By What Authority Do You Do These Things?

It was just a matter of days before Jesus was crucified. He and the twelve had returned to Jerusalem. The teachings of Jesus and His wondrous works and miracles had been witnessed throughout the land. The following incident is recorded in Matthew 21, Mark 11 and Luke 20: “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?”’ Much earlier in His ministry, “the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).

Some honest-minded individuals, who perhaps had a better understanding of the inspired Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, were more receptive of Him. One ruler of the Jews, Nicodemus, who had come to Jesus by night had said to Jesus, “We know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these things that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2).

Jesus certainly had not kept secret His authority or who had given it to Him. Jesus had openly proclaimed:

“My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

“You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23).

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me” (John 9:4).

“The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me” (John 10:25).

“If I do not do the works of My Father do not believe Me, but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38).

“I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:49-50).

“The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves” (John 14:10-11).

How often did He have to tell men of His authority? But the prejudiced minds of most of the Jewish leaders rejected His authority. That lowly Galilean just did not fit the description of the coming Messiah that they had apparently envisioned, and they even accused Him of casting out demons by Beelzebub as they endeavored to keep the people from believing in Him (Matthew 9:34, 12:24; Luke 11:15).

The Jewish leaders who came questioning His authority did so with evil intent, but the question is valid, and men would do well to consider by what authority many religious practices are done today, and what authority gives sanction to the various teachings and trends in religion today. Let us ask the same question concerning these things, that Jesus asked the Jews concerning John’s practice of baptism: “Was it from heaven or from men?”

There is much religion in the world, and many sincere worshippers, but many doctrines and practices, even among believers in the one true God. Are all these different doctrines and practices from heaven or from men? Can they all be right? Did God authorize all the different denominations? Or have these been developed by men? Our eternal destiny may well be determined by our consideration of these things. God is a jealous God and He requires that we follow His instructions.

When the apostle Paul first carried the gospel into areas of Europe where it had never yet been heard, he met with much opposition in some cities, but when he came to Berea, “These were more fair-minded (or noble) than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). If people would search the Scriptures, they would find that many of the religious teachings and practices in the modern world are not authorized by God. The mere fact that religious leaders have introduced sprinkling or pouring or a wet finger making a cross on a forehead to substitute for baptism does not make it acceptable to God. Many people have never searched the Scriptures adequately to realize that instrumental music is not authorized to be used in the worship services of the church. Or, that titles like Reverend and Father for mere men are contrary to the teachings of the Word of God. A number of things common in the religious world today are foreign to the Scriptures. Jesus said concerning the worship of many in His day, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). It seems to be the reasoning of men: “What difference does it make?” It is simply a matter of is it from heaven or from men?

God’s Word teaches unity, one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God (Ephesians 4:3-6). There is one name that is above every name (Ephesians 1:20-21, Philippians 2:9). “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). That excludes Mary or some saint, whether living or dead. “Christ is the head of the church” not a man on earth or a council of men (Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18). The early church routinely observed the Lord’s Supper the first day of the week, not just sporadically at times men designate (Acts 2:42, 20:7). We are repeatedly warned not to add to or take from the Word of the Lord. If we want to make our calling and election sure, if we want to go to heaven, we had better follow the way of the Lord, revealed to us through the Scriptures, rather than following mere mortals.