No Substitutes accepted
The word substitute means: Put in the place of another; switch seemingly equivalent items.
In some cases a substitute is acceptable and can save us a great deal of money. For example, I had to replace my passenger mirror assembly. If I bought it from the dealer I was going to cost 200 dollars, but I found someone that made their own version of the mirror assembly and the sold it for 70 dollars. Looks the same and works the same, so substitutes like that work great.
However, they do not always work out very good. I remember back when I was teenager that someone gave us some hamburger meat they had prepared themselves from their own cows. I loved hamburgers, but this hamburger meat was prepared differently, I donít know if it had soy mixed in with or some other ingredient, but it did not taste like the hamburger meat I was used to eating, and at the time couldnít stand it. Though it was the same product it was prepared in different way, so this one substitute that did not work out well for me.
I am sure all of us have experienced good and bad cases when it comes to substitutes, but when it comes to Godís Word and what He has taught us to do, no substitutes are accepted nor can a substitute replace what God has taught us.
To help us see this simple truth, I want to share with you several example of where people tried use a substitute for what God had said and how it failed.
Our first example comes from the example of Cain:
Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have acquired a man from the LORD."† 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.† 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD.† 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering,† 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.† 6 So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?† 7 "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it."† 8 ∂ Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Heb. 11:4 implies that Cain did not offer his sacrifice by faith, which Paul tells us comes from the hearing of Godís Word (Rom 10:17). So, Cain tried to offer God a substitute for what God wanted them to sacrifice, but as we read it did not work out because God did not respect it. Not only did this cause Cain to become angry, it lead him to killing his brother. As the story continues, God addresses Cain about his sin and pays the consequences for it. Keep in mind that all began with him trying to offer God a substitute, so the first recorded example teaches us that God does not accept substitutes.
Our next example comes from:
Genesis 16:1 Now
Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian
maidservant whose name was Hagar.† 2
So Sarai said to Abram, "See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children.
Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her." And
Abram heeded the voice of Sarai.† 3
Then Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to
her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the
Sarai was getting older and began to lose her trust in Godís promise, so she tried take matter into her own hands and substituted herself with Hagar. While it seemed like a great substitute at first, she quickly found out that it would end up causing her great grief and sorrow. As we read, Hagar begin to look down on her and if we took the time to read Gen. 21, we would see that eventually that Sarah would end up sending Hagar and this substitute child away from their camp.
Many times people think they have come up great substitute that will take care of their problems instead of waiting on Godís timing or trusting in His promises and wisdom. When they do, they will find out that many times things donít work out like they had intended because we cannot substitute what God has taught us and expect it to out for the best.
Sometimes substitutes can even bring about death as in our next example:
Leviticus 10:1 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.† 2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
These two sons of Aaron tried to offer a fire to Lord that He did not authorize and their attempt to substitute the fire God did authorize with a strange one cost them their lives. Not only that notice what else we learn about their deaths:
Leviticus 10:3 And
Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who
come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be
glorified.' " So Aaron held his peace.†
4 ∂ And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of
Uzziel (uh zeye el) the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, "Come near,
carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp."† 5 So they went near and carried
them by their tunics out of the camp, as Moses had said.† 6 And Moses said to Aaron, and to
Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, "Do not uncover your heads nor tear your
clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people. But let your brethren,
the whole house of
Not only did these men die a fiery death because of their substitute, they also did not receive a funeral nor were they allowed to be mourned for. If this account doesnít show you that we should not attempt to substitute Godís Word with our own ways, then I donít think anything will.
Another notable example comes from King Saul. First notice what God told him to do:
1 Samuel 15:1 Samuel
also said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people,
I donít think this message could have been made any clearer, yet watch what Saul does instead:
1 Samuel 15:4 So Saul
gathered the people together and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand
foot soldiers and ten thousand men of Judah.†
5 And Saul came to a city of
Saul decided to go against what God clearly told him to do. Would God make exception in this case and accept the substitute that Saul was offering? Well letís see:
1 Samuel 15:10 Now the
word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying,†
11 "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king,
for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My
commandments." And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the LORD all
night.† 12 So when Samuel rose
early in the morning to meet Saul, it was told Samuel, saying, "Saul went
to Carmel, and indeed, he set up a monument for himself; and he has gone on
around, passed by, and gone down to Gilgal."† 13 Then Samuel went to Saul, and
Saul said to him, "Blessed are you of the LORD! I have performed
the commandment of the LORD."† 14
But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of the sheep in my
ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?"† 15 And Saul said, "They have
brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep
and the oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; and the rest we have utterly
Then Samuel said to Saul, "Be quiet! And I will tell you what the LORD
said to me last night." And he said to him, "Speak on."† 17 So Samuel said,
"When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of
the tribes of
Like Saul, if we try to substitute Godís commands with our own, we too will be rejected by God and will have to deal with the consequences of our actions. Notice last few verses about Saul:
1 Samuel 15:35 And
Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel
mourned for Saul, and the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over
One more O.T. example shows us that God will not accept inferior imitations when comes to things sacrificed to Him:
Malachi 1:6 " A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, 'In what way have we despised Your name?'† 7 "You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, 'In what way have we defiled You?' By saying, 'The table of the LORD is contemptible.'† 8 And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts.† 9 "But now entreat God's favor, That He may be gracious to us. While this is being done by your hands, Will He accept you favorably?" Says the LORD of hosts.† 10 "Who is there even among you who would shut the doors, So that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain? I have no pleasure in you," Says the LORD of hosts, "Nor will I accept an offering from your hands.† 11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; In every place incense shall be offered to My name, And a pure offering; For My name shall be great among the nations," Says the LORD of hosts.† 12 "But you profane it, In that you say, 'The table of the LORD is defiled; And its fruit, its food, is contemptible.'† 13 You also say, 'Oh, what a weariness!' And you sneer at it," Says the LORD of hosts. "And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?" Says the LORD.† 14 "But cursed be the deceiver Who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished -- For I am a great King," Says the LORD of hosts, "And My name is to be feared among the nations.†
Just as the profane sacrifices were not pleasing to God, when we try worship God with man made substitutes such as musical instruments or any other manmade teaching, then our worship will not be pleasing to God either. Also cannot give God our seconds our or thirds. No, we must give Him our best and give Him our whole heart, mind and soul.
As Jesus warned the Jews:
Matthew 15:7 "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:† 8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.† 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "
Our worship to God cannot be something that we just do as external show. No it must come from the heart and must be done in accordance to Godís will. As Jesus told the woman at the well:
John 4:24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
The Pharisees and the Scribes were not the only ones that were accepting substitutes during the N.T. time so were the Galatians:
Galatians 3:1 †O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?
These Galatians were trying to accept another gospel, but this kind of substitution will not work. As Paul expressed to them:
Galatians 1:6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,† 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.† 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.† 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
It doesnít matter what covenant we study in the Bible, all of them have this same theme which is we cannot and must not substitute our ways for Godís ways. We have no right our authority to add our wisdom and our ways to Godís commands. When we do, it will be rejected by God and so will we.
Our worship and the way we live our lives is spelled out for us in the N.T. We can either accept and live by it or reject it by doing our own thing. Unfortunately, man has a tendency to offer substitutions instead accepting what God clearly teaches. For example:
Man is has declared that there opinions and man made doctrines are to followed even if they go against what Bible teaches. Yet John tells us in 2 John 1:9 that if we do not stick with the doctrine of God that we will lose our relationship with God.
2 John 1:9 †Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.
Man has declared that denominations are acceptable to God, which means that there is more than one church, yet Jesus said, that He only has one church (Mt. 16:18) and Paul agrees that there is just one body (Eph. 4:4). Paul condemns the idea of having denominations and calling them after some man.
1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.† 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you.† 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."† 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Others are teaching that are many ways to heaven, but Jesus declared that there is only one way to heaven and it is through Him (Jn. 14:6) and it is called a difficult road to travel that only a few will find (Mt. 7:13-14). The only way the travel up that difficult road is by obeying the will of Father:
Matthew 7:21 " Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.†
Some have tried to take a shortcut to salvation and say that all you have to do is believe, yet James teaches us in:
James 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
A quick look through Scripture shows that we must also repent (Lk. 13:3), confess Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10) and be baptized to be saved (1 Pet. 3:21). We cannot substitute Godís plan of salvation by faith alone.
Others want to add to Godís instructions on worshiping Him in Spirit in truth by adding musical instruments and other things to make the worship service more appealing to our senses, yet we are told by God to sing and make the melody in our heart (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19).
Of course the list could go on and on, but the main point I hope you take home with you from this lesson is that God is not going to accept substitutes for what He has commanded us to do in His Word. If we allow ourselves to give in or be influenced by the way of man, then God is not going to be pleased with us. So, letís always do our best to stick with what Godís Word teaches us so that we donít find ourselves trying to use some cheap imitation from man.
Adapted from Jeff Asher