By What Authority?


Scripture Reading: Luke 20:1-8




Authority is important in many aspects of our lives.  The definition of this word has not changed from the time of the inspired writers down to this day.  In the original language of the New Testament it meant “the right to exercise power”, “the power of rule or government”, the power of one whose rules or commandments must be obeyed by others” and there were several more very similar definitions that can be found.  In today’s inventory of language usage we find the primary definition as being “the power to determine, adjudicate (make judgments), or otherwise settle issues; the right to control, command, or determine”, another source says simply the “right to govern”.

In our scripture reading Jesus was questioned concerning the authority by which he taught and preached the gospel:


Luke 20:1-2And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders, 2And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?”


Again, have must have authority for that which we do in almost all of the aspects of our lives.  As supervisors or managers in the business world we need to understand the limits and responsibilities of our authority, as workers we understand the need for and have respect for authority and direction.  Laws, ordinances, rules give us the authority we need to do many of the things that we do and restrict us from the things we should not do.  The same is true in our worship and service to God.


Authority is Important


This need for authority and the need to understand that authority by which things are done is important to the preservation of order in our society.  When we see a policeman directing traffic or enforcing the law we understand that he or she has the proper authority for their actions.  A little later this month, when we pay our income taxes, we do so because we understand that those appointed by our government have the authority to collect them and to assess penalties if we choose to ignore their authority.  It is important to understand the authority by which laws are made and enforced, by which business contracts are created and executed, by which our rights and responsibilities as citizens are determined.

It is important that those who represent governments in this world have the authority to do so.  When we send representatives to or receive representatives from other countries it is important that their authority to speak for these governments and make decisions is known and verified.

It is important to understand the authority of those men and women whom we elect to public office.  We should make those decisions about whom we vote for based on their ability, their position on various issues and matters upon which they will be making decisions because we know that we are giving them authority to govern our living and our lives.

But with this all aside it is even more important to seek and question the authority to rule and govern in the realm of our worship and service to God.  There is but one source of authority for all things pertaining to God, that is God himself and he has not left us without direction.  The worship of God and any harmony or fellowship with God that man might enjoy must be according to the authority He has given.  The chief priests and scribes were right to seek the authority by which this man Jesus taught and preached; their sin was the attitude in which they made their inquiry and their refusal to accept the credentials that God gave him as the Messiah, the promised Saviour of mankind.


Jesus Had Authority


            Just as the credentials of an ambassador can be examined and proved in the realm of world governments, the credentials of our Lord and Savior were given and we can examine and prove them as well.  In this study we will examine but a few.

            In the seed promise made by God at the beginning of time when sin came into the world our Saviour, the Messiah, was to be of the seed of woman:


Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”


The prophet Isaiah confirms God’s promise and the miraculous nature of the birth of the Messiah in prophecy:


Isaiah 7:14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”


This prophecy was fulfilled and that fulfillment confirmed by the inspiration of God through the writing of Matthew:


Matthew 1:22-23Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”


            Additional prophecies and their fulfillment provide further the credentials of our Saviour; he was to be a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10, Micah 5:2), of the house of David (Isaiah 9:7, Jeremiah 23:5), born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and we could go on for several hours because there were approximately 300 prophecies made about Jesus that are fulfilled in the New Testament scriptures.

            Jesus proved his authority by performing miracles, setting aside the natural laws given by God, something that only God or one authorized by God could do.  At least one man recognized that fact, for we read that:


There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” John 3:1-2


            Jesus died, was buried but was resurrected from the dead; he was given authority even over death:


For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” I Corinthians 15:3-4


            After his resurrection and spending time giving final instructions to his disciples, Jesus ascended into heaven to take his rightful place at the right hand of God:


And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” Luke 24:50-51


I Peter 3:21-22The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: 22Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”


            God, through the inspiration of the sacred writers, gave us a record of Jesus miracles, teachings and accomplishments so that in today’s world we have a basis for our faith:


John 20:30-31And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”


            The authority of Jesus Christ was evident in his teaching and preaching, there was no mistaking his authority and power:


Matthew 7:28-29And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: 29For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”


At one time even the officers sent out by the chief priests and Pharisees to take him prisoner testified of his authority and refused to exercise their orders:


John 7:45-46Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? 46The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.”


            Jesus had this power and authority because he preached and taught the words of God his father, nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.  Oh, if we could but persuade men to do the same thing today:


John 8:28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.”


John 15:15Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”


            As the Son of God he was given this authority by God himself:


John 5:26-27For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.”


            Finally, after his resurrection, all authority, not only over all of God’s creation, but in heaven as well was given to the Son:


Matthew 28:18  And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”


            Authority which Christ will exercise until such time as this world is brought to its end and he delivers his kingdom to the father:


Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” I Corinthians 15:24


Only God Has Authority


            As creator and sustainer of this earth only God has authority over it.  When he finished his work on the sixth day of creation; He looked out over this world and saw that it was “VERY GOOD” (Genesis 1:31).  He prepared and placed mankind in a beautiful garden, a place without troubles, without worries, without sickness, pain or sorrow and in complete harmony with its Creator.  In that paradise God walked with mankind daily (Genesis 3:8).  But Satan intervened and brought sin into the world, taught man to rebel against God, to deny his authority and disobey his commandments.  But God does not change:




            Just because man rebelled against him; God did not give up his authority; did not leave us to guess about or to be ignorant of his will for mankind.  Just as he did in the garden, he has given us instruction down through the ages regarding his wishes, his requirements and his promises.  We’re told by inspiration that today Jesus the Christ speaks for Him in all things:


Hebrews 1:1-3God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;”


His revelation, his teaching, his Word is complete; we do not have need for any other nor are we to accept another for:


All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” II Timothy 3:16-17


            His word is final, there will be no other given, the dominion of Jesus Christ the Son of God will last forever:


I Peter 4:11If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.


            As much as men would like to have it so, no scripture is of private interpretation.  The words recorded by the Apostle Peter pertains specifically to prophecy but applicable to all of God’s Word.


Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” II Peter 1:20-21


            God through the inspired writers also gives us warning about how we should handle His word.  We are not to alter, reduce, add to or otherwise change that which God has given:


Revelation 22:18-19For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”


There are those who would argue that this prohibition from God pertains only to the book of Revelation, the only book of prophecy in the New Testament but hear the words of God through the Apostle Paul:


I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9


And the Apostle Peter as well:


II Peter 3:16As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”


            If we are indeed children of God, then we have been given everything we need to govern our lives, to assure our eternal destiny, to bring us and keep us in fellowship with God:


II Peter 1:2-3Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:”


The Bible, the Word of God is given by the authority of Almighty God and is to be the only rule for all that we do and teach as Christians; but in so many places today this is not so.  Even among our brethren it is becoming more and more common to see them imitating, adopting, teaching and practicing the doctrines of the false religions around them.  They deny the authority of God, rebelling against His precepts, teaching and practicing “ANOTHER GOSPEL” such as Paul warned against doing. (Galatians 1:6-9).  But this is not something new.


Rebellion Against God’s Authority


            Literally from the beginning of time God’s creation has sought to deny the authority of God as the ruler of their hearts and minds.  The first was Satan, an angel, who rebelled against God’s authority (Jude 6) and today seeks to destroy any and all who try to follow God.  Satan deceived Mother Eve and led her to partake of the forbidden fruit but her husband, Adam, was not deceived (I Timothy 2:14), Adam rebelled against God’s authority.  Abel worshiped God as he was commanded; Cain rebelled and did not (Hebrews 11:4).  Then when God refused to accept his worship, Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy and envy committing the first murder recorded on earth.

            Down through the history of mankind little has changed!  Man, in his rebellion against the authority of God, became so wicked that God destroyed the earth by water except for eight souls who were faithful (I Peter 3:20).  The nation of Israel had hardly crossed the Red Sea and escaped the wrath of Egypt before they created a god of gold to worship (Exodus 32:4).  Israel complained and murmured and then even refused to accept the land that God promised to give to them (Numbers Chapters 13 and 14).  God destroyed that generation in the wilderness because of their unfaithfulness.  Israel’s history down to the time of Christ continued to be such a rebellion against God that only the remnant needed to fulfill the promise of the Messiah was preserved.  When that purpose was completed they also were dispersed as well and their chief city and nation destroyed by Rome.

            During the preaching of the good news of salvation man continued his rebellion against God’s authority.  False teachers tried to carry over the commandments of Moses into God’s new covenant, agnostics and false brethren of every stripe troubled the church even in the days of the apostles as is recorded by the New Testament writers.  Then man’s continued rebellion created the first great denomination, the Catholic Church and it’s offspring who still exist today.

            Then as the Word of God became available to men through the invention of printing some started to turn back to the Bible, seek the ways of God and respect his authority.  In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s we started to hear that we should “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent were the Bible is silent”, that we should do things pertaining to our lives and our worship and service to God in “Bible ways.”  In effect, they declared that we should again respect and honor the authority of God in all things “PERTAINING TO LIFE AND GODLINESS.” (2 Peter 1:3).

            But even those who tried to return to the authority of God’s word had those among them who were rebellious and their rebellion grew worse and worse as the years went by.  A great digression from the authority of scripture occurred in the late 1800’s with the denominations stealing virtually all of the colleges established to teach the Word of God in its purity and 85% of the congregations of the church that Jesus built and that men had restored to God’s authority.

            Today, only a 100 years later, because of man’s lack of respect for the authority of God, failure to ask and determine things in our daily living, worship and service to God “By What Authority” we are repeating that apostasy.  Congregations of people that had become Christians according the authority of God, lived, worked and worshipped as God commanded have rebelled and departed from His fellowship.  More are joining them every day.  Those that were once faithful congregations of the Lord’s church have become denominations in everything but name by their worship, their acceptance, teaching and practice of false doctrines, and/or their fellowship with those who do these same things.  Some have been even honest enough to change their names, removing the designation “church of Christ” from their buildings and their signs, but most have not.  The situation in this city is no different.  The danger is at our doorstep.  If we are not diligent to ask “By What Authority” are you worshipping and serving God and with whom do you have fellowship we will invite this apostasy into our midst.