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Doctrine of Christian Liberty - Doctrines and Commandments of Men II

August 28, 2022 Pastor: Timothy Montague Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Matthew 23

Quote – J. C. Ryle

“The spirit of the Pharisees still lives, after eighteen hundred years. The disposition to “make the word of God of none effect by traditions,” is to be found among Christians, as well as among Jews. The tendency practically to exalt man’s inventions above God’s word, is still fearfully prevalent. May we watch against it and be on our guard! May we remember that no tradition or man-made institution in religion can ever excuse the neglect of relative duties or justify disobedience to any plain commandment of God’s word.”

Review/ Introduction - Matthew 23.1-13

Last week we looked at several scriptures, focusing on Matthew 23.

From our analysis of that passage, we learned:

The authorities set in place by God

  • Possess 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.

This means, that having a derived authority:

  • We are commanded by God to obey
    • Not when we feel like
    • Not when it suits us
    • But at all times where that authority does not contradict the Word of God
    • For the are ministers of God
  • But, having a derived authority
    • Means that although their authority comes from God
      • It is not above God
      • It is subservient to God
    • Disobeying a command from the authorities where it aligns and does not contradict or enjoin that which His Word does not, is being disobedient to the command of God to obey
    • But not disobeying an unlawful command contrary to the Word of God is a sin

Not many people like or understand this.

Too many people today, under the guise of religion, make all types of excuses

  • to disobey any and every authority they might disagree with
  • to avoid having any authority over them at all

But if these decisions are not based firmly upon the Word of God, it is nothing more than self-idolatry and rebellion against the structures God has set in place

We also learned that men are not allowed to place requirements on the people of God that He Himself does not require and do not flow out of the Word or the light of nature.

Dominion Over Your Faith


So, it is important that we recognize that God alone is lord of the conscience.

Since God alone is lord of the conscience, then what is Jesus telling us in Matthew 23?

  • First: do what the Pharisees say.
  • Second: Do not yourself be called rabbi
    • Rabbi means -> master, greater
    • It is also a title of respect and honor
  • And so, one who is a Rabbi is my great one, the “e” on the end means "my"
    • it is my great one, my master
  • So, Christ says, do not be called rabbi.
  • Christ is your master
  • Third: call no man your father, upon earth
    • Christ is your father

How is it at the beginning of this discourse, Jesus says the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat and do whatsoever they bid you do…

  • Then toward the end of that discourse, he says:
    • Do not be called rabbi
    • Do not be called master
    • Do not be called father.

Is he speaking in absolute terms here?

  • Well, of course, the answer is no.
  • It is important we understand what Jesus means here because this has been perverted by some.
    • In some cases, it has been perverted into independency where no man is any man’s master or authority or elder or pastor

What Jesus is telling us here is

  • That He does not want us to get hung up with the names that we see here, Rabbi, Father, Master
  • but that he wants us to understand where the authority comes from
    • with a rabbi
    • with a master.
    • with a father
  • That when we use these titles, that we understand in the use of those titles
    • there is only one absolute father
    • that there is only one absolute master
    • that there is only one absolute rabbi
    • that we should never give men absolute sway
      • especially when those who bear those titles desire themselves to be tyrants.

Christ does not attach importance to the title

  • but restrains them within proper limits

There is no issue with the title itself

  • Paul refers to himself as a teacher is 1 Tim
  • The issue, within context, is the limit of authority that goes along with the title

Remember, at one point in the ministry of Christ, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, and they say, this people that knoweth not the law are accursed. In other words, they are ignorant. (John 7.49)

  • In other words, the people ought to do whatever the Pharisees say, because they are ignorant.
  • In other words, “Just do what I tell you”
    • Whenever someone says that, Run, and do not walk to the nearest exit
      • because they have set themselves up to be the Lord of your conscience
      • Only God can function in that office.

Additional Scriptural Support

2 Corinthians 1.23

One of the themes that runs through the book of 2 Corinthians is the defense of Paul’s Apostleship

Notice how the apostle sees his own authority in Corinth, he saw it as a wide authority.

  • Verse 23-34 → …24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith
  • That is a great phrase there → dominion over your faith
  • Did you realize, that over your faith?
    • That your pastor does not have dominion
    • That your elders do not have dominion
    • That even you, yourself do not have
  • There is only one with dominion over your faith
    • And that is Christ
  • Notice that Paul as an inspired apostle
    • is not claiming this dominion to himself
    • although if anyone man could…

How different is this than some churchmen today who claim an absolute dominion over the faith of others

  • Telling others what church to attend or not
  • Telling others whether to go to church or not
  • Telling others things they have no right to tell

Paul understood God alone is lord of the conscience.

  • Paul calls himself a helper of your joy.

Brothers and sisters, this is what your elders, and your officers are → helpers to your joy.

  • Because your joy is found in being obedient to God's commands.
  • And what is the job of elders, of pastors, of teachers in the church?
    • to guide you to Christ
    • to guide you to obey Him
    • to be a helper for your joy.
  • That is our job
  • And this is why we are commanded to be under the authority of the church
    • because God has set those people there, with derivative authority to do this very thing

1 Peter 5.1-3

What did Peter think about his dominion?

  • He was to be an example and take oversight but remember
    • it is God's heritage
    • it is God's flock

It is very important that we understand that when we say that God alone is lord of the conscience…

  • we must never give our obedience over to the doctrines and commandments of men.

There is no other authority with the right to call you to account

  • except those mediate authorities
    • and they are always answerable to Christ.

It is not the place of the elders → to bind your conscience beyond Scripture

  • We can, however, show you what our Lord Jesus Christ requires of us.

The elders become helpers to our joy, helpers of our obedience.

And yes, they have an authority to call you to account

  • There is an authority in the church.
    • but that authority is a derived authority
    • but that authority is not an absolute authority.

Matthew 23.1-6

Back in our original passage

Christ says to do not after their works for they say and do not

  • Notice that even while Jesus says obey them
  • He says:
    • Obey them in a particular way
    • Obey them in their righteousness
    • Obey them in the things that they do that are good
  • Obey them
    • in the commands that are right
    • in the commands that are biblical
    • in the commands that are Christian

Then, there is a way that you should not follow them

  • You should not follow them in their hypocrisy, for they say, and do not.

When the Prophet spoke of old and said, Thus saith the Lord:

  • that cannot be brought into judgment
  • It is simply to be heard, received, and obeyed.
    • Be R.O.

The danger that we are seeing here is the acceptance and reliance, without question:

  • upon the doctrine and commandments of men
  • upon another person to be the lord of your conscience instead of Christ

Three Dangerous Types of Faith

Implicit Faith

  • Where do you go when you are sick?
    • You go to a doctor for a prognosis.

Do you know the difference between a bad patient and a good patient?

  • A good patient would ask questions to understand the prognosis as much as possible.
  • A bad patient receives whatever is said without even thinking about it
  • That would be what is called implicit faith

There are so many times today we hear of folks that come to see their pastors.

  • And in some cases, they just want to do whatever their pastor says
  • They are perfectly willing just to check their brain in, they do not really care.
    • Just give me the answer.
    • Just tell me what to do.

Do you know what implicit faith does?

  • It destroys reason.
  • Because you no longer have to think.
  • Because someone else is doing your thinking

Brothers and sisters, when we stand before the Lord, and the Lord says, in this case, why did you do “x”

  • we are going to say, my pastor told me to
  • or we are going to say this person told me to
  • The Lord is not going to accept that excuse.

Rebellious Faith

We can be a bad patient by saying

  • I am not going to listen to you
  • I do not care about your expertise.
  • I do not care about your experience.
  • I do not care about your authority.
  • I know more than you.
  • I have more experience than you.
  • I know what I know, and I do not need to be told anything by you.

Frankly, you see these kinds of patterns run through families and churches and other places as well.

  • You see people that do not trust doctors
  • You see people that do not trust authorities
  • You see people that do not trust ministers

You see people that self medicate at home

  • with regard to their bodies
  • as well as with regard to their souls

Faith in Liberty

In the church today, we seem to think that the ministry is the only thing that people can do with no official training.

All that is required is to get off the couch.

  • Experience
  • Ordination
  • Vetting

We have people running free on the landscape today placing themselves in positions of spiritual authority that have not been placed there by God.

  • And they are demanding implicit faith
  • And they are leading people into sin
  • And they are leading people into rebelling against the very God they claim to represent


The error of implicit faith is something that persists even today although it takes many guises.

The formal definition of implicit faith

  • giving over your rights and responsibilities
    • of private and personal judgment
      • to the authority of some man or church
    • It is unquestioning, unreasoning, uninformed
      • obedience solely based on human command
        • without thought
        • without judgment
        • without a supposed responsibility

But brothers and sisters it will not be without responsibility.

  • You will be responsible for making decisions based on implicit faith. (Rom. 12.14)

The confidence, the deference, and the respect that we owe to those over us in the Lord ought never to take the place of personal study and conviction.

In our day, there are some errors that develop around the doctrine of implicit faith.

  • The first arises out of sloth and inattention
    • Oh, you know, my pastor, He's really a theologian. And so, if I ever have a question, I just ask him, and I know what he tells me is the truth.
    • I do not have to ever check it out.
    • I have too many things to do.
    • Now, if you ask the pastor or your elders a question, and they come back to you with something that sounds different to your hearing, does that engender more questions?
      • Or is it just too much work to get to the bottom?
      • Well, we are assuming that if you ask the question that you should want to get to the bottom.
      • And if we do not want to get to the bottom of it, because it is just too much work, then this kind of sloth can engender what we call an implicit faith.
    • And this often leads to tyranny
      • because it bypasses the checks and balances between ministers and elders
    • But members of the congregation are capable of searching the scriptures together with those who have more training and experience
      • With those in authority in the church taking the lead in the discussion and giving direction.
    • Even the best of men, if left to be a law to themselves, often devolve into tyrants.
    • So, we must have those checks and balances of searching the scriptures together.
  • The second error arising out of implicit faith might be called heroism leading to rebellion
    • Pick a teacher of the past, any teacher.
    • And one becomes particularly enamored with that teacher.
    • Such that everything he says is good
    • This often leads not to tyranny, but rebellion
    • This kind of implicit faith, you say,
      • Well, how does that kind of implicit faith lead to rebellion?
      • Well, let us say that you choose. Let us pick one of our great lights of the past. - George Gillespie.
    • Let us say, Ben, listens to everything that George Gillespie says
      • Ben says this must be good by definition
      • George is a good guy
    • But when Ben’s pastor and elders disagree with George Gillespie on a particular matter.
      • What happens?
      • all of a sudden, the Pastor and the Elders come down a notch.
    • Then we find a second thing that they disagree with Mr. Gillespie
      • And they come down a notch again.
      • And a third thing, they come down a notch again.
      • And the fourth thing, they come down a notch again
    • And then what happens?
      • All of sudden you think you do not need the church.
      • All of a sudden you think you do not need what Christ has set up for you
      • All of a sudden you think you do not need what Christ has called you to
      • All of a sudden, you think you can submit to dead guys (or nobody at all) than to the living elders that God has given you.
    • Right? It is always easier to do that, isn’t it?
      • Because those dead guys
        • they do not live with you day to day
        • you do not live with them day to day
      • So, we elevate all of their goodness
        • but we do not know anything of their difficulties or struggles.
      • And so, we elevate them to a position of super-saint, heroes of the faith
        • And we submit to them gladly because they are not here ever to correct us.
        • And the guys that the Lord has on site with us
          • who live with us day in and day out
          • who know our foibles
          • we know some of theirs
        • Well, we are less ready to listen to them.
      • But Mr. Gillespie?
        • oh, he is the best
        • And so, it leads to rebellion, doesn't it?
        • It is an implicit faith because whatever he said must be right.
      • And yet that implicit faith has as its outcome, rebellion.
    • Sometimes we see this out as pretend submission to authorities across the world somewhere, right?
      • Oh, my presbytery is in Scotland, England, or Germany or somewhere over there.
      • Or I am on my own and just do church at home – listening to some TV preacher or some recording.
    • Sometimes it is across state lines.
      • But where are your elders?
      • Well, they are 300 miles away.
      • How is that working?
        • With those who are to be your guides
        • With those who are to be there to answer your questions as helpers for your joy.
      • How are you and they partakers of joy together If they are so far away?
      • How are you submitting to and obeying Christ, the Head of the Church, if you never submit to those authorities, he has given you?

So, you see, this doctrine of implicit faith, it winds its tendrils into many different aspects of how we live.

  • And so, it is something that it is not a faraway thing.
  • It is something that we must hold very closely
  • We must remember that that temptation is always near.


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