I think that we all understand what authority is, so we won't dwell on definitions. We do need to understand, however, that all of mankind needs to have authority over them. Small children need to have the discipline of an authority, or they will mature not knowing, or obeying authority.
I went to a young friend's home years ago, and his little boy walked up and kicked me in the shin and asked if it hurt. I said that it most certainly did. I turned to talk to his father and the kid kicked me again. The father made no attempt to correct the boy. The boy recognized no authority at all. The third time he swung his foot my way I hooked his leg with my foot and dumped him on the floor. He got up and swung again and I dumped him a second time. He got up and walked away. He had not liked his confrontation with authority, but he learned from it. That child I'm confident grew up not recognizing his parent's authority, probably not the Lord's, or the Word's authority, and most likely no authority.
I have observed similar children that have parents that recognized the need for discipline and have begun to apply the principles. The children respond with in a day or two of any new authority structure that a parent puts in place. They not only recognize it, but they respond to it with obedience and quite often they become more affectionate and loving toward their parents and siblings.
There are two principles to "Authority" in relation to the revelation. Both are valid and necessary.
1. The Word is our authority over us in our lives.
2. It is authoritative because it is the inspired Word of God.
Someone has said that if there is anything small, shallow, or ugly about a person, giving him a little authority will bring it out. In contrast, as you allow authority to the Word, it will bring out everything deep, and beautiful in a person.
DEFINITIONS: The term translated authority in the scripture is Strong's word 1849 "exousia." It is very interesting that it is not only translated "authority," but it is also translated "power." Since you cannot have authority without power, it is reasonable to assume that the two would be closely related.
Erickson mentions, "By the authority of the Bible we mean that the Bible, as the expression of God's will to us, possesses the right supremely to define what we are to believe and how we are to conduct ourselves." (Erickson, Millard J., "CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY"; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985, p 241)
He also makes a stronger statement of interest, "By authority we mean the right to command belief and/or action." (p 242) The right to command belief. The right to command action. Do we really understand and accept this concept of authority where scripture is involved? In reality this is the authority that the Word should have over us!
The term "authority" comes from the word "author." Author comes from a Latin term "auctor" which means someone that causes to grow or someone that originates something. In our case God is the originator and author of the Word, and thus is our authority! Indeed, He is the author of mankind as a race. He declared that we should exist. HE DOES HAVE AUTHORITY OVER US AS BELIEVERS, AS OVER ALL OF MANKIND.
RECOGNITION: Authority is being questioned as never before in our society. Women are questioning all authority over them, including God's authority over their bodies. Children are being encouraged to question their parents' authority by the government, social services, and the school system.
I have even seen a pastor or two simply undermine what parents were trying to do in their children's lives. The pastors meant well, but they can't stand in the pulpit and tell the congregation that the parent is wrong to do certain things. Yes, I figured you might want an example. The only illustration that came to mind was a church where many in the congregation were trying to keep the music in the home at a conservative level, and the pastor began making statements that the contemporary Christian songs were okay, and he even brought it into the sanctuary as special music at times. I may be staid, conservative, old fashioned and a stick in the mud, but a very upbeat version of Holy, Holy, Holy on a guitar at high volume is too much!
PRINCIPLES OF AUTHORITY:
1. We all have authorities within our lives. As children we had parents and teachers, as well as others that took care of us from time to time. As adults we have authorities of some sort. Teachers, employers, superior officers, police officers, Presidents, Board of directors etc.
2. Those that own billions of dollars worth of properties, or businesses still have some sort of authority over them to some degree. I saw a documentary on Donald Trump, the multi-millionaire of great fame. He was asked many questions concerning his financial empire and it was very obvious that he had many authorities over him. The loan officers at banks were watching everything he did with great interest.
3. In the Biblical realm we must realize that the lost will not recognize the Word as an authority over their lives. Indeed, we need to take this into consideration when we become upset with how they live their lives. They are their own authority at that point in time. The Word has no authority to them. Most lost people are enjoying life as they see fit, and we have no basis to judge them on. They are doing what is right in their own eyes. We, knowing the Word can understand that. Yes, they are doing wrong, and yes, they will be held accountable for it, but they don't know that.
SOURCE OF AUTHORITY:
There is a real question where the believer's authority is. Is the Church his authority, is the Bible his authority, or is the Lord his authority? Let us consider this for a moment.
1. The Church: The Church of Rome holds that they are the final authority in the lives of their followers. Some cults find a similar power within their authoritative structure. Several of the cults even claim, and use their authority over the marital rites of their followers. You cannot marry the person of your choice. You marry the one that the leader picks for you. Sun Moon married dozens of couples. I believe it was in a stadium in New York City. All couples were paired at Moon's choice.
Getting back to the church having authority over the people, it may be growing among those of a more conservative nature. I have heard comments in sermons and conversations from some in Baptist circles that indicate that some are playing around with some fringe thoughts on this position. I heard in one sermon several years ago, by a leading Baptist seminary president that the church was the final authority in controversies of interpretation. If the "Church" is straight, this is great, but what if it goes sour? I might add that I don't think that this is the normal strain of thinking among Baptists of any generation.
The Word is our authority, and not the church, in the final analysis. Yes, the church is our general authority and it is there for regulation and control of the ministries of believers, however if a local church begins to go against the Word then there should be a parting of ways. In doctrinal disputes, we must recognize the believer's right to interpret and understand the revelation from the Lord. The church can and should guide, teach and help the believer to a proper understanding. The church is never the final authority, else all the reformers were in great error to confront, and separate from Holy Mother Roman Catholic Church.
Thomas Armitage, a Baptist, mentions, " . . . the book called the Bible is given by the inspiration of God, and is the only rule of the Christian faith and practice. The consequence is, that we have no creeds, nor catechisms . . . which bind us by their authority . . . Our churches hold that Jesus Christ is the only Law-giver, and the only King in Zion; that His law is laid down in the scriptures, and is perfect; and therefore, they refuse to follow all forms or tradition and ecclesiastical ordinations whatever, bowing only to the behests of inspired precept, and the recorded practices of the apostolic churches, as their record is found in the Scriptures. . . ." (Quoted by Louie D. Newton, "WHY I AM A BAPTIST"; p 38) There are many other statements from history that declare the Bible has always been the final authority for Baptists.
One more quote for good measure. Pardington, "The divine authority of the Scriptures constitutes them the final court of appeal in all matters of Christian faith and practice." (Pardington, Rev. George P. Ph.D.; "OUTLINE STUDIES IN CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE"; Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1926, p 40)
2. The Bible: The Scriptures are, and can be, the ONLY source of authority that the believer can have. The scriptures declare the God that gave them, and the God of final authority.
BASIS OF THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD:
The only basis there is, is centered in the fact that the Bible is the Inspired Word of God. He, being the final authority, the Creator, has made known His wishes and they are binding upon His creation. II Tim. 3:15-17, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." This is a very plain statement that the Word is to be an integrated part of our lives. Only an authority can reprove or correct!
If you don't believe me, then allow your children to run your house awhile, and then tell them to do something. If you have lost your authority you will have serious problems. Someone has said, "That there is still plenty of authority in the American home. The problem is that the children are exercising it!"
II Pet. 1:19-21 mentions, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy, unto which ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts; Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." Why take heed if there is no authority? There is no reason for us to heed. This text again declares that the prophecy was from God - an authoritative revelation of Himself.
A side thought to this is that the revelation is the only way that we can know God, or His authority. Thus, the revelation is the other side of His authority. The Word is His authority revealed to us.
Ps 19:7-9 tells us, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." Again the terms of law, statutes, commandments and ordinances smack somewhat of authority! AND THEY ARE PERFECT, SURE, RIGHT, PURE, TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS!
I Pet. 1:25 states, "But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." The word is His authority over us and this text tells us that the Word is eternal. Thus we must surmise that His authority over us is eternal as well. Matt. 24:35, reiterates the same idea. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." John 10:35b, "the scripture cannot be broken," Not only is the Word and Its authority eternal, but it is also unbreakable. Nothing can come between the authority of God over us and our beings.
This is true not only of the saved but of the unsaved as well. The authority of God to the unsaved is not recognized at this point in time, but in eternity the Lord will impose his authority upon them in a mighty and terrifying way.
And one final passage. I Thess. 2:13, "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it, not as the word of men but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." This verse mentions that the word is not from men but from God.
CHRIST RECOGNIZED AND USED THE AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES:
1. He used the Word against the Devil in the temptations. He knew that the Word was truth and that It was to be lived by. (Matt 4:4,7,10)
2. He used the word in rebuking the people. (Matt 21:42, " . . . Did ye never read in the scriptures. . . .") He knew the Word had authority.
3. He used the Word to vindicate his actions in cleansing the temple. (Mark 11:17, " . . . Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves.")
John Calvin had a very neat argument for the authority of the scriptures over the person. His main argument concerning this topic is that the inward witness of the Holy Spirit is the most powerful argument for the authority of the word. Spend some time considering his thoughts. "Calvin insisted that the testimony of the Holy Spirit is superior to reason. It is an inward work that captures the minds of those who hear or read Scripture, producing conviction or certainty that it is the Word of God with which they are dealing." (Erickson p 853)
APPLICATION OF THE DOCTRINE:
1. We only need to teach the Word of God and allow it to speak to people. Their reaction, be it good, or bad is then a reaction to God, and not to us or our teaching.
2. In church matters, be they moral, organizational, or emotional we should endeavor to keep the Word as the standard, and not some philosophy of man.
3. If we as believers live according to the Word, and Its directions then we need not fear or worry about what others may say, be they lost or saved.
Martin Luther faced the Roman Emperor at the Diet of Worms. He told those present that he would not reject anything that he had written. He was given a day to think it over and asked the next day to recant his statements. He replied, That he would not recant unless he was confronted with Scripture and reason that would prove him wrong. He also rejected the authority of the church.
Might I suggest that Luther did not just sit down one evening and do a short Bible study and tell off the Roman Church? His break came after some very long hours of searching the Scriptures and seeking God.
If you decide to buck the church that you are a part of, you should be very sure that you are correct. Be sure you have studied many hours, talked with others for many hours, and prayed many hours before you decide your interpretation is correct, and that which is normally taught by the fundamental churches is wrong.
There is something happening in fundamental churches today that is of interest. I was saved and discipled in fundamental churches. I was trained in fundamental schools, yet I see the same fundamental churches going away from the things they once held. It is not that they have discovered new truth in the Word to show their past positions in error, but rather they have decided to go another direction, whether it contradicts their past position or not. None of these churches bothers to explain their deviation, they just do their own thing and take their congregations along for the ride.
4. When you realize the Word has the answers to life's problems you can turn to it instead of all those self-help spiritual books that are on the market.
5. Authority is from the term author. We have established that the author of the Word is God Himself. He has revealed to us all that He wants us to know. He wants to be our authority. He wants to be the author of our lives! He wants to guide and mold our lives through His Word. We need to allow this so that He truly is the Author of our life.
6. Since we have seen that the term "exousia" is translated "power" as well as "authority," we might consider the two terms as they relate to our relationship to God. We realize we are under His authority, however we probably seldom think of His power. In life we seldom think of the power of the police officer unless we get sideways to him, and the law that he upholds. We then think of the power at length. The same is true of God. When we get side wise to His ways we will ultimately consider His power. This should be an incentive for us to remain under His authority and not to come under His power. When a person comes under His power there is often suffering, be it physical, mental, or emotional.
7. The Word is our message from God, RIGHT? We are to obey everything that God tells us to do in the Word, RIGHT? How about this one? "Greet one another with an holy kiss." Rom. 16:16a Holy kiss is in Scripture, so why not? Culture? Yes. It would be offensive today - but are the love, compassion and concern behind the kiss to be missing as well? NO. YET IT IS SO VERY MISSING IN SOME OF OUR CHURCHES TODAY. We really don't follow the authority that God has set before us in all areas!
8. There is an aspect of authority that we have not discussed which is of importance. Along with authority come the right and ability to enforce. We mentioned that the Word has authority to command belief and to command action. We should also remember that the Word is revealing the will of The Father who has the right, and certainly the ability, to enforce.
God does not normally force men to do things, yet there are times when He desires to do certain things within a person's life. At those times the Lord may, and at times does, bring to bear certain forces to move the person to action. Indeed, some believers testify of God using gentle forces to bring them to a belief in Christ. Others mention health and trial type forces to gain their attention.
It seems that we need to submit to God's authority over us that is exerted
through the Word. God authored the Word, He authored mankind, and He desires
to author our everyday life. May we be open to that creativity that only He
can use in our lives.