“Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. ‘By what authority are you doing these things?’ they asked. ‘And who gave you this authority?’” Matthew 21:23. One of my students at a secular college once tried to argue in a paper with the question, “What gives God the right …?” I told her that if she was going to refute God, she needed to prove that He wasn’t the sovereign Creator who did not have the right to establish His creation how He wanted to. She chose a different argument. God has all authority. After the cross and His resurrection, Jesus said that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. With His authority, we who are baptized into Him, are to “go and make disciples … teaching them everything [He has] commanded.” To know what to teach, the Holy Spirit brought men into all truth and carried them along to record His inspired Word. For a while, that authority entrusted to us was in spoken and written forms and confirmed by various gifts, but by the end of the 1st Century, we had His completed Word that thoroughly equips us written. Does His Word have authority over you?
I. Matthew 21:23-27. The chief priests and elders believed they were in authority and so demanded from the Son of God in the flesh “by what authority” He was teaching and who gave it to Him. They knew of course that God, as the sovereign Creator, had all authority but were unwilling to accept that Jesus had authority (Luke 5:20-24). But, God now speaks to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).
II. Hebrews 2:3-4. What a confusing time the 1st Century must have been before the completed Word of God was written. Before the cross, Jesus had promised that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth (John 14:26), and so through various gifts, God’s Word was spoken (1 Corinthians 14:1-5) and written down (2 Peter 1:19-21) until His authority was revealed (1 Corinthians 13:8-13).
III. Matthew 28:18-20. Because of mankind’s sin, the devil claimed to have authority to give Jesus if only He would worship him (Luke 4:5-8), but Jesus took the more difficult road to gaining all authority through the cross. By His authority, now revealed to us through the completed Word of God that thoroughly equips us (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we are to go and make disciples of all nations.
Our reaction to the question “By what authority?” posed to Jesus should be “By what authority!”