Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jesus and Religious Authority

During his Ministry, although Jesus taught controversially, and openly drew attention to the incorrect religious attitudes which prevailed, he subjected himself to the authority of the leaders of his time, both religious and political. He had power as the Son of God, yet he still humbled himself to the law and traditions he lived under.

Paul taught the new church regarding respect for governing authorities.

Romans 13:1,2 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

Jesus was a prime example of this, and the governing authorities where instrumental in the redemptive plan and ultimate crucifixion. During his ministry Jesus also specifically taught respect for the ruling authorities when he instructed that it was right to pay taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:25).

Likewise Jesus taught respect for the religious authorities also. He taught in the temple within the existing structure, and before he pronounced his woes in Matthew’s gospel he specifically said;

Matthew 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

We must respect the religious authorities, and stop our interdenominational bickering.

Lets look at the church today. Shouldn’t the same principles apply to those who have been appointed as priests, pastors and ministers of various denominations? They are governing authorities for our churches, yet sometimes we judge them so harshly. Paul speaks of non-Christian governments as being established by God. How much more than religious leadership?

We are quick to criticise other churches, and even accuse some of being demonic. This is harsh. This is what the Pharisees did to Jesus.

Matthew 12:22-27 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “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 Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.

Isn’t this what we do when we accuse people of being associated to the devil? When we call a religion which claims to follow Jesus as being false or driven by evil spirits? Further on in this scripture Jesus says “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”(verse 30).

It is also clear from these scriptures that the Pharisees themselves drove out demons, and the disciples got upset because others where using Jesus’ name to drive out demons who they did not consider to be one of them.

Mark 9:38-41“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.
We have to stop bickering between different traditions and styles of worship. If the house of Satan in this object lesson would not stand, then if our own house is divided, that is the house of Christ, then what will become of us? I have all too often heard people speak of their own confusion in their journey of faith because each different church claims to have got it right, and is critical of other churches.

I have been witness to another phenomenon also. I have seen God use what many would say were cults, or false religions to draw a person near to him. I have witnesses genuine conversion in churches others would have criticised for their radical practices. I have seen that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

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