The Need for Bible Authority (1)
(Editor's Note: With this article, we begin a series of short articles dealing with the subject of Bible authority. The articles are short, as they first were printed in the local bulletin I edit. Feel free to reprint them if you find them helpful. However, credit must be given to Billy W. Moore's class book A Study of Authority, as the articles follow closely the material found in that good book.)
It is almost universally recognized that men can co-exist peaceably only with a recognition of authority. True anarchists (those who rebel against any established authority or power) are few and far between, because anarchy leads to confusion and chaos. Even one who occasionally breaks the rules understands that the rules are necessary.
There are authoritative documents (the Constitution and laws of the land), authoritative people (policemen and judges), and authoritative institutions (governments). For a society to function correctly, each of these authorities must be respected. Those who reject such authority are dealt with accordingly. "Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same" (Romans 13:2-3).
Before the flood, men had rejected God, and became evil in their intent. Concerning them God said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them" (Genesis 6:7). When man rejects God he rejects the ultimate authority, and rightly brings condemnation upon himself.
Religiously, Jesus Christ is the authority. He claimed such in Matthew 28:18, "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'" We will not spend time here examining that claim. Those who name the name of Christ will not dispute His statement. What is disturbing is that those who will attest to Christ's supremacy, and assent to His Lordship nevertheless refuse to recognize their responsibility to submit to His authority in their religious practices. While it is true that we may practice religion outside of the scope of Christ's authority, such rebellion has a price. "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son" (2 John 9).
Old Testament Examples
need for authority in our religious practices is seen by looking at examples in the Old Testament. Three examples are here submitted which show how seriously God treats unauthorized religious activities.
First, the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, as recorded in Genesis 4. The Hebrew writer (11:4) indicates that the sacrifice of Abel was offered "by faith." That is, it was in accord with God's instructions: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Cain, however, rejected the instructions of God, and offered a self-willed sacrifice. Regarding his offering we are told that God "...did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it'" (Genesis 4:5-7).
Second, Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-2). That is, they offered fire "which He had not commanded them" (vs. 1). Some may think that the origin of the flame was of no significance, but it constituted vain worship before God. For their rebellion, Nadab and Abihu lost their lives. "So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD" (Leviticus 10:2).
Finally, Uzziah acted without divine authority in wanting to burn incense before the Lord (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). As King, it was not Uzziah's place to burn incense. Only the priests had been given authority by God to do so. When the King's heart "was lifted up", that is, he became arrogant and proud, he sought to become an authority unto himself. God responded by striking him with leprosy upon his forehead. Uzziah learned his lesson. "...Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him" (vs. 20).
Let us learn from these examples, and respect the authority of God and his Son Jesus Christ.
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