by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:13).
The word is absolute and unchanging. It does not need to be updated to fit modem man. Its principles cannot be altered by man’s advanced learning. What was true when it was written, is true when we read it. Peter said that the word lives and abides forever (1 Pet. 1:25).
2. We must respect the word. When Moses revealed the old covenant to the children of Israel, he told them how they should respect the law. “. . .these words . . . shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6-9). We too show respect for the law of Christ by how well we teach it to our children, how well we take it into our hearts and how we meditate on it day and night.
We must stand in awe of the word as the Psalmist did (Psa. 119:161). David also said, “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, Because men do not keep Your law” (Psa. 119:136). Yes, we ought to be bothered and disturbed when men depart from the pattern of God’s word. James P. Miller used to tell a story about his grandmother being present in an assembly when a piano was rolled down the aisle and used for worship. When she saw what they were doing, she went outside and sat on a stump and cried like a baby. Oh, how we ought to be moved by the departures that we are seeing.
3. We must be submissive to the word of God. Our attitude should be that as expressed by Josiah, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found . . . to do according to all that is written concerning us” (2 Kings 22:13).
The church is to be “subject” (a military term meaning to line up under the authority of a superior) unto Christ in everything (Eph. 5:24).W e must abide within the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9). Our lives must be in harmony with the gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27).
It is one thing to claim to believe the word of God; it is another to endeavor to obey it.
4. We must recognize that the word of God is strict and there is no room for compromise. The word draws a line between right and wrong and between truth and error. The word is not an elastic band that can be stretched to encompass anything we want it to.
We like Balaam must say, “I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more” and “I have received a command to . . . and I cannot reverse it” (Num. 22:18; 23:20).
The story of Uzzah and the ark well emphasizes that God means what he says (2 Sam. 6:3-7). His word is strict.
Thus, we have no room to make compromises with those who have little or no respect for the word.
5. We must have some conviction. We need to be people of conviction. We should be devoted to the cause of Christ. Paul urged the Corinthians to “be stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
God’s people must be willing to take a stand for what they believe, teach and practice. We must point to what is “written” for our faith and practice (2 Cor. 4:13). Our constant aim should be to be pleasing to the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9). We should live in view of the Lord’s return (2 Pet. 3:11-14).
In the next article will look at where we have been.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 10 p. 1
May 18, 1995