In this series of bulletin articles, we’ve been examining the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Lately we’ve been looking at the first commandment of the ten commandments: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). We saw the duties of the first commandment and have now reflected on the sins forbidden by the commandment.
The first commandment also forbids letting other people be lords of our faith and consciences.
There is a perennial temptation to let other people decide matters of faith and conscience for us. Instead of following God’s commandments, we’d much rather follow the teachings and traditions of men.
But Jesus warned the Jews about allowing the Pharisees such control over them: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to’ (Matthew 23:2-13).
The early Christians also fell into the same temptation. Paul rebukes the church in Corinth with these words: ‘My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?’ (1 Corinthians 1:11-13).
If we worship God, he is our final authority on matters of faith and conscience. Yes, God gives us teachers to help us understand his commandments. But at the end of the day, we are not disciples of our teachers. We’re disciples of Jesus Christ. If a teacher cannot show us from Scripture what they’re teaching, we have every right to ignore their instruction. Otherwise, we’re guilty of false worship as we have placed that person as god of our life, rather than our Creator.
Are you guilty of letting another person be lord of your life? Stop what you’re doing, confess it to the Lord Jesus and ask for forgiveness. And then begin to let Christ alone decide what you believe and do.