Do We Need to Study and Teach about Biblical Authority?
There are times when we become complacent about some Bible subjects thinking we do not need to study or teach about matters that may have been addressed numerous times in the past. I have seen this, and you likely have too, regarding the subject of “Authority.” Consider with me some reasons why this subject needs to be continually addressed.
Lack of Respect for Authority in Society
The Psalmist lamented to God: “Rivers of water run down from my eyes, because men do not keep Your law” (Psalm 119:136). A lack of respect for the laws given by the authority of God is nothing new among the people of the world, but it is evidence that should compel us to continually teach people of their need to understand and keep God’s laws. Virtually every instance of lawlessness can be traced to a lack of respect for God’s laws and His authority to rule over His creation.
The Subject is not Taught in the Religious World
The apostle Paul warned that “the mystery of lawlessness” was “already at work” in the first century in the religious world, and that the “coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2Thessalonians 2:7-10). In this context, Paul is personifying lawlessness, warning that a lack of respect for the authority of God “is according to the working of Satan.” Both Jude and Peter warned of false teachers who would “reject authority” (Jude 8), and even “despise authority” (2 Peter 2:10); this has characterized much of the religious world from the first century to the present.
Visitors to our assemblies from various religious groups display little to no “love of the truth;” very few are searching for a church that strives to follow God’s authority in teaching, worship practices, and the works of the church. Many visitors, for the most part, are just looking for a church that suits their interests. Some even voice the fact that they reject the idea that we must have authority from God’s word for teachings and practices; some go so far as to indicate they despise pleas for biblical authority in religious matters.
We Need to be Reminded
There are numerous instances in Scripture where inspired writers speak of their intention to remind God’s people of the truth they already knew. The apostle Peter stated: “…I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you…Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease…Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior…” (2 Peter 1:12-15; 3:1-2). Peter put in writing, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, what he wanted his readers to be reminded about after his decease; among the things he wrote about were false teachers and their many followers who “despise authority” and “have forsaken the right way and gone astray” (2:1-2,10,15). We become “negligent” if we do not continually remind one another of the importance of submitting to God’s authority, and teaching ourselves and others of God’s authority to command us through the apostles of our Lord and Savior.
We Must Teach Younger Saints and New Converts
“O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (Psalm 71:17-18). Older saints have a God-given responsibility to teach the younger generation all that they have been taught from God’s word concerning God’s works, strength and power, all of which are rooted in His authority over mankind. Older saints should be actively and continually teaching the next generation: “Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Psalm 78:4-8). Paul charged preachers with their God-given responsibilities to brethren: “These things command and teach” (1 Timothy 4:11); “Teach and exhort these things” (6:2); “Hold fast the pattern of sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13); “Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15). The reason for teaching and commanding “these things” is because they are based upon the authority of God.
Members Leaving Truth
It saddens us to learn of members of the church visiting other religious groups and saying: “I don’t see much difference between their teachings and practices and ours.” Some leave churches that are faithful to God’s word and immediately display little concern as to whether the apostate religious group teaches and practices only what is authorized by God’s word. When faithful brethren make an appeal to study with members who leave truth, they are not interested. We all know of members of the church who move to a city where there is no church holding fast the pattern of sound words, and rather than drive even a short distance to another city to worship and work with faithful saints standing for the truth, they assemble and work with groups that are teaching and practicing error. Make no mistake about it, being certain that our teaching and practices are authorized by God is a salvation issue: “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).