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                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

               Is It From Heaven Or From Men? (11:27-33)

INTRODUCTION

1. Upon return to the temple on Tuesday, Jesus was confronted by the
   chief priests and elders...
   a. They questioned His authority - Mk 11:27-28
   b. In response, Jesus challenged them regarding the authority behind
      the baptism of John - Mk 11:29-30
   c. Since they would not answer, Jesus refused to answer their
      question - Mk 11:31-33

2. In this passage, we find an important principle regarding authority
   in matters of religion...
   a. All religious practices must come from one of two sources
   b. They come either from heaven or from men - Mk 11:30

3. What Jesus asked regarding Johnís baptism, could be asked of many
   religious practices...
   a. Infant baptism
   b. Sprinkling or pouring instead of immersion
   c. Denominationalism, a clergy-laity distinction
   d. The impossibility of apostasy, observing the Sabbath
   e. Instrumental music, burning of incense, etc., in our worship
   -- Are such practices from heaven or from men?

[In this study we shall consider how one can know whether a particular
religious practice is from heaven or from man...]

I. TO BE FROM HEAVEN

   A. IT MUST COME FROM JESUS...
      1. For He has been given all authority - Mt 28:18
      2. Both in heaven and on earth
      -- Certainly if Jesus commanded it, it is from heaven!

   B. IT MUST COME THROUGH HIS APOSTLES...
      1. For Jesus delegated His authority to His apostles - Jn 13:20
      2. They serve as His official ambassadors - 2Co 5:20
      3. To ensure their reliability, Jesus promised the Spirit to
         remind them of what He taught, and to guide them into all the
         truth - Jn 14:26; 16:12-13
      4. This is why the church continued steadfastly in the apostlesí
         doctrine - Ac 2:42; 1Co 14:37; 1Th 2:13
      -- If the apostles of Christ taught it, it is from heaven!

   C. IT MUST COME ONLY FROM THE APOSTLES...
      1. The apostles were given, and proclaimed, the whole counsel of
         God - Ac 20:27
      2. They were given all things that pertain to life and godliness
         - 2Pe 1:3
      3. The faith revealed through them was delivered once for all
         (lit., one time for all times) - Ju 3
      -- There is no need for modern day revelations, for in the
         Scriptures we have all we need to be "complete, thoroughly
         equipped for every good work" - 2 Ti 3:16-17

[If a religious practice can be found to be taught by Jesus or His
apostles, then it is truly from heaven!  Religious practices that are
from men, however, might come from a variety of sources...]

II. IT IS FROM MAN

   A. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT THE MAJORITY THINKS...
      1. Many people will accept whatever most people think about
         something
      2. Yet Jesus warned against following the majority - Mt 7:13-14
      3. If you had followed the majority...
         a. In Noahís day, you would have perished in the flood
         b. In Joshuaís day, you would have perished in the wilderness
      -- What the majority believes or does is not likely to be from
         heaven, but from men!

   B. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT PARENTS TAUGHT US...
      1. Some believe "If it was good enough for Mom and Dad, it is good
         enough for me."
      2. As much as we may love and respect our parents, Christ must
         come first - Mt 10:37
      3. If every generation had simply followed their parents, then we
         who are Gentiles would likely still be idol-worshippers and
         polytheistic!
      -- Let us honor our parents, not by following them blindly, but by
         applying principles they themselves likely taught us, such as
         seek to do the right thing, obey God, etc.

   C. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT PREACHERS TELL US...
      1. It is common for people to place their trust in their
         "preacher," "priest," or "pastor"
      2. They reason that surely these "men of God" could not be wrong
         or lead them astray
         a. Yet Paul warned of how we can easily be misled - cf. 2Co
            11:13-15
         b. And Jesus warned about the "blind leading the blind" - Mt
            15:12-14
      3. Our attitude needs to be like that of the Bereans, who
         carefully examined Paulís teachings in light of the Scriptures
         - Ac 17:11
      -- What a preacher teaches is only as good as the authority behind
         it; unless we wish to be led astray, we have the responsibility
         to ask "Is it from God, or men?"

   D. IF BASED SOLELY UPON CREEDS AND TRADITIONS OF MEN...
      1. This is where the denominations really get most of their
         authority
         a. E.g., for such things as infant baptism, pouring or
            sprinkling instead of immersion
         b. E.g., for such things as denominationalism, once saved
            always saved
      2. Indeed, adherence to the creeds of men is what produces
         denominations
         a. Accept the Bible only, and you become a Christian only
         b. Accept some man-made creed or tradition, and you become
            something else!
            1) Accept the Book of Mormon, and you become a Mormon
            2) Accept papal authority, and you become a Roman Catholic
            3) Accept the Lutheran Catechism, and you become a Lutheran
      3. Creeds are really not even necessary...
         a. If they say more than what the Bible says, they say too much
         b. If they say less than what the Bible says, they say too
            little
         c. If they say exactly what the Bible says, then why not let
            the Bible be our creed book?
      -- The fact is creeds are filled with the traditions and commands
         of men, many of which conflict with and displace the commands
         of God! - cf. Mk 7:6-9

   E. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT YOUR CONSCIENCE TELLS YOU...
      1. "Let your conscience be your guide" is the motto of many
      2. But our conscience cannot always be reliable
         a. Paul had served God with a good conscience throughout his
            life - Ac 23:1
         b. Even at a time when he was persecuting Christians! - cf. Ac
            26:9-11
      3. Our conscience is like a clock, which works properly if set
         properly
      4. Once our conscience has been "set" by the "apostlesí doctrine",
         then it can be a good guide
      -- Unless what your conscience is telling you can be confirmed by
         the Word of God, then what you believe is from man, not God!

   F. IF BASED SOLELY UPON WHAT IS HUMAN WISDOM...
      1. Many believe that through their own wisdom they can determine
         right and wrong
         a. If it makes sense to them, they reason it must be true
         b. If it doesnít make sense, they wonít accept it
      2. But Godís thoughts and ways are not always our own - cf. Isa
         55:8-9
      3. In fact, God has chosen to save man in a manner specifically
         designed to confound those who depend solely upon human wisdom
         - cf. 1Co 1:18-29
      4. For us to know Godís will, it was necessary for Him to reveal
         it to us - 1Co 2:9-12
         a. This He has done through His Spirit-inspired apostles
         b. Who in turn shared it with us through their writings - Ep
            3:1-5
      -- Appeal to human reason to justify a certain practice, and it
         will likely be from man, not God!

   G. IF BASED SOLELY UPON FEELINGS...
      1. This is often the "standard of authority" for many people
         a. Who go by whatever "feels right"
         b. Who place stock in a religion "better felt than told"
      2. Yet the Bible declares the danger of trusting in "feelings"
         a. "There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is
            the way of death." - Pr 14:12
         b. "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool..." - Pr 28:26
         c. "O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not
            in man who walks to direct his own steps." - Jer 10:23
      -- It should be evident that any religious practice or doctrine
         based upon "feelings" alone is from man, not God!

   H. IF BASED SOLELY UPON THE OLD TESTAMENT...
      1. People will sometimes resort to the O.T. to provide authority
         for some practice
         a. When they canít find authority for it in the teachings of
            Christ and/or His apostles
         b. For example, a clergy-laity system, burning of incense and
            use of instrumental music in worship, keeping the Sabbath
      2. But the O.T. was designed to be temporary, to fulfill a
         specific purpose and as a covenant has been replaced by the New
         Covenant (i.e., the New Testament)
         a. It was given because of transgressions, till Christ should
            come - Ga 3:19
         b. For those under the Law (Israel), it was a tutor
            1) A tutor designed to lead them to Christ - Ga 3:24
            2) A tutor that has been taken away - Ga 3:25
         c. When those who were under the Law came to Christ...
            1) They became dead to the Law - Ro 7:4
            2) They were delivered from the Law - Ro 7:6
         d. As prophesied by Jeremiah, God has made a "new covenant" to
            replace the "first covenant" which is now obsolete - He
            8:7-13
      3. In handling of the issue of circumcision, the apostles
         demonstrated that one cannot use the O.T. to teach something
         which the apostles themselves did not command
         a. Some sought to enforce circumcision and the Law upon Gentile
            believers - Ac 15:1,6
         b. But the apostles, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
            were able to defuse the problem by simply stating they "gave
            no such commandment" - Ac 15:22-29
      4. This is not to say the O.T. is not of value to Christians...
         a. It was written for our learning, to provide patience,
            comfort, and hope - Ro 15:4
         b. It was written for our admonition, that we not make similar
            mistakes - 1Co 10:6,11
         c. We just canít use it to enjoin religious practices upon
            others which the apostles themselves did not teach!

CONCLUSION

1. Do we want to avoid being led astray...?
   a. By "blind leaders of the blind"? - cf. Mt 15:14
   b. By "false teachers...who will secretly bring in destructive
      heresies"? - cf. 2Pe 2:1

2. Then we need to know how to ascertain whether a religious doctrine or
   practice...
   a. Is from God or from men
   b. Is based upon what the apostles of Christ taught, or some other
      "authority"

3. The solution is simple, but requires effort on our part...
   a. We must "continue steadfastly in the apostlesí doctrine" - Ac 2:42
   a. We must "search the Scriptures daily" - Ac 17:11

Only then can we be sure that what we believe or someone teaches is
truly from God, and not from man!
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