THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
In the New Testament Jesus is asked, “With whose authority do you do these things” (Luke 19:45-20:8)? Jesus is essentially asked who he studied under? At that time, a Rabbi or teacher who taught a student passed on his authority to that student. Jesus was not taught by anyone.
His inspiration was divine.
Earlier in Luke’s letter (5:18-25), he tells a story of a paralytic being lowered through a roof and lain before Jesus. Jesus tells the man his sins are forgiven.
The Pharisees assumed in their hearts, “This man is a blasphemer, no one can forgive sins but God.”
Jesus goes on to confirm his authority by healing the man, then goes a step further and asks,
“Which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven, or get up and walk?”
Jesus is establishing his authority and solidifying it with a wonder only someone with divine authority could perform.
In John’s letter (John 4:43-54) an account is given of a royal official who approaches Jesus and asks him to heal his son. Before doing so, Jesus comments, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.” The signs and wonders are the physical confirmation of Jesus’ divine authority. We see further illustrations of this throughout Jesus’ ministry.
Finally (Matthew 12:24,25), the Pharisees assume these miracles are being performed under Beelzebul’s authority (sorcery). Jesus contends this assertion by stating, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then, can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you (NIV).”
Jesus establishes his authority, and confirms it comes from God, so people may understand and believe the ‘kingdom of God has come upon you’ (Matthew 12:25).
Now, here we are, thousands of years later, trying to understand that kingdom. Each denomination of Christianity was founded attempting to more accurately practice their interpretation of Christ’s teaching. All of them adhere to the authority of individuals (theologians), through time, claiming they understand the kingdom of God.
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Like students of the rabbis, we adhere to a theologian’s understanding of scripture. We put ourselves under their authority.
If I teach as a Baptist, I speak with the authority of John Calvin. If I teach as a Restorationist (Christian Church/Church of Christ/Disciples), I speak with the authority of Alexander Campbell or Barton W. Stone, as a Methodist the authority of John Wesley, and so it goes according to the denomination’s traditions. Catholicism claims Peter, but the Popes have assumed his authority through the ages renewing its understanding here and there, thereby carrying that authority as a figurehead. I’ll quit there, before I get in over my head.
My point is, we regurgitate the teachings of these individuals. I know the argument can be made,
‘I speak with the authority of scripture,’
. . . but do you?
It is very difficult, if not impossible, to speak with the authority of scripture when it was written with a specific purpose to a unique audience.
Do not misunderstand, Scripture was written to communicate for all time, but the details denominations have quarreled over have been inserted between the lines.
The devil is in the details.
The denominations were established through the conversation, regarding scripture and practice, developed over time. Baptism, communion, worship (with or without instruments), holy days, and original sin are just a few of the divisive issues.
What value does all of this have? Why does it matter? One word, salvation, or who has been saved and who has not. The division between the haves and have nots.
Romans 9:21-23 speaks of vessels created for destruction and those created for mercy.
“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (ESV).
Before you get down and begin to wonder what kind of vessel you are, let’s consider for a moment, Paul (writer of Romans) is not speaking of individuals but ideals.
The old law (an ideal) was designed to instruct, protect, and prepare Israel for the Kingdom to come. It taught how sin worked, the need for sacrifice, and an introduction to God. God bore, with great patience, a vessel (born out of one man, Abraham) to introduce the solution for what had been broken with Adam and Eve.
Then, with Christ’s sacrifice (the solution), that vessel was destroyed to make his glory known and victory over sin complete. This true Israel is the Kingdom of God, the solution.
Okay, we have waded into deep water, and now we need to come back to the point.
Authority of Scripture is found in Jesus, the Christ.
The solution is sacrifice. Sacrifice of pride, sacrifice of a need to be right, and a love for others. Jesus simplified it, “Love God, and love others” (Matthew 22:36-40).
The path to God is clear, it is narrow (Matthew 7:13,14), it is through one man (Jesus).
What does that mean?
The good news is, there’s a better way to live. That’s it. The better way is through the teachings of Jesus. Therefore, it’s important to study scripture.
Repenting means to stop doing what isn’t working, and live better.
So, when it comes to interpreting scripture, everyone looks through a lens. They carry someone’s authority. It may be your minister, a podcast evangelist, televangelist, your mom, dad, brother, movie, or a documentary you once saw.
Often, Scripture is described as having secrets, and to understand it, you must have a teacher with insight.
Remember to ask, ‘where does their authority come from?’
Salvation was never meant to be a secret, or difficult to understand.
Stop doing what doesn’t work, and live better.
Love God, and love others.
Loving others more than ourselves can be painful, it’s called sacrifice. Love is the solution. Be very careful not to read into the text.
So, I leave you with this challenge, “With whose authority do you do these things?”