When one reads the book of Matthew, he will find a record of various reactions to the Word of God. Jesus gave a great deal of time and attention to this very serious matter. You will find that our Lord considered this matter to be of paramount importance. He had some things to say on one occasion that will serve to introduce us to our study for this time.
There was an occasion when some of the scribes and Pharisees would confront him about the conduct of His disciples. They wanted to know why His disciples transgress the tradition of the elders. This they said was being done when they did not wash their hands when they ate (Matthew 15:1-2). Jesus responded with a question. “Why do ye transgress the commandment of God by your tradition” (Matthew 15:3)?
Jesus then proceeded to tell them which commandment he had in mind. It was the commandment having to do with honoring father and mother (Matthew 15:4). But how were they reacting to this word?
SOME WOULD SEEK TO MAKE IT OF NONE EFFECT?
What was being said by these scribes and Pharisees would have the result of saying this commandment is not in effect. Their tradition would say to a father or mother, “It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me: and honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free” (Matthew 15:5-6). In this case, a human tradition would set aside the commandment of the Lord. Thus, what was in effect is, to them, without effect or power. They would deprive the commandment of its authority or power. They will use in its stead the doctrines and commandments of men. I am persuaded that this same kind of thing occurs in our day. This can be seen when you discuss the subject of baptism with some of our religious neighbors.
Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). This is a plain statement of our Lord. There can be no doubt about the place of baptism in the plan of man’s redemption. But how many times have we seen people who will take this plain passage and seek to break the force of it by saying, “Man is saved by faith alone”? In so doing they seek to make of none effect the Word of God. That is, they seek to say by this and other statements that baptism is not necessary, that it is of none effect. But what would the difference be between this sort of statement concerning baptism and the one the scribes and Pharisees made concerning the responsibility to honor father and mother? I fail to see any at all. They would be exactly the same in principle. These would seek to make the Word of God of none effect concerning baptism.
SOME PRACTICE THAT WHICH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT
One can read some of the epistles of Paul and find a number of people who sought to continue to observe the law of Moses after it had been taken out of the way. Listen to an argument he used to the Hebrew Christians, some of whom were turning back to the law. You will see him trying to help some of his brethren at Colossae. There were some men who were trying to beguile them (Colossians 2:4). Some would take them captive by vain deceit (Colossians 2:8). Some would seek to bind upon them the law concerning meats and drink, holy days, new moons and sabbath days (Colossians 2:16). Paul would have them to know that such a law was not now in effect. Notice what he had to say about what Jesus did concerning the law in His death upon the cross: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
Again, you will find him making the same observation, in a different way, in the Galatian letter. Here he will tell them not to go back to the law. Notice that he will have to say: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). There can be no question that he is speaking of the law (Galatians 5:2-4). Here he shows that if one goes back to the practice of the law concerning circumcision, Christ will profit him nothing, he makes himself a debtor to do the whole law and he would fall from grace. So for them to seek to practice that which was no longer in effect would place their souls in danger.
But would this not be the same with those of our day who would return to the law for a day to observe, such as the sabbath, or the use of the mechanical instrument? If not, what would be the difference? The principle is the same. Would this not be an attempt to practice that which is not in effect?
You would have the same thing as those who would follow John’s baptism after the baptism of the great commission became effective. Take the case of those twelve disciples at Ephesus. We know that Paul would encourage them to be baptized properly according to the directions of the great commission (Acts 19:1-6).
SOME PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT WHICH IS IN EFFECT
We have this being played out before our eyes this very day. There is absolutely no question about the biblical injunctions against homosexuality and lesbianism. Notice the language of Paul in his letter to the church at Rome. Here he said, “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature” (Romans 1:26). Did you notice the word change? Does this not point up the fact that such a practice is a perversion of that which is right? But this statement will tell you how far they have gone. When he said, “even their women,” he means they are now doing the same kinds of things the men were doing. But there is no endorsement found in Paul’s writing. You will find him commending some who had ceased such practices (I Corinthians 6:9-11). If you will read verse 11, you will find that he classes these kinds of people as those who will not enter the kingdom of God. But men pay no attention to the inspired attitudes toward such sinfulness.
So, when we observe the reactions to the Word of God, we find men seeking to make it of none effect, some practicing that which is no longer in effect, and some ignoring that which is still in effect.