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By Whose Authority? – Discerning God’s True Shepherds

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By Whose Authority?

Discerning God’s True Shepherds

Jesus Christ was opposed by religious leaders during His earthly ministry. The contrast between Jesus’ authority and that of the scribes and Pharisees can teach us valuable lessons today.

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The New Testament records numerous accounts of Jesus Christ visiting Jerusalem’s Temple. It was there where Joseph and Mary, observing Old Covenant statutes, presented the Christ Child after He had been circumcised, and offered a sacrifice (Luke 2:21-24). At age 12, Jesus was in the Temple asking religious scholars deeply probing questions. These “authorities” were taken aback by the boy’s inquisitive nature and wisdom (vs. 46-47). Jesus also visited the Temple several times during His earthly ministry, amazing onlookers by His words and actions. Some concluded He was, indeed, the Messiah. Many others, on the other hand, conspired to take His life.

In the first year of His ministry, when Jesus and His disciples came to Jerusalem to observe the Passover season, they “found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting” (John 2:13-14).

Christ was livid at what He witnessed. The Temple was built as a religious center to worship the God of the universe—not for exchanging currency for personal profit!

So what did Jesus do? “And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables” (vs. 15).

Why? “And said [He] unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise. And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Your house has eaten Me up” (vs. 16-17). They remembered Psalm 69:9, a prophecy describing the zealous nature of a righteous Servant foretold to be consumed with doing the will of God.

This was just one of numerous Old Testament prophecies that the Christ was to fulfill, during both His earthly ministry and later at His triumphant Return to rule God’s government across the earth.

Jesus Christ healed people. He made the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak and the lame walk. He fed thousands from only a handful of fish and bread. He walked on water, turned water into wine, released people from the bonds of demon possession and performed countless other miracles. Jesus Christ boldly preached the gospel, delivered prophetic warnings and taught tens of thousands about God’s Law, spiritually magnifying its intent.

The apostle John wrote, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25).

Everything Christ said and did was with strength—boldness—power—and authority!

Some believed Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. Some were undecided, not sure what to make of Him and what He taught. Others—the religious powers of the day—felt threatened. They had no doubt that Jesus was a “teacher come from God” (John 3:2). They witnessed the mighty miracles He performed and were amazed by their effects. They admitted among themselves, “No man can do these…except God be with him” (same verse).

But the scribes and Pharisees refused to believe that Jesus was the Christ—that He had divine authority. They were righteous in their own eyes, measuring their righteousness by how well they observed minute, manmade laws and traditions, which unnecessarily made the Way of God seem burdensome. Since Jesus did not “measure up” to their idea of righteousness, they concluded He could not have been Christ—and they were more than willing to lie against, slander, and falsely accuse Him, and even plot His murder!

Why? “For [Jesus] taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matt. 7:29).

By Old Testament Prophecies

Psalm 2:7 states, “I will declare the decree: the Lord has said unto Me, You are My Son; this day have I begotten You.” Jesus was the Son of God. Of all people ever born, only He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). God the Father, using an angelic being to represent His voice, publicly confirmed that Jesus was His Son: “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17).

Christ’s birth was foretold throughout the Old Testament. Jesus was born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:22-23; Luke 2:7), in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:1; Luke 2:4-6), later called out of Egypt (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15) and reared in Galilee.

He was born to become King over the government of God (Isa. 9:6-7)—a position for which He qualified to replace Satan as this world’s ruler (Matt. 4:1-11). When Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, Christ replied, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).

Yet He also said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from here” (vs. 36). During His First Coming, Christ was also an ambassador, or representative, for God’s kingdom. He was a divine Messenger who brought a message from heaven—good news—about the government He represented. At Christ’s Second Coming He will replace the governments of men with the government of God (Dan. 2:34-36, 44-45).

Yet billions of professing Christians today mistakenly believe Jesus’ message was about the Messenger!

As the Son of God, Jesus was foretold to be born from the seed of Abraham and through the line of King David (Psa. 132:11; Jer. 32:5). His genealogy was confirmed physically from the line of Mary, and legally through that of Joseph.

Christ was also a prophet “like unto” Moses (Deut. 18:15-18), of whom Peter declared, “And He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall you hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you” (Acts 3:20-22).

Jesus Christ was a High Priest, not of Aaron, but of a priesthood that had no beginning or end, “after the order of Melchizedek” (Psa. 110:4; Heb. 5:5-6; 6:20; ch. 7)

And, of course, He was, and is, mankind’s Savior. Prophecy said Jesus would be hated and rejected, a stone of stumbling (Psa. 69:4; 118:22; Isa. 8:14)—betrayed by a friend (Psa. 41:9; 55:12-14) and sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12-13)—forsaken by His disciples (Zech. 13:7)—even forsaken by God (Psa. 22:1), as Jesus took on the penalty of death upon His sacrifice, becoming sin. God cannot dwell with sin (Isa. 59:2).

By the Sign of Jonah

The people witnessed Jesus’ miracles. They heard His great understanding and wisdom, and saw that He spoke with great power and authority. And they watched as His followers changed their lives for the better.

Yet most, especially the religious leaders, were unconvinced. Their hearts were too hardened to believe Jesus was the Christ. Unbelievers pressed Him with questions, attempting to trip Him up, to somehow stump Him.

But Christ knew that miracles, the fruit of His ministry and the plain truth of His teachings did not matter to hardened hearts. So when the scribes and Pharisees demanded that Jesus produce a sign proving His authority, that He was the Messiah, He answered, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39-40).

Being dead, in the grave, for three days and night—not a minute more or less—and then being resurrected by God was the only sign Jesus Christ gave!

Amazingly, the “Christian” churches, denominations and organizations of today believe that Jesus was in the grave from Friday to Sunday morning—but this is NOT “three days and three nights.” To cover their error, religionists of this world’s traditional Christianity teach that Jesus meant He would be in the grave for three parts of day and night.

But Christ said His length of time in the grave would be “AS Jonah was three days and three nights.” The word “as” means this is a comparison. Check the book of Jonah. Verse 17 of the first chapter states, “And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights...” The original Hebrew says exactly what it means: three individual days and three individual nights—not “a combination of three parts.”

By His Fruit

John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ’s arrival (Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1; Luke 3:3-6), but John’s short ministry ended upon His imprisonment. He knew his cousin Jesus was the promised Messiah, yet his faith temporarily wavered; he needed it to be strengthened. John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You He that should come? Or look we for another?” (Luke 7:18-19).

Jesus’ answer? “Go your way, and tell John what things you have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (vs. 22). In other words, His fruits stood as evidence of His prophetic ministry (Matt. 7:18-20).

Even the scribes and Pharisees privately admitted among themselves that the awesome miracles Jesus performed could have been done only through the power of God (John 3:1-2)—yet publicly they accused Him of doing these through Satan’s power (Luke 11:15)!

The Messiah was prophesied to work miracles (Isa. 35:5-6; Matt. 11:4-6; John 11:47)—to preach through parables (Psa. 78:2; Matt. 13:34-35)—to be filled with zeal for His “Father’s business” (Luke 2:49; Psa. 69:9; John 2:17). The ministry of Jesus Christ, the Chief Apostle, bore fruit in the form of 12 original apostles, later joined by Paul and others. The first-century Church dramatically multiplied in membership because the brethren “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [teaching] and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). The apostles faithfully taught what the Chief Apostle had taught; they did not deviate from the truth. They instructed everyone, from lay member to minister, to “continue you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them” (II Tim. 3:14).

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd—the voice of truth (John 10:7-11, 14). His faithful and obedient shepherds—true ministers of God—speak with the same voice.

Discerning True Ministers From False Ones

Jesus Christ spoke and taught with authority of God. The fruit of His ministry, all the prophecies He fulfilled that applied to His First Coming, and the fact that He obeyed and pleased God, and did God’s will, not His own, are evidence—PROOF—of Christ’s authority and power.

And, just as Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom of God, He authorized His faithful ministers to do the same (Matt. 28:19-20). They are to be found doing so right up to the final days just prior to His Return.

Yet who are Christ’s ministers?

Jesus warned, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (vs. 4-5)—that many through the 2,000 years leading to His Return would claim to represent Christ’s message, saying, “Jesus was the Messiah,” yet preaching “another gospel,” because they actually serve “another Jesus” (II Cor. 11:4).

But of those who preach “any other gospel”—a message other than the one Christ preached—Scripture pronounces a double curse! (Read Galatians 1:6-9.)

Jesus did not take authority to Himself—He received it from God, confirmed by fruit, miracles, the fulfillment of prophecies, His perfect obedience, and the truth He taught and lived by, all reflecting His Father’s will.

Likewise, true ministers of Jesus Christ are faithful servants of God. They OBEY Him, teaching others to do the same. They preach the same gospel Christ preached, the very same message Jesus delivered and taught His disciples to “teach all nations…to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”

A minister’s “glowing personality” or awe-inspiring speaking and writing skills are not, by themselves, proof that Christ is working through him. A true minister of Christ teaches and conducts His personal life with the same voice of truth with which Jesus spoke.

It is up to the Bible student to follow the examples of the Bereans, who “were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Jesus Christ was the Word; He always spoke and expressed the truth and will of God. The Bible—God’s Word in written form—is truth (John 17:17). So is God’s Law (Psa. 119:142). Any minister who preaches that the Law of God is “done away” or “done for you, so there’s no need to keep it,” or who preaches a gospel other than the kingdom of God, does not speak with the voice of truth!

They speak with “another spirit” (II Cor. 11:4)—their authority comes from “another Jesus,” one who “is transformed into an angel of light.” This great false “Jesus,” identified in verse 14 as Satan, influences and uses “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (vs. 13). God did not send them—He did not authorize them to speak in His name. They authorized themselves!

God calls such false leaders “prophets” who “prophesy lies in My name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spoke unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nothing, and the deceit of their heart” (Jer. 14:14); and “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied” (Jer. 23:21).

But amazingly, billions follow false ministers and other religious leaders on the basis of personality, appearance and speaking ability. They allow themselves to fall under the spell of rhetoric masquerading as “truth.” Of such leaders, the Bible plainly states, “Therefore it is no great thing that his ministers”—speaking of Satan, God’s adversary—“also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness” (II Cor. 11:15).

However, Christ’s sheep “follow Him: for they know His voice” (John 10:4). Christ’s shepherds—His true and faithful ministers—speak with the same “voice of truth.” They and they only have the authority to teach and preach in Christ’s name.

But as for false ministers, Jesus calls them “strangers.” He did not authorize them. They speak with a voice other than the voice of truth. From such men, Jesus Christ expects His sheep to flee, “for they know not the voice of strangers” (vs. 5).

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