Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:18-19). Though much weight is often placed on the command to make disciples, modern believers should not overlook the first part of the verse. In a postmodern world in which absolute truth is often seen as a thing of the past, we should be careful to remember that Jesus is the standard-setter for truth and error. He has “all authority.” This means He has “the right to decide.” He has the privilege of determining spiritual truth from error, of differentiating between right and wrong, of deciding His will for humanity and history. Unfortunately, many forget this reality. They reject the authority of Jesus and live by other false forms of authority.
Some live by the standard of experience. They think a supernatural event must take place in order to hear from God. Parsing the words of others and interpreting supposed “signs,” they look for direction in the flimsiest of places. The plain words of the Bible aren’t enough. Jesus rebuked religious leaders in His day for looking to experience as a source of truth. He said, “An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign” (Matthew 12:39). Though the pursuit of tongues, miracles, special revelation, and signs from heaven may seem super-spiritual, it is actually the opposite. Those who expect experiences to guide them show that they don’t really live by faith. Experience can confirm truth, but it can never determine it.
Others live by their feelings. When they’re down in the dumps, God seems distant. When they are on the proverbial mountain top, He seems wonderful. Fleeting feelings are their barometer for reality. It is important to note that God is not against emotions. He exhibits them Himself, and He created them for His purposes. By them we escape danger, express affection, manage our lives with due concern, express pity towards others, and give God the worship He deserves. Healthy emotions are helpful. However, when they become the litmus test for truth, we are sure to suffer spiritual harm. Consider the wife of Job. After calamity fell upon her family, she upbraided her husband, saying, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Job responded — “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?” (Job 2:10). Job’s trust wasn’t in fickle feelings; it was in the character of God. Don’t let your emotions be your authority for truth!
is another source of spiritual truth that is suspect. This form of false authority has plagued humanity for aeons and aeons. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, saying, “They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines human commands” (Matthew 15:9). Still today many live like modern Pharisees. Instead of sticking to the bedrock of the Bible, they trust in the pet preferences of those who have gone before them. They live by the axiom — “We’ve always done it that way.” Rarely do they hold their presumptions up against the principles of God’s Word. Because of their dogged devotion to culture and custom, they are guilty of rejecting what God says. Tradition can be helpful, but it is dangerous when it supplants the truth of Jesus.
Dr. Patrick Latham