As Jesus taught in the temple the chief priests and elders of the people asked Him this very question.(Mt. 21:23; Mk. 11:28; Lk. 20:2) Imagine what would happen today if in a classroom or a church building auditorium the leaders of the school or church found someone they had never hired or invited standing before the group teaching. If you ever tried it you would find out. They would immediately ask ‘What are you doing here?’, ‘What right do you have to be here?’, ‘Who said you could do this?’, and those questions would likely be followed by a forced exit or even a call to the police. Those would all be reasonable questions to ask under the circumstances, and we shouldn’t necessarily think evil of the priests and elders for asking the same things of Christ. Jesus even showed His willingness to answer those questions if they would have only demonstrated their honesty in seeking to know the truth. Unfortunately, they were not interested in the truth and would not answer Jesus’ question about John the Baptizer.
The question is a good one and one that we should answer. By what authority do we do the things we do? There are many possible answers, but only one that is pleasing to God. Whether it is in the area of religion or not we must have authority for the things we do, we can not just do whatever we please. But, how do we decide what standard of authority we are going to use?
Some say, ‘if it feels good do it’. This allows a person to do anything as long as there are not any guilty feelings. The most obvious problem with this is that some people don’t ever feel guilty about anything. There are some people who enjoy causing others pain or lying, stealing, killing, etc. According to this way of thinking those actions wouldn’t be wrong if it feels good.
Others believe, ‘if it is legal it must be okay’. This belief has encouraged many to do things that result in the destruction of literally thousands of lives every year. People do things that God despises simply because the government has made it legal. Drunkenness, gambling, abortion, homosexuality, divorce, and many other things that God never wanted are not even thought of as something to be avoided, and all because people believe that if it was bad it would be against the law.
Many practice the ‘my pastor said’ form of authority. These think that religious leaders are somehow above sin and error and anything spoken by one of these so-called ‘Holy men’ can’t be wrong. As a preacher myself, I am appalled by this thinking. I know that I am human and make mistakes, say the wrong things, and sin. Think of all of the atrocities, like the 9/11 tragedy, that have been performed because of this very attitude.
There are probably other standards that people use to authorize their activities, but the Bible is the only standard that never changes and never fails or leads us wrong. There are certainly those who have twisted the scriptures and taught falsehoods (2 Peter 3:15-16), but the Bible, God’s Word is always true (John 17:17). Only God can authorize an activity and make it right. God at times has given others the authority to punish evil or to forbid certain activities, but no one can make something right if God says it is wrong. No one and nothing, not your feelings; not the government; and not a religious leader, can give you the authority to do something God has forbidden.
Jesus was doing what He did by the authority of God. What about you? What about your church? No church council can overrule God. If you are ready to get back to the Bible as your only source of authority, come visit with us. We believe the Bible and only the Bible should be our standard for authority. Why not visit a church of Christ near you.