Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

The Preacher’s Authority

ImageMark records the preaching of Jesus in His home town of Nazareth in Mark 6. When the Sabbath day came, Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth to teach. So, His audience was made up of individuals who knew Him and His family. They knew him as “the carpenter, the Son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon” (vs. 3).

The text indicates they were astonished at Jesus’ teaching. However, such astonishment was not a good thing. They were incredulous. They could not believe that this man before them could legitimately be speaking with the authority of God. They exclaimed, “Where did this man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!” (vs. 2).

Instead of accepting what was indicated by his teaching and works, that Jesus’s authority derived from Jehovah, we are told that they were offended at him (vs. 3). We are told that Jesus “marveled because of their unbelief” (vs. 6). He said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house” (vs. 4).

On another occasion, Peter and John preached Jesus, and also healed a man who had been lame from birth. Despite the evidence supplied from God that their message was to be heeded, we are told that the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, “laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day” (Acts 4:3). When they appeared the next day to the court, the text reveals, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled; and they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Again, you would think that was a positive thing, but it was not. Despite their acknowledging among themselves that “indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem” (4:16) – they severely threatened them that they should from “now on speak to no man in this name” (4:17).

In both of these examples, and many others that could be related both from the Old and New Testaments, we find people who rejected the message from God because they took issue with the messenger. It may be the one who taught them was someone they knew well (familiarity breeds contempt). It may be that they were perceived to be uneducated, to be lacking in social graces, to be unattractive, to be slow of tongue, to be in some way contemptible. Regardless, the rejection of the messenger led them to reject a message that came from God Himself.

It is possible to do the same thing today. While we can’t expect the world in general to have the appropriate attitude in this regard, it certainly should be that God’s people are thinking rightly. Let us not be like the Israelites, who rejected the austere outsider, Amos. Or be like the Judaizers who ridiculed Paul, “‘For his letters,’ they say, ‘are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.’” (2 Corinthians 10:10).

From whence does the preacher obtain his authority? First, it is not from formal education. It does not take a degree from a college to qualify a man to speak with authority from God’s word. And yet, there are some congregations who would not consider a man, regardless of how well spoken, and how well studied he may be, if he was not a college graduate. Some even go so far as to prefer a man who is educated at a particular college as more qualified for the work of an evangelist. Remember, Peter and John were “uneducated and untrained” Galileans.

Second, it is not from personal eloquence. While it seems that Barnabas was a talented orator, the same evidently was not true of Paul. “‘For his letters,’ they say, ‘are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible’” (2 Corinthians 10:10).

Finally, it is not from the local congregation or its elders. While each congregation certainly has the right to determine who will fill the pulpit, and the elders have a right to request the preacher speak on needed topics, the preacher does not take his authority from men. A preacher is not an employee of the congregation. He is a fellow worker with them in the kingdom of God. When they offer his material support, the are ministering to him. That’s what Paul wrote in Philippians 2:30, as he noted the sacrifice of Epaphroditus, who did not regard his own life, “to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.”

Simply put, the preacher receives his authority to preach from God! It is to Him that any man who proclaims the glad tidings must answer. In this he is charged with proclaiming the “whole counsel of God” (cf. Acts 20:27), and is to preach that counsel no matter the consequence to himself, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

The work is important, and brethren must have a proper concept of what the preacher is called to do, and why he does it. They must not “heap up for themselves teachers” having itching ears, but rather demand the truth be taught!