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By What Authority?

Michael Beck Michael Beck

“The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?
And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not?” (Luke 20:4,5)

How should believers judge whether someone who claims to be acting under divine authority actually is? There is that which is “from heaven” and that which is “of men.” That which is from heaven should be believed, while that which is of men should not. How do we know what word or work has the authority of heaven behind it? Jesus made it clear: “Ye shall know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16)

Paul gave three fruits by which the actions of the children of the light should be proven, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:9,10)

1. Goodness

When God commissions us to do or say something it will never be something that is merely good in our eyes, it will be good in His sight. How easy it is for us to think our “good” is God’s good. Unless we judge with righteous judgment, we will never know what is truly good. Job 34:4 says, “Let us choose to us judgment: let us know among ourselves what is good.” If we judge after the outward appearance, if we judge a matter before we hear it, if we judge with surmisings of any sort, if we judge from the heat and haste of our own spirit, if we judge without mercy or with partiality, we will not be judging righteously. Instead of “wisdom from above,” which has divine authority and goodness in it, we will have an evil “wisdom” that is earthly, sensual and devilish.

God’s goodness cannot be evaluated along the lines of what men call good. Men are apt to call good evil and evil good. But the witness of God’s goodness is recognized by those who are walking in God. The good fruits of words and actions that truly come from God are a sweet savor of life to those who are alive unto God. Evil however is always hiding to some degree. It does not want to be scrutinized or brought fully out into the light, it does not want good men or just judges to evaluate. One day we will all stand before the Righteous Judge and He will determine whether the deeds we have done while in the body were good or evil. If we believe we will have nothing to be ashamed of in that day, we ought to be willing to let good men in this day fully know what we have done. Goodness is never afraid of the light.

2. Righteousness

There is a big difference between “rightness” and righteousness. Rightness can simply be our opinion, our standard, what we (or those we are associating with) do or don’t do. The Pharisees had their very specific standards of right, but were they God’s standards? They were very zealous in claiming to speak for God, but Paul said they were ignorant of God’s righteousness, and went about to establish their own. God’s righteousness was demonstrated not only in His judgment upon sin, but in His mercy upon the sinner. The community of the Pharisees were so zealous to honor the law of God that they knew only judgment, without mercy, on those who were in violation of the law. The wrath of man that is demonstrated in an unwillingness to hear or understand a matter, that is hasty in word, action and anger can never work the righteousness of God. We can be so “right” in our own minds, even getting others to agree with us, but we can be so wrong.

There are many who think they are heaven’s ambassadors and ministers of righteousness, but they come in their own name.

How easily do men mistake their will for God’s will. Those in leadership positions face special temptations because they have the power to shape events. But power and authority are two different things. Because we have the ability to bring something to pass does not mean we have the authority to do so. For that we must truly have heard from God. Jesus did nothing of Himself or His own mind. He said, “As I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30) Where our will, our desires, our preferences, our fears, our reputation enters the picture we have left the realm of heaven and have entered the realm of man. We have ceased being true to God and, perhaps without even realizing it, are operating out of self-interest. “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” (John 7:18) There are many who think they are heaven’s ambassadors, and ministers of righteousness, but they come in their own name.

3. Truth

Truth must first be that which is honest. “But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” (1 John 2:27) One may say they are anointed and have the authority of heaven but if one resorts to any form of lying, any manipulation, any skewing of the facts to move things in a desired direction, any exaggerating, any hiding of information that would not help one’s case, any thinking that is not sober and factually accurate, any false witness, than that person’s claim to be acting under heaven’s authority must be called into question. When the anointing is teaching us there will be no mixture of truth and error. We cannot be abiding in Him if we utter a lie. The wisdom from above is first pure and our speech cannot be corrupt.

Those claiming to act under heaven’s authority must be held to the highest of standards if they want to be believed. We should expect them to act with integrity in everything they do. When Jesus was challenged, He said, “Which of you will convince me of sin?” None could. We should not ask this question rhetorically to others, expecting to get the same non-answer. We need accountability to those who are unafraid to tell us, “Thou art the man.” Our actions must be above reproach, but not above scrutiny. If we would have gravity with others, we must give “no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed.” (2 Corinthians 6:3) Like Paul, we should exercise ourselves “to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.” (Acts 24:16) In fact, to behave in a manner that is dishonest or unethical, justifying the means because we have a “good” end in sight, is to disqualify ourselves from the great boldness and good standing we should have as anointed ministers. (1 Timothy 3:13)

Because we are our “brother’s keeper,” sometimes authority needs to be challenged.

None should expect others to simply believe whatever they say because they lay claim to divine authority. We are to prove all things and only hold fast to that which is manifestly good, righteous and true. We are not to believe every spirit that asserts authority, but try them by the fruits of their deeds, to see whether they are truly operating under the anointing or not. They are ultimately accountable to God, but we should not be afraid to question what they do and how they do it. And when a leader automatically takes such questioning as a sign of rebellion, there is a definite problem. Because we are our “brother’s keeper,” sometimes authority needs to be challenged.


Michael Beck is a pastor in New York City and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.