What the Bible says about
Adding to God's Word
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The letter to the Colossians presents us with a good example of the warning here. The church members had been presented with something that looked attractive, something they were told would enhance their worship of God, but it was actually a pagan idea. Contrary to the sales pitch they were hearing, they needed to get it out of their lives, out of their worship of God, or it would eventually lead them completely astray.
They were being deceived by something that appeared right. It seemed so good, and it indeed had its positive qualities, in a way. Paul, though, could see that death waited at its end. The people, apparently, were deluded into thinking about it an entirely different way.
Humanly, God has given us multiple ways to express our personalities that have nothing at all to do with sin or necessarily, with His way. But there is only one "Way," and that is His. When it is alloyed with other ways, it is not improved by any means. The Word of God is pure, and when things are added to it, it is not made stronger or enhanced. Added things actually make it worse; it is made weaker.
We can express our personalities in things like fashion. Look how many different designs there are to clothing. The same applies to furniture or automobiles. Their makers change them on us every so often to make them appeal. People buy things that appeal to the expression of their personalities. The same is true with houses and yards. Look at the landscaping varieties that there are—hundreds of different flowers, bushes, and trees that we can put in our yards to express a little bit of the beauty of God in our own way. Food and drink are other examples of variety in personal expression.
But in terms of morality and spirituality, the Way is extremely narrow. "Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, . . . [yet] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14). This is the principle we are dealing with in this case. In Colosse, the Christians were victims of yet another attempt to syncretize something moral and spiritual—but humanly devised—to God's Way.
In this case, it was a philosophy of asceticism and the worship of demons, which they were being told would enhance their worship of God. It appeared to be so spiritual, but it was effectively cutting them off from the true Object of their faith and their Source of power to overcome—Christ.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Three)
Verse 5 appears in context with the questions in verse 4. The questioner asks, in effect, "Is anything better than the Word of God? Has any man ascended to heaven? Who is this person? To whom can I turn to receive instruction better than the Word of God?"
Verse 6 warns the reader not to delve into dangerous speculations and then take it another step farther by adding it to God's Word. Nor should one give it authority equivalent to the Word of God, as if the person speaking such things has been to heaven and returned to earth. Doing so is adding to the Word of God.
This prohibition is a well-established principle that first appears in Deuteronomy 4. In this context, "the word" means the commandments of God that appear in Deuteronomy 5:
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. . . . Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." (Deuteronomy 4:2, 6)
Notice also what David says in Psalm 18:30-31:
As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield [or, defender] to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
Who can we depend on? We can depend on the Word of God to deliver us, to provide the right guidance, to give us the truth regarding everything we might face in life.
Connecting these thoughts to Proverbs 30:4-6, we find that the way of God is not improved by alloying it with human philosophy and speculations. Blending God's instruction with such things has always been a major problem. Within the framework of a covenant, this idea makes its first vivid appearance in Exodus 32, in the incident of the Golden Calf, and it continues to the end of the Bible.
Philosophies are the conclusions of men garnered through human experience and reason. So far, so good—because God requires us to use our reasoning powers in relation to His Word. So, we must gather evidence from His Word, use our reasoning powers, and then apply our conclusions to our individual situations.
However, human philosophies frequently begin with faulty premises or introduce evidence that does not agree with biblical truth. The conclusions drawn are thus wrong—and sometimes downright evil—because the wrong premise or the faulty evidence skewed the conclusion.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Two)
These verses give an interesting insight into how far the Israelites may have gone in adding to God's commands about the new moons.
There is a small chance that the new moon in question is the Feast of Trumpets. But if it is not Trumpets, it sets up an interesting situation: As the Israelite's ruling class wallowed in wealth, it drifted farther and farther from a true worship of God. In practicing some stringent traditions that God had nowhere commanded, they had attached their own ideas to His law!
This strict observance did not at all impress God favorably! Totally out of harmony with God's aim of "justice run[ning] down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24), they missed the intent of God's law entirely! He desires mercy and not sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 12:7).
These verses strongly imply that the Israelites did not conduct business during the new moon, but God never commands such a restrictive practice. Clearly, the day was different from common days because of God's assignment of special offerings. But in their occasional bursts of zeal (Romans 10:1-3), the Israelites apparently believed that if the little God required of them was good, then more would be better!
In theory it sounds good, but we are given a twofold warning in Deuteronomy 12:32 and Proverbs 30:6 that we should not add to His Word. This casts grave doubts on following the Israelitish tradition.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The New Moons
Only a little more than a generation had passed since the founding of the church, yet false gospels, perversions of the truth, were making serious trouble for those early Christians. Paul was warning members of the church in Galatia not to listen to those who are trying to persuade them away from the true doctrines of God, which they had learned when the apostles had preached the true gospel to them.
After warning them in verses 8-9, Paul goes on to defend himself against the unwritten question, "How do we know that you preached us the truth?" He asks in return, "From what you've seen of me, do I try to seek the favor of men or God? Do I seem to be a men-pleaser?" Clearly, he always put the truth of God before pleasing people, and he had had to pay the price for it in persecution and peril (see II Corinthians 11:23-33). He considered these sacrifices proof that he was a true servant of God.
Then, in Galatians 1:11-12, he lets them know where the true message he had taught them came from. He was taught, he said, not by any man (verse 16), but by Jesus Christ Himself. Once God had called him on the road to Damascus, and after he was baptized, he went down to Arabia (verse 17), staying there for three years (verse 18). There, Christ taught him the truth as an apostle "born out of due time" (I Corinthians 15:8). Our Savior had a special job for Paul and wanted to give Him the same kind of instruction that He had given the Twelve.
No one knows if Christ came down and appeared to him, teaching him directly, or whether He opened Paul's mind and revealed the truth out of Scripture. However it was done, when he went up to Jerusalem three years later and talked with Peter, James, and John, he found that they agreed completely on the gospel of God (Galatians 2:9). These men understood that Paul was a fellow apostle with them and that his mission would focus primarily on the Gentiles.
By his personal history, Paul shows that he had received the same, true revelation from God that the original disciples had been given. Thus, the gospel that he taught was the same gospel that Peter, John, and the other apostles were also preaching. They all preached from the same Source: Jesus Christ. Our beliefs should rest on that same foundation, which is now printed in our Bibles. Notice Ephesians 2:19-22:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
In terms of revelation from God, this passage informs us that a true understanding is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. In the past, God revealed certain things to the prophets in Old Testament times and to the apostles in New Testament times, and they wrote those things down for our learning (see Hebrews 1:1; Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11). Jesus Christ is called "the chief cornerstone" because He is the true Foundation and Source of all revelation. He is the One who joins all the revelation together and makes it work. We, then, having this sure foundation, not only learn the truth, but also grow by it into the image of Christ.
The apostle continues in Ephesians 3:
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets. (Ephesians 3:1-5)
Paul uses the subject of God's grace toward the Gentiles as a way to get across, not only that he preached the true gospel, but also how truth comes into the church of God. It is very simple: God revealed something to him, and he, then, wrote it down in a few words, so that we could read and comprehend his understanding of the mystery of God's way. That is how it works: God inspired a prophet or an apostle, and he wrote it down. Over time, it became Scripture, and now we read it, using the Holy Spirit that God has given us, to understand the truth.
At the end of the Bible, in Revelation 22:18-19, John warns the reader not to add to or take away from the words written in the Book, something the false teachers in Galatia were obviously doing. Essentially, he is telling us that revelation from God to man is closed; the canon of Scripture is complete. What we need to know for salvation is in the finished work of the Bible. Anyone who claims to have a new revelation, that he has some "new truth" beyond Scripture, is a false teacher, one of those who "pervert the gospel of Christ" (Galatians 1:7).
So the Bible is the collected writings of the apostles and prophets to whom God gave His precious revelation for all of us to learn and use. God's converted children do not need any advanced degrees, courses in higher thinking and logic, or any kind of worldly help to understand God's truth. All they need is the Word of God and a humble mind that can reason normally, and God, by the gifts of His Spirit (which includes a faithful ministry; Ephesians 4:11), provides the understanding.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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