And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?Matthew 21:23 (NASB)
The question posed by the Jewish leaders actually captures their religious mentality and mannerism at that time – spirituality is all about citing or referring to a particular rabbi or teacher: the more prominent the teacher, the “better” the teaching would be. In giving his own testimony of the conversion wrought in his heart, the apostle Paul would give evidence to the religious leaders of his own “religious grooming” and steady progression within the Pharaisical ranks by citing his honoured mentor, Gamaliel in Acts 22:3. Here was a culture not unlike our own, where prominence and power are weighed by the people “we know”.
Thus, it was not surprising that the Jews, in general, were amazed that an “unknown” man (Jesus of Nazareth) was deemed a prophet, who had no “great person” authenticating and giving Him His credentials to preach and teach. This was an abnormality among the Jewish community. Jesus’ answer in Matthew 21:24-25 revealed the truth concerning ALL prophets of God – their authority came from God Himself, visible by God’s authenticating power working among them (visibly seen in prophets like Moses and Elijah). In Jesus Christ’s case, He is God, as He clearly explained in the Gospel of John, especially in John 8:48-59. This was evidenced by the manner of His speaking (with authority, Matthew 7:29) and by the effect it had on the people (through His miracles).
The great tragedy that we see is the return of Modern-Day Christianity to the practices of the Jewish people 2,000 years ago. Preachers are more concerned with the “quotations” that they use and by the “camp” that they belong to, rather than pointing to the Self-authenticating and Innate Authority of the Word of God. In this, the modern church apes the academic world – citing the interpretation of this person and that, rather than trusting in the plain language of Scripture. Certainly, there are some things that are difficult to understand and some that will not be fully known until the Lord’s Return – nevertheless, what we have is clearly explained and constantly repeated throughout Scriptures. We should major on the things that God deems as important – this is by the repetition and clarity given. Likewise, we should minor (not specialise) in the things that are obscure and unique.
The pursuit of “authority” beyond those of Scriptures give rise to the constant idol that is warned by the apostle Paul – that of the “institution of church” itself. The “man of perdition” is the man that usurps God’s place as the head of the Church –
Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.2 Thessalonians 2:3-4
Historically, many have pointed the finger to the Roman Pope, but could the “man of lawlessness” be much closer? That document that is proclaimed by many (whether they be creeds or confessions or statements of faiths) as necessary has become the tool to subjugate and control the mind of well-meaning Christians into conformity with “people” rather than of God! We need to wake up from this “tradition” and come back to THE authority of Scripture. The heart is easily swayed by man’s own whimsical fancies without realising it.
We need to check ourselves. Are we believing something because of the list of “celebrity preachers” who endorses such views? Are we attracted to a message because of that quote that ‘perfectly” captures the interpretation? Or are we hooked unto the words because they are God’s? This is what we need to recover. 500 years of Reformation and it seems to me, we are starting back at where we supposedly left. It is time for us to check our beliefs – on whose authority do we believe.