Is it from heaven, or is it from men?
Robert C. Oliver Contributing columnist
After Jesus had entered the city of Jerusalem for the final time, He went into the temple and “cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought”, and then continued to teach daily in the temple (Luke 19:45-47). “But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him” (Luke 19:47-48). On one of those days they came to Him and asked a question, “saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?” (Luke 20:2). Though their motive was undoubtedly impure, the question is a legitimate one. Jesus did not answer their question directly, but answer it He did. The told them that He would ask them one question, “The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men (Luke 20:4)? Of course they could not answer the question that He posed, so He told them that He would not answer their question (verses 5-8). Yet, the question He posed to them, included the only two sources of authority possible. John’s baptism either came from heaven or it was from men! There could be no third choice. Such is the case today when discussing things religious. Thus, every doctrine and practice in the realm of religion should be questioned with this question. Is it from heaven or from men?
The first amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Since we have already cited the authority from which this statement came, we know that it came from men. On the other hand, when heaven is used as the authority, the freedom that man’s authority gives concerning religion is shown to be in opposition to that of heaven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He also said, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13). David said long before the time of the Lord, “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it…”(Psalm 127:1). Using the authority of man, any religion is acceptable. Using the authority of heaven, only that which is specified by God is acceptable. When faced with a choice of the two, “Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Included in this point is the legitimacy of all the denominations. Are they from man or are they from heaven? Heaven says, “that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment” (I Cor. 1:10). Certainly one should not be seeking the church of their choice, but instead the church of God’s choice.
Another prime example of how one must determine the proper authority, that is whether it is from God or man, is seen in the realm of marriage, divorce and remarriage. The laws of our land differ some from state to state, but in general the laws of the land allow for a man and woman to divorce for most any reason and then remarry as many times as they so desire. The Pharisees came tempting Jesus concerning this very subject. They questioned, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause” (Matt. 19:3)? When Jesus pointed to the word of God about the husband and wife cleaving to each other and no man putting them asunder (Matt. 19:4-6), they then questioned why Moses had commanded a writing of divorcement, and to put her away (verse 7). It might be noted that Moses did not authorize putting them away for “any cause”, but for impurity on their part. However Jesus told them, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9). A clear opposition exists between the authority of man and the authority of heaven. Remember what Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Just because the laws of man validate something that we do or teach, does not mean that one can practice such and still have a home in heaven. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
Friends, knowing the authority for that which is taught, believed and practiced is of the utmost importance if we desire a home in heaven. What we like, what we have always believed, what our preacher has told us that the Bible teaches, what feels good to us and what is authorized by our civil government has absolutely nothing to do with our salvation. We will not be judged by any of these, but instead we will be judged by the word of God. Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
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