“Who gave you the authority to do that?” “Who authorized that action?” “By what authority did you speak?” Such questions remind us that authorities exist and we best acknowledge, submit to and operate under authority. But whose? It seems like today there is an authority for—and/or over—just about everything we seek to do in life. Those who refuse to submit to authority don’t fare well in this earthly existence.
Where does authority come from? If someone claims to be an authority on something, they are asserting that they have superior knowledge or experience concerning that topic; their authority comes from their knowledge and/or experience. But if they claim to have authority over someone or something, they are contending that they have been granted superior power or control from someone else of even higher authority that authorized them to have that power or control. Their authority comes from another.
So if someone speaks authoritatively, they have either earned or been given the right to do so. Such persons should not be ashamed or afraid to speak with authority. In the case of the Word of God, the authority to teach or preach comes from God, through the Bible. When we minister from Scripture, we do not do it on our own authority—pretending to speak for God—but with the authority of the Book itself. If someone claims to “speak forth” (or prophesy) for God, only the authority of Scripture can verify whether or not that person speaks with authority.
As the Bible was being written, before the authoritative text had been completed, prophets’ authority was verified by other means such as signs, wonders and the proof of predictions about future events having come to pass.
So if someone says “God told me,” or “Jesus is telling you,” one must question by what authority the person is making such statements. If it does not square with Scripture, it is at best suspect. It is not enough to simply note that the statement doesn’t contradict Scripture and may therefore be taken as truth. That’s dangerous, to say the least. Anyone purporting to speak for God must properly reference and depend upon those who truly spoke for God in the biblical text.
More than once, I have encountered couples who wed because, previous to their nuptials, one prospective spouse announced to the other, “God told me that we are to be married.” I don’t know what’s worse; the fact that the marriage turned out to be a total train wreck or that they are blaming it on God!
Those who claim to counsel, teach, or lead with God’s authority while not giving direction from His Word, misrepresent God’s unique authority. The ones they direct may falsely believe their leader’s voice is tantamount to the voice of God. People come to believe that disobeying such leaders is the same as disobeying God! This is dangerous for those being led, and for the leaders!
When Jesus spoke, there was recognition that something was different. The rabbis and scribes of His day would not teach on their own authority, but on the authority of some other rabbi whom they quoted. But when Jesus spoke, the response was that He taught “as one having authority” (Matt. 7:29). It was obvious to those observing that He was not like their other teachers.
Like many of the Old Testament prophets, the Apostles’ authority was confirmed through things like miracles. In fact, when Peter tells a lame man to “walk,” the question from the religious authorities was, “By what power [authority], or in what name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7). Peter doesn’t claim any authority of position or rank as an Apostle. He makes it clear that the authority to command a lame man to walk came from “the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene” (Acts 3:6).
When you know you have the authority to do something, it gives you a sense of boldness. The Apostles went from scared, hiding, fearful men to bold witnesses for Jesus Christ. Part of that had to do with the fact that when He commissioned them (Matt 28:18-20), He told them “All authority” had been given to Him by the Father.
Jesus has commissioned us and sent us with His authority. No authority is greater. Go in His name and speak truth boldly, from His Word.
“He is the head over all rule and authority.” — Colossians 2:10