“The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’” (Matthew 21:25, NKJV)
When differences arise over how we understand and apply the Scriptures on matters of moral living and religious duty, some people say, “What difference does it make? As long as you are sincere, you will be fine.” But, minimizing the disagreement and its effects does not remove the difference. Nor does making sincerity the standard of acceptability solve the problem. But, making such statements does reveal a mindset that Christians must not have and hold. In today’s passage, Jesus said there are only two possible sources of authority in soul-effecting matters: heaven or men. When heaven speaks, it makes a great difference over what men have to say (Galatians 1:10). This is why we must have Bible authority for all we say and do. Otherwise, we are acting upon no authority greater than ourselves, and, by doing so, violate heaven’s authority (Colossians 3:17). Jesus Christ has the authority to command, to save, to bless and to condemn (Matthew 28:18; John 5:19-23; 17:1-2). You will find His authority in His word, and nowhere else (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
9 “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.” (Galatians 4:9–11, NKJV)
Christians do not have the right to establish and observe holy days, months, seasons and years. Such things had a place in the Law of Moses which God gave Israel. However, that law’s binding authority was dismissed by God, being nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14-17). Holidays that religiously celebrate people and events, like the birth and resurrection of Jesus (Christmas and Easter), had their genesis in the wisdom and will of men, hundreds of years after the New Testament period. By what authority are such days observed religiously? By whose authority do they exist – heaven’s, or men’s (Matthew 21:25)? Should we believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, and that Jesus was resurrected? Absolutely. But, where does the Bible teach us to celebrate the birth of Jesus with a holiday called Christmas? You will not find in the Bible. You will find it in Catholic Church tradition. That is the authority being followed in such celebrations. Let us follow the Bible, not the religious traditions that began with men. Otherwise, we “turn again to the weak and beggarly elements” of religion that men invented (Galatians 4:8).
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17, NKJV)
To do something “in the name of” the Lord Jesus means to do it by His power, authority and approval (see Acts 4:7). Why must we have Christ’s approval for all we say and do? One reason is because “the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). We must have God’s direction in our lives, and the word of Christ supplies us with His moral, spiritual and doctrinal direction. Let His word richly dwell in your heart (Col. 3:15). It is His teaching, not our opinions, consciences, and human logic that marks out the right way to God. Another reason why all we say and do must be with Christ’s authority is because God’s thoughts and ways are far higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9). We cannot rely on ourselves for salvation, and for how to live in fellowship with the Father. Christ, through His word, provides us the way, the truth and the life we must have in order to go to the Father now, and to live with Him forevermore. Jesus is “the Way” to the Father (Jno. 14:6).
11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11–13, NKJV)
Jesus came to the Jewish people, and they rejected Him as the Messiah. But, their refusal to receive Him did not prevent God from declaring Jesus to be Lord and Christ (Psa. 2:1-7; Acts 2:33-37). Now, everyone who receives Him has been given the right to become a child of God. It is precisely those who “believe in His name” that have the right to be born of God to become His child. Some have this verse 12 all wrong. They think it says, “receive + believe = become.” They use this verse to say you should pray for salvation, but nothing is said of prayer here. The verse actually says, “received Him (believed) = right to become” children of God. If you receive Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God (that is, you believe it), then you have the right to become a child of God. That truth is embedded perfectly into the call of the gospel at the Great Commission: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:15-16). You have the right to become a child of God when you receive (believe) He is the Christ, the Son of God. But, without faith you cannot be saved (Jno. 8:23-24).
5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” (Acts 4:5–7, NKJV)
We do not possess the way to heaven within ourselves. (Jeremiah said, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps,” Jer. 10:23.) The unbelieving Jewish rulers, who had seized Peter and John, questioned them about the power or name by which they had healed a lame man (Acts 3:1-10). We should question ourselves “by what power, or by what name” we teach and practice what we do. We are under divine instruction to do so: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17). We must have Christ’s authority endorsing what we teach and what we do, otherwise, we are acting from our own will, not His. The New Testament is Christ’s complete final authority (Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 14:37; Jude 3). By following His word we act under His authority (in His name). Let the word of Christ be the final word in your life, today and every day.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29, NKJV)
Following Jesus does not mean, as many appear to envision, recklessly living as one pleases, confident that no matter what they do Jesus will take them home to heaven in the end. (Once saved, always saved is not the gospel of Jesus, Heb. 10:26-31.) To follow Jesus one must take His yoke (an instrument of control, direction and service) upon himself. No longer guided by selfish, sinful pleasures or thoughtless, godless deeds, we must let Jesus teach us a life of service under His yoke of training and guidance. The metaphor of a yoke indicates submission to the authority of Christ. His authority is not oppressive, but liberating, as it frees us from sin’s bondage. Living and serving under His authority brings rest to souls wearied by sin. Commit yourself to let Christ rule your life. Learn His ways. Live as His servant. Discover rest for your soul.
23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” 24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”… (Matthew 21:23–25, NKJV)
It is not an unreasonable question, except for the fact that Jesus had shown them time and time again that His words and His deeds were by the authority of heaven. Just the day before, in the very place where Jesus drove out the defilers of God’s temple, He had healed the blind and the lame (Matt. 21:12-14). Still, they refused to believe (Jno. 12:37-41). Jesus has given ample proof that He is the Christ, the Son of God. All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). It is your choice whether or not you will follow heaven’s authority by submitting to Jesus in obedient faith. By what authority do you live? Whose authority do you honor and obey; heaven’s or men’s? Choose wisely, for your choice has eternal consequences. Yield to the authority of heaven, and follow the Lord Jesus in all things (Col. 3:17).