Is There a Need for Authority?

[This article was written by Matt Nevins.]

Authority is a term used to express the idea of having the right to practice something. The question: “What gives us the right?” is a question that can be asked in any area of life. In the realm of religion, this question ought to be asked far more frequently. Some may not see the need or the importance of having the right or authority. Everyone needs to understand the gravity of the matter. In 2 Thessalonians 1:8 Paul gives us the picture of Christ taking “vengeance” in “flaming fire” to those who do not obey His gospel. For this cause we need to test the things we do to verify all is done with the Lord’s authority (Colossians 3:17). Without having His authority, we can have no hope to be dressed in white robes in eternity.

The Hebrew writer begins the book with making it clear that God has spoken, as He has in various ways and at different times in the past, through Jesus these last days (Hebrews 1:1-4). As the appointed heir, or the anointed, Christ has all authority (Matthew 28:18). With the authority that has been given to Jesus (Ephesians 1:22-23), He has delivered to us His gospel that will one day judge the world (Romans 2:16). Those who do not obey the gospel of Christ will face the wrath of God. The consequences of our actions demand the need for having authority, or the right, to live the life we live.

Knowing that all will be judged by the gospel of Christ, the source of authority is therefore the gospel. To determine what we are authorized to do, an exegetical attitude has to be used. God says what He means, and means what He says. Amos didn’t beat around the bush with smooth words or human wisdom when speaking what the Lord had spoken. Amos simply spoke the word of God and said, “Thus says the Lord” (Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, etc.). If the source of authority is the word of God, then it is vain and useless to be going to human creeds and traditions for authority. When we cease to ask what God has spoken, we will no longer be following Him, rather we become children tossed about by any/every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). To prevent this sad state, authority must be established and demanded.

Authority is established when we are able to show where we have direct commands, approved apostolic examples, and/or necessary inferences. When we can show the book, chapter, and verse for these items, authority is established. Without this proof, we have no authority to practice the action under question. An example of individuals who were punished because of not having authority can be found in Numbers 3:4. Nadab and Abihu offered a strange fire. The fire was strange because it was not the fire authorized in God’s word. Nadab and Abihu were killed for using unauthorized fire. They were wrong for practicing what was unauthorized, and we are wrong today if we do the same.

When considering questions on salvation, the use of instrumental music in worship, supporting orphan homes and colleges, the use of a missionary society, and other questions in connection with our service to the Lord, the answer is the same in every case-what has God authorized? This elementary principle of establishing authority has been thrown out the window in pursuit of being the largest and most popular group among those in the world. If anyone should preach a gospel contrary to the gospel of Christ, that person is to be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). Establishing authority is needed and is a serious matter. Those who refuse to demand or establish authority are clearly not of God, we know this from their fruit (Matthew 7:15-20; 2 John 9). Let us consider our ways and determine what has given the authority, or right, to practice our actions and beliefs. Is it authorized of God or man?


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