by Heath Rogers
"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).
The chief priests and elders who confronted Jesus were asking legitimate questions. Jesus needed authority for the things He did in the temple, and this authority had to come from the proper source.
We considered in the past some improper sources of authority that people use regarding their religious beliefs and practices: themselves, traditions, creeds of men, what the preacher says, the results accomplished, and the Old Testament. Now, we will consider the proper source of authority in religious matters.
Notice our Lord's response to the questions asked by the chief priests and enders. "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: The baptism of John - where was it from? From heaven or from men?'" (Matthew 21:24-25).
According to Jesus, authority in religious matters can only come from one of two possible sources: from heaven (God) or from men. The reasoning of the chief priests and elders shows they correctly understood that authority in religious matters must come from God and not from men.
God has all authority. He has the right to take action, give commands, and enforce obedience. This authority or power belongs to God by right of creation (Romans 9:20-21).
God has given all authority to Jesus. "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'" (Matthew 28:18). If Jesus has all authority, that means we are to listen to Him, not to ourselves, creeds, or traditions. God spoke to His people in the Old Testament through the prophets, but He speaks to us today through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into all truth. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:12-14). Read these verses again and notice the chain of authority. Jesus has been given all authority. The Holy Spirit would take the words of Jesus and declare them to the apostles. Therefore, the words of the apostles were the authoritative message of Jesus.
The apostles and other men inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote the New Testament. The New Testament is our source of authority in religion today. When we appeal to the New Testament Scriptures as authority for the things we believe, teach, and practice, we are not appealing to men but to heaven.