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Fulton County Gospel News

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The issue of authority

By Randy Robinson

John Mellencamp lamented in song over twenty years ago, "I fight authority; authority always wins." Indeed authority is a powerful force with which to be reckoned. In the case of this songster, his perspective is easily noted as one who is rebellious against authority as indicated by his lyrics, "I've been doin' it (fighting authority) since I was a young kid, and I come out grinnin'." Mellencamp expressed an attitude that was held by many of his generation and in fact, is still held today by some in each generation. Even the word "authority" causes some today to bristle. In the last two or three decades, society has attempted with a great deal of success to ingrain in us the concept that authority is badthat it is wrong, and that it stifles our liberty and creativity. Those who espouse this view do so on the premise that accepting and respecting authority is an admission of inferiority. We have heard much in the past few years concerning respect. It was once common thought that respect was like trust; it was something that had to be earned. No one was entitled to be respected if they had done nothing to earn that respect. The age of entitlement has changed that view. Few people now believe that they should "earn" anything; that they are entitled to whatever they want and should someone be reluctant to give it to them, that person is guilty of showing disrespect. We have even altered the common vernacular and introduced into the English language the terms "dissed" and "dissing," indicating that someone had been shown disrespect.

Almighty God deemed it necessary and appropriate to establish the concept of authority in every aspect of life on earth. Therefore, as we move farther away from God culturally, it is no surprise that the concept of authority has been met with great resistance and often, even contempt. Paul explained the role of civil authority as God instituted it, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. "For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Romans 13:1-2). It is significant to note that the word translated "power" is the same word which Jesus used to describe His ultimate power [exousia] (Matt. 28:18). Paul corrected those who believed that they had power or authority in and of themselves by explaining that whatever authority they had was given to them by God. This remains the case today. It is God's will that human beings obey the properly instituted laws of the land. Note this is not merely a directive for Christiansall people are subject to these laws, just as all people are subject to the laws of God.

Speaking of the laws of God, today when the subject of religious authority is broached, there is likewise a desire on the part of many to deny that God has authorized certain things in the realm of religion. These people would love for us to believe that we are "on our own" when it comes to how to please God in areas such as what one must do to receive the promise of salvation, how to offer acceptable worship, how the church should be governed, etc. This by no means, is a new way of thinking. The writer of Judges [presumably Samuel] described the nation of Israel in the days of the judges, "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). How eerily similar this is to what we often witness today; in that people, although claiming to have a desire to please God, still want to preach and practice the way that they see fit.

To do this, they first must reduce the significance of the Bible by denying its inspiration. The Bible has been under attack for two centuries by those calling themselves "scholars." They have attacked the authorship of the Bible by questioning Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy). They have also claimed that Isaiah 40-66 was written after the captivity in order to be able to deny supernatural revelation. Isaiah named the king (Cyrus) who would free Israel from their captivity approximately 150 years before this king was even born (Isa. 44:28). It is quite telling that these studies into the Bible's authenticity are called "hypotheses" and "theories." It is evident that these scholars did not wish to accept the Bible's claim of inspiration as legitimate and their "studies" reflect their disdain for the Bible's authority.

Many of the modern day "scholars" also possess the same antipathy toward the Scriptures. They have redefined inspiration by saying that the men who wrote the Bible were inspired the same way that Shakespeare was inspired to write plays, Mozart was inspired to write music, and Rembrandt was inspired to paint. While this explanation may appease a postmodernistic society which includes feminists, atheists, scientists, and the ACLU, they have yet to answer satisfactorily the apostle Paul who stated, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God . . ." (2 Timothy 3:16; emphasis RR), as well as the apostle Peter who stated that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21; emph. RR). The phrase "they were moved" comes from the Greek word pheromenoi, literally meaning "carried" or "borne." This language clearly indicates that the writers did not speak for themselves, but were speaking for God. Jesus while here on earth declared that His words, which are the words by which we will be judged, originated with the Father (John 12:48-50). He later declared that those things spoken by the Holy Spirit also originated from the Father (John 16:13).

If the Bible could be shown to be merely the works of men, then we would not be subject to its objective authority. It is the same argument used by those prosecuting the Nazi war criminals in the late 1940's. The Nazi officers attempted to deflect criticism of their atrocities by claiming that their laws allowed for the slaughter of the Jews and that they were merely obeying their laws. The Nuremburg prosecutors rightfully rejected that claim, recognizing that there is a higher authority (God) Whose objective law superseded the self serving German laws which condoned such barbarism. A post-modernistic society desires to operate under a philosophy which states either explicitly or implicitly, "Everything I dois OK with me." This is the height of subjectivism. It allows for people to ignore what the Bible says about the plan of salvation. It allows for the installation of women into leadership roles, including pulpit preaching. It allows for the broadening of fellowship with anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. The Bible has spoken concerning all of these issues and more, yet we see more and more people, including our own brethren rejecting and ridiculing Bible authority by calling it "pattern theology," and referring to those who maintain the Biblical plan of salvation as "five-steppers." The New Testament was originally written to the members of the first century church. This has spawned a view that 21st century Christians are exempt from these directives and examples. It absolves brethren from obedience to commands such as The Great Commission, it also concludes that the prohibition of women in leadership was limited to the first century; some have even claimed that this prohibition was limited to Corinth itself (1 Corinthians 14:34-35). When authority is flouted, then anything goes and anarchy results. God, Who is a systematic God of order (1 Cor. 14:40) cannot be and is not pleased with this rebellion. Those who fight God's authority will one day realize, like John Mellencamp realized, that "authority always wins."


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