Yesterday, we continued our series through Mark’s gospel. I preached from Mark 10:32-34. It was now the third time that Jesus warned His disciples about the coming suffering, death, and resurrection that would transpire. Jesus was intentionally preparing His followers for what they would see, experience, and endure in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection.
As we examine this passage, it’s clear that Jesus is preparing His followers. It’s also clear that they are afraid. Two specific words are used in connection with fear. For the inner circle of Jesus, the disciples are said to have been amazed – “θαμβέω,” which means “to be astounded, amazed, filled with amazement.” The larger group of people following Jesus were said to be afraid – “φοβέω,” which carries the idea of “being struck with amazement and fear, being afraid, become frightened.”
Why were they all fearful? Because Jesus was now fixing His focus on Jerusalem and stepping out to boldly lead the charge toward the city. Everyone knew that for Jesus to arrive in Jerusalem at the time of Passover would certainly end in disaster. Nevertheless, Jesus understood that He was to be about His Father’s business. He had a divine calendar to keep.
Jesus explained this to His inner circle. This was the third time He had explained this, but this time He became much more detailed. He prophesied about what would happen to Him. What sticks out to me in this scene is that Jesus taught them and warned them from the Scriptures. Notice the parallel account from Luke 18:31, “And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.”
This past week, I wrote an article on the authority of the Bible. I have spent time this week responding to the people who have provided their input. Interestingly enough, the comments have been mostly negative and from a distinctively Roman Catholic perspective. In other words, they are suggesting that the Roman Catholic Church gave authority to the Bible rather than the Bible having authority on its own. I completely disagree with that on many different levels. For one, notice that Jesus didn’t appeal to the authority of the Church when He spoke to His disciples. He spoke on the authority of the Scriptures.
Jesus had complete assurance that the Scriptures were true. Why did Jesus approach the Scriptures with such confidence? Because Jesus is not only one with the Father, but He is likewise one with the Spirit. It is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit that we have the Scriptures. So when Jesus approached Scripture, He is approaching it with confidence in the third person of the Trinity. Jesus understood that the Scriptures contain authority that is given by God since they are God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).
Any religion or group that diminishes the authority of God’s Word shouldn’t be trusted with your soul. It doesn’t matter if they are Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Roman Catholics, if they attack the authority of God’s Word, you should reject their word. Jesus had confidence in the Scriptures. When we approach the Scriptures, we must seek to do so with the same confidence that Jesus demonstrated for the Word of God. Just as Jesus prepared His disciples for the rocky road ahead from the Scriptures, so can we be prepared to handle the trials that we face because we have confidence that the Word of God is sufficient.
From the very beginning, Satan has had one primary agenda in his opposition against God. His agenda is to attack and undermine the authority of the Bible. That’s what happened when Satan attacked Eve in the Garden, he veiled the authority of God’s Word with doubts and lies. From that time forward, since the fall of Adam and Eve, skeptics, liberals, atheists, agnostics, pagans, higher critics, and others have employed the same tactics. If you want to lead people astray, cause them to deny the authority of the Bible.
I was once asked by the parent of a rebellious child what my opinion was regarding their child’s persistent sin problem. I responded by saying that I personally believe that all rebellion is rooted in the problem of authority. If you have a rebellious attitude toward your parents, it’s rooted in rebellion toward God. If you have a problem with authority in areas of government, it’s rooted in a rebellion toward God. How does one rebel against God? It begins with a simple rejection of God’s authoritative Word.
In Paul’s words to Timothy, he writes the following:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
As Timothy was to do the work of ministry and get into the trenches of controversy in Ephesus, before going off into eternity, the final words we have on record from Paul to Timothy point him to the Scriptures as his ultimate authority. Paul didn’t point Timothy to a catechism, a list of articles he and other apostles had written, or another source for ultimate authority. It should be pointed out that Paul didn’t point Timothy to the “Church” as his source of authority. Timothy was to teach, preach, reprove, correct, and train disciples in righteousness through the holy Scriptures.
If Satan can cause someone to reject the authority of the Bible and rest upon another source, whatever it may be, that’s the decisive moment where the person rejects God. It’s impossible to disconnect the authority of God from His Word. Paul didn’t say, “All catechisms are breathed out by God.” Paul put the Scriptures as his focal point for divine authority. Just as the Psalmist pointed to God’s Law (the Old Testament Scriptures) as authoritative (Psalm 19; Psalm 119), so did Paul in his final letter in the New Testament.
In order to have ultimate control, the Roman Catholic Church never denied the authority of the Scriptures. What they did was very sly and crafty. The Roman Catholic Church elevated the authority of the Church to the same level as the Scriptures and claimed that in order to interpret the Scriptures properly, one must read through the interpretive lens of the Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church also placed the Sacred Tradition of the Church on the same level as the Scriptures, and by simple definition, if the Scriptures are constant and never changing (a complete Canon), they’re therefore controlled by the Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. Why? Because the Tradition changes based on leadership within the Catholic Church. Therefore, if the Tradition moves and shifts over time, that turns the Scriptures into the caboose that follows Church Tradition down the train track. This must be rejected as a false understanding of God’s Word and a denial of Scriptural authority.
If we’re looking for a juicy quote that points to the authority of Scripture, we will not be disappointed by looking to men like Charles Spurgeon. A valiant defender and proclaimer of the gospel, Spurgeon once said the following in a sermon titled “The Lover of God’s Law Filled with Peace,” preached on January 2, 1888:
The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.
Consider the words taken from Keach’s Catechism (1689):
Question 4: What is the Word of God?
Answer: The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, being given by divine inspiration, are the Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Isaiah 8:20)
1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (Chapter One, Of The Holy Scriptures):
Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in diversified manners to reveal Himself, and to declare (that) His will unto His church;3 and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now completed.
Westminster Confession of Faith 1646 (Article One, Paragraph Eight):
The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; (1) so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. (2)
(1) Matt. 5:18.
(2) Isa. 8:20; Acts 15:15; John 5:39, 46.
While it’s extremely helpful to consider the words from historic preachers, catechisms, and confessions of faith, it’s most profitable to examine how Jesus used Scripture. More than juicy quotes, we need to see how Jesus approached and used the Scriptures.
In confronting the religious establishment of his day, Jesus quoted the Old Testament Scriptures. It was clear when Jesus preached, because He preached with authority (Mark 1:22). It wasn’t just His posture in preaching that astonished the religious leaders. It was what He preached. Jesus was preaching God’s Word.
In Mark 10:3, when asked about divorce, Jesus responded by asking, “What did Moses command you?” Jesus corrected the religious community of His day in John 5:46 by saying, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” When Jesus preached His famous Sermon on the Mount, He consistently corrected the incorrect interpretations of the rabbis by saying, “You have heard it said, but I say unto you.” In preaching about His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus pointed to Jonah as an illustration of what was to come (Matthew 12:40). Jesus also stated, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). What were Jesus’ commands? Remember, He did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).
When Jesus withstood Satan in the the wilderness, He consistently quoted Scripture, not catechisms, creeds, confessions, or church fathers (Matthew 4:1-11). We must recognize the age old attack when it comes knocking on our door. To reject the authority of the Bible is to reject God Himself. Beware of slick salesmen who come to you with religious talk, enticing words of man’s wisdom, and cleverly constructed cliches. You cannot reject God’s Word and be the child of God. Learn to love God through the Scriptures. Jesus said:
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
As a pastor, I’m constantly asked to give my opinion on very personal matters. Sometimes, through this blog, I receive e-mails from complete strangers about complicated challenges that people face in their family or personal relationships. Although I like to consider myself a relatively young pastor, as I look back on my ministry, it seems that a large percentage of problems that people face in life are connected to the issue of authority. When no king was in Israel, people were doing what seemed right in their own eyes. In our present culture, that same trap of personal autonomy and independence looms over our culture. To put it bluntly, the depraved sinful heart seeks autonomy and resists authority.
The American evangelical church has suffered greatly by resisting authority. The people who live by the motto, “land of the free and the home of the brave” don’t easily surrender to anyone’s authority. When we teach our children to be “free and brave” – that attitude rising from the soil of a depraved soul can result in teenage rebellion, disrespect for civil authority, a rogue attitude toward laws, and a hatred for boundaries. Americans have been singing the words, “I did it my way” for years, and with a sense of pride we rebel. It’s no surprise that we have teenagers walking around in the local shopping mall with t-shirts that read, “There is no authority but yourself.”
Most of the time, when a parent comes to me with problems with their child, within a few minutes I can make a connection to the issue of authority. However, this authority issue is not an independent “authority” issue, it’s really a God issue. Children rebel against their parents because they have rebelled against God. They don’t obey their parents because they have no desire to obey God.
R.C. Sproul has accurately stated, “The very word authority has within it the word author. An author is someone who creates and possesses a particular work. Insofar as God is the foundation of all authority, He exercises that foundation because He is the author and the owner of His creation. He is the foundation upon which all other authority stands or falls” (“The Divine Foundation of Authority,” Tabletalk, March, 2009, p. 6).
In Matthew 18, we see Jesus’ words concerning church discipline. This process is to be practiced in order to preserve the holiness of the church. Occasionally, a church might reach the point of excommunication, whereby the church has to revoke the membership of a member because of persistent rebellion and a refusal to repent of ongoing sin. It doesn’t matter what the specific sin might be, at the root of the whole situation is a refusal to submit to authority. First, the authority of God and His commands of holiness (1 Peter 1:16). Second, and related to the authority of God, is the refusal to submit to the church’s authority (see Matthew 18:15-20; Hebrews 13:17).
Lawbreakers roam the streets of our society. In fact, they live under our roofs. To be clear, we are all lawbreakers and rebels at heart (Ephesians 2:1-10). However, those who are rebels to God often have little restraint of conscience, disrespect for God, and a lack of submission to the laws of society (Romans 13:1-7). This lawbreaking attitude manifests itself through drugs, theft, adultery, murder, rape, a refusal to pay taxes, and various other sins.
At times, rebels to civil laws likewise have a rebellious attitude toward police officers, the very people who enforce the laws of society. Although many case studies exist and much ink has been used to explain the root cause of such behavior, the reality is – it’s all connected to a problem with authority. The rogue attitude toward civil laws is rooted in a rebellion against God’s law. This attitude is related to a deep rooted rebellion against God.
In recent days, the landmark decision of the Supreme Court has provided new perspective regarding authority. What happens when a certain percentage of the population decides that they want to break the law and get away with it? If they pressure the law makers, or in the case of same-sex marriage if the pressure the Supreme Court justices, they can merely change the law to reflect their sinful desires. It’s one thing for a teenager to have a problem with the authority of his parents. It’s quite a different thing for a nation to have a problem with the authority of God and His divine law that’s deeply rooted in creation.
It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about problems with teenage rebellion, a wife’s disrespect for the headship of her husband in marriage, a refusal to pay taxes, materialism, disconnect and disinterest in the church, drug dealers, murderers, homosexuals, thieves, and various other sins – all of these actions are rooted in a problem with authority. Rebellion against God and an unwillingness to submit to His authority leads to various other sins (see Romans 1:26-32). When people refuse to recognize God’s intended purpose of authority and seek what’s right in their own eyes, an entire multiplicity of problems will plague that individual, family, church, or nation. It’s an unfortunate reality that people want God to be everywhere except on His throne.
We can learn much from the lessons of failed leaders, judged nations, and the sinful trap of rebellion. Charles Spurgeon once said, “A sacred regard to the authority of God ought to lead us to reject an error, however old, sanctioned by whatever authority, or however generally practiced.” At the heart of the first sin was a disregard for authority – Satan disregarded the authority of God and lusted after His throne. The first sin in human history was rooted in a disregard for authority and boundaries instituted by God – Adam and Eve rebelled against God. It would be an extremely wise decision to live life in complete submission to God.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – You are not your own,  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.