Scripture or Christian Leaders: What is our Authority?

Here is a non-exhaustive survey of God consistently exalting Scripture as the HIGHEST authority.

King God

1 Samuel 8 – Israel rejected God by wanting a human king to rule over them. They said, “Now make us a king to judge us LIKE ALL THE NATIONS,” and, “the LORD said to Samuel, ‘…they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them,'” (verses 5-7).

In contrast, God desired Israel to “keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses…that you may not mix with these nations…” (Josh. 23:6-7).

God’s way = follow His word, go to Him directly, and be distinct from the nations.

Israel’s way = follow the nations by having a man over them.

Scripture Over Kings, Prophets, Judges, Priests

The anointed leaders of the Old Testament were: kings, prophets, judges, priests.

However, when those leaders taught things contrary to God and His words (which did happen), the people were NOT TO FOLLOW them.


  • Kings: Exodus 1:17; 1 Kings 18:3-4
  • Prophets: Deuteronomy 13:1-5
  • Judges: Judges 8:22-27
  • Priests: Numbers 16

Jesus’ Teaching and Example

Here are examples from reading over only 1 gospel (Matthew’s):

  • Matt. 4:4-11 – Jesus appeals to Scripture alone as final authority when confronted and tested by Satan (“It is written” – vv.4,7,11). Note: the authority most recognized by Jesus and Satan was the written Word of God
  • Matt. 7:29 – Jesus’ words were considered authoritative, whereas those in “positions of religious authority” were not
  • The official and authoritative Jewish leaders of that time: taught that Jesus was from Satan (Mt. 12:24), were “blind” (Mt. 15:14), tested Jesus (Mt. 22:34-35), mocked Jesus (Mt. 27:41-43), plotted Jesus’ death (Mt. 12:14; 26:3-4,15,47; 27:1), etc.
  • Mt. 12:1-8 – these Jewish leaders condemned Jesus and disciples for not following their tradition and interpretation of the Bible
    • 12:3-7 – Jesus rebuked them by quoting 3 passages of Scriptures as His authority (“have you not read” – vv. 3, 5)
  • Mt. 15:1-9 – Jesus plainly taught that Scriptures have authority over religious leaders and traditions
    • 15:1-2 – religious leaders and traditions condemned Jesus and disciples (note: the Jews of Jesus’ day believed that Moses delivered 2 laws to Moses, and both were perfectly preserved: (1) written law, (2) oral traditions later recorded by religious leaders. They were condemning him on the basis of one of these “oral traditions,” but Jesus showed that the Scriptures have authority over that. See the respected Albert Barnes on this note.
    • 15:3-6 – Jesus says that the Scriptures hold authority over religious leaders and their traditions
    • 15:9 – Jesus calls the traditions of the religious leaders “commandments of men”
  • Mt. 16:6,11-12 – Jesus specifically warned His disciples to NOT FOLLOW the teachings of those in current positions of religious authority
  • Mt. 21:33-45 –
    • 21:33 – the “vinedressers” were appointed by God, and represented the Jewish leaders throughout history, including Jewish leaders of that day (cf. 21:45)
    • 21:34 – the “servants” were sent by God and actually had His words (think Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.)
    • 21:34-41 – “authoritative” Jewish leaders have rejected God’s word through His prophets and His Son, and will be destroyed if they do not repent
  • Mt. 22:29 – Jesus says the reason the religious authorities err is firstly because they did not know, follow, and teach the Scriptures
  • Mt. 22:34-46 – Jewish leaders continually test Jesus, but He consistently appeals to the authority of the Scriptures and rebukes them for not appealing to this same authority
  • Mt. 23 – Jesus rebukes the official and current religious leaders, saying: They love being called “teacher” and”father” (vv.6-10), they are hypocrites who do not enter God’s kingdom (v.13), they make pretense in long prayers (v.14), they do missionary work, but are “sons of hell” (v.15), they are “blind guides” (v.16), they are”fools and blind” (v.17), they outwardly appear righteous (v.28), they are “serpents, brood of vipers!” who are condemned to hell (v.33)
  • Mt. 26:57-68 – the high priest (who was anointed as “the” leader and even received true words from God, see John 11:49-52) condemned Jesus to death and accused Him of blasphemy

Scripture Has Higher Authority Than The 12 Apostles

All 12 apostles were wrong in their beliefs about Jesus and obedience to Him (Mt. 26:8). All 12 apostles left Him at His greatest time of need (Mt. 26:56). All 12 opposed Jesus’ purposes at times (see Mt. 26:8-9, for instance).

Judas Iscariot — had an “apostolic ministry,” (Acts 1:25), was appointed by Jesus as 1 of the 12 apostles (Mark 3:13-19), was commissioned by Jesus to “preach” (Mk. 3:14), and empowered to heal and deliver from demons (Mk. 3:15). YET…Judas had Satan enter into him (Jn. 13:27), and led a crowd in betraying Jesus (Luke 22:47-48; Acts 1:16), committing horrible wickedness (Acts 1:18).

Peter — “appointed” as an apostle (Mk. 3:14-16), given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 16:18), an “elder” of the church (1 Pet. 5:1). YET…spoke false things about Christ (Mt. 16:22), Jesus called him,”Satan…an offense to Me…not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men,” (Mt. 16:23), denied Jesus (Mt. 26:34), disbelieved and disagreed with Jesus’ words (Mt. 26:35), disobeyed the Lord (Mt. 26:40), taught others wrongly and compelled them to play the hypocrite (Gal. 2:11-14 – note that Barnabas and others were rebuked for following Peter here).

John — an apostle (Mk. 3:14-17)…writes to all believers “you do not need that anyone teach you,” (1 Jn. 2:27), quotes Jesus commending Ephesian believers because, “you have tested those who say they are apostles” (Rev. 2:2), and says, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits…many false prophets have gone out into the world,” (1 Jn. 4:1)

Paul — appointed by Jesus as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8)…writes: “If we [apostles] or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed,” (Gal. 1:8), and, “Test all things,” (1 Thes. 5:21). (See more of Paul’s words below).

Peter, Paul, and Barnabas — all appointed as apostles (Mark 3:14-16; Acts 14:14)…BUT, when they presented doctrine inspired by the Holy Spirit, the church leaders did not initially accept it as certain. Only after James pointed out the Scriptures did they receive it as truth (Acts 15).


Antichrist in the Scriptures is depicted as someone who comes from within the church (1 Jn. 2:18-19), appearing as a leader in the church (2 Thes. 2:4), looking like Jesus (Rev. 13:11), but is a “false prophet,” (Rev. 19:20), whose words are from Satan (Rev. 13:11). In fact, Judas (a true apostle chosen by Jesus) is linked as a type for Antichrist (compare John 17:12 with 2 Thes. 2:3). With this in mind, we should never trust someone on the basis of their “apostolic” status alone, but must use Scripture as the standard to see if they are speaking truth.

Don’t “Think Beyond What is Written”

In 1 Corinthians, Paul rebuffs the Corinthian Christians for making too much of the apostles and their wisdom. He writes, “I planted, Apollos watered…neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase…Let no one boast in men,” (1 Cor. 3:6-7,21). And then he explains: “These things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written,” (1 Cor. 4:6). In other words, the Scriptures they wrote hold authority, but any “wisdom” and words they share beyond “what is written,” does not hold the same authority, and the Corinthians were rebuked for making too much of these.

Ephesian Elders

In Acts 20, Paul addresses the Ephesian church leaders and says: “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church…after my departure savage wolves will come in AMONG YOU…from AMONG YOURSELVES MEN WILL RISE UP, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch…” (Acts 20:28-31). Deception would come from among the Holy Spirit ordained church leaders. Not outside of them.

Noble Bereans

Acts 17:11 says, “These Jews [Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word [of Paul and Silas] with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” They are called “noble” for examining and testing the words of the apostles by comparing them with the Scriptures daily.

Paul’s Last Words

Consider some of the last words Paul writes in the New Testament: “the Holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation…All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be COMPLETE, THOROUGHLY EQUIPPED for EVERY GOOD WORK….Preach THE WORD!…For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine…” (2 Timothy 3:15-4:3). According to this, the Scripture makes a man (or woman, by extension), “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Thus, if there is any truly “good work” God is calling you to do, and it is not supported somewhere in the Bible, Paul and God are liars according to this passage.

One thought on “Scripture or Christian Leaders: What is our Authority?

  1. This so good that every believer should memorize the scriptures in this article.
    This holds the key to holding on in troublous times and not merely surviving, but thriving.
    Overcoming not succumbing to the gods of this present age.

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