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Monday, December 24, 2007

By What Authority?


11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 1Timothy 2:11,12

Mt 21:23 And when he 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?

The words sound strange to the the modern ear, because everyone thinks his civil right to freedom of religion is a right and authority sanctioned by God Himself.

The biblical fact is otherwise.

The question asked by the chief priests and elders was a very serious one and posed great peril for Christ.

The law given by God to Moses was very clear: those who took it upon themselves to teach religion without authority were condemned to death. Through the prophet Jeremiah God said, "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied." Jer 23:21

Jesus did not dodge the question. He took the question of authority very seriously. He knew that everyone was not authorized to enter into the temple and throw out the moneychangers and drive out the cattle. "30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. 32 Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. Jer 23:30-32.

But Jesus did not answer them according to their folly, to become like them. He answered them according to their folly in order to expose their hypocrisy and folly.

"What about the ministry of John the Baptist?" he said. "Was it of God?" What wisdom this was! The priests were on the horns a dilemma, and they knew it. If they said the John's ministry was not of God, they knew they would cause a riot, for all the people know that John had come from God. On the other hand, if they said that John hand come from God, Jesus would ask why they did not hear John.

So they said, "We cannot tell," seeking to avoid the dilemma. So Jesus said, "Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things." They tried to avoid the issue, but He in His divine wisdom had answered his opponents.

Everyone standing there that day knew that John had claimed to be the purifier, come to prepare the way of the Lord, to present the Messiah to the people of Israel. Jesus was the One sent by God to be the Savior of the world. Jesus, among all those who have lived on the earth, was endowed with authority and right to do whatever He pleased in the house of His Father in Heaven. The temple was His and He had the right to rearrange the furniture if He liked. They must bow to His authority; as we all must.

The church is the body of Christ, and He alone has the right to decide how it is to be governed. Not by women, not by children, not by slander, not by usurpers, not by dreamers and those who consult their own hearts. A man's heart will always tell him not to submit to the Scripture, and his own heart will lead to hell, for he that trusts in his own heart is a fool, no matter how piously he wraps the package.

Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, as Samuel told King Saul so many years ago. It is still so today. Jesus did not duck the question of authority, and neither must we.

Of course, the penal sanction of the law of Moses for death to ursurpers is not to be applied today, for in the age of the Spirit, the harshness of the law is replaced by the sweetness of the mild yoke of Christ. But the principle remains: let those who presume to teach the church be ready to explain their authority, as Jesus did. If you have no John the Baptist to attest to your "ministry," then you must be prepared to walk on the water and rise from the dead. Jesus had both.
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