Then they came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to Him. And they said to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?” But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one question; then answer Me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Answer Me.” 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’ “—they feared the people, for all counted John to have been a prophet indeed. So they answered and said to Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:27-33)
Without Authority Is Without God
The conflict of good and evil has always been fought on the battlefield of authority. This was true before the world was created as God prepared a plan to destroy Satan and his spiritual hosts of wickedness. The authority of the Divine Godhead versus the rebellion of the principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness is where the deciding moment of truth is found. Satan challenged the authority of God when he deceived Eve in the garden. The destruction of the world in the days of Noah came about because all but eight souls followed the word of the evil one. Israel was a great nation created to show the glory of the Lord, but when they rejected the authority of the word of God, they were destroyed. Jesus faced harsh criticism from the Jewish leaders who tried vainly to trap Him in His speech, dismiss His powers, and sway the multitudes to turn away from Him.
There came a day when the chief priests, scribes, and elders realized that to undermine the teachings of Jesus, they would need to attack His authority. Ironically, by their attack on Jesus, they declared the essential elements of divine truth. Everything in the world requires authority, and authority must be given by someone who has the power to exercise that authority. The Jewish leaders asked Jesus two questions. First, by what authority does Jesus act. Second, the leaders wanted to know who gave the carpenter’s son from Nazareth His authority. Unknowingly, the question was the proof of who Jesus was and why He had come. The priests, scribes, and elders recognized authority was needed, and the transference of that power must be given by one who has the right to carry out that authority. That is the basis of religion or the foundation of the purpose of man and the will of God.
Jesus answered with a question to the Jewish leaders about the baptism of John. Was it from heaven or from men? The Lord reminds His critics that all authority on earth comes from the human wisdom or the will of God. There is no third choice. Everything man does will come from the mind of God or the mind of man. God ordains governments, but the laws of men are established according to their own will. The relationship of eternal matters can only be settled by the authority of God. Within the structure of a government, men have the right to exercise dominion in whatever fashion they choose. They have this right according to the dominion of human wisdom upon the earth. Eternal matters can only be settled in heaven, and God is the only one who establishes what is right and wrong. All authority on earth will end, but the authority of the eternal nature of God will not. Man is created in the image of God, which requires him to subject himself to the authority of God. Eternal life comes from the law of God, which determines who will be saved and who will be lost.
The key to understanding authority comes from the reality of what happens after death. Authority on earth will end when God destroys the universe on the last day. Whatever laws created through the generations of men will be extinct. Only the word of God will remain, and by it, all souls will be judged. The submission to God’s authority must be foremost in the lives of those who believe in God and desire eternal life. Accepting the existence of God is not enough. Salvation comes by obeying the will of the Lord and submitting to His authority. Without authority, a man is without God. Going beyond the word or subtracting from the word will bring consequences to those who refuse to accept authority from the Lord. Everything must be done in accordance with the authority of God.