Try talking to a random middle-schooler and telling them they have to clean their homeroom. Before you can finish your sentence, the words, “Who says?!?!” will be on the way to your ears. There is a natural instinct to resist commands from someone who has no authority in our lives. It is not an altogether bad way to approach our life. What if the instructions come from a person who means us harm? We certainly don’t want to cede control of our lives to an untrustworthy actor.
Unfortunately, many of us react with a, “Who says?” because we have a rebellious heart. Instead of, “Yes sir/ma’am.” our first exclamation is always, “You’re not the boss of me!” What is true in our secular life is often the fact of our spiritual journey. Our society is in the process of reducing Scripture verse by verse and apostle by apostle. Don’t like male leadership in worship? Who says Paul can tell us that? Think baptism for the forgiveness of sins is too narrow a teaching? Those letters aren’t in red. I only signed up to be a Jesus follower!
In Christianity, we are right to ask the question. If a teaching can not be found in Scripture, “Who says?” is the proper response. We have put the traditions of men (Mark 7:6-9) behind us and listen only to the God who gave Jesus the kingdom in which we abide. This is the point in the exercise where someone will inevitably say, “That’s why I only obey the words printed in red in my Bible!” With that they think they have one a great Spiritual battle and they are then free to sin almost without sanction. Of course, most of those with this attitude aren’t as familiar with what those words have to say in the first place (Matthew 5:43-48; 6:14-15;10:37-39; Mark 7:20-23; 10:6-12; Luke 10:31-37; John 13:14; etc.).
The real error here is the misunderstanding of the teaching of the apostles and prophets. When we read a book like Ephesians, we will often say, “Paul says.” or “the apostle teaches. That is correct, but it hides the true authority of every word of the Bible. So, let’s take a moment and go to the Old Testament to learn where Paul’s words and teaching originate.
In Exodus chapter three, God appears to Moses and tasks him with leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses begs God to release him from this duty with several excuses including a fear of public speaking. God overcomes that objection by sending Moses’ brother, Aaron, as his spokesman. That leads us to chapter four where we have this seemingly blasphemous statement from the Lord himself. God tells Moses about Aaron, “you shall be as God to him.”-v16. Taken out of context, that seems to be a blatant violation of the first commandment. What the Lord was really doing was explaining how the process of inspiration works.
Just as God breathes into an apostle or prophet the message he wants delivered. Moses would do the same for Aaron. God would tell Moses, then Moses would, “and put the words in his mouth,”-v15. The Lord wasn’t saying Moses, “would be God” or even a god. But in the transmitting of God’s inspired message, Moses would take the role usually performed by God. In those cases, it would be right to say, “Aaron says.” or “Moses says.” But the message, the very words, would be from God.
The same principle is at work in the New Testament. Yes, the words in red, are the actual, spoken words of our Savior, but so is every word in the New Testament. Jesus makes this clear, “the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”-John 13:26. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”-John 16:13-15.
Just like Moses and all the prophets, “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”-II Peter 1:21. God gave to Moses. Moses gave to Aaron. The Father gave to the Son. Jesus gave to the apostles. Is it right to say something was written by Paul, Peter, John, etc.? Absolutely! Is it correct to state those same sentences are the word of God or the teachings of the Lord Jesus? No doubt about it.
So the next time someone tries to minimize the message breathed into an apostle of Jesus Christ by asking, “Who says?” Tell them plainly, “God!”