“O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23, NKJV). 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, NET).
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).
Relevance of God's Word
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collection of irrelevant stories and outdated directives.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).
Pattern of God's Word
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).
Authority of God's Word
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).
Preservation of God's Word
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
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).
Respect for God's Word
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).
Love of God's Word
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.