And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it."

- Luke 9:23-24 NASB



Introduction to Authority


"We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."

- Charles Bukowski

And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him...

And the kings of the earth, and...every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

- Revelation 6:7-8a,15-16 NASB







Jesus Christ is Lord... so what? That's not just a skeptic's retort, that is a self-test question professing Bible believers can benefit from asking themselves.

So what was different about my life today because I believe Jesus is Lord? What did those differences say to others about Jesus? What did those differences say to Jesus about me?

The disappointing truth behind asking what difference belief in Christ makes is how little belief some believers have. Nonbelievers must think it quite hypocritical that people who say a sovereign God came to earth and shared three years of instruction "have no time" to study and have marginal desires to obey those teachings. (This is especially incredible knowing some of the things for which those people do make time.) Those nonbelievers would be right!

It doesn't matter what the excuses are; understanding them would not excuse hypocrisy. What would be helpful, and what might instead preserve a believer's integrity, is understanding the authority of God. Let's look more closely at God's authority in terms of it being:

1. the key to our salvation,

2. the key to helping us learn and obey his Word,

3. the key to loving God, and

4. the key to properly responding to "So what if Jesus is Lord?"

1.2 How does authority relate to salvation?

James, the half-brother of Jesus, sharply illustrates that there is much more to salvation than knowing who God is, or believing that he exists. It is noteworthy this comes from James because although he knew Jesus longer than most of Jesus' companions, James did not come to faith until after the resurrection. James writes,

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. (James 2:19 NASB)

Demons (angels who sided with Satan in his rebellion against God) clearly know the truth about God, yet Scripture states those same demons will be thrown into the lake of fire. In pointing this out, James is revealing to us that merely believing God exists neither makes us good nor guarantees us eternal life.

What the demons refused to acknowledge, and what we must, is that God alone is the true supreme authority. Salvation is not a matter of what you or I know, but it is a matter of God's dominion over life, sin, and death, and our being positioned in such a way that his life-enriching, death-defeating dominion covers us. (more)

1.3 How does authority relate to learning and obeying God's Word?

When we are at home, we generally do what we feel like doing. When we are at work, we generally do what we are supposed to do, or what we are told. The difference is due to authority. At home we are the authority, but when we take a job, we have placed ourselves under someone else's authority.

Applying this to God's Word, the two reasons we might not be studying the Bible include the possibility that we're in conscious rebellion against the obligation to submit to God's authority, or that we honestly feel we're not under any obligation to do so.

Whether we feel we're under anyone's authority or not, God has written that everyone is obligated to study his Word. Mastering the Word is not a matter of feelings (only studying it when we feel like it, seldom feeling like it, and thus never mastering it), but a matter of willful submission to believing in the authority of God and doing what he says. As James further writes,

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

- James 1:22 NASB

1.4 How does authority relate to loving God?

...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all our strength, and with all your mind;...

- Luke 10:27 NASB

A very honest question for a believer to ask from time to time is "How well or how much do I love the Lord?"

Surprisingly, of everything in the Bible about love, no where do I find that we are asked to tell God we love him. The very first "I love you" in the Bible is between Samson and Delilah (if you're not familiar with the account, let's just say the relationship could have ended better). Peter told Jesus that he loved him, but it was only in answer to the direct question "Do you love me?" Jesus responded to Peter with something which Peter could do for him.

Jesus' response, as well as the rest of Scripture, indicates that love for God, as far as God is concerned, means obeying him. In other words, to love God is to submit to his authority. Here are a few verses in which that is very plainly stated (all NASB):

In the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, it is explained that different people interpret or receive love in different ways. Although his book focuses on men and women, it helps illustrate and explain how and why there is a right way to show love for God. The right way, per the scriptures quoted above, is to follow God's instruction.

A newly married man might dearly love his wife, but he knows (or learns) that an anniversary gift of high-quality rebuilt auto parts is not the way to show it. It won't register. She won't get it. As far as most new brides are concerned, it doesn't say "I love you". Similarly, our intentions don't register with God unless we are using his language of love - obedience. It is not enough to say "I love you Lord" without actually doing something he has commanded.

Though the Bible is full of specifics on what God commands, only one example is needed now - on loving one another. Loving one another is a fantastic way to start showing God you love him:

If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

- 1 John 4:20-21 NASB

1.5 How does authority answer the question "So what if Jesus Christ is Lord?"

There is a story of a young soldier who was brought before Alexander the Great for disciplinary action. The young man was not in deep trouble until he mentioned that he, too, was named Alexander. That man was then punished severely for his minor offense. Alexander the Great explained, "Anyone bearing my name is going to have to act in a manner worthy of it." So it is with Christ.

Of anyone who follows Christ, Christ commands them to walk as he walked. Scripture reveals that every follower of Christ will be held accountable to submit to his Word. Therefore, having a fruitful and demonstrable relationship with Christ is again not a matter of the intellect or of feelings, but of willful submission to believing in and acting under the authority of God.

Keep in mind that one purpose of the Bible is to enable us to please God. The means of pleasing God is to know God. And knowing God is only evidenced by this: by believing God, by doing what he commands, and by acting under his authority. Christ summarizes what our actions should be as the two greatest commandments:

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:30-31 NASB)

What we know and feel about the Bible is insufficient to constitute a believability that is pleasing to God. An acceptable, genuine belief in God's Word requires a positive acknowledgment of God's authority. That authority is the subject of these final three sections. These examine:

1.) God and his authority, so that we may know more about him and know that he has authority,

2.) the authority of God's Word, to see how the authority which God does have is translated into the vehicle of the Bible and which characteristics of his it reflects, and

3.) the relationship between ourselves and God's authority as expressed in the Bible in order to learn how we can translate God's communicated authority into the purposes for which God intended.



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NEXT: The authority of God

See also:

The authority of the Bible

Biblical authority and humanity

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1.1 So what if Jesus Christ is Lord?




An overview of the fourth of four divisions methodically evaluating the Bible.

This division is to affirm whether or not the Bible carries the authority of God, and whether or not that authority applies to us.

1.2 Salvation and authority
1.3 Learning and authority
1.4 Loving and authority
1.5 Lordship and authority