Monday 15 February 2016

Priest, scribes and others with authority

John Bunyan
John Bunyan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the orderly functioning of life we need to have some order and functions. Our world is divided by different hierarchical posts.

In the world of the churches there are also several posts and in many denominations those in such positions often think they are higher than others and people have to listen to them and have to do what church dictates to them.

In Christianity we can see that at the beginning it was part of Judaism.
Jesus was a respected rabbi and considered by his followers as the sent one from God who had received the authority from the Most High in heaven.

When Jesus was gone the apostles were given special Holy Spirit powers to exercise authority as well. An outstanding example was the drama with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) who told lies to the Apostles, but Peter said, “You have not lied to men but to God” (verse 4).

In today’s reading of the 11th chapter of Mark we read
“as he (Jesus) was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and elders came to him and they said to him,
‘By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?’” (verses 27-28).
Priest and scribes were considered as the highly placed ones having authority to dictate to the people. According to them no one was supposed to teach unless they gave them authority. This is one reason why John the Baptist went into the wilderness to preach. It was this exercise of authority that saw the disciples thrown into prison when they taught in the temple (Acts 4:1-3) although later, such was the prestige of the Apostles, created by their miracles, that dramatic scenes unfolded. (Acts 5:12,13,17-20), but “none of the rest dared join them”.

History shows that as the early believers evolved into large established churches these churches too began to exercise an attitude of authority climaxing in the power of the Pope and the cardinal system. In the Middle Ages, if you were not appointment by church authorities to minister in a church, you had no authority to preach.

Some, such as John Bunyan, were put in prison for doing so.

When we look at the gospels we can find examples where it is made clear by Jesus that his followers will have to take up tasks. He also sent them out into the world, something which is too often forgotten today.

We read at the end of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus said,
 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved …” (16:15,16).
That authority is given to everyone, so we all have the responsibility to share our faith.

Paul challenges us when he expresses this responsibility in the bluntest terms,
 “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
- based on the Today's thought “Who gave you this authority?” (February 15) by the Christadelphian


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