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"By What Authority"

posted Jun 10, 2012, 4:51 PM by hbchurch org   [ updated Jul 7, 2012, 10:53 PM ]


‘And when He had come into

the temple, the chief priests and

the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?"’

(Matthew 21:23)

The idea of even raising a question about the authority for doing or teaching something religious seldom enters the mind of people. The assumption of most is that God does not care what is taught or practiced as long as it is directed toward Him. Is their assumption correct? Does God care? Jesus’ encounter with certain Jewish leaders helps to answer these questions.

Jesus did not dodge or redirect their question. If the matter of authority is irrelevant, why didn’t Jesus simply ask, “Who cares”? But He told them, “I...will tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mat. 21:24). Jesus’ next statement (v. 25) points us to a critical truth, i.e. that there are only two sources of authority to consider: heaven and men. All that Jesus was teaching and doing either came from God or it was of human origin. So, who cares?

Apparently Jesus’ critics recognized the consequences accompanying any alligiance to man’s teaching.

They knew that refusing to heed a prophet from God was wrong and

they were in a pickle because they had rejected the teaching of John the Baptist, yet the multitudes believed that John was God’s prophet (v. 26). If they said John’s teaching was from man, they would have incurred the peoples’ wrath. But if they said John’s teaching came from heaven they had an even bigger problem; they had not obeyed his teaching. What excuse could they give for disobedience?

Their actions exposed the dishonesty of their question to Jesus. But Jesus’ dialog with His detractors underscores the importance of being able to identify the authority for all teaching and religious activities. There is only ONE right source of authority; Jesus is the ONE with all authority (Matthew 28:18).

An honest quest for the scriptural basis for all of our doctrines and practices is not legalism (as our critics usually charge). To ask, “By what authority…” is absolutely necessary. The legitamacy of any act or instruction can only be determined by a proper application of scripture. If we are lax or ingore questions about authority, we are easy prey for Satan’s deadly devices. We must ask and answer “by what authority…” for all that we do “in the name of the Lord” (Col. 3:17).

Ken Dart