Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 16 No. 7 July 2014
Page 6

By What Authority?

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson“The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?” (Jeremiah 5:31). In this passage of Scripture, the word translated “authority” is the Hebrew term “yad,” which literally means “hand.” It can be used of one’s hand on his or her body, or the wrist, but it is often used metaphorically to signify strength or power, authority. God through His prophet was warning the people of Judah they were listening to words that had no real authority behind them; they came from false prophets and priests who did things their own way, not God’s way. While this may have appealed to them, the bigger question was how would it all end? In the day of truth they would be disillusioned and under judgment. The opportunity to respond to the authority of God would be over; repentance would be past. Indeed, what would they do? As one person has put it, “A dreadful question mark hung over the future.”

Later, Jesus would be asked a similar question by the religious rulers of His day; “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things” (Mark 11:28). There was a difference regarding the matter of authority between the rulers and Jesus. Like the priests of old, the rulers’ authority came from themselves, or by their own hand. It was based on their desires and from their own attitudes; the will of God was merely the vehicle they used to accomplish it. Jesus’ authority, however, came from God. It was seen in the works He performed and the words He spoke. As Jesus said, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father” (John 10:37-38). Rejecting the authority of God in Christ, they had Him killed to preserve their own authority and what it offered them. In the day of truth they will be disillusioned and under judgment. The opportunity to respond to the authority of God will be over; repentance will be past. What will they do? A dreadful end awaits, as heaven and hell are at stake.

Simply because one claims to be a child of God doesn’t mean one has the right authority for such in one’s life. It may come from what someone else has said, someone else’s authority. It may come from putting oneself first, from one’s own authority. These sources will not avail in judgment. It must come from God’s authority in Christ through His Word. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians, “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2).

If all authority belongs to Christ (Matthew 28:18), then it is both valid and essential to ask the question for all our practices, individually and as His church, “By what authority?” I suppose anyone can say anything when it comes to the faith and our practice of it, but our question must always be “By what authority?” Humanity doesn’t have the right or privilege to determine this, but our Lord does. We must always be sure what we believe and what we practice are true to the pattern of Scripture. Our goal isn’t to appease people, but to please God, as heaven and hell are at stake. “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).

The Clash: Paul vs. Peter!

Mark N. Posey

Mark N. PoseyThe clash between Paul and Peter, the two most influential leaders in the early church, is one of the most dramatic confrontations in the Bible. It took place at the church in Antioch, which was the first predominately Gentile congregation. Peter decided to visit the brethren in Antioch despite the prejudice many Jews felt toward Gentile Christians. Thus, Peter was in Antioch eating and having fellowship with the Gentiles until something took place that resulted in an intense confrontation (Galatians 2:11, 14). Paul described why he rebuked Peter in front of the entire church. Why did this happen?

The Cause of the Clash (v.12)

Peter fellowshipped the Gentiles until some brethren from Jerusalem came to visit. These men were Christians, but prejudiced against Gentiles – even Gentiles who had become Christians. When these men arrived, Peter quit eating and fellowshipping the Gentiles. Note: The word translated “withdrew” means, “a strategic military move.” Peter was more concerned with pleasing the men from Jerusalem, even though he knew how Gentile Christians should be treated. This issue had been settled years earlier, with Peter’s help, at the Jerusalem council, as recorded in Acts 15:5-9. Peter gave in to the pressure of a few narrow-minded Jewish Christians and returned to his old ways. Paul confronted him about it because he saw a biblical principle at stake. Paul wasn’t trying to attack or hurt Peter; he was trying to help his brother.

The Consequences of the Clash (v.13)

Peter’s actions resulted in two negative things happening in the church at Antioch: The Unity of the Church was threatened. Peter knew and believed the principle taught in Galatians 3:28, even though his actions were dividing the church: Jews on one side and Gentiles on the other. Other people being led astray. Barnabas was intimidated into treating the Gentile brethren with a disrespect they did not deserve. Peter was one of the most respected leaders in the early church, but when he got off track, others followed his bad example.

The Conclusion of the Clash (vs. 14, 20)

Paul told Peter, “You don’t find salvation by following Jewish traditions; why are you saying Gentiles should have to?” In verses15-19, Paul repeated and restated this idea several times. In verse 20, Paul summarized it all into one classic verse. Salvation doesn’t come as a result of following traditions. Salvation comes through faith, trust and obedience to Jesus Christ. Thus, Christian living is living-like-Christ. Peter had turned away from this and even led others to do the same. Peter’s influence was negative, while Paul’s was positive and helped resolve a conflict that could have deteriorated into a church split.

In conclusion, it’s easy to criticize Peter for what he did, but we need to examine our own lives. We must live so God can use us as positive influences.

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