Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“And they were astonished at his doctrine, for Jesus taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
Jesus did not quote Israel’s rabbis in order to impress people with how theologically correct he was or to make his teaching appear to be authoritative. He was sent by God (Jn. 10:36), and he knew that everyone who sincerely desired to do the will of God would recognize that his doctrine was of God. He once told the rulers of Israel, “If anyone is willing to do [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it is from God or if I speak from myself” (Jn. 7:16).
Peter said, “If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability that God gives.” The reality is that no man can possibly minister the gospel of God without the ability that God gives. If God doesn’t anoint and send a man, he cannot preach; he can only talk. This is the basis of Paul’s rhetorical question: “How can they preach, unless they are sent?”
When God anoints and sends a man to preach, that man does not base his teaching on what scholars have written about God and the Bible. Nor is he subject to the whims of the age. He has no need to quote biblical authorities because a man sent by God is the authority, and wise men will quote him. Jesus spoke to the people as if he knew God, as if God had taught him, as if what other men had said before that time was true only if it agreed with what he said. This is the way it is with every man whom God has sent with His gospel. That man becomes the standard, the reference point. He cannot but speak with authority because it is not he who is speaking, but God.
Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you other than that which we have preached, let him be accursed.” And then, he explained the reason for this boldness: “I certify to you, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not after man, for I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul knew what he was saying was true, even though his gospel differed significantly from the gospel Peter and the other disciples preached to the Jews. What they preached was between them and God; Paul knew where his gospel came from.
God alone possesses the power to make someone an authority on the gospel. And whenever He does that, people will hear that man speak as if he himself has authority to speak. Regardless of what has been previously said or done, even by Jesus himself while on earth, if a man is sent by God with a doctrine, his doctrine is right.
Consider this one remarkable example of what I am saying. Jesus plainly told his disciples, face-to-face, not to take the gospel to any Gentile’s house (Mt. 10:5). There was no misunderstanding his words. He meant exactly what he said: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans do not go.” Jesus’ attitude toward Gentiles seemed heartless, especially the time Jesus refused so much as to speak to a grieving Gentile woman who tearfully begged him for help (Mt. 15:21-24). Only after she confessed that, compared to God’s love for the Jews, she and all other Gentiles were nothing more than dogs would Jesus condescend to help her (Mt. 15:25-29). So, with both his words and his example, Jesus made it clear to his disciples that they were not to carry the gospel to the Gentiles.
However, after Jesus ascended to heaven, God sent Peter to the house of a Gentile named Cornelius. (It was time for us dogs to receive the holy Spirit of God.) Peter could have refused to obey God’s commandment to go to Cornelius’ house. He could have “stayed true” to Jesus and chosen to obey words he heard straight from Jesus’ mouth. But if Peter had chosen to obey what Jesus told him while he was on earth, he would have been sinning. If Peter had refused “him who speaks from heaven” and had chosen instead to follow Jesus’ earthly example, he would not have gone to Cornelius’ house and would have been in rebellion against God. A man whom God sends does not follow the past examples of others; he is the example if he has been sent by God.
To be sure, it was difficult for Peter to do what he did, and he even argued a bit with God about it, but in the end, he did the right thing: he obeyed what God told him to do right then rather than what Jesus told him not to do. When Peter arrived at Cornelius’ house, he spoke “as one having authority”, and not as someone who depended on the Scriptures or on men for his direction.
Later, Peter would pass along to others the wisdom he had gained by these experiences. He wrote to the saints, “If any man speak, let him speak as from the oracles of God.” The oracle of God was the Most Holy Place of His temple, from which emanated His voice, revealing His commandments and laws. Peter learned that if a man’s doctrine comes from anywhere other than the mouth of God, it was not to be trusted, no matter what any prophet or holy man has ever said or done before.
God is alive. He speaks. He leads. He anoints. No man serves Him who is being led by His understanding of the Bible, by tradition, or by other men.