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Doctrine of Christian Liberty - Doctrines and Commandments of Men

August 21, 2022 Pastor: Timothy Montague Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Quote – John Calvin

“But it is the will of the Lord, that our “fear,” and the reverence with which we worship him, shall be regulated by the rule of his word; and he demands nothing so much as simple obedience, by which we shall conform ourselves and all our actions to the rule of the word, and not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.”


It is not a liberty that frees us from the law of God

It is a liberty, and a freeness that brings us to the law of God with a willingness and a new heart being able to obey the law of God

It is a liberty unto freedom from sin and death.

Two weeks ago, we learned that God is not only Lord of our conscience

  • He is also Lord of our thoughts

That there is a connection between obedience and thinking.

That we are to bring “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” – 2 Corinthians 10.5

This means we are not free to do as we wish

  • We are freed to begin to obey and to think like Christ
    • Of course, not in the fullest sense of that word in that Christ is omniscient
    • But in the sense that we are to have the mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 2.16) as revealed to us in the Scripture

Then we spent a little bit of time discussing, an introduction to the doctrine and commandments of men and how that is informed and moderated by our liberty of conscience.

Do you remember the context of the confession here?

  • which are in anything contrary to His Word in matters of faith or worship
  • or beside it in matters of faith or worship

When the divines say faith or worship, as the context, it is important for us to remember that

  • faith is overarching
  • worship is the practice of our faith.
  • Faith incites men to action through worship

When we talk about

  • how we worship
  • why we worship
  • ways we worship
    • those are a part of our faith
    • those are informed by our faith
    • those flow out of our faith

And the way that our faith, our trust, and our worship flow out is bound by nothing other than he all-sufficient Word of God.

Remember Isaiah 29.1-4 was instructive as to how we are not to carry out our worship:

  • by the precepts of men

Once we take up the precepts of men, what do they do?

  • They push out the doctrines of God.
  • They push out what God requires
  • They leave only room for themselves.

We ended our discussion by examining what our duties are to God with respect to liberty of conscience and being freed from the doctrines and commandments of men.

If God alone is lord of the conscience, and we have this robust doctrine of the sufficiency of the scriptures

What is our duty?

  • Our duty is to search the Scriptures and to judge everything by them
  • Our duty is to hear what God says to us, speaking authoritatively in His Word and turn away from the doctrines and commandments of men that contradict
  • Our Duty is to understand that God is alone the Lord of the Conscience, and He alone tells us how to live our faith
  • Our Duty is then to live out our faith according to what is contained in Scripture and not according to the doctrines or commandments of men.


Scripture: Matthew 23.1-1 2

This week we are going to consider this bit of text that Jesus says about the Pharisees and the resultant implications.

  • First, he says, the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, therefore whatever they bid you do, do it.

But what does it mean to sit in Moses’ seat?

  • It is an idiomatic expression hearkening back to the days of the exodus where Moses performed the task of Judge (Exodus 18)
    • Eventually, on the advice of Jethro, he appointed others to perform assist with the task of judging for the people

These Pharisees are the church authorities of their day.

  • They are the rulers of the church
  • They are the guides of the church
  • They are the teachers of the church
  • They hold what we would call church office.
  • They sit in Moses’ seat, they sit in the chair of judgment

Notice that Moses sat in that judgment seat of his day and the Pharisees sit in that seat, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ

  • Jesus Himself said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat”

There is an authority that even those wicked church guides followed.

  • Now notice very interestingly, what Jesus says
    • All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

All Authority Under God is a Derivative Authority

The implication here is that there is a derivative authority under God.

God has set up authorities for His people to obey – even wicked authorities, at times.

Disobeying them is the same as disobeying God – Jesus gave an explicit command.

  • But this obedience is tempered.
  • But this obedience has limitations.

We have spoken about this before.

  • The limitations are that we are not to disobey God in the obeying of those mediate authorities.

Acts 4.16-21

Peter and John have been brought into the Sanhedrin.

  • What kinds of people made up the Sanhedrin?
    • Scribes and Pharisees.
    • The same kind of people Jesus was talking about, in Matthew 23.

The scribes and the Pharisees call Peter and John.

  • And they tell them to stop preaching.
    • 16 Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. 17 But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. 18 And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

All right, so the story is, in the previous chapter, when Peter and John are heading into the temple for the evening sacrifice

  • not necessarily that they are going to sacrifice
  • but that they are going to find opportunity to preach the gospel.
    • Where else is the fishing going to be good in Jerusalem, but at the evening sacrifice?

And so, they go and there is a man at the temple gate.

  • There is this man who is over 40 years old, and he has been lame since his birth.
  • And he looks at Peter and John, hoping to receive some kind of donation from them
    • obviously, being lame he cannot work.
    • he is dependent upon the mercies of others.
  • He was carried to the temple gate, and here they are walking in, and they see him, and this is that famous line, when Peter says
    • …Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
      And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength.
  • Through that command of the apostle Peter, in the name or by the authority of Jesus Christ, the man's bones are commanded into strength.
    • And so, he stands leaping and praising God.
    • Notice he is not winded at all, and he enters into the temple with them.
  • Peter uses this opportunity to preach to the multitudes about Jesus – giving glory to God for the miracle

Peter and John are arrested.

  • They are brought before the Sanhedrin.
    • Before the rulers, elders, and scribes
  • They ask about what is going on.
  • And that's when Peter says,
  • It is through Jesus in His name, by faith in His name.
  • The one whom you crucified
  • The one whom God has raised from the dead

So, then they are brought before the court, and they tell them

  • stop this preaching
  • stop doing these miracles.

And they say, We cannot but speak what we have seen and heard.

Now, here is what they are not saying in that, it is important that we get this straight

  • They are not saying,
    • Oh, this is just so exciting. We cannot contain ourselves.
    • Or I do not like you, so I am going to do what I want
  • They are saying,
    • we have a command from the lawgiver
    • we have a command to preach
    • and you cannot command against it.

It is very important that we get that straight.

  • Because this is not like
    • Oh, we are just so excited.
    • And you cannot stop me because my conscience is inflamed.

They have a command from Christ to preach.

  • It is the Sanhedrin that is counteracting or contradicting Christ's command to them
    • which cannot be lawfully done.
  • It is on that basis that they oppose them.
    • Why?
    • Because men cannot be the Lords of our conscience.
  • Only Christ is the Lord of our conscience

Acts 4.23-31

Remember that they have sent them away?

  • They have told them not to preach
  • They came together they prayed.

And for what did they pray?

  • Lord, pray that we will obey our authorities?
  • No, they prayed that the Lord would give them boldness to do what he had commanded them.
  • And when they prayed that prayer, what happened?
    • The place shook all around them.
    • That was the Lord encouraging them.
  • And then it says that they went out from that place with boldness, preaching and doing miracles.
    • Okay, so they kept doing what Christ had commanded them to do.

Acts 5.27

And this gets them into trouble in Acts 5

  • They continued to perform miracles and to teach in the name of Christ
  • They are arrested and placed in jail.
  • Then the angel of the Lord releases them from prison and they go continue preaching.
  • They are tracked down and again brought before the council and all the elders
  • And the high priest asked them,
    • 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.
  • Peter, and the other apostles answered
    • 29 We ought to obey God rather than men.
    • And then they go on to preach the gospel to the very people who command them not to preach

This is the point at issue here.

  • This is what we are teaching today.
  • God alone is the Lord of the conscience.
  • Every authority structure that exists, having an authority that is derived from God Himself
    • Parents
    • Pastors
    • Elders
    • Governors and so on.
  • All of these structures of authority
    • have their authority as a derivative authority
    • and never an absolute authority from God Himself.


Romans 13

We could go to Romans 13, and I could show you there that the powers that be are ordained of God.

  • That is our governmental authorities, and
  • The authority that exists in the church.

Matthew 23

We just looked at that in Matthew 23

  • even the Pharisees, who were wicked men had an authority, because they sat in Moses’ seat

we could go to the 5th Commandment

we could go to Ephesians 6

  • talk about the authority that exists in the home

we could go to 1 Corinthians 11

  • to show the authority structure that exists even within the Godhead
  • to show the structure of authority that exists within the family

All of these authorities based on these passages of Scripture

  • are all a derived authority
  • they are not in themselves absolute authorities
  • they are authorities that God Himself has set up
  • and they will all give an account to God.

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