The Need for Authority in Religion

written by Gene Taylor – also found at

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Authority, as used in the above text, is defined as “the power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed)” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon). W.E. Vine defines it as “the power of rule or government, the power of one whose will and commands must be obeyed by others” (Expository Dictionary of NT Words).

There is a definite need for authority in the spiritual realm. The nature of man demands it. Since man was created as a free moral agent capable of determining good from evil and of choosing between the two, the authority to make the distinction between good and evil is not within him but must come from without. Jeremiah 10:23 states, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” To this Proverbs 14:12 adds, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

The history of man when he is left to the vanity of his own reason displays his desperate need for divine authority. Romans 1:21-28 says that without God man became foolish (v. 22); unclean (v. 24); vile in his passions (v. 26); and debased in his mind (v. 28). 1 Corinthians 1:18-21 reveals that the “wisdom” of man is foolishness in comparison to the wisdom of God (cf. Isa. 55:8-9). Ephesians 4:17-19 states that the world apart from God lives in futility with its understanding darkened because of ignorance. “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”

Without authority, religion would be completely meaningless. Such was the case during the period of the Judges in Israel. There was no recognition of authority because “in those days…everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jud. 17:6). Thus their religion lost meaning and they became evil. Failing to submit to God’s law and rejecting His authority, they were condemned and delivered to their enemies to be oppressed.

The ultimate end of a lack of authority in the spiritual realm would be total moral and spiritual bankruptcy.