My all-time favorite scripture about authority comes from the inimitable apostle Peter in Acts 5.
This was after the Ascension, when the religious authorites put Peter into prison.
What were his crimes?
Sick folks and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: they were healed every one.
How awful! The apostles were actually healing people instead of teaching them to have faith NOT to be healed.
Then the high priest rose up . . . filled with indignation,
Why was he so angry? Was he upset these nobodies from Galilee didn't have permission from the proper authorities? Because they were making the leaders look bad?
And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.
I guess from the perspective of the high priest, what good is healing if the leaders aren't getting the credit? Put the rascals in prison where we can knock some sense into them to make them play ball.
Notice the signs of the apostleship that followed Peter. Isn't it interesting the sick were healed "every one?"
This made the religious authorities look impotent (because they were); it destroyed the illusion their priestcraft created.
Guess who posted Peter's bail?
Heavenly Bail Bondsman
In the ultimate jail break, an angel came to lend Peter a helping hand.
The angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said,
Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.
For such a short verse, there's a lot to unpack in the angel's instruction to Peter:
1. "GO." The angel was like, "What're you doing here in jail, fellas, when there are people out there who need to hear the Good News?! Get out of here; go!"
This showed a complete disregard to the authority of the religious leaders who had put them in jail.
2. "STAND." The angel was telling the apostles to get off their duffs and stand up! Stand up to the spiritual abuse; stand up to the hypocrisy; stand up for Christ in the midst of spiritual wickedness.
The angel was like, "Do you think you're on a smoking break? What're you doing lying about in jail, as if this were a jolly holiday, when there are people out there who need to hear the Good News?!"
3. "SPEAK." Simple, wasn't it? Speak! "Go open your mouths and declare the Good News!"
Peter: "We [are not] permitted to speak anything of our own. For we are sent; and of necessity he who is sent delivers the message as he has been ordered, and sets forth the will of the sender. For if I should speak anything different from what He who sent me enjoined me, I should be a false apostle."
(Clement of Rome, Recognitions, Book II, chapter 33)
The Lord's message to us in the latter-days is the same as it was to Peter; he wants us to SPEAK:
But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man.
What do we "fear" from man? That we might be embarrased for our beliefs? That we might be shunned in Sunday School for our witness of Christ? That we might be excommunicated by the bishop for our boldness in declaring his Word?
4. "IN THE TEMPLE." Well, this is interesting: the angel sends them to preach where it's going to make the high priest the maddest, in the seat of the Jewish authorities' power: the temple.
How ironic that the Jews sought salvation through the temple while rejecting the living Temple of God (Christ).
Like the Jews, the Church today focuses on the temple in a way that gives the members false hope. There is no redemption but through Christ.
"But Tim," someone says, "the temple is about bringing us unto Christ. We make covenants with Christ in the Temple."
Okay. We might as well baptize a bag of sand, or endow a bag of sand, or seal a bag of sand, for all the good it will do them, if they do not have the Words of Life abiding in them.
5. "TO THE PEOPLE." Notice the angel tells them to preach indiscriminately, to everyone. They aren't to focus on a specific segment of the population ("stay away from Blacks; or gays; or feminists"). Their message is universal to all of God's children.
It's also interesting the angel sends them directly to the masses and not through "proper priesthood channels." The Lord doesn't seem to care who delivers His message, and at times he even speaks from the mouths of babes.
When the Good News is filtered through leadership, it often gets watered down with the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches, as they worry about proper messaging, and the Church's image, reputation, tithing receipts, etc.
7. "ALL." The angel tells them to not hold back. None of the redaction and censorship we get from modern authorities who keep sacred secrets; who conceal Church finances and who place our historical records under lock and seal.
What does the Lord have to hide? The Good News is all good to share. The angel doesn't tell them to pocket their pearls. No, he says "go and speak ALL the words of life."
8. "THE WORDS OF THIS LIFE."
Who else could this refer to, but to the Word of This Life, even Christ Jesus, in whom abides eternal lives?
Things Heating Up
The high priest convened a council with "all the senate of the children of Israel" to handle Peter once and for all (Acts 5:21).
They summon the prison guard to escort the prisoners to the council, but learn that Peter has escaped. In fact, Peter had "entered into the temple early in the morning" (Acts 5:21).
Peter had been in prison all night, but instead of going home to take a nap or bathe, he goes at first light to preach in the temple.
So the guards went to retrieve Peter from the temple and brought him before the council.
The high priest accused him:
Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name?
Yes, the leaders had been crystal clear. But Peter answered to a higher power. It would be like going to your "membership council" where the leaders accuse you of apostasy, and tell you to stop saying all those awful things that Christ wants said, about needing to repent.
Here's Peter's response, and it is my all-time favorite come back.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said,
We ought to obey God rather than men.
Pause; I don't want us to miss what this means. Peter is saying something that was quite insulting to the high priest, calling the Lord's anointed (the high priest) a man.
How dare he! In modern vernacular, it would sound like this:
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said,
We ought to obey God rather than [the Brethren].
The Knives Come Out
Things are about to get dicey because Peter has provoked the religious authorites who "were cut to the heart" (Acts 5:33).
Despite being religious and moral authorites, the leaders "took counsel to slay them" (Acts 5:33).
Why were they so upset? Well, Peter had stood up to them; he couldn't be silenced and wouldn't sustain them; and the people were listening to him.
Peter testified to the council:
We are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
If there is one thing religious authorites cannot tolerate, it is people obeying God when it conflicts with their agendas.
Because Peter was popular with the people, the high priest let him off with a beating, this time.
And the council called the apostles, and [after they had] beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus.
So did Peter obey the council's decision? Did he obey their command to not speak or pray in Church?
And daily in the temple and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.