WHY IS DIVINE AUTHORITY NEEDED?
“By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?” These questions were asked of Jesus in the Jerusalem temple by certain chief priests and elders of the Jews (Mt. 21:23). Although not sincerely motivated, these questions bring out two principles. First, there is a need for authority in religion, and second, authority must come from one who has the right to grant it (Who gave thee this authority?). Jesus asked them this question (v. 25), “The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven, or of men?” This establishes that there are only two sources of authority which are heaven and man. In our service to God, it is very important to understand the need for authority and where authority rests.
Actually, standards of authority are accepted in most every realm and relationship. For example, in weights and measurements, we know that sixteen ounces equals a pound, twelve inches equals a foot, and three feet equals a yard. These standards are accepted in our country, and a great deal of confusion would exist if, suddenly, everyone had their own standard of weights and measurements.
There are different sources of authority today in religion. First, there is internal human authority. People who are guided by their own consciences, judgments, and feelings are being governed by this type of authority. A second area of authority is external human authority. Examples of this type of authority are customs, traditions, and human creeds. The third realm of authority is divine authority which has God as the originator, is centered in Christ, and is revealed in the Bible. This third source should be man’s authority today.
Divine guidance is needed by man because man is not able to guide himself to heaven. Jeremiah 10:23 says, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” This is a very profound statement that we need to be reminded of often. It is God’s Word which is able to guide us and save our souls. James 1:21 says, “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” The “perfect law of liberty” is to be our guide (Jas. 1:25). There is no way that man can get to heaven by following his own councils and the doctrines of men instead of the Bible. Doing so, he is doomed to failure.
Our life here on this earth can be compared to a journey. When Pharaoh asked Jacob how old he was, Jacob referred to his life as a pilgrimage (or sojourning — NASB). Today, we are on a journey to heaven, thus, it is necessary that we follow God’s divine “road map” to get there. Without God’s Word, we cannot make it. Nothing that man comes up with can take the place of God’s Word to show us the way.
Authority which originates with man causes strife and division; it produces denominationalism instead of the “one church” that we can read about in the Scriptures. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” People, even good people, will differ on things; therefore, we are in need of divine authority.
In John 17:17-21, Jesus prayed for unity among his followers. Paul, an inspired writer, told the Corinthians (I Cor. 1:10) that there should be no divisions among them, and they should be “. . . . perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” How can this unity ever be achieved if we are following various man-made standards? All people following the one steady standard of God’s Word is the only possible way that we can be united as Christ desires.
Man is certainly in need of divine authority to guide him. Without God’s guidance, we are helpless and doomed to failure.