In Eastern tradition, it was often said that leaders needed “the mandate of heaven” or the divine right to lead the people. In the West, historically there was less divine in it, more human, as the aristocracy tended to rule. In more modern times, we lean toward a meritocracy (although the aristocracy of wealth is alive and well). We like the humanist idea that a man can be self-made.
But being self-made, placing the mantle of leadership upon ones self is an idea that has no place in spiritual doings, in my view.
A spiritual leader needs to have the mandate of heaven — the proper authority — to perform special ordinances, like baptism. This is why the Apostle Paul, in Acts 19-20, comes through and pulls a do-over with the Corinthian saints.
Over in Galations 1:1 it is clear that Paul had real authority to baptize and perform other ordinances:
Paul, an apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead).
There are clearly five or more things he does in Acts 19-20 that not just anyone could do — even by regular joes that invoke the name of Christ. Those things are:
- Holy Ghost
- The Sacrament
- Healing of the sick
- Casting out of devils
- Raising of the dead
Now, there are instances of healings in scripture without reference to authority, but these chapters make it pretty clear that Paul actually has special authority. He begins the chapters by rebaptizing the Corinthian saints. Their baptisms in the name of John, without proper authority, did not have the power to save them. Paul does it in the name of Christ, and then he gives them the gift of the Holy Ghost by laying his hands upon them, an act of bestowal of godly power (see Acts 6:6 for instance), and the same way Paul got his authority (Acts 13:3, [there called Saul]).
So in Acts 19, when Paul performs a casting out of devils, the scriptures record that even the bad spirits understood that Paul and Christ both had power and authority over them, whereas the “vagabond Jews, exorcists” (19:13) could not cast them out…even by invoking the names of Paul and Christ.
Paul’s actions in these chapters provide a pattern for spiritual ordinances: they must be done in the name of Jesus Christ and by someone with the proper authority.
This raises a question about many Christian ordinances, especially baptism, bestowal of the Holy Ghost, and the holy sacrament. Where does the person performing the ordinance get his authority? Jesus called and ordained apostles (Luke 6:13, John 15:16) who ordained others (Acts 6:6) until there were a good number of seventies and elders (Luke 10:1, Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5) throughout the church. But in not many years the main apostles were killed off and the church members scattered. The New Testament of the Bible begins and ends with the same generation of players, the same cast of characters! Where did the authority go? Did the Jews retain it? If so, why did the apostles want Jews to convert and take on a new baptism? If it remained with the early Christian church, where were the new prophets and apostles?
Could even the sincere (and very needed) protestant reformation — over a thousand years later — create new authority without ordination by one who already had the authority?
Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. – Amos 3:7
In Ephesians 2:20, it is clear that the Church is “built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.”
It certainly makes reasonable the question:
Where are the prophets and apostles ordained with the “mandate of heaven” today?