• By Eric Broyles
  • on Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Mk.11:27-30 27 And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, 28 And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things? 29 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me. 31 And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? 32 But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. 33 And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things. When Jesus asked the chief priests, scribes and elders whether the baptism of John was from heaven or of men, their reaction went immediately to what would happen depending upon the answer they gave. In the end they decided to give no answer because they didn't like the consequences of giving either of the possible answers. If they answered, "From heaven," they would convict themselves because they didn't believe John. If they answered, "Of men," they would risk alienating a great number of the people because they all believed John was a prophet. This was their concern. They weren't the least bit concerned about what the truth was. Many of today's "religious leaders" are no different. Rather than search the scriptures daily to know the truth of God as a noble man should do (Acts 17:11), they consider the consequences of taking a stand on certain doctrine and do what will cause the least disruption without alienating their congregation (or even the world). This often leads to a neutral position on doctrine, as it did in the passage we're considering. The chief priests, scribes and elders answered that they could not tell whence the baptism of John was. Their claim was both that they did not know and that they could not know. Mark their words, "We cannot tell." (emphasis mine) They did not just say that they didn't know, and they certainly didn't humble themselves and sincerely ask Jesus to explain it to them. They said they "cannot tell." Their claim is that the answer to Jesus' question cannot be known (at least not by themselves). Consider what this communicated to the people who witnessed this conversation (Jesus' disciples, among others). If the chief priests, scribes and elders cannot tell the answer to this question, what confidence does this give to a "regular Christian" that he can tell? The chief priests, scribes and elders obviously didn't believe Jesus' words when he said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (Joh.8:31-32) Many times we'll hear from "religious leaders" that we cannot know the truth of a given point of doctrine on this side of heaven. This is a complete copout to avoid the consequences of taking a stand on the issue. God has given us his word so that we can know the truth and we're responsible to prove all things from it (Joh.8:31-32; Joh.17:17; 1Ti.2:4; Pr.22:19-21; Lk.1:3-4; Rom.12:2; Eph.5:8-10; 1Th.5:21). Does this mean that we can know with certainty every aspect of God? No, but it does mean that when the Bible plainly declares a fact (as it does of the origin of John's baptism), the Bible is true and we can and should believe it and trust it and live our lives accordingly. Take a controversial point of doctrine as an example: election. The Bible clearly teaches that God has a people whom he has elected, whom he has chosen from out of the world to be his own and they are the people that he will save (Isa.45:4; Isa.65:9; Isa.65:22; Mt.24:22-31; Mk.13:20-27; Lk.18:7; Rom.8:33; Rom.9:11; Rom.11:5-7,28; Col.3:12; 1Th.1:4; 2Ti.2:10; Tit.1:1; 1Pe.5:13; 2Pe.1:10; 2Joh.1:1; 2Joh.1:13). These are just the verses that speak of God's "elect" or "election." How can one say that election is an issue that we cannot know with certainty, or that there is no right answer, or we won't know until we get to heaven? All three of those statements are lies, pure and simple, whether he who speaks them does so wittingly or not. Note that in Eph.3:3-4 Paul affirms that God had revealed to him the mystery of Christ of which he (Paul) had written "afore in few words." The mystery which Paul had already written about is God's saving work in Christ through election and predestination (Eph.1:3-12, note "mystery of his will", 1:9). If it was not something that was meant to be known and understood, why does Paul say "Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ"? (emphasis mine) Jesus taught with authority (Mt.7:29; Mk.1:22), being very sure that what he was teaching was true. "Right," you say, "but he is God, afterall." And right you would be. Paul, on the other hand, was not God, but he likewise taught with great authority and confidence that he was teaching the truth. And he counseled Titus to speak certain things "with all authority." (Tit.2:15) Neither Jesus nor Paul ever took a neutral position on a point of doctrine to avoid undesirable consequences. They both taught the truth with all authority and without regard for alienating the masses or kindling hatred toward themselves or being the subjects of stonings or scourgings or even the death of the cross! Jesus was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Php.2:8) Jesus did not compromise. He was Paul's example. Paul did not compromise. He is our example. We should not compromise. And anyone who has the audacity to claim to be a "religious leader" should be ashamed if they knowingly take a compromising position on a point of doctrine. "Oh, but when a leader takes a compromising position, he doesn't do it knowingly." Really? The chief priests, scribes and elders (the scholarly "religious elite" of their day) did just that. They carefully considered what would happen if they answered one way or the other; they didn't like either set of consequences, so they simply said they cannot tell. They were very much aware of what they were doing. They thought it through. They purposefully compromised. Don't think for a minute that this doesn't happen today among the "religious leaders." They are just as capable of succumbing to fleshly desires over spiritual truth as the chief priests, scribes and elders in Jesus' day. When you meet a "religious leader" who takes a compromising stand on a point of doctrine, beware. These are the type of people who pay for the betrayal of those who teach doctrine that they do not like. Judas was sent "from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders" when he came to betray Jesus (Mk.14:43). They think that they are doing God service but in reality they don't even know God. (Joh.16:2-3) Jesus said, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Mt.7:20-21) Compromising on the truth is not a good fruit. Fudge promotes truth decay. "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2Ti.2:15)

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