“Lord, we know that people do not control their own destiny. It is not in their power to determine what will happen to them” (Jeremiah 10:23, NET). From the very beginning God has set forth guidelines to govern man’s life, worship, and relationships. Adam and Eve were given regulations to obey (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:17-19). Cain and Abel were instructed how to worship God acceptably (Genesis 4:3-7; Hebrews 11:4). Noah was provided a specific pattern for building the ark and saving his family (Genesis 6:13-21). “And Noah did all that God commanded him—he did indeed” (verse 22). In constructing a place of worship, Moses was told to do all things according to the pattern revealed to him (Exodus 25:9, 40; 26:30). “This is what Moses did, according to all the Lord had commanded him—so he did” (Exodus 40:16). These past obedient responses to the divine will still serve as examples for us today (Acts 7:44; Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Hebrews 8:5; 11:23-29).
The Bible is by no means a collection of irrelevant stories and outdated directives. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible has been transforming lives and shaping societies for centuries. Its message is just as relevant and powerful today as when it was first written. Despite all the previous and current attempts to discredit the integrity of this sacred text, an open and sympathetic reading of its pages will almost certainly lead one to concede its divine origin and practical value (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
Since we are to “live by faith” (2 Corinthian 5:7), and we cannot please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6), and faith comes through our reception of the inspired word (Romans 10:17), obviously the revelation of divine truth constitutes our guide for Christian living. God communicates to us today through the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2) and he is to be listened to (Mark 9:7). Whatever we do in word or deed must be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17), that is, according to his authority (see Acts 4:7-10). The authority of Jesus is behind all that he has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20), and this includes the entire body of Christian teaching (see 1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 1:11-12). The word of Christ also serves as our standard of judgment (John 12:48).
While our supreme example is the Lord Jesus Christ himself (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6), the New Testament record of the faithfulness of first-century followers of Jesus also serves as our pattern (Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; Titus 2:7). In order to be set free from sin, all must obey “from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to” (Romans 6:17-18). Christians are to walk according to the prescribed rule or standard (Galatians 6:16) – likened to competing in athletics “according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). This divine system of faith was once for all time delivered to the people of God (Jude 3). Timothy and the disciples at Ephesus are admonished by Paul to “Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus …. And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well” (2 Timothy 1:13; 2:2).
The new covenant of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8:6; 9:15), in contrast to the old covenant of the Jews (Jeremiah 31:31-34), serves as our authoritative standard today. No one has the right to annul or alter any part of it (see Galatians 3:15-17; 6:16). To be accursed from God is the consequence of perverting this divine message or proclaiming a substitute (Galatians 1:6-10). “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ does not have God. The one who remains in this teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). Failing to abide in Christ’s doctrine is considered an evil deed not to be supported by the faithful (2 John 10-11). Adding to or subtracting from the words revealed by God will result in forfeiting the eternal inheritance (Revelation 22:18-19). It is possible to handle the word of God deceitfully (2 Corinthians 4:2), and those who distort the scriptural pattern do so to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
Jesus said, “the scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35b). In other words, the authority of God’s written revelation cannot be negated, withstood, or replaced. In the absence of a divine pattern to govern our lives, everyone does what is right in his own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:8; Judges 17:6; 21:25), resulting in confusion, chaos, lawlessness, and division.
The mid-first-century Christian community at Corinth was plagued with discord, spiritual immaturity, worldliness, and false teaching. In 1 Corinthians 3–4, to address these problems and to help unify this divided church, the apostle Paul applies the figures of planting, watering, building, and serving to himself and Apollos as an example. He then writes: “I have applied these things to myself and Apollos because of you, brothers and sisters, so that through us you may learn ‘not to go beyond what is written,’ so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of the one against the other” (1 Corinthians 4:6). To help them get back on track and progress in the right direction, Paul’s readers are instructed not to “go beyond” or exceed “what is written.” Contextually this refers to the holy scriptures, which the apostle has been quoting (1:19, 31; 2:9, 16; 3:19-20) as well as writing (14:37; see also 2 Peter 3:15-16).
What is our purpose for giving the Lord our attention and serving him? If our primary aim is to please him, the only way to be certain about what pleases him is according to what he has chosen to reveal to us. We know what the will of God is by what is disclosed in the Bible (Ephesians 3:3-5; 5:17), not by what is left unsaid. Whatever is not communicated in the sacred writings is necessarily excluded from God’s revealed will. If a doctrine or practice is not authorized in scripture, it must be rejected. “Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
True Christianity is evidenced by our love for God and one another. But this is not possible without a divine pattern to follow. “By this we know that we love the children of God: whenever we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments do not weigh us down” (1 John 5:2-3). Those who reject the pattern of God’s word cannot exhibit true biblical love. “Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says ‘I have come to know God’ and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him” (1 John 2:3-5).
We speak where the Bible speaks when we do and teach only what is sanctioned in scripture, nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else. May we humbly regard the biblical admonition: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Thank God for giving us a pattern to guide us through life and on into eternity.
--Kevin L. Moore
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