Christianity's Need For Authority

Authority is "legal or rightful power; a right to command dominion, jurisdiction." There are only two sources of authority – heaven or men (Matt. 21:25). All actions are rooted either in human or divine authority (Matt. 21:23-27).

Jesus Recognized and Taught the Need for Authority

The Christ stated that all "workers of iniquity" will be rejected (Matt. 7:21-23). “Iniquity” or “lawlessness” is to act without law or authority. The whole passage ultimately deals with religious authority. According to the Lord of the universe, many religious people will be turned away for their failure to abide under God's authority. These workers of iniquity have a fatal destiny (Matt. 13:41-42); even those workers of iniquity in the church will join all the wicked of the world (Rev. 21:8). It is foolish to think we can do anything without divine authority.

Let us further illustrate with some examples.

1) The great apostasy predicted by Paul is called “the mystery of lawlessness” (2Thess. 2:7). Earlier Paul spoke of the man of sin (2Thess. 2:3). These concepts suggest contempt for divine authority. 

2) All apostasy results from a lack of respect for divine authority (1Tim. 4:1). “The faith” is objectively stated here. When one rejects divine authority, he must substitute the authority of men.

3) Consider the parable of the builders. The wise man hears and does the will of God. Necessarily, God’s will must be conveyed in words. If you can’t find words from God, you’re not doing God’s will. The foolish man is one who hears and does not acquiesce. He may call Jesus ‘Lord, Lord,” but he refuses to obey (Luke 6:46).

4) Jesus showed the need for authority in His clash with the Jews (Matt. 21:23-27). Both the Jews and Jesus recognized the need for authority. He claimed authority and proved it by His miracles (Jn. 5:36). Religious authority can come from heaven and be acceptable, or from men and be unacceptable.

The Apostles Taught the Need for Authority.

Paul made a desperate appeal for unity of believers in a divided church  (1Cor. 1:10). Unity is not possible unless we speak the same thing. This cannot be done without unanimously recognizing the same ground of authority (Phil. 3:16). The Christian's first work is not to strive at unity as such, but to conform ourselves to the divine standard. This naturally results in unity. Only the Scriptures can thoroughly furnish us (2Tim. 3:16-17).

Christians are to do all "in the name of the Lord" (Col. 3:17). To do anything "in the name of the Lord" is to act in recognition of His authority; to rely and rest on His authority. The only way we can know His will is in the Scriptures. We cannot claim that we are acting "in the name of the Lord" unless we can show that Christ has authorized our practice. We must use Bible words as the Bible uses them.

Even in evaluating men, we must not exceed what is written (1Cor. 4:6). This emphasizes the need for Scriptural authority.

Simply put, we must "abide in the doctrine of Christ" (2 John 9-11). To "abide in the teaching" shows respect for His authority. To transgress (i.e. go beyond) shows lack of respect for His authority. When one goes beyond authority, he does not have God. Transgression means one is without God and without Christ. The fact that our parents or other brethren did a thing does not mean it is right.

The Bible closes with a warning (Rev. 22:18-19). The same injunction was included in the Mosaic Law (Deut. 4:2). Jesus and His apostles taught the need for authority. Let us recognize this need. Only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of Heaven.