Presidential Executive Orders, judicial rulings, American ambassadors to foreign nations, local, state, & national law enforcement agencies while executing search warrants all face some sort of the same question while carrying out their duty: By what authority do you do what you’re doing & say what you’re saying? Who gave you this authority?
At the root of this question, and questions like them, is the underlying presupposition that there is some level of self-sovereignty and dignity that may have been violated. Take for example: If the police enter your home, restrain you, confiscate your personal property, and cause harm to your self or your property and they have no reasonable cause and are not acting on the authority given to them by the courts, your rights as an American citizen more than likely have been violated.
Similarly, when we cross over into the realm of faith and practice, this question (and questions like these) rises in our hearts when the Lord, the Word, and the Lord’s Messengers cross over into what is perceived as our “personal space.” By what authority does one cross the threshold of personal autonomy?
Jesus faced this question in Luke 20:2 coming from the religious leaders of His day. To be sure, Jesus had been publicly lauded as the King of the Jews who came in the Name of YHWH, had acted as Israel’s/Jerusalem’s Prophet of YHWH when He prophesied the impending doom that was sure to visit Israel & the Temple in 70AD, and as the Priest of Heaven purged the Temple of idolatry and “for profit” ministry by flipping tables, driving the money-changers out, and re-establishing true worship that centered on Him (Luke 19:28-20:1).
Understandably so, the religious leaders of the day demanded to know “by what authority you do these things, or who gave you this authority” (Luke 20:2).
The following parable (Luke 20:9-18) describes, again, Jesus’ authority is derived from his Divine Essence—this was not new news for the chief priests, scribes, and elders and was clearly visible from His words and His works (John 10:38).
I’ll leave the parable to you but I’d like to place before you, reader, the same question concerning your worship, your current trajectory in life, your marriage, and your family life: By what authority are you doing what you’re doing and saying what you’re saying? Let me explain.
As the people of God, we live our lives as ambassadors of another kingdom; namely, the Kingdom of God (see 2 Corinthians 5:20). Yet, I find in my own life I often find that it is not the Kingdom of God that first comes into my thought process behind the decisions I make and the life I live, but my own kingdom and my own interests.
Granted, I desire something different. I work toward “transformation by the renewal of my mind” (Rom. 12:2). But yet, I (and I believe many like me) find the raging battle between flesh and spirit (Romans 7) a reality in (1) daily thoughts: what I believe about life around me; (2) daily speech: what and how I communicate; and (3) daily decisions: the mundane and significant that have future implications. By what authority am I thinking, speaking, and acting? Is God’s Word, which is God’s thoughts communicated to God’s people, the definitive Word in my life? Said in another way, “Am I filtering all of life through the lens of God’s Word, his revealed will, or am I honoring the Lord with my lips but my heart is far from Him?” After all, doesn’t Peter remind his readers (and that by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) that God has given us “everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3)?
A simple—By what authority am I _________________?—would transform my day, my family’s day, and the future of those entrusted to me.
As ambassadors of Christ, our thoughts, speech, and actions are to be shaped by God’s Design and submitted under Christ’s Dominion, advancing Christ’s Kingdom. Now, I have a difficult time, daily, applying this principle in my moment-to-moment routine so I will not attempt to apply it to yours but I encourage you to ask yourself this simple, yet probing and profound, question as you ponder how to honor our Lord as you submit yourself under His light and gentle yoke.
No doubt, that as Christ’s audience took offense at His obedience (both vocal and active) to the will of God, you will find those in the world and Church offended, but I encourage you, as the apostles of the first century Church to “obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29) and trust Him with your blessing as you submit to His authority; even the blessings that come through trials.
After all, let us not forget that following our Lord is not a burden, drudgery, or a drag. Rather, “in His presence is the fullness of joy and at His right hand pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Soli Deo Gloria