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Volume 20, Number 4, September, October, 2002 Editor: Robert Johnson

The New Testament Church (The One Jesus Built); Understanding The Authority and Lordship of Jesus:

Looking For God In All The Wrong Places:
Jesus Is Lord Of All:
The Magic Question: From Heaven or Men?
How The Bible Authorizes What We Believe:
Are You Offering A Strange Fire?
Let God Be True!

Looking For God In All The Wrong Places:
The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that anyone who will come to God must “believe that He is AND that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” Without this kind of faith, “it is impossible to please” God (Heb. 11:6). One of the most important aspects of the search for God is knowing where to look. Most are looking for God in the religious organizations and denominations created by men over the past 2,000 years. There they find hundreds of different churches giving different and conflicting answers to the same questions. But, God is not the author or sponsor of such confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).
Recently, I decided to look for “Christ”, “Jesus” and “God” in the Pittsburgh yellow pages. I read through seventeen pages containing 1,376 listings of church names. Of the “church” names listed, 94 % had no “Christ”; 98% had no “God”; and 99% had no “Jesus.” I did find it interesting that 13% of those listed mentioned John the “Baptist” in their names and 20% more honored some deceased saint or saints in their names. That means a measly 6% wear the name of “Christ” the Son of God, while 33% wear the name of some other man or woman. You say, “a name does not matter!” Would you say that if your wife decided to wear your neighbor’s name? The church is the “bride” of Christ (Jn 3:29).
The results of my search are not really that surprising, for God never established or authorized one of the denominations that exist today. Neither is it uncommon for men to reject God’s instructions, believing they can organize and build something better and improved (Prov 14:12). . You cannot read about any of these “denominations” in the Bible. In fact, their very existence is condemned by God through the Holy Scriptures.
According to the Bible, Jesus only established and built one church, one body and one faith (Matt 16:18; Col 3:15; Eph 4:5). It was God’s intention that this one church or body of believers be the keepers of His truth so that the world could have a source of light (1 Tim 3:15; Matt 5:14). It is through His church that God choose to reveal His plan to save men known to the world (Eph. 3:9,10). If you want to find and please God you must diligently seek and find His church, the one established by Jesus and His Apostles by inspiration in the New Testament.
It is my intention in the next few issues to demonstrate how to find the church which Jesus built, in our world today. To do this one must understand the authority of Jesus Christ. One must understand how Jesus says we are to love God and walk after His Spirit. One must learn what the Bible really says about denominations and divisions. One must learn the identifying marks of the Biblical church. And finally, I would like to explain why you can be saved without being a member of a denomination, but you cannot be saved without being a member of the New Testament church. In this issue we will discuss the authority of Christ.
As you read, I am assuming that you believe the Bible contains the inspired Word of God, His revealed will for all mankind today (2 Tim 3:16,17). A humble heart, may find its way of thinking about the church in for some serious changes.

Jesus Is Lord Of All!
Perhaps you have heard this phrase which is commonly used in the denominational world: “If Jesus is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” To call Jesus “Lord”, is to willingly acknowledge his authority and right to rule over your life and your faith. To call Jesus “Lord” and then not accept His Words as your guide is to make a false profession. Jesus once said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 4:46). He also 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). Jesus and only Jesus has been given the rightful place of authority over all that we believe and teach. He has been given “all power (authority) in heaven and in earth” (Matt 28:18-20). He is the “way, the truth and the life” and no man can come to the Father except through Him (On His terms) (John 14:6). There is no other name or authorized way to receive salvation under heaven, but through Jesus (Acts 4:12). For those churches who say they listen to God, but do not accept Jesus as His Son and their Lord, God said, “This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Luke 9:35).
The problem with the religious world is not that most people do not acknowledge these truths about Jesus’ authority. The problem is that very few have been taught to recognize His authority and how to submit to it for what they believe and how they worship and serve God today. True biblical faith comes from “hearing the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). To put our trust in something God’s Word does not teach is not a faith that is authorized or taught by God. If Jesus is Lord of all, then He and only He has the right to authorize what we believe and how we are to worship and serve God.
Consider the following illustration. Imagine that you decided to build a house and contracted a company to do the building for you. Let us also imagine that you gave the contractor very thorough and detailed plans as to how that house was to be built. Does the contractor have the right or authority to change what he wants or feels like changing? If he disregarded your plans and built a house that you did not authorize you would refuse to accept it, take him to court, show the judge your plans and say, “He did not build the house that I authorized and paid for.” Yet, hundreds of unauthorized religious organizations exist today because the builders did not follow the authorized plan of God. They think that Love requries God to accept and approve of them. This is not making Jesus “Lord of all.”

The Magic Question: From Heaven or Men.
The Bible is literally full of warnings about false teachings and the dangers of being deceived. Those who are damned because they have settled for something less than God’s truth will have no excuse.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils... Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world...And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (1 Tim. 4:1; 1 John 4:1; 2 Th 2:10-12).
A believer who loves the truth will question the authority and source of all he or she is taught to be sure they are trusting in God and not in man’s doctrines and traditions (Matt 15:8,9).
In Matthew chapter twenty one, Jesus is challenged by the religious leaders of His day to defend what He was teaching and doing. They demanded to know who had authorized the things he taught. Jesus could have simply said that He only spoke what His father in heaven gave Him to speak (John 7:16; 16:13). But, instead He answered their question with a question. On the surface, they appeared to be very concerned with doctrinal truth and submitting to the will of God. Jesus proceeding to show them that they were really in rebellion to God because they had not received the teacher and teachings God had authorized.
"And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? 24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? 26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. 27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." (Mat 21:23-27)
Jesus’ question almost "magically" (with amazing ability to discern the truth) cut through generations of traditional thinking, prejudice and spiritual blindness getting right at the heart of the matter. Was John’s teaching immersion in water for the forgiveness of sin from heaven or from men? (John said it was from God, John 1:33). Like many people today, the chief priests and elders were placed in the valley of decision. If they were to acknowledge that John’s baptism was given and authorized by God, they would have to defend their rebellion to God’s authority. If they said John’s baptism was a teaching of man, they would be calling John a false teacher and be going against popular opinion concerning John. Their solution to this obvious dilemma was to become Agnostics. (Agnostics are people who are sure that we cannot know anything for sure).
By using this question given to us by Jesus, we too can cut through years of traditions and false teaching and easily understand the source and authority of most any religious teaching. Is it from heaven or men? Let us test the power of this question on some popular denominational teachings. Infant baptism: Is it from heaven or from men? (Not in Bible- From Men) Salvation by Faith Alone: Is it from heaven or from men? (Bible: Not saved by “faith only”; James 2:24- From Men). Sprinkling or pouring for Baptism: Is it from heaven or from men? (Bible teaches, immersion, burial- From Men). Denominational organizations and names: From heaven or from men? (From men). We could and should go on and on, but this is enough to demonstrate the point. This question is easy to ask and the answer is most always easy to see. But, because many today do not understand the need to submit to God’s authority in everything, they answer in much the same way the Jewish leaders did by convincing themselves they cannot know for sure or that it really does not matter..
Not long ago, I was having a religious discussion with a Jewish war veteran. He was quite proud of how well he got along with his friends and buddies who believed that Jesus was the Son of God. He was convinced that everyone who believed in God was going to the same place. Then he began to say that He greatly respected Jesus and believed that He was a prophet sent from God and we should highly regard all He had to say. At that point, I could not help but quote the actual Words of Jesus when He said:: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6). My Jewish friend found himself very quickly in the valley of decision, like the chief priests and elders. If he said Jesus was lying, he would contradict the popular Jewish opinion that Jesus was a good man and a prophet. If he admitted that Jesus spoke the truth from God, he would have to admit he was lost and in rebellion to God. So what did he do? He said, “we cannot know for sure that Jesus said that.”
It is amazing how many people claim ignorance as an excuse for rejecting the truth and authority of God in religious matters. So many times I have pointed people to God’s Word and how it disagrees with their denominational beliefs and they decide they cannot know God’s will for sure so they can remain in their rebellion. What they do not realize is that what seems like an indecision is really a decision to reject the authority and Lordship of Jesus and His Word.

How The Bible Authorizes What We Believe:
All authority in the Bible begins with God the Father. From Adam to the Moses, God revealed His will, to those who would have faith, directly to the fathers or Patriarchs like Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. From Moses to the Cross, God revealed His will for the Israelites through the Law and the Prophets. From the Cross to present time, God has given us His authorized way of faith and salvation through the New Testament Apostles and Prophets who had Jesus Christ as their head and chief cornerstone (Eph 2:19,20). We must first “rightly divide” the Word of God and understand that we do not live under the Law of Moses, but under the faith and new covenant established by the blood of Christ and taught by those He empowered with the Spirit. (2 Tim. 2:15; Gal. 5:4; Col 2:13,14; 1 Thes 2:13).
We find our authority today on the pages of the inspired New Testament. That is where we get the term, “New Testament Church” as compared to any Old testament or a more recent church. The New Testament authorizes what we must believe by direct statements and by obvious truths implied by such statements. For example, if Jesus is the “way, the truth and the life” and no man comes to the Father, but by Him”, we also know for a fact that any religion which rejects Christ as the Messiah and Savior has no power to save. We can also discern much about what God authorizes for our faith and worship by observing the examples of faith, preaching and worship of the divinely inspired first disciples. When we imitate their faith and worship, we are submitting ourselves to a “way that is right and cannot be wrong.” When we govern our beliefs by man’s teachings, we are submitting to a way that is wrong and cannot be right.

Are You Offering God A Strange Fire?
Are we making a big deal out of nothing? Consider an example of men attempting to worship God on their own terms. In Leviticus 10:1-2, two priests attempted to offer God incense started with a “strange” fire which God had not commanded them to use. Their rebellion cost them their lives for they had no respect for the authority of God to rule over their worship. They thought creative substitution was just as acceptable to God as submissive obedience to God’s Word; they were wrong.

Let God Be True!
The Bible provides us with everything God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit want us to know (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Jesus cannot be our “Lord” if our loyalties are to man made denominations, doctrines and traditions. Either God’s Word is true on any given matter or it is not. Will you ask the amazing question about what you and your denomination believe and teach? Just because most do not accept the Bible as their “only” authority, does not mean we cannot know the truth. Let God be true and let Him be the Lord of our faith. R. Johnson

“For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Rom 3:3,4).

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