Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?” But He answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John–was it from heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it was from. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Luke 20:1-8)
There Must Be Authority In The Church
The foundation of every society is the existence of authority. Without a set of laws to govern the masses, chaos will reign and whatever the will of the people desires will be the norm. Civil war comes when authority breaks down. Failing to respect authority motivates the individual to do anything he pleases disregarding the structure of law and order. History has shown the destruction of nations that lose the element of authority ending in destruction and death. Imagine what it would be like if there were no traffic laws. Everyone would drive as fast or as slow as they want, which side of the road, rushing through intersections, being a law to themselves – unimaginable. If there was no authority in schools and the work place society would break down into an ignorant and unproductive mob of people caring only for themselves. Authority is the right to command and enforce rules with official power to execute those laws penalizing any who disobey the established powers that rule.
Recognizing the need for authority in society is clear; seeing a need for authority in religion is hard to convince most people there is a need. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day tried hard to trap Him in His speech so they could find fault with Him. Their efforts were always fruitless but they did understand many things that were true. On one occasion the chief priests, scribes and elders challenged the authority of Jesus with two questions. They recognized the teaching of Jesus required authority for without that authority His teaching was invalid. The religious leaders also knew that authority demanded a higher power give that authority. Their question is telling: What authority are You doing these things and who gave You this authority? Jesus, the master teacher, replied with His own question. He posed the dilemma of John the Baptist. Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men? Jesus had trapped the chief priests, scribes and elders by their own question. They refused to answer because any answer they gave would condemn them. Jesus chose not to answer them.
Authority is demanded for everything including how we worship God. Chaos reigns when there is no authority in society and the same thing happens when people refuse to follow authority in religion. “Choose the church of your church” or “Worship how you feel like it” are clear declarations there is no pattern of authority to worship God. What is most amazing is that religious people use the Bible to pattern their worship while at the same time refuse to allow the Bible to be their authority. Look at the many things people do in the name of Jesus Christ that are not found in the Bible. If the same rule of authority that is used in churches today were used in the courts of law, there would be anarchy. The religious leaders who challenged Jesus knew that authority was necessary. Jesus established two lines of authority: either it comes from God or it comes from man. The authority of God is written down in the Bible. Authority from man comes from what he wants and desires. Why are there so many different churches with names not found in the Bible, following things not found in the Bible and teaching people doctrines not found in the Bible? Should it not be a simple exercise of asking where something is in the Bible before believed?
The sad truth is that most people do not believe there is a need for authority in scripture when the most important rule of authority is found in the Bible. The rule of man will all disappear when the Lord returns but the rule of God will never go away. Authority comes from heaven or men and the only authority that saves is the rule of law that comes from the word of God. The law of God must be followed in its pattern of authority to know how to be pleasing to the Lord. Anything less is disobedience. The way to know whether one is pleasing to God is to look in the Bible and see what He says. Literally, put the finger on the scripture that describes the authority of His word. If it is not in the Bible then it is of man and must be rejected. Rightly dividing the word of truth is paramount to understanding the pattern of authority, which means a proper study of the scriptures will establish the only way, the only truth and the only life. There is one way to God. Jesus is the only avenue a man can travel to find eternal life. Worship is restricted to the authority of scriptures. Salvation will only come to those who do the will of the Lord.
When you are really instructed in the divine scriptures, and have realized that its laws and testimonies are the bonds of truth, you can contend with adversaries. (Jerome; 340-420; Epist. LXXVIII, 30)