Authority In Religion

"And when he (Jesus) was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" (Matthew 21:23). There has always been the recognized need for authority. In civil and criminal disputes, the courts appeal to the law as authority. There is the desperate need for authority in schools and in the home. Even on the ball field there is the need for authority or else chaos will result. Religion is no exception although it is sometimes thought to be the exception. The teaching that Jesus did while on earth was called into question in the above passage. His authority came from God, the Father, the ultimate source for all authority.

There are different theories concerning authority in religion. Modernist places reason above the Bible. This places man's wisdom on equal footing with God's wisdom, thus the individual becomes the source of authority. It is more important what you think or I think rather than what God has said. This has given rise to all the man-made creeds of denominational churches along with their conferences, conventions, and councils where laws and by-laws are formulated. The result of these theories is division which is the meaning of the word "denominations". Authority varies as the individual or organization varies when man's wisdom becomes supreme.

However, the Scriptures teach that man and his wisdom is not dependable as a source for authority. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12). "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps." (Jeremiah 10:23). When we are questioned, as Jesus was, about why we do certain things religiously, what answer can we give: "We've always done it that way!", "We like it therefore we do it!", "That the way the church manual reads!". Let us rather give book, chapter, and verse. (1 Corinthians 4:6).

--E.R. Hall, Jr.

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