Our sixth guideline is to follow leaders only as they lead from the Word. When inquiring about the validity of the Law in a believer’s life, sooner or later this Scripture will pop up.
1Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. (Matthew 23:1-3 NASB95)
On the surface, it looks like we should do everything the scribes and Pharisees say. But let’s look closer. Notice that the leaders “seated themselves.” This I think is a clear indication of usurping God’s authority. There’s no provision for Pharisees or Sadducees in the Law. Even if we could classify them under the term “elders,” Jesus says they’re hypocrites.
Jesus is teaching us to follow the leaders only as long as they follow Moses (the written Law). Deuteronomy 18:9 (NASB95) says not to imitate the “detestable things” of the nations. Paul says “imitate me as I imitate Christ” in 1 Corinthians 11:1 and “imitate God” in Ephesians 5:1. John says something similar.
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. (3 John 11, ESV)
Why just the written Law, and not the oral? Because the written is the only standard that we can verify came from God. Some claim the oral law came directly from Moses, but there’s no evidence of this in the record. Plus, we can tell what comes from the Father because it glorifies the Father. If it doesn’t glorify God (and much of the Talmud and church tradition does not) then it’s from men and not from God. This claim is one of those power grabs from the Bible that some religious leaders do.
Many times in Israel’s past, the leaders led into idolatry and many horrible practices. Is Jesus saying we are required to follow leaders when they lead off the path? Emphatically not. When they take a left turn, we should keep on going straight. The church is routinely leading away from the Word now too; all we have to do is look at the results. We shouldn’t be blindly following those leaders either.
As long as the teaching fits in the framework and on the foundation that Moses laid down (Genesis through Deuteronomy) then we should follow. All other books that were added to the Bible had to pass this muster, and so should every other teaching that claims to be God’s. When a teacher departs from the Word, true believers should depart from the teacher.
From the book Whole Bible Christianity chapter 9 Follow Leaders Only as They Follow the Word