EXALTING MAN’S WORD OVER GOD’S WORD
How Sin Leads Men Away From the Truth
A Call to Repentance by
Gary Ray Branscome
You have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. (Matthew 15:6.)
Have you ever wondered how you could know for certain what the Bible says? If so, you are not alone. Many have asked that question, and the answer is to be found in the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture. Now in making that statement I realize that the Bible says many things that are hard to understand. There are some passages that even the experts have trouble understanding. However, every doctrine necessary to our salvation is plainly stated in passages so clear that they do not need any interpretation. The only meaning that God wants you to put on His words is the same meaning you are putting on my words as you read this, the plain meaning of the words (2Cor. 1:13).
This often leads people to ask: If the doctrine is so clearly stated, why is there so much disagreement? And the answer is simple. Because of the blindness of the human heart, men read their own ideas into the text of Scripture, interpret some of the passages that are harder to understand to agree with those ideas, and then explain away any clear statements of Scripture that contradict those ideas. That is the way of the world. That is what all of the sects and cults do. However, that is wrong. God wants us to believe what He plainly says, not explain it away.
For that reason, we need to first learn those truths that are so clearly stated in Scripture that they need no interpretation, and then let those truths be both the standard by which we evaluate every human opinion, and the light by which we interpret all of the other passages of Scripture.
For example: because the Bible says that Christ, “is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” it should be obvious that God wants us to believe and teach that Christ, “is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” (1John 2:2). Nevertheless, there are those who deny that Christ died for the sins of the whole world, teaching instead that He only died for the sins of the elect.
Hearing that, you may wonder why anyone would reject something the Bible plainly says. The reason they reject it is because they have interpreted another passage of Scripture to contradict it. And, by doing so they have violated two rules for interpreting Scripture: 1- No passage of Scripture should ever be interpreted to contradict what the Bible plainly says (Isaiah ). 2- Whenever man’s word (or man’s interpretation) contradicts what the Bible plainly says, man’s word must be rejected as false (Romans 3:4).
They read Ephesians 1:4 which says, “He [God] has chosen us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world,” and then assume that God first decided who He wanted to save, and then sent Christ to save them. On the basis of that assumption they then conclude the God only sent Christ to atone for the sins of those whom He wanted to save. However, we know that their conclusion is wrong because it contradicts the words of 1John 2:2. And, that tells us that their assumption is wrong. If it was not wrong, it would not lead to a conclusion that contradicts what the Bible plainly says.
They could correct that error if they would only stop assuming that God first chose those He wanted to save before deciding to send Christ, and instead reversed the order, teaching that God first decided to send Christ to atone “for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” (1John 2:2). And, then, because without His help no one could or would believe (John ), decided to cause the Bible to be written, and to work through the preaching of the Word to bring untold multitudes to faith (Romans ). If they made that small change they would not wind up contradicting 1John 2:2.
Because the words of 1John 2:2 assure us of forgiveness in Christ, placing a limitation on those words calls what they say into doubt, thus making the Word of God of no effect. Therefore, an assumption which seems small can lead to a major error if it leads us to contradict what the Bible plainly says. And, that is why there is so much division in the church even though the doctrine that God wants us to believe and teach is clearly stated in Scripture.
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The reason Christianity is on the
When Jesus condemned the Pharisees, He was not condemning their efforts to keep the law but their hardness of heart, their refusal to admit their sin, and the excuses they came up with to justify their sin (Matthew 15:3-6 and 23:4, 14, Romans 2:23). For that reason, all of His condemnations apply not only to those who trust in works, but to all who make excuses for their sin and justify their sin, and that includes sexual sin (Hebrews 10:26-29).
The same Bible that says, “I restrain my body, and bring it under control: lest there be any way that I, after having preached to others, might be a castaway,” (1Corinthians 9:27) also says that Christ, “is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,” (Jude 24). The first passage tells us why we need God’s sustaining grace, the second assures us of that grace. The first passage is God’s warning to all who make excuses for sin, the second is God’s assurance that He will keep us by His grace. The first passage is law, the second is gospel. Both are important! However, the way of our lukewarm American churches is to affirm one passage while explaining away the other.
Instead of using the words of 1Corinthians 9:27 to warn the unrepentant, while pointing those who repent to God’s sustaining grace, 1Corinthians 9:27 is used to point those who have a repentant heart to their own works. On the other hand, instead of using the words of Jude 24 to comfort those who have a repentant heart, Jude 24 is used to give the unrepentant a false assurance of salvation by leading them to believe that once they have prayed the “sinners prayer” they can live in sin and still be saved. Both errors stem from a failure to understand that God’s Law is His warning to the unrepentant, while the Gospel is His word of comfort to those who repent (See 1Timothy 1:9).
Because Christ said the He would raise up believers on the “last day,” those who contradict it, teaching instead that He will raise up believers before the last day, are exalting man’s word over God’s Word (John 6:39,40,44).
Because Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” (John ) those who contradict it, teaching instead that Christ will reign on this earth are exalting man’s word over God’s Word. [Note: They usually interpret Revelation 20:4 to support their ideas of an earthly kingdom. However, that passage says nothing about Christ reigning on this world. They simply read their own ideas into the text and then pass their word off as God’s Word.]
Because the Bible says, “No one can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,” (1Corinthians 12:3), those who contradict it, teaching instead that millions will be saved after the Holy Spirit is withdrawn from the earth, are exalting man’s word over God’s Word. [Note: The Bible nowhere says that the Holy Spirit will be withdrawn from the earth. That is just something they have made up.]
The Bible nowhere says that there will be “seven years” of tribulation that is just something else that they have made up.
Because the Bible plainly tells us that both the saved and the lost will be present at the final judgment, those who contradict it, teaching instead that those who are saved will not be present, are exalting man’s word over God’s Word, (John 5:28-29, Matthew 25:31-34, 2Corinthians 5:9-11, Revelation 20:15). [Note: They explain away what the Bible says about the final judgment because they fail to understand that the forgiveness we have in Christ not only saves us, it also makes us righteous. On the day of judgment we will not be condemned because the forgiveness we have in Christ cleanses us from all sin making us righteous in the sight of God, as it is written, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).]
Because the doctrine that God wants us to believe and teach is clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture, everything else that the Bible says is there to support that doctrine, and nothing that is taught in the hard to understand passages of Scripture will contradict what is taught in the clear. For that reason, all of the hard to understand passages need to be interpreted to teach the same doctrine that is taught in the clear passages. “Since God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His Word in the direction you wish to go.” (Martin Luther, “What Luther Says,” Concordia, 1959, p. 93.)
Those who explain away something the Bible says are taking away from the words of Scripture (Revelation ). Those who read man-made ideas and interpretations into the text are adding to the words of Scripture (Revelation , Proverbs 30:6). The ancient Jews called such explanations and interpretations “tradition” (Mark 7:9-13). However, many today are so confused that they cannot tell the difference between what the Bible actually says, and their own traditions (interpretations).