How Long is the Line?
Before I begin a Bible study of religious matters with a group of people I like to hand out some 3 X 5 inch cards with a single straight line in the center of the card. I then ask them all to give an estimate, or guess, as the exact length of the line. Invariably I receive a variety of answers — "one inch," "an inch and a half," "two inches," "one and three-quarter inches," etc. After a few observations and comments about their guesses, I pull out a small pocket ruler and let all watch as I measure the line and get the exact truth as to its length. This serves as a good foundation for a profitable study. The discussion usually begins something like this:
"Now, everyone here was sincere in his belief as to the length of the line: and one opinion is just about as good as any other, is it not? There is no way to determine, merely by looking, who is right, or who is wrong, or if ALL are wrong! (Obviously, they can not all be right if there are differences in their estimates.) As the old saying goes, 'your guess is as good as mine.' On this basis, it really does not matter whom you believe. One person's opinion is as good as another's.
"However, when we take out the ruler — the established measure or authority to determine the length of the line — we can know exactly how long the line is. That settles the question for all. And every "estimate" or "guess" or "opinion" which was not exactly in harmony with the ruler's measurement was WRONG. This is not being close-minded, or doubting the sincerity or honesty of any person's guess. It is merely applying the established rule to find out what the TRUTH of the matter is!
"Now, in matters of religion, the Bible is our rule or standard of authority. Paul wrote Timothy, 'Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.' (II Tim. 3:16, 17) The Bible, then, is all we need. It speaks with authority.
“Authority is needed and recognized in every area of life. Without it, a baseball game would become a riot, an army a mob, and a nation would cease to exist. Religion is more than 'wishful thinking' or 'imagination.' Baseball has its rule book, an army has its orders, and our nation has its constitution. Religion has the Bible.
"Since this is so, 'my opinion' or 'your opinion' mean absolutely nothing. What God says through his word is what counts. In fact, we are commanded, 'Whatsoever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of (by the authority of) the Lord Jesus." (Col. 3:17) We must have authority for all we believe and practice, Jesus warned us that 'the words that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last days' (John 12:48). My sincere guess or opinion may be wrong — and if so, I will be judged accordingly. So, in religion, it DOES matter what you believe! We must all answer Bible questions by finding Bible answers, and then be willing to accept those answers as final. And just as with our "guess" about the length of the line, if we still hold to our original "opinion" regardless of what the authority says, then we have ceased to be honest. The idea is not, 'I'm right and everybody else is wrong,' but rather, The Bible is right, and everyone out of harmony with its teachings is WRONG. 'If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.' (1 Pet. 3:11)" - Vanguard - Sept 1979