When men begin to co-mingle their self-serving rules with God’s divine laws there will always be strife and contention.
It is a man’s responsibility before God to make rules for the good of his family. These rules may not be stated specifically in the Holy Scriptures. They must not be in conflict with the Word and the Spirit.
We must not make a personal opinion, or an unscriptural tradition, a test of fellowship. We must not add anything to the rules of God to which we require conformance as a requisite for fellowship.
Example: “It is 9 o’clock, time for all you children to go to bed. We have a rule in this house that the children go to bed at 9 o’clock.” That rule is not in the scriptures but the Holy Spirit will bear witness that it is a good rule. Another family may have the rule that the children go to bed at 10 o’clock. One man does not have the authority or responsibility to tell another man when his children must go to bed, even though he may think it is unwise to allow them to stay up that late.
The same principle applies to a local congregation. One minister may teach and exhort the women in his congregation to wear clothing that has a hem which reaches somewhere between the bottom of the calf of the leg and the ankle. Another minister may teach that mid-calf to the ankle is modest. The Bible principle is that a person’s nakedness (which includes the part of the body above the knee up to the neck) be kept covered at all times.
Some fathers and some ministers set rules which infringe upon the liberty which should be properly allowed certain individual members of the family and congregation. A farmer with a large farm may unjustly require his children to bring their spouse and children to the family farm to maintain the family unity. A pastor may unjustly require new converts to permanently attend the congregation where they sought salvation and not allow them the liberty to labor in God’s Kingdom and in such a secular place of employment as may be acceptable to God.
God’s wisdom and His ways are far above the thoughts of men. When we begin to enforce the rules of men which run contrary to righteousness, we have supplanted the rules of God for the rules of men. Men’s rules form the foundation for traditions which may be so long standing that they become sacred in the minds of those who wish to enforce those traditions.
We could spend hours reviewing manmade rules and comparing their righteousness with the rules of God. When men add their rules to God’s rules, they will encounter situations where their rules do not work. God’s rules always apply to the situation at hand. Men should not be so dogmatic and bound to tradition to enforce an unrighteous rule.
Oftentimes and perhaps in the majority of instances where men establish rules, they do so to protect the integrity and purity of the congregation. However, they may easily overreach their responsibility and authority by making rules which are detrimental to individual members of the congregation. It is a serious injustice to cause a person to lose hope and confidence and consequently backslide over an unjust or unrighteous rule.
Listen to what “thus saith the Lord:”
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
5 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.
6 Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
18 If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
We have been given a sober warning to not add our rules to God’s rules. You may explain and build upon the precepts of God but do not change the meaning or limits of God’s rules. If the motive for establishing the rule is self-serving, conflict and strife will follow. God's rules are never subject to the changing traditions and customs of this world. Neither should His laws be altered by men's additions or deletions.
23 And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn.
24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
25 And he said unto them, Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?
26 How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?
27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
The Jewish leaders were supposed to be trying to protect the Sabbath day and to keep it holy according to the third commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work.” This law was given to impress upon men the importance of allocating a significant amount of time to worship God and learn His commandments as they are taught to them by the men of God. The sabbath day was not the holiness which needed protection. It was the righteous instructions and the understanding of the hearts of the people which needed protection.
Numerous manmade rules were formed to enforce this commandment. Notice how their rules ran against what was right and good in the following passage where Jesus healed a man who had been impotent for thirty-eight years.
5 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?
13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.
14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.
15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.
16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
Is it evil to do good on the Sabbath day? According to Jewish leaders the answer is yes, if it is contrary to one of their rules. Their rules would prevent someone from doing the right thing. Jesus made this clear in many of His works. Do you make rules which prevent people from doing the right and wise thing to do?
14 And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.
15 The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?
16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
When people break their own rules, it is hypocrisy. Some ministers have imposed rules concerning divine healing upon their congregation and then privately and secretly broken those same rules. Many rules have been formed by men concerning: diet, dress, divorce, discipline, vocation, place of residence, and such like which infringe upon the liberties granted by the Holy Spirit. The church of God stands against sin, rebellion and disobedience to God. We must be careful to not judge a brother who is walking in the light of truth which has been made known to him. You say, “But, he is breaking one of our rules!” Is he breaking one of your rules or one of God’s rules. Yet you say, “One of the rules of God is that he must obey those who have the rule over him.” Not if in his heart he truly believed that the rule is unjust or unrighteous; and, you can’t convince him that you have a clear scriptural base for the rule.
5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
Why would you provoke God’s displeasure by requiring something which He has not required?
Would you provoke God’s displeasure by casting someone out of the congregation because he does not understand one of your rules; even though in the other areas of his life he is living holy.
10 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
Woe be to that person or pastor who is more concerned for his own reputation and position of authority than he is about the advancement of truth and justice for all persons. The Law of Love, if it is observed, will move a person to compassion and mercy so that he does not exercise the force of a situational rule to maintain his position of authority. The Holy Spirit would have you examine the real purpose for which you demand conformance to a rule which is not set forth by righteous principles.
15 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
Will God say that to you at the great and final judgment?
In your effort to uphold righteous principles have you established traditions and rules, which indrance to a person’s faith and obedience in the righteousness of God? Do people find justice and mercy in your works?
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
Are you holding to beliefs which are not based on the scriptures?
Are your beliefs which your parents and grandparents taught contrary to scriptures?
Are your beliefs based on the influence of some minister whom you respected even though you can not prove it by the scriptures?
Are you teaching for doctrine the commandments of men?
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
BEWARE OF THESE THINGS: men’s philosophies, vain deceit, traditions of men, and beliefs based on things of the world rather than the word of God.
These works can creep into your spiritual life much easier than most people may think.
They can be the result of teaching and training from your early childhood or your early indoctrination in the congregation where you were saved. The people you first associated with had a great influence on you. It is your responsibility to prove that influence, whether it be righteous or unrighteous.
12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.
13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;
14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
15 Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.
16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.
If we profess to know God, but we deny him in our works and beliefs, we will be lost forever.
Beware of what you have been taught. Make sure your beliefs are founded on the word of God and the witness of the Holy Spirit.