Expediency & Authority

uthority can be general or specific in nature. If general, there are expedient means to obeying what God has authorized. There must first be authorization to act before expediency applies. These matters are clear from the scriptures. When considering the question, “Is there a need for authority?”, the answer is a clear, “Yes” from the numerous examples in the Bible The need is seen from the examples of those who challenged it:

  • Moses, when confronting two of his brethren, had his authority questioned in Exodus 2.14: One of them said to Moses, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us?
  • John the Baptist had his authority to baptize questioned in John 1.25: Priests and Levites asked him, “Why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?
  • Peter and John had their authority challenged in Acts 4.7: When members of the council had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?

Jesus’ authority was challenged by the religious leaders of the day in Matthew 21.23: “When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him while he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?

So the question, “Is there a need for authority in religion?” is not new. However, it is important that we not misunderstand the issue within the question. The issue is not, “Is authority needful in the sense of ‘useful’ or ‘helpful?’” Rather, the question should be understood to mean, “Is authority necessary?”

We need to understand this question is asking, “Must we have authority prior to what we practice in religion?” Otherwise, what the Bible says about a subject is moot. This is the significance of 1 Peter 4.11: “Whoever speaks is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God…so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” 

Authority is not merely an expedient to accomplished what we have determined to do in religion; rather it is the source by which we determine whether we can do the thing under consideration. Therefore, if we do not have authority for the practice, we cannot engage in that particular practice. This must be settled firmly in our attitudes toward our religious practices prior to any ensuing decisions. We must determine whether we have the authority to do it before deciding how we will do it.

Our authority will come from t he word of God. Let us never presume to have authority without looking into the “perfect law of liberty, and continue therein” (Proverbs 19.13; James 1.25), remembering the words of the apostle Peter: “Seeing that his divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence. For by these he has granted to us his precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1.3-4).