This article is addressed to people who think they take Christ as their authority, but who in reality, deny him. Many today are honestly wrong — sincerely mistaken — , and their mistake is based largely on the fact that they are following the wrong guide.
In the temple, the chief priests and elders asked Christ this question, "By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority?" (Matt 21:23.) Had this question been asked in the right spirit and for the right purpose, it would have been a good question. I believe I have the right to ask you the same question. No one should be ashamed of his authority Let us just stop and think: What is my authority? Why am I a member of the church with which I am affiliated? By whose authority was I baptized? If I have never been baptized, what is my authority, or who told me it is unnecessary? Does the church of which I am a member have the proper authority behind it?
Some folk take as their authority the religion of their parents. They have no other reason for affiliating with a certain church than the fact that mother and daddy were this. They have never stopped to consider the question, Could I be wrong? But why should they consider? They have been taught all their life that it makes no difference of which church one is a member, if he is honest and sincere; if he is upright and a good citizen. If he never does anything wrong, or harms no one, he is sure to go to heaven, according to his former teachings. But when you stop to think on this, it is really a flimsy excuse. Paul found out that being right went much deeper than family ties. He had to forsake his boyhood religion to be with Christ. He was honest, sincere, devout and courageous in his "fight" for what he believed to be right — Judaism. But when he found out that the "new and living way" had been given to the world, he didn't love his former ways so much that he was unwilling to change. Earthly ties must never be so strong that one forsakes that which he knows to be right. Jesus says, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me." Nothing must cause us — no, not even earthly relations — to go contrary to Christ and his word. If you are following your parents religion, stop and think. We are not advocating disrespect to parents, but we are saying that and that alone is not sufficient authority in matters religious.
Some take as their authority in religion the decision of the pope, or the official decision of the church. Our neighbors, the Catholics, are guilty of this. Many have told us that they do not read the Bible, for the priest tells them all that they need to know. We need not argue with Catholics today unless we can settle the question of authority in religion. As long as one prefers decisions of the church to the Bible, there is little use to talk about what the Bible says. But the question is this: Does God authorize the pope to speak as authoritatively as the Bible? The scripture is lacking that hints at such an idea, and if the Bible is true (as Catholics claim it is) then no authority is given the pope. The Bible claims perfection, or completion. Paul says "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17.) If the Bible furnishes a man with complete instructions, then nothing is left for the pope or anyone else to impart. No added information is needed, nor promised by God. If this statement is so, then the Catholics' claim is false. No man can consistently believe Catholic doctrine and the Bible at the same time. The two are as opposite as day and night.
Others take as their religious authority the feelings or conscience of the individual. One says, "I know I'm saved because I feel like it." If this is true, then there are as many ways to heaven as there are individuals, and Christ did not tell the truth when he said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one cometh unto the Father but by me." (John 14:6.) Jesus never taught that one would know by his feelings that he was saved. Paul said, "I verily thought within myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." (Acts 26:9.) One today says, "I thought I was saved because I felt like it." Feelings have never been true evidence of being right. Within his heart Jacob was sure that Joseph, his son, was dead, but instead he was very much alive in Egypt. It is true that one's conscience is not to be disregarded, but this alone will not suffice as your religious authority. Paul lived in all good conscience, but at that time he "lived in good conscience" he was a persecutor and a blasphemer of the church of God. (1 Tim. 1:13; Acts 23:1.) Again such evidences of religion and such authority would divide and destroy and would make void the one way that Christ prayed for. (John 17:20.)
A modernist told me some time ago that everyone would go to heaven (of course he had a distorted idea of heaven) if he had lived true to his conscience and that no further religion was necessary. I asked him, "If one is taught to lie, and murder and commit adultery, and if such actions were believed to be all right, would he go to heaven?" His answer was "Yes." Such destroys conscience and would make the most hardened criminal as "good" as the innocent babe, or the Christ himself. Neighbor, if you are one who believes conscience is a safe guide, better reconsider and see what the Bible says.
Some take as their authority the decisions of church councils, and leaders. Most religious people are guilty here. The prayer book, manual, discipline or confession of faith are taken in preference to the Bible. As I said, all Such people claim to believe in the authority of Christ, but the very fact that one subscribes to a discipline of his church is evidence that he does not believe all the Bible or else he would not need anything else to supplement it. Besides that the prophet said "Oh Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his step." (Jer. 10:23.) We beg people to open the New Testament and study with an open mind. Christ is our only authority. He said, "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. (Matt. 28:18.) He delegated none of that to the pope, church councils, priests or preachers. The things done without the authority of Christ are wrong and sinful. Whether we err by word or actions, the results are the same. It is bad to outwardly deny Christ as the son of God, but it is just as bad to confess him with the mouth and deny him by our actions. Many who claim to believe him refuse to be baptized (Mark 16:16); to observe the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7); and many other direct commands of the Lord. Many who claim to believe in him insist on doing many things without his authority. They add human societies to the church to do the work of the church; add mechanical music to the worship; add lavish entertainment to the work and worship of the church; raise money to support the church and its work by every conceivable means (read 1 Cor. 16:1-2); all this without Christ's authority. In conclusion, please read 2 John 9 where inspired John said, "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the father and the son." Friend, better stop and ask, "By what authority doest I these things?" -Jady W. Copeland, "Gospel Guardian", vol. 6, no. 48, April 14th, 1955