By What Authority?

Authority is  concept that most people understand many situations.

  • Not everyone has the authority to make laws. If we did, chaos would reign because every individual would make laws that benefit themselves. Thus, we have a system of government that is designed to make laws and those who are elected are given the authority by the people to pass laws to govern our society. That authority comes primarily from the constitution of the nation or state as set forth by our founders.
  • Not everyone in a company has the same level of authority. Some have authority to purchase items for the company. Some have authority to make rules of behavior for employees of the company. Some have authority to grant time off for employees of the company. This authority ultimately is granted by those highest up in the company, whether it is the owners themselves in a private corporation or those appointed by the stockholders of a publicly held company.
  • In social organizations such as clubs or charities, there is a chain of authority that is generally established by a charter of some type. Those who lead in these organizations are bound to follow the charter or other guidelines set forth when the organization was created.

In each of the cases mentioned above, those who fail to recognize the ultimate authority in each situation can find themselves facing severe consequences for violating that authority. Most people understand and recognize this. It is part of why we have jails to house criminals and courts to settle civil disputes.

But, this concept of authority is neither new nor unique to the non-religious world. The Jews of Jesus’ day understood the idea of authority. Even more, they understood the concept of Divine authority. We have record of an occasion where they questioned Jesus about this very concept:

23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” [Matthew 21:23 NKJV]

As Jesus so often did, rather than give a simple, straight answer, He took advantage of the teaching opportunity and turned the question back on those questioned Him:

24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 “The baptism of John–where was it from? From heaven or from men?” [Matthew 21:24-25 NKJV]

Jesus’ response is interesting because it only gave them two choices for John’s source of authority: heaven or men. This is the crux of what we need to understand. When we claim we are serving or worshiping God, we must determine by what authority we are engaging in the activity we claim honors His name. Is what we are doing authorized by heaven (God) or men? Note in there reaction that they clearly understood the consequences of each choice:

25 … And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 “But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. [Matthew 21:25-27 NKJV]

They knew that whatever is authorized by heaven cannot be rejected. However, they had not followed John’s teaching and this would put them in an awkward position. By contrast, if they could justify themselves by saying it was from men. This would make their rejection of John’s teachings acceptable because the authority of men is not binding in spiritual matters. The problem for them was the multitudes. They believed John was a prophet and teaching was from heaven. So they dodged the question and said, “we don’t know.”

Many religious people today dodge the question in various ways:

  • The Bible is too hard to understand, we just can’t know what the truth really is.
  • My church says this is the right the thing to do.
  • This just feels right and I can’t believe God would be displeased with something that makes me feel so good.
  • If certain things in the Bible are true, that means a lot of people are going to be lost.
  • And the list goes on…

Because of the intent to keep these articles relatively short, we are not going to address each of these in this article, but we will in subsequent articles. But think about this as we close and you think about whether or not having authority matters…

  • Could a new hire at a company walk up and fire his boss because he doesn’t like something about her? Why not?
  • Can an employee use company funds for any purpose they desire? Why not?
  • Can a member of a charitable organization with a charter for raising funds for cancer research on their own decide to use the funds for hurricane relief? Why not?
  • Can lawmakers make just any law they want without any regard for the structure of our government? (I know that’s a loaded question when it comes to real life, but in principle?)

Why, if we can understand in every other phase of life, the importance of authority for what we do, is it so hard to understand that we must have authority for what we do to honor and glorify God? Clearly Jesus expected that men could know the difference.

In subsequent articles we will look at…

  • God has clearly revealed His will to mankind and expects man to understand and follow it.
  • The ability to communicate His will to man and expect man to honor it is one of the things that sets God apart from the idols of men.
  • Failure to recognize the authority of God and His revealed will carries significant penalties.

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

 

Advertisements

You Are the Man!

“You’re the MAN!” “You’re the ONE!” “You are IT!” How excited do we get when we are the focal point of one of these exclamations? Generally these expressions are associated with something positive and exciting. However, on one occasion, when King David heard these words, it was the last possible thing he wanted to hear. Nathan, a prophet of God, came to David and told him a story about a rich man:

1 Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. 2 “The rich [man] had exceedingly many flocks and herds. 3 “But the poor [man] had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. 4 “And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” [2 Samuel 12:1-4 NKJV]

As one might expect, David, being a man “after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), was enraged. How dare the rich man conduct himself this way. David demanded justice!

5 So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “[As] the LORD lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! 6 “And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” [2 Samuel 12:5-6 NKJV]

Now it was time for David to hear the words he did NOT want to hear: “YOU are the man!”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You [are] the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 ‘I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if [that had been] too little, I also would have given you much more! 9 ‘Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife [to be] your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. [2 Samuel 12:7-9 NKJV]

David had committed adultery with Bathsheeba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11:2-4). But, he hadn’t stopped there. When it was discovered that Bathsheeba was pregnant, he first tried to cover his sin by bring Uriah home from battle, even getting him drunk, trying to get him to go in to Bathsheeba (2 Samuel 11: 6-13). But, that didn’t work and so David had Uriah killed in battle (2 Samuel 11:14-25). So, what can we learn from David being “the man?”

  • First and foremost, sin can be forgiven. When David was confronted by Nathan, he acknowledged his sin and Nathan told David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” [2 Samuel 12:13 NKJV] Once we recognize our sin, we have the choice of ignoring it, becoming overwhelmed by it, or acknowledging it and seeking forgiveness as David did.
  • However, just because he was forgiven did not mean there were no consequences. He was told, “the sword shall never depart from your house” [2 Samuel 12:10 NKJV] and, “the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” [2 Samuel 12:14 NKJV] All of this came to pass. Just read the rest of 2 Samuel to see the problems David faced the rest of his life. Being forgiven does not eliminate all consequences.
    • Families and friendships can be destroyed adultery, anger, or hatred. Forgiveness may come, but the relationships may never be the same again.
    • Lives can be lost or forever changed by sinful acts. Disease from sexual immorality. Taking another life while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Forgiveness can come but the consequences may never be reversed.
    • Churches can be divided and destroyed because of sinful attitudes.
  • Finally, sin that is not corrected can lead to far worse. We not only see this in David as he moves from adultery on up to murder. It’s also evident in Cain, whose jealously about his brother Abel turned into murder. And, in King Saul who failed to honor God and then began taking it out on David who was chosen to replace him. Eventually, he had priests killed and even attempted to kill his own son. Do not let sin take root. When discovered, repent and purge it from your life before it is everlastingly too late.

Just remember, at some point, we are all “the man.” “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23 NKJV] What will you do when confronted with your sin? Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

 

Whoever Desires to Become Great

It is a typical human trait to desire to be great. I am not saying all men are power hungry or greedy, but most like the idea of being recognized and having others do things for us. In fact, we may get our feelings hurt if we aren’t helped by others in times of need or times when we feel like we “deserve” it due to our position. Our society measures greatness by power that is wielded over others. The power may come through fame, fortune, political position, or some other means. Thus, it comes as no surprise that even Jesus closest disciples sought power. Note Matthew 20:20-21:

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. 21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” [Matthew 20:20-21 NKJV]

Sitting at the right and left hand of a king was a position of power and influence. The other apostles recognized this because they were quite upset by request:

And when the ten heard [it], they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. [Matthew 20:24 NKJV]

So, since they all wanted the positions of power and influence, how did Jesus respond to this request? I think it is safe to say they did not get the response they were expecting:

25 But Jesus called them to [Himself] and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave– [Matthew 20:25-27 NKJV]

Jesus said if you want to be great, you must serve others. How does that fit into our society’s idea of greatness? But, Jesus didn’t stop there. He explained that not only should they serve others, but they should serve in a manner that followed His example:

28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [Matthew 20:28 NKJV]

Jesus provided the ultimate example of service by allowing Himself to die a torturous death on the cross. When confronted by Judas and those with him in the garden, He noted that He could have called twelve legions of angels to prevent what was going to happen (Matthew 26:51-53). But, He didn’t. Because He came to serve mankind. Paul stated it this way in Philippians 2:5-8:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to [the point of] death, even the death of the cross. [Philippians 2:5-8 NKJV]

So, if we want to great in the kingdom of God, we need to quit asking, “Why isn’t everyone else serving me?” and start asking, “What can I do to serve others?”

Dan Fontenot

(editor’s note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice…?

“Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice…?” This was the question asked by Pharaoh, king of Egypt, when Moses, God’s chosen leader, approached Pharaoh with the command to let the people of Israel leave Egypt to worship God as He had commanded. This exchange is recorded in Exodus 5:1-2:

1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went in and told Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.’ ” 2 And Pharaoh said, “Who [is] the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.” [Exodus 5:1-2 NKJV]

This situation provides an interesting opportunity to look at how God expects men to believe in Him. Many seem to think that He expects people to have a “blind” faith with no proof or evidence. This is just one example that such is not the case. God knew that Pharaoh would not be willing to let the people go and told Moses, “I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.” (Exodus 3:19-20). But God’s intent was was actually twofold. It is interesting to note that God points out that the events that would follow were not only for convincing Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but also the people of Israel:

And the Egyptians shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them. [Exodus 7:5 NKJV] 6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: “I [am] the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I [am] the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” [Exodus 6:6-7 NKJV]

God wanted to clearly demonstrate to both the Egyptians and the Israelites that He was indeed the one, true living God. Let’s look at some of the things He proved through the plagues:

What was the result of God’s demonstration of His power? Pharaoh’s initial reaction was, “Who [is] the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.” [Exodus 5:2 NKJV] Then, after the final plague, Pharaoh’s attitude had changed:

Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “Rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the LORD as you have said. [Exodus 12:31 NKJV]

Just as God provided evidence to Pharaoh and the nation of Israel, He has provided evidence from the beginning of time of not only his existence, but His power and knowledge. In another article we we examine in more detail some of the evidences of God in His creation, but for now, consider the following verses:

1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. 2 Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. 3 [There is] no speech nor language [Where] their voice is not heard. 4 Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, [Psalms 19:1-4 NKJV] 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown [it] to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [Romans 1:18-21 NKJV]

God expects all people to have faith in Him, not based on blind acceptance, but because He has demonstrated is power, love and wisdom over and over again since the beginning of time.  Do you believe?

Dan Fontenot

(editor’s note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)