By Guy Roberson
Is There a Need For Biblical Authority?
Most people agree that authority is needed in the home, school, business, and the nation. If we are to have any kind of order in our lives, we must have some standard of authority to follow. When authority is either rejected or simply ignored in any of these realms we see chaos. The nonconformist revolution together with the publicized scandals in government promotes disregard for authority and as a result the world suffers.
The word “authority” means “the right to command and enforce obedience.” There are two forms of authority: Primary and Delegated Authority. In spite of the ways of the world, God places a high value on authority because authority originates with Him. Paul wrote: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Rom. 13:1-2; Cf. I Pet. 2:13-14). Paul also established primary authority for us when he pointed out: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Cor. 11:3). There is no one above God and He does not answer to anyone.
Throughout both testaments God’s sovereign and universal rule over the entire universe demonstrates His ultimate or primary authority by demanding submission and accountability from all men, as Paul clearly shows: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:4-6).
Having primary authority God can therefore delegate authority to others. God “is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives it to whomever He will….” (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32). Jesus states clearly that the Father delegated authority to Him: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18) and Paul said that God “has put all things under His [Christ] feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22; Cf. Matt. 11:27). Jesus will continue to exercise this authority throughout His messianic reign (I Tim. 6:15) until He has subdued all the enemies of God and delivers the kingdom to His Father (I Cor. 15:20-28). As the incarnate Son of God, but also the Son of man, He acts in submission and obedience to the Father and has set the pattern for all mankind to be in submission to the Father through Him.
Having all authority Jesus delegated authority to His apostles: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Notice that Christ was giving the “keys” symbolizing authority. The phrase, “will be bound in heaven, loosed on earth” is explained for us in Matthew 18:18 (NASB): “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” The syntax of the Greek text makes the meaning clear. The apostles only had the right to teach what the Lord authorized. They did not have the right to teach anything from human thought and reasoning (Prov. 14:12). The apostles were only revealing what had already been determined by the Lord. John pointed out that they spoke from God: “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (I John 4:6).
Jesus instructed His disciples that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (John16:13-15). This is why Jesus identified truth with the written Word (John 17:17). You will find that this declaration by our Lord was consistent with the declarations in the Old Testament (Psa. 119:142, etc.). Three times Jesus appealed to the written Word of God to defeat Satan (Matt. 4:1-11). In verse 4 Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Before ascending into heaven to be crowned King of kings and Lord of lords Jesus commissioned His disciples “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
We do need biblical authority for what we believe and practice because Paul said, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). In essence, God’s authority is vested in the Scriptures for the purposes of liberating human beings from evil and securing their liberty in Jesus Christ so we can live in a loving relationship with the Heavenly Father who made us.
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