"CHALLENGES CONFRONTING THE CHURCH" Authority In Religion INTRODUCTION 1. The Lord’s church can expect to confront many challenges... a. Opposition by Satan was foretold in the parable of the tares - Mt 13:24-30,36-43 b. Attacks from within and without foretold by Paul - Ac 20:29-30 c. Apostasy was foretold, and began very early - 2Pe 2:1-3;
Jude 4 2. Previously, we suggested that the local church will be at the
front of the confrontation...
a. As the church universal is a spiritual entity well preserved by Jesus b. But the church local is subject to many things that can threaten its existence c. How can the church local stand strong and firm in the service of Christ? 3. I believe the key is respecting the proper authority... a. How shall we determine what is right or wrong, good or evil? b. What shall be our authority in matters of religion? c. Is a particular doctrine or practice from heaven or from man? - cf. Mt 21:23-25 [Using the proper authority in matters of religion, most challenges confronting the church can be easily overcome. What is the proper authority in religion? Let’s first consider...] I. WHAT MANY CHURCHES ACCEPT AS AUTHORITY A. THE OLD TESTAMENT... 1. From the beginning of the church, many have appealed to the OT - e.g., Ac 15:1-5 2. The OT has its place, when properly handled - Ro 15:4; 1Co 10:11; 2Ti 3:14-17 3. But it can be misused, to authorize things no longer required - Ga 5:1-4; 1Ti 4:1-3 -- We cannot assume that just because something is in the OT, it is authorized! B. TRADITIONS OF MEN... 1. The handing down of traditions was common in Rabbinic Judaism - e.g., Mk 7:1-5 2. Traditions of God are not wrong - 1Co 11:2; 2Th 2:15; 3:6 3. But Jesus condemned the traditions of men... a. When they are taught as doctrines of God - Mk 7:6-7 b. When they displace the commands of God - Mk 7:8-13 -- Uninspired traditions cannot be equated with or replacements for the Word of God! C. MODERN DAY PROPHETS... 1. Throughout church history, many have claimed to be prophets of God - e.g., Re 2:20 2. Christ and His apostles warned against false prophets -
Mt 7:15; 2Pe 2:1; 1Jn 4:1 3. The OT gives us two ways to test the prophets a. Do their prophecies come to pass? - Deut 18:20-22 b. Even if they do, is their doctrine consistent with God’s Word? - Deut 13:1-5 -- Since the 1st century A.D., all "prophets" have failed either one or both tests! D. MAJORITY RULE... 1. Many people and church councils decide doctrine or practice based on majority rule 2. Yet Jesus warned of the danger of following the majority - Mt 7:13-14 3. If we had followed the majority... a. In Noah’s day, we would have perished in the flood b. In Joshua’s day, we would have perished in the wilderness -- Following the majority is not a good guide for authority in religion! E. CONSCIENCE... 1. "Let your conscience be your guide" is the motto of many 2. But our conscience cannot always be reliable a. Paul had served God with a good conscience throughout his life - Ac 23:1 b. Even at a time when he was persecuting Christians! - cf. Ac 26:9-11 3. The conscience is like a clock, which works properly only if set properly -- Our conscience is not always a reliable guide in matters of religion F. HUMAN WISDOM... 1. Many feel that through their own wisdom they can determine right and wrong 2. But God’s thoughts and ways are not always our own - cf. Isa 55:8-9 3. In fact, God has chosen to save man in a manner specifically designed to confound those who depend solely upon human wisdom - cf. 1Co 1:18-29 4. For us to know God’s will, it was necessary for Him to reveal it to us - 1Co 2:9-12 5. This He has done through His Spirit-inspired apostles - Ep 3:1-3 6. Who in turn shared it with us through their writings - Ep 3:4-5 -- Human wisdom is often the exact opposite of God’s wisdom! G. FEELINGS... 1. This is often the standard of authority for many people and churches a. Who go by whatever ‘feels right’ b. Who place stock in a religion ‘better felt than told’ c. Who will follow societal trends that may seem good and right 2. Yet the Bible declares the danger of trusting in feelings a. "There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." - Pr 14:12 b. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool..." - Pr 28:26 c. "O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." - Jer 10:23 -- Such subjective feelings are from the heart of man, not the mind of God! [These seven "standards of authority in religion" are from men, not from heaven, and are the main reason for much religious confusion and division that exists today. Allow me to suggest...] II. WHAT CHURCHES SHOULD ACCEPT AS AUTHORITY A. THE WORDS OF JESUS CHRIST... 1. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth - Mt 28:18 2. He expects us to observe all things whatsoever He commanded - Mt 28:19-20 3. He is the head of the church, which is to be subject to Him - Ep 5:23-24 -- As the body of Christ, we must submit to our Head! B. THE DOCTRINE OF THE APOSTLES... 1. To receive Christ, we must receive His apostles - Jn 13:20 2. They were sent as His ambassadors - 2Co 5:20 3. To ensure reliability, Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit - Jn 14:26; 16:12-13 4. The apostles’ wrote so that we might have their understanding - Ep 3:1-5 5. They wrote their epistles that we might always be reminded - 2Pe 1:12-15; 3:1-2 6. Their writings were "the commandments of the Lord" - 1Co 14:37 7. They received their word as "the word of God" - 2Th 2:13 8. Thus the early church "continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine" - Ac 2:42 -- Any true local church of Christ respects the doctrine of the apostles as their authority C. THE FAITH REVEALED ONCE FOR ALL... 1. The faith or doctrine of Christ was delivered "once for all time" (NLT) - Jude 3 2. The apostles did not hesitate to proclaim the "whole counsel" of God - Ac 20:27 3. They proclaimed "all things" pertaining to life and godliness - 2Pe 1:3 4. The Scriptures therefore provide everything needed to make one "complete" - 2Ti 3:16-17 -- With the Scriptures as an all-sufficient guide, we need no other authority! CONCLUSION 1. The only proper authority in religion... a. Is that which emanates from Jesus as the head of His church b. Which has come to us through the doctrines of His Spirit-inspired apostles c. Which has been preserved in the form of the New Testament 2. All other authority in religion comes from... a. Either misapplication of the Scriptures (e.g., the Old Testament) b. Or uninspired men (and women) who usurp authority based on feelings, etc. 3. When confronted with any challenge, the church today needs to... a. Look to the words of Christ, and the writings of His apostles b. Observe all things He commanded, and continue steadfastly in their doctrine Our next study will examine a challenge that has confronted the church throughout its history: Denominationalism!
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011