An Old Testament Warning for the New Testament Church
Pastor David Green
April 6, 2011

Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth. Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-16)

    As we read through the Old Testament we are tempted to think of ourselves as being so much better than Israel. We think that somehow we would never do the things they did. Yet, when we are honest with ourselves and really consider our ways, we realize that they are not so much different than we are. They murmured often in their journeys. We too murmur in our journeys. They often disobeyed. We often disobey. They went after the gods of the gods of the people around them. We are prone to follow the gods of the people around us.

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (Psalm 138:2)\

 In the world, there are five standards that men will consult: tradition, their own personal opinion, public consensus, religious literature, or the Word of God. If you consider anything besides the Bible, then you are rejecting God's Word as your ultimate standard. And since God has placed His Word above His name, then this would be going after another god.

Let us consider for a moment each of these:

 “Sola Scriptura!” was the cry of the Reformation, but there were traditions which were not based on any Scripture whatsoever that were held by them. For one, all the Reformers including Martin Luther and John Calvin believed Roman Catholicism to be the “true church.” Totally ignoring Matthew 16:18 and a host of other Scriptures they sought out to reform Roman Catholicism. They, and their followers held on to Catholic baptism of infants even though this was not based on even one Scripture.

He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” (Mark 7:6-9)

Holding tradition as the standard stinks in the nostrils of Almighty God!

Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?  (Matthew 15:1-3).

Everyone has an opinion (“a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter”) and sometimes we must rely on opinions. For instance, it is my opinion that blue pens underline better than black pens. Maybe you disagree with me, but there is no Scripture either of us can cite to make our opinion any stronger. So, you can underline in black and I will underline in blue. We are at liberty in such things.

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.” (1Kings 18:21)

Where opinion is wrong is when there is Scripture that contradicts opinion and we stick with opinion. Many so-called churches and cults around us have founded their doctrine on opinion instead of the Word of God. Let us beware that we “... not go after other gods, of the gods of the people...” who are round about us.

Consensus (“general agreement”) is a lot like opinion, but it involves a lot more people. Some folks will get a few others and see what their opinions are. So, in the above example, I just said blue pens underline better than black ones. You think that is absolutely absurd. So, you talk to the others in the church, and get on the phone with your friends and come back next week to tell me that the consensus is that black pens are better. Still, there is not a bit of Scripture you could use on this so I can still go on using blue pens. I might be considered strange or unusual but that has never bothered me before. I am still at liberty to use blue pens, and you are at liberty to go with the majority and use black pens.

Sometimes we rely on consensus and it is ok to do so.  Where consensus is wrong is when it is contradictory with Scripture. Indeed sometimes a consensus view is wrong, and we are warned against it.

Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil....” (Exodus 23:2)

Sometimes the multitude will lead you wrong. Time and time again, consensus turns out to be a bad thing. Indeed the saying that there is safety in numbers is not always true. For instance, ten out of the twelve spies told Israel they could not take the land (Numbers 13 and 14). The consensus at the church of Corinth was to do nothing about the fornicator in their midst (I Corinthians 5) and also to abuse the Lord's Supper (I Corinthians 11). The consensus of the church in Thyatira was to allow Jezebel to teach and seduce (Revelation 2:20).

Many so-called churches and cults around us have founded their doctrine on consensus instead of the Word of God. Let us beware that we “... not go after other gods, of the gods of the people...” who are round about us.

Oh, the multitudes of books that have been written on the subject of religion! There is not a room big enough to contain all the multitudes of books. They have their place, but far too often they are simply collections of opinions and consensus views on their subjects.  We can find them to be of some value, but must be careful lest we put our favorite religious writing or author to a higher plane than the Scripture

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?” (1Corinthians 3:3-5)

You might hear of one Baptist who will not believe something unless Spurgeon said it, while another quotes Matthew Henry exclusively. And then another uses John Gill as the standard. Yet these writers were men and only men. A commentary or any religious book can lead you the wrong direction.

I have also found that these great writers of religious topics can change. For instance, A.W. Pink changed his position on eschatology. At one point he was premill and later he was amill.

Paul used other books in his sermons. For instance on Mars Hill he quoted from some Greek literature (see Acts 17:28), but notice he did not base his doctrine on that source! The other day I heard some fellow on the radio who was supposed to be preaching, but after 20 minutes the only thing he had referenced was writings by Martin Luther. I turned him off because I did not want to hear about what Martin Luther wrote – I wanted to know what the Lord said!

Many so-called churches and cults around us have founded their doctrine on religious writings, confessions, and creeds instead of the Word of God. Let us beware that we “... not go after other gods, of the gods of the people...” who are round about us.

I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.” (Psalm 138:2)

The Bible is God's Word. Only it has never changed. The Bible is the only one in which you can rest assured it will not lead you wrong. The Bible is the only standard that we need. All opinions, consensus, religious writings must bow down to the authority of the Scripture for it is the truth!

Only the Bible is God's inspired, infallible Word:
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.” (2Timothy 3:16-17)

Jesus appealed to the Bible as the truth:
Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Jesus commanded us to search the Scriptures:
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)

The early churches used Scripture as their standard:
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

We have been told to preach from God's Word:
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.(2Timothy 4:2)

Sometimes, all five of these may agree and in a perfect world that is how it would always be. But we do not live in a perfect world. And often these four are in total disagreement. In such instances if we choose an option other than the Bible, we are rejecting God and His Word. We are instead following the
the gods of the people which are round about us.

When any people discard God's Word as embracing all necessary laws for the individual Christian or the whole church, that people has launched upon a limitless ocean. Any erroneous law, (and any law added to the Bible is erroneous) will inevitably and soon demand another, and others will demand yet others, without ever an end. Christ gave His churches and to preachers absolutely no legislative powers. Let us avoid the gods of the people around us and remember what God says in Revelation 22:18-19:

"For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."   (Revelation 22:18-19)