False Sources of Divine Authority
Stan Cox

It is needful to note that several modern concepts of the origin of authority are incorrect.

The Source of Divine Authority Is Not...

The Doctrine or Practices of the Old Testament

There are a number of common religious practices today which were characteristic of Old Testament worship. Some denominations advocate the use of an instrument of music in worship because of the Old Testament practice. Others speak of tithing as required of God, or the practice of sabbath observation. Some Mormons actually appeal to the Old Testament as giving authority for the practice of polygamy.

What is not understood is that the Old Testament is not our source of authority for religious practices. To justify our actions by the old law is to jeapordize our standing in grace. (cf. Galatians 5:4).

The law of God to the Jews is no longer binding today. We can not go to it for authority in our religious practice. It is no more... "Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).

What the Preachers Say

Perhaps due to the clergy/laity distinction, and the mysterious "call to preach" many are willing to put their trust in a man regarding authority for religious practices. To do so is dangerous. One of the peculiar aspects of our religious culture today is the abundance of conflicting doctrines preached by men who claim to be "called of God."

A preacher is to be followed only as he preaches "the" word, not his own word. "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:1-2). The teaching of any man is to be compared to the word of God (cf. Acts 17:11).

Creeds of Men

Practically every denomination has a manual, discipline, prayerbook or creedbook which is followed. While it is true that creeds are not pressed as often in our time, nevertheless the substitution of the "traditions of men" for God's word in matters of faith and worship constitutes the establishment of a creed.

We can not please God by accepting any creed of man. "And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).

The Desires of the Congregation

The church of our Lord is not a democracy. It seems in our time that many think churches have the right to decide for themselves what they will believe and practice.

However, the desires of the majority are often at odds with the will of God. You can look at numerous Old Testament examples of this truth. For example, Israel wanted a king that they might be like the nations which surrounded them. In clamoring for a king, Jehovah said that Israel had, "rejected Me, that I should not reign over them" (1 Samuel 8:7).

It is wrong to say that congregations have the right to do as they wish. Instead, they have the right to do as God wishes, even though all others might reject His will.


Other examples could be cited. Some believe elders have the right to establish religious practices. While they indeed have oversight in a congregation, such authority does not extend to the establishment of doctrine or practice. Others believe that the "end justifies the means." In other words, if the practice "does good", that in and of itself is sufficient authority for its existence.

All of these concepts are incorrect. The sole source of religious authority for the child of God is our Savior Jesus Christ.

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