When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded,
“By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” Matthew 21:23 NLT
That makes me think of what a friend told me about when she was first sitting on a church board. In one of her first meetings she brought up an idea. It was totally ignored. Then later in the same meeting another board member, who happened to be a doctor and very influential, repeated the very same idea, and this time everyone paid attention and said they loved the idea! My friend just sat there, thinking to herself, “That is what I just said!”
There is no doubt that we often use a person’s temporal credentials, or even social position, to give authority to the ideas they express. On the other hand, Jesus had no temporal credentials, His experience was that of a village carpenter, and He had the social standing of a tradesman. How then could He speak with authority to his own generation and to the succeeding generations who call themselves Christian?
Jesus used two important principles.
1. Jesus knew the scriptures and because His audience respected the authority of Scripture He was able to refute His critics’ arguments:
- When they tried the trick question about the resurrection and marriage in Matthew 22, He cited Scripture in his response. Matt 22: 28-31.
- When encouraging the disciples on the road to Emmaus, He used Scripture as the basis for that encouragement. Luke 24: 27.
- Even at the tender age of 12, He was using Scripture with an authority and understanding that amazed His elders.
- Jesus did not rely on His own authority but used Scripture to give authority to what He had to say.
2. Jesus spent time with God in prayer, developing a relationship with Him. He often spent whole nights in prayer and relied on His Father for everything.
- In Matthew 14:22-33 we see Jesus walking on water, but before that we see Him in prayer throughout the night before.
- In Matthew 6:9-13 we see Jesus’ model prayer, where He shows His dependence upon the Father for bread and power to resist temptation.
The methods Jesus used are available to us
Jesus could have used His divinity to establish His authority, but He was willing to use two methods available to us – the Word of Scripture and an active prayer relationship with the Father – to give Him the ability to speak and teach with authority.
So it is today – men and women of all ages and backgrounds gain heavenly credentials when they fall in love with God and His Word.
Humble men, armed with the Word of truth alone, withstood the attacks of men of learning, who, with surprise and anger, found their eloquent sophistry powerless against the simple, straightforward reasoning of men who were versed in the Scriptures rather than in the subtleties of the schools. -Ellen White, Great Controversy 1888, Page 455.
When one receives temporal credentials it means she or he has pleased man and receives authority from man. When one receives heavenly credentials it means she or he has pleased God and, regardless of age or position, has received authority from God.
Brethren, carry Christ into the family, carry Him into the pulpit, carry Him with you wherever you go. Then you need not urge upon others the necessity of appreciating the ministry, for you will bear the heavenly credentials which will prove to all that you are servants of Christ. -Ellen White, The Adventist Home, Page 354