Authority and Power
If ever there was a moment in the history of the professing Church in which it was essential for people to have divine authority for their path and divine power to pursue it, then this is it. There are so many conflicting opinions, so many jarring voices, so many opposing schools, and so many contending parties, that we are in danger of losing our balance and being carried away. What is an unlearned soul to do? How is one to get on in the face of all this? Is there no peaceful haven in which to anchor one’s little boat, away from the wild tossing of the stormy ocean of human opinion? Yes, thank God, there is, and the reader may know the blessedness of casting anchor there this very moment. It is the privilege of even the simplest child of God to have divine authority for his path and divine power to pursue it—authority for his position and power to occupy it, authority for his work and power to do it. The authority is found in the divine Word, the power is found in the divine Presence.
In contemplating the present condition of professing Christians generally, one is struck that so very few are prepared to face Scripture on all points and in all matters, whether personal, domestic, commercial or ecclesiastical. If the question of the soul’s salvation is settled, then people consider themselves at liberty to break away from the sacred domain of Scripture and launch forth upon the wild watery waste of human opinion and human will where each one may think for himself, choose for himself and act for himself! Now nothing is more certain than where it is merely a question of human opinion, will or judgment, there is not a shadow of authority and not a particle of power! No human opinion has any authority over the conscience or can impart any power to the soul. I must have God’s Word and God’s Presence, otherwise I cannot get on. If anything, no matter what it is, comes between my conscience and the Word of God, then I do not know where I am, what to do or where to turn. And if anything comes between my heart and the presence of God, then I will be utterly powerless. The Word of my Lord is my only guide, His dwelling in me and with me, my only power: “Have I not commanded thee: Be strong and courageous? Be not afraid, neither be dismayed; for Jehovah thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest” (Josh. 1: 9).
Yet is it really true that the Word of God contains ample guidance for all the details of life? Does it tell me, for instance, where I am to go on the Lord’s day and what I am to do from Monday morning till Saturday night? Does it direct me in my personal path, in my domestic relationships, in my business position and in my religious associations and opinions? Indeed it does. The Word of God fully fits you for every good work (see 2 Tim. 3: 17), and any work for which it does not fit you is not good but bad. Hence, if you cannot find authority for where you go on Lord’s day, then you must give up going, and if you cannot find authority for what you do on Monday, then you must cease to do it. “Behold, obedience is better than sacrifice, Attention than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15: 22). Let us honestly face Scripture. Let us bow down to its holy authority in all things. Let us give up every habit, every practice and every association for which we do not have the direct authority of God’s Word and in which we cannot enjoy the sense of His presence. One of the greatest difficulties in dealing with souls arises from the fact that they do not seem to have any idea of submitting in all things to Scripture. They will not face the Word of God or consent to be taught exclusively from its sacred pages. Creeds and confessions, and the doctrines and the traditions of men will be listened to and heeded. Our own will, our own judgment and our own views of things will be allowed to bear sway. Expediency, position, reputation, personal influence, usefulness, the opinion of friends, the thoughts and example of good and great men—all these things exert a most harmful influence upon the soul and hinder full surrender to the authority of God’s Word.
May the Lord not let us rest until that Word is set up in our souls as the one all–sufficient rule—so that everything, no matter what, may be unhesitatingly and utterly rejected that is not based upon its authority. Then we may expect to make progress and then will our path be as the path of the righteous, “going on and brightening until the day be fully come” (Prov. 4: 18). May we never be satisfied until, in reference to all we do and all we do not do, where we go and where we do not go, we can truly say we have the sanction of God’s Word and the light of His presence. Here and here alone lies the deep and precious secret of authority and power.