There are many in the world of “Christendom” today that teach that we must read the Scriptures, and apply them to our lives, but we should not be “legalistic” about it. We must “allow” for “common sense” and “implicit understanding,” and we must not be concerned with following the “letter of the law,” but be guided by the spirit of the law. Is this an accurate understanding of our purpose in understanding the Scriptures?
Many of those who believe this will point to verses like 2 Corinthians 3:6-8 to demonstrate their point:
who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written, and engraven on stones, came with glory, so that the children of Israel could not look stedfastly upon the face of Moses for the glory of his face; which glory was passing away: how shall not rather the ministration of the spirit be with glory?
Does this mean that we should simply follow the Spirit? By no means! Paul is comparing the Law of Moses to the ministration of Christ in 2 Corinthians 3, not any “law” versus the “spirit.” It is evident that there is such a thing as the “Law of Christ” from verses like Galatians 6:2:
Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
How, then, are we to live? Are we to simply follow the urgings of our “common sense” and such things? We have been told the following in Acts 23:1 concerning Paul:
And Paul, looking stedfastly on the council, said, “Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience until this day.”
Is our guidance purely based on how we feel? Paul assuredly committed many heinous deeds against the church (cf. Acts 7-9), yet believed he was doing right. It made much sense to him to destroy those who believed in Jesus Christ. Therefore, there is no security in our conscience or in “common sense” to guide us to spiritual truth.
Probably the best example of the need to follow the Scriptures as they are written is the example given to us by Christ. We see the following in Matthew 23:16-20:
“Woe unto you, ye blind guides, that say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor. Ye fools and blind: for which is greater, the gold, or the temple that hath sanctified the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gift that is upon it, he is a debtor. Ye blind: for which is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? He therefore that sweareth by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.”
The idea is further exemplified in Luke 11:42:
But woe unto you Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and every herb, and pass over justice and the love of God: but these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear, therefore, that we ought not disregard any commandment that He has given us– even a tithe of mint, rue, and herbs is not to be overlooked. Shall we, then, use “common sense” and “reason” as our guide for living as Christians, or shall we follow the Word of God as He has had it written for us?
What, then, shall we say about using “common sense” and “reason” as our guides for living a Christian life as opposed to a “thus saith the LORD?” Saying that we ought to live by “common sense” and “reason” is simply an implicit admission that the doctrines and practices being described do not have any Scriptural support. After all, if they had Scriptural support, why would they not present it? “Common sense” and “reason” simply serve as rationalizations for believing in doctrines and practices that do not conform to the teachings of the New Testament. Therefore, we may conclude that the best teaching to follow is the teaching preserved in the New Testament, and not to use “common sense” and “reason” to guide our lives.