What Is Your Authority?

Dr Pierre Coovert

As I start this article I want to first define the word “authority.” If we don’t know what authority is, how can we answer the question?

AUTHOR’ITY, n. L. auctoritas.

1. Legal power, or a right to command or to act; as the authority of a prince over subjects, and of parents over children. Power; rule; sway.

6. Warrant; order; permission.

WARRANT, v.t. The primary sense of the root is to stop or hold, or to repel, and thus guard by resisting danger; as we say, to keep off. Hence the sense of security.

1. To authorize; to give authority or power to do or forbear any thing, by which the person authorized is secured or saved harmless from any loss or damage by the act. A commission warrants an officer to seize an enemy. We are not warranted to resist legitimate government. Except in extreme cases.

WARRANT, n.

3. Authority; power that authorizes or justifies any act. Those who preach the gospel have the warrant of Scripture. We have the warrant of natural right to do what the laws do not forbid; but civility and propriety may sometimes render things improper, which natural right warrants.

From these definitions we arrive at the following meaning to the word “authority” which I will use in this article:

Authority is a legal right which authorizes one to do what he does. It is that upon which one bases his beliefs and actions.

Let me restate the question using this definition. What is the basis for those things you believe to be true and which underlie the actions you take as you live your life?

It is reasonable to question our authority since our Lord’s authority was questioned. In Matthew 21:23 He was asked by what authority He taught and who gave Him this authority. We know that His authority came from His Father, Jehovah. Where does ours come from?

Most of those reading this article would undoubtedly say that their authority comes from the Holy Scriptures. I suppose most would sincere in saying so, but does it really? Is what you believe and practice based on what the Bible really says, or upon what you think it says?

Many base their belief upon what the pastor said, what they were taught in whichever Bible school they went to, or upon what some “great” preacher, like Charles Spurgeon, said. Man is not to be the authority for what we believe, God’s Word is.

Paul called the Bereans noble for their diligence in searching the Scriptures for what they believed.

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” Acts 17:10-12

It would be hard to find a greater preacher than Paul yet he praised the Bereans for checking out what he had to say by searching the Scriptures. The Bible is a big book. Everything must be taken in context and our understanding of the words must be sure.

Let’s look at an example. Acts 2:38 says “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This passage is used by some to teach that baptism is required for salvation. This would be a reasonable interpretation if this were the only passage dealing with the subject. However, the Bible clearly teaches that we are saved when we believe (John 3:16 and many others). If this passage taught that we had to be baptized to be saved we would have a contradiction in God’s Word. This is resolved by learning what the word “for” means in this context. It does not mean “in order to obtain” it means “because one has received.”

This is important because sometimes doctrines are based on one passage taken out of the context of the whole teaching of the Scriptures. When we look at context we need to look at the context of the passage, the historical context, the context of the subject being treated in the passage, and the context of all the Scriptures teach on that subject.

Looking at the whole of what the Bible says about baptism’s relationship to salvation tells us that Acts 2:38 cannot be teaching that one must be baptized to be saved. This tells us that there is something in our understanding that is wrong. At that point it is time to make sure we know what the words used mean.

Here are a couple of passages that show the importance of knowing what the words really mean.

The God of my mercy shall prevent me: God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies. Psalms 59:10

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. I Thessalonians 4:15

Both of these passages use the word “prevent.” This word is most often used today to mean to hinder or to stop. That is not the primary meaning of the word. It means “to go before or to precede.” It comes from “pre” (before or in front) and “vent” (to go). It also means to hinder, but this meaning comes from the robbers going before the caravan to stop and rob them.

Psalm 59:10 says that the God of my mercy will go before me. This gives us hope when danger is ahead.

I Thessalonians 4:15 tells us that we will not go to meet the Lord in the air ahead of the dead saints. This is a comfort for those who die before Christ return to catch us out of this evil world.

I have taken a little detour because I want us to understand that we must study if we expect to know what God’s Word really says (II Timothy 2:15). My point is this: How can the Word of God be our authority if we don’t know what it says?

Here are some principles to use to make the Scriptures your true authority:

  • Study the Scriptures to make sure you understand them properly – II Timothy 2:15

  • Always check out what you are taught by the Scriptures – Acts 17:11, I John 4:1

  • Believe that God knows what He is doing and do what He says – Hebrews 11:17-19, 24-26

  • Do what God says even when it doesn’t make sense – James 1:22-25

The subject of the authority for our lives is to important to leave it in the hands of others, no matter how much respect we have for them. T. Starr King put it this way:

“Be sure of the foundation of your life. Know why you live as you do. Be ready to give a reason for it. Do not, in such a matter as life, build it on opinion or custom or what you guess is true. Make it a matter of certainty and science.”

The foundation is the authority upon which our lives are built. We need to have a reason for living the way we do. It must be a matter of certainty and science (knowledge)

Copyright 2017 Pierre Coovert, All rights reserved

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