Do we need Authority for Our Beliefs and Practices?
George T. Eldridge
Authority means "the power or right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions; jurisdiction." Who has "the power or right to give commands"? Who can "make final decisions"? Who has "jurisdiction"?
Answers to all three questions reside in Jesus Christ! "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18). Jesus is "my Lord and my God" (John 20:28) and "is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:31). He has "the power or right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions; jurisdiction."
False Sources of Authority
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church. The common name is Catholic Church. When you consider the religious complexion of the United States, the Catholic Church has a membership of 42.1 million (1960 census). All the members of the Catholic Church acknowledge (1) authority of papal acts, (2) authority of tradition, and (3) authority of the Catholic Church as sources of authority. Though the inspired word of God and the authority of that word does not approve of any of those three avenues of authority, let us define the first two.
Authority of papal acts means "decrees and decisions of the Holy See, whether of the pope in person or of the Roman congregations, tribunals and offices . . . ." They "are to be accepted and obeyed by those for whom they are intended and to whom they are promulgated."
The apostles of Jesus Christ never taught "authority of papal acts." The Christians of the New Testament never accepted "authority of papal acts." Therefore, reject "authority of papal acts."
Authority of tradition "is an article of faith from a decree of the Vatican Council that tradition . . . is a source of theological teaching distinct from Scripture, and that it is infallible. It is therefore to be received with the same internal assent as Scripture, for it is the word of God." How must a Catholic view tradition? "An article of faith, distinct from Scripture, is infallible," and "is the word of God" is the answer. How does Jesus view tradition?
What Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees is what He speaks to Catholics. "Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me" (Matt. 15:6-8).
Examples Show Need for Authority
Cain and Abel. Those individuals were sons of Adam and Eve. Many people assume that Cain was the firstborn of Adam and Eve, but nobody knows this as a biblical fact. God blessed Adam and Eve. "And God said unto them, be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon earth" (Gen. 1:28). Adam and Eve were healthy, vigorous, and prolific. How many years they remained in the Garden of Eden, the Bible does not say. Children may have been born to Adam and Eve in Eden. God had spoken to this husband and wife and said, "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it." There is no evidence that Cain was the firstborn of Adam and Eve or that Abel was the second born of this couple.
"And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect" (Gen. 4:3-5).
Why did God respect Abel and his offering? Why did God reject Cain and his offering? God's rejection was not based on feelings, education, color of skin, and other human standards! Read the Bible. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Heb. 11:4).
"By faith" means God has spoken and we are to obey that which God spoke. "So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17). God spoke as to the offering He wanted as a sacrifice. Abel had faith in God and in what God spoke. Abel showed faith by doing what God spoke.
What about Cain? Cain did not have faith in God and in what He spoke. Cain showed his lack of faith in God by bringing "the fruit of the ground" as "an offering unto Jehovah." God, therefore, rejected Cain because he did not act "by faith." Will God reject you?
"By faith" teaches us! Will we be like Abel or will we be like Cain? All of our offerings unto Jehovah must be "by faith." Can we supply from God's spoken word, the Bible, the verse or verses where Jesus gives authority for all activities of the church we are a member of? Can we "by faith" tell why we are what we are religiously?
Remember! "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7). "By faith" means we are obeying Jesus who has "the power or right to give commands." Jesus can "enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions." Jesus has "jurisdiction" over our lives, even our very thoughts. Are we "by faith" obeying Jesus?
Do we need authority for our beliefs and practices?
Yes. Without authority, Jesus will speak to us at the great judgment day "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:23). Iniquity is the Greek work anomia which literally means lawlessness. Without authority for our beliefs and practices, Jesus says we are lawless individuals-individuals without authority. We, therefore, will depart from Jesus for all eternity and spend all eternity in Hell. Why? Our beliefs and practices were not sanctioned by the authority of Jesus! Are we lawless individuals? Are our beliefs and practices without Jesus' authority?
Truth Magazine XXII: 37, pp. 605-606