God is the only authority.
In his short letter to the Christians, Jude warns his readers about the dangers of abandoning proper authority: “In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings. But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction. What sorrow awaits them!” (vs 8-11)
As I read these verses, I couldn't help but think about the Western culture I live in. It seems that we are, with each successive generation, wandering farther away from identifying anything (let alone the Bible) as a genuine source of authority and truth. Instead, many have adopted a “whatever works for you” attitude. Scary.
And the scariest thing about it is that this is nothing new. We may think we’re all enlightened and intelligent and totally capable of figuring out what constitutes truth on our own, but we have a sobering example from Biblical history of where that kind of thinking leads.
Have you read the book of Judges lately? It describes the absolute darkest period in Israel’s history. When people talk about censoring the Bible for children, they are usually referring mostly to the events chronicled in the book of Judges. And Judges ends with this ominous sentence: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (Jdg 21:25)
Recognizing the proper source of authority is crucial for living an abundant life, yet it is the one thing the sinful human heart chafes so wildly against. That’s where the other example Jude uses in this passage comes in—the example of Michael the Archangel. He, apparently, didn't even fight the devil on “his own authority,” yet appealed to God’s authority instead.
Some people have theorized that this refutes the idea that Michael was really Jesus in angelic form—since, I guess, the thinking is that Jesus would have appealed to His own authority. But I actually believe this bolsters the idea that Michael was Jesus in angelic form, for appealing to God’s authority is precisely what Jesus did when He met the devil in the wilderness! Three times, the devil tempted Christ to use His power for a selfish purpose, and three times, Jesus answered the devil by quoting Scripture.
He didn't appeal to His own personal authority, but rested on the authority of God’s word.
And that is exactly what Jude suggests we should do. Instead of rejecting authority, instead of believing that we are wise enough to figure out what’s good on our own, Jude encourages us to look to Jesus and the example He set for us.
To rely on our own ability to do what seems right is to head down the same path that led the Israelites into their darkest era. The only way out of that kind of sure destruction is to rest in all the truth God has revealed through the ages. For no matter who comes along with the newest theory of what constitutes goodness and righteousness, God is still the only authority.
Listen. Submit. Live.