by Kevin Rutherford


The chief priests and the elders asked Jesus “by what authority are You doing these things?  And who gave You this authority (Matthew 21:23)?” Although the chief priest and elders may not have been sincere when they asked these questions, the questions are valid.  With regard to our religious service to God today we should ask ourselves “by what authority do we do these things?”

God has given His Son all authority (Matthew 28:18).  Jesus Christ exercises that authority through His Law (Hebrews 1:1, 2).  The Will revealed by God through His Son Jesus Christ is the New Testament (Hebrews 9:15-17). Therefore, the New Testament Scriptures must be held up as our standard of authority.  After all, it the Scriptures that provide all that we need to be spiritually complete (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

When I engage in a particular practice in worship I need to know that I have authority for such practice.  I have authority to sing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).  I have authority to pray (Acts 2:42).  I have authority for the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).  I have authority for giving (1 Corinthians 16:1,2).  I have authority for preaching (Acts 20:7).  I have authority to assemble with the saints (Hebrews 10:25; 1 Corinthians 11:17, 18, 20, 33).  I am to do that on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2).

Some today have suggested we can change our worship service to make it more vibrant.  Perhaps if we added a thing or two we could have a worship service that is more ‘relevant” to our modern culture.  There is nothing wrong with change as long as that change is scriptural.  There is nothing wrong with engaging in a practice in worship as long as that practice is authorized.  For those who want to add the choirs to our worship let me ask you where your authority is for such a practice?  Nowhere does the New Testament authorize such a practice.  The same can be said for man-made mechanical instruments of music.  Where is your authority?  We might say the same for clapping, screaming, and dancing in worship.  Where is your authority?

Some will suggest that we do not need specific authority for practices in worship as long as the Lord did not condemn the practice.  It is suggested that because the New Testament does not specifically say don’t use instruments, or a choir, etc. then it okay for us to do so.  By this kind of reasoning we could add gymnastics, monster truck races, circus acts, rock concerts, Shakespearean plays, baseball games, etc to our worship.  God didn’t say, “no monster truck races in worship.”

If God were to have written a list of all of those things which He did not want to see in worship we could not contain the Bible in the church building.  God simply told us what He wanted and that eliminates all else.

When the chief priests and elders questioned Christ about His authority they did not recognize that His authority came from the Father.  God the Father authorizes today through the will set forth by His Son Jesus Christ.  If we want to know that we have authority for a practice in worship let us first find where the Scriptures give us that authority.  If we cannot find it we must not do it.