THE EXTENT OF AUTHORITY

When I was a young Christian, I had a hard time with the concept of authority. Not in the sense that I did not know what it meant but in the application of it. Let’s face it; application of Biblical authority is one of the greatest problems in the religious world today. Satan has persuaded many that they have the authority to determine what God should want. True Bible students do not always understand the correct application of the principles of authority, either. At the outset, I must say that I do not have all the answers, but I think that I understand a general principle that I hope to elaborate here. My question years ago was, “Do I need authority to wear a tie?”. I happened to be wearing a tie when I asked the question. Ranging from “No” to convoluted explanations about why I do not need authority to wear a tie, no answer seemed to satisfy.

Colossians 3:17 is very clear, however, about this principle if we understand the phrase “in the name of”. Some time ago, a policeman might have yelled to a fleeing suspect, “Stop, in the name of the law!”. We understand that the law does not have a name or that the very term “law” does not carry with it any reason to stop fleeing. It is the power behind the law that would cause one to stop. The law is a creation of government. Government is authorized by God, Romans 13:1. The law, therefore, carries the weight of authority. It is because of the authority of the law that one who is fleeing would be compelled to stop.

The verse tells us that we are speaking about the authority of the Lord. What about the authority of the Lord? Well, we are to do whatever we do (and say) and all we do in His name, by His authority. The ideas of whatever and all we do, what do they leave out? The answer is obviously nothing. If I send my son to the store for milk, eggs, bacon, and a loaf of bread for breakfast and tell him to make sure he gets it all or not to forget any of it; how would I feel about his coming home with only a gallon of milk? Maybe more to the point – if the boss of your company promised you a raise at the anniversary of your hire every year, how many anniversaries would you want to go without a raise? No, you would want them all.

Yet, when it comes to the Bible, we suddenly forget what we know about whatever and all. The point of the verse is that anything we do requires authority. And there is no limiting context. So, do I need authority to wear a tie? The simple and correct answer is yes. In pondering that answer, I have come to believe that the reason I had so much trouble with the question is that I believed if it were so then I would have to ask the question of everything. Do I have authority to get out of bed, to eat breakfast, to brush my teeth, to take a shower, etc? The reality, though, is that I would only have to answer the question once, not every morning. Also, in many ways, having authority is like breathing. I do it, but I don’t have to think about it. For many things, I already know through years of teaching and common sense that I have the authority. For example, I know I have the authority to eat because God created me to eat. The Bible places limits on my eating, though. It also places limits on my television watching (in terms of what I see) and the clothing I wear (modest, not revealing or ostentatious).

The point of all of this is that there is nothing I say or do that is exempted from the need for authority. Nothing! If so, what is it? Watching TV? Racing a car? Feeding the poor? Teaching faith only? Leaving a congregation? Now, you see my point, if you’ve been reading my articles. Why is it that Christians, who would otherwise understand and apply the need for authority, suddenly ignore it completely when they want to leave or are faced with someone’s leaving? Though no one has ever expressed outright disagreement to me when I’ve taught on leaving, I have the feeling that some do not really agree with me. They simply stay silent and possibly think that I am entitled to my opinion. Again, ignoring a principle of scripture that we must prove what we believe, 1 Peter 4:11.

Having authority is at the root of ALL we do and say as Christians. If we do not have the authority, in accord with the limits of authority which God set down beforehand (Matthew 16:19), we have no right to do or say something. That truth is plain.

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