Throughout history, people claiming to be prophets of God, or having a unique key to God’s will, have come along and deceived millions. Apart from the Papacy in the early centuries and following, then Muhammad early 7th century and founder of Islam that still thrives today. Then look at the 19th century: Baha’u’llah and the multi-religion Bahai movement, Joseph Smith and the Mormons, Ellen G. White and the Seventh Day Adventists, and Charles Russell and the group that became the Jehovah’s Witnesses till the present time. Then in the 20th century we had Herbert W. Armstrong’s World Wide Church of God. The question of who truly has divine authority, is thus crucial to faith.
The self-proclaimed prophet, Muhammad, insisted that God had declared him to be the 'excellent pattern of conduct' for mankind (Quran 33:21), and yet his life is littered with assassinations and massacres.
A former Muslim, Ali Sina, offered this challenge:
"Muhammad is a narcissist, a pedophile, a mass murderer, a terrorist, a misogynist, a lecher, a cult leader, a madman, a rapist, a torturer, an assassin and a looter."
He offered $50,000 to anyone who could prove this wrong based on Islamic texts. The reward has gone unclaimed.
Sadly, millions have followed Muhammad and his religion for centuries, believing he was God’s authoritative prophet.
The following Scriptures show how important authority was to Jesus:
One day, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up 2 and said to him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” 3 He answered them, “I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, 4 was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” 5 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From man,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Luke 20:1-8
After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9 When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well …
… And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
24 When John's messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings' courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.) Luke 7:1-10,19-30
This whole chapter is about the importance of authority: the authority of John and the authority of Jesus.
So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. 21 They questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. 22 "Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" Luke 20:20-22
John had authority from God to do his work. Jesus had God’s authority. Nothing these men did or taught was of their own making. It came because God had commanded them to do it.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will
recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” 28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:13-29
If you don’t accept the principal of divine authority, there’s no point looking at anything Jesus said or did. If Jesus isn’t speaking God’s truth, why listen to him any more than a hundred other claimants? This is why authority is a beginning study in evangelism. Jesus is essentially telling these priests and scribes that he won’t answer their questions because they don’t accept the authority of God behind His work. Jesus never acts independently of His Father. He seeks only God’s glory. When Jesus sends his disciples out into the world, he prefaces their commission with these words: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me … “ Matthew 28:18.
Why is it so important for Jesus to preface His Great Commission with these words? Religious truth is rooted in God. Jesus’ teaching = God’s commandments. Why urge lost souls to follow Jesus unless Jesus has the backing of God?
When Nicodemus came to Jesus, he recognised the authority of Jesus. Because Jesus could see that Nicodemus recognized His authority, Jesus hits him between the eyes with crucial kingdom teaching, unlike the situation described in Luke 20:1-8!!
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” John 3:1-2
Remember Jesus mentioning His miracles as proof to John the Baptizer that He was indeed the Messiah? Luke 7:18-23. Irrefutable miracles, unlike fake ones, always confirm the divine authority of the performer. Mark 16:15-20; Acts 2:43; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Galatians 3:5; Hebrews 2:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12; Revelation 13:11-14. Through such miracles God is bearing witness to His teaching.
The word of God glorifies God - the one who revealed that word. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-20; 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Since this word will judge us at the last day, it is important to ensure we have been led by faithful teachers of that divine and true word. Those in Berea, Macedonia, in the first century, clearly understood how important this was. Acts 17:10-12. Always check your sources!!
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34 So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”
When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
44 And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” John 12:32-50.
Finally, study the Letter to the Colossians – especially 1:25-2:23; 3:1-4,17 and 4:12. Authority is not found in the Law of Moses, nor in consulting oracles, mediums, channelers, astrologers, tarot cards and fortune-tellers. Claiming a personal, supernatural vision – no matter how real it seems – is also no basis for divine authority. 2 Corinthians 12:1-9; Colossians 2:18-19. Authority for belief unto eternal life with God is found only in Jesus and His words in the New Testament. Jesus has amply demonstrated that such teaching is from God and completely authoritative.