“As One Having Authority”

The Sermon on the Mount,” Carl Bloch, 1890

Matthew ends his account of the Sermon on the Mount with a comment about the reaction of the audience:

When Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Matthew 7:28-29

What does it mean to teach “as one having authority?”

Joseph Smith added some insight in his revision to the final verse. In his version, Jesus “taught them as one having authority from God, and not as having authority from the scribes” (Matthew 7:29, footnote a).

Not long before delivering this sermon, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, fasting and communing with God. He must have felt particularly close to His Father at that time, and particularly empowered to do His work. Thirteen times in the sermon, He says, “I say unto you” (seventeen times in the Book of Mormon version). Several of those times, supersedes words that were “said by them of old time” (or in the Book of Mormon, words that are “written”). (See Matthew 5:12, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43 and 3 Nephi 12:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43.) What a contrast from the scribes, who derived their authority from the written word and from their oral tradition!

Not that a knowledge of the scriptures is a bad thing, of course. Jesus knew the scriptures well and referenced them frequently. But His study of the scriptures had brought Him closer to His Father, and His power came from that closeness, not from memorized words.

William D. Oswald explained:

This authority to teach and minister came from His Heavenly Father, for “God anointed Jesus … with the Holy Ghost and with power … ; for God was with him.”

Following this pattern, Jesus was taught by His Heavenly Father, as recorded by John. Jesus said, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me.”

Gospel Teaching—Our Most Important Calling,” General Conference, October 2008

Ammon and his brothers “searched the scriptures diligently” and gave themselves “to much prayer, and fasting.” As a result, “they taught with power and authority of God” (Alma 17:2-3)

When King Noah commanded his priests to take the prophet Abinadi away, they “durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster…and he spake with power and authority from God” (Mosiah 13:5-6).

Today, I will strive to draw closer to my Heavenly Father. I will remember that my relationship with Him, far more than my knowledge, will empower me to teach effectively.

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