"By Whose Authority?"
- Matthew 21:23 “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?”
- Mark 11:28 “And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?”
- Luke 20:2 “And spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?”
During my early years in evangelism, I heard a weird teaching about authority. I was preaching in Georgia when a man came up afterwards and expressed his shock in how much Scripture I used in my preaching. I explained that God commanded His preachers in II Tim. 4:2 to “Preach the word,” and that apart from God’s Word, we have no authority of our own. The older preacher who invited me immediately chimed in from behind the pulpit that a preacher as young as me needed God’s Word, but that at a certain age preachers do not need as much Scripture. He then grabbed the pulpit forcefully, leaned in, and said that older preachers reveal their authority from the pulpit by standing in such a manner behind their pulpits. Weirdly, the same exact teaching was given to me that same year from a younger pastor in another state who had gone to the same Christian college. (Beware of this cult mentality that is everywhere with churches today.)
Everyone stands for something: climate change, their political party views, clothing choices, music choices, etc…. Is everyone correct for defending these views? They are standing up for something so that must be good, right? But wait: how does one determine what is “right” and what is “correct”? As Pilot asked Jesus, “what is truth?” (Jn. 18:38; Of course, “Truth” was standing in front of Him.) Everyone acts like little gods pretending to be the judges of right and wrong, but their authority only goes as far as they can enforce it. Some can enforce their views quite a distance of space and time, but does this make their stand correct?
When Moses stood up for his Jewish people and intervened to help them, one of his own asked Moses, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?” (Ex. 2:14; Acts 7:27) When one of us stands up for something, mankind’s logical question is to ask who or what gives this person the “right” or authority to stand. When Queen Esther and Mordecai “wrote with all authority” (Ester 9:29) to “confirm” Purim as an event to be remembered for all Jewish people, their authority was recognized as coming both from Ahasuerus (Ester 9:20, 30) and also from God because of God’s miraculous intervention in saving His chosen people from Haman (Ester 9:24-25). “The chief priests and the elders” likewise asked Jesus Christ the Son of God in our texts about His authority. All who heard Jesus knew that “he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes,” (Mt. 7:29; Mk. 1:22) and that “with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.” (Mk. 1:27) Of course, this authority came from God the Father (Mt. 17:5; Jn. 5:26-27) and from Jesus being equal with God (Jn. 5:18, Phil. 2:6). So, too, the believer’s authority only comes from God the Father and only as it is backed by God’s Word.
We see Jesus briefly transferring His authority to His followers in Lk. 9:1-2 to cast out demons, cure diseases, and preach. We see after Jesus’ ascension Jesus’ authority permanently being passed on to His followers.
- II Cor. 10:8 “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:” (Of course, once again it must be emphasized that “our authority” must be clearly seen in and proven from God’s Word if it truly came from “the Lord.”)
Paul exhorted the younger preacher, Titus, to lead “with all authority” so God’s authority is not limited to the aged as some teach unscripturally. (Tit. 2:15 “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”)
Any believer can and every believer should stand strong on the authority of God’s Word. But remember: your authority only goes as far as God granted it. If you are “standing” for that which is opposed in God’s Word, you have no authority. If you are “standing” against that which is supported in God’s Word, you have no authority.
So, “by whose authority doest thou these things and who gave thee this authority?” Who gave you authority for the shows you watch, the places you go, the music you listen to, the clothes you wear, etc…? By whose authority do you live, think, and speak? What Scripture do you have for missing/prohibiting in-person church, not giving your tithes and offerings, avoiding winning souls to Christ, etc…? God’s authority is the only authority for you, believer, and you should be able to prove that “authority” from God’s Word.