Do preachers have Apostolic authority? Is there such as thing as Apostolic succession? Preachers everywhere complain that nobody is listening. There is nothing new about this: for even God complains that no one is listening…
“I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, after their own thoughts….”[i]
[ii]Isaiah complains about the same problem:
“Who has believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
And Jonah is most likely crushed into an irrational insanity and death wish because of this willful deafness among his audience. In fact, this willful deafness seems to be the common experience of all the great Prophets, writing in the Old Testament.
If these Old Testament Prophets are above reproach in unquestionable possession of Divine delegated authority; and, nobody listened to them: then the fact that people don’t seem to be listening can never be a good test of Apostolic authority. Even though His sheep hear His voice,[iii] it may very well be that there are no sheep within reach of the preacher’s voice: the preacher must not be discouraged, when he feels that no one is paying attention.
Yes, we agree that there is such a thing as Apostolic authority, and it is handed down within the Church.[iv] That being conceded, the true test of Apostolic authority is not whether people listen; rather it is whether the preacher clings to the Spirit and faithfully presents what the Spirit teaches. Thus, all Apostolic authority derives only from the Spirit’s power and Christ’s authority: it is what it is, because the King and Vicar say so. The Spirit may delegate that power of Christ’s authority to the simplest uncredentialled country bumpkin, as he does with Amos[v]; yet, deny that authority to the highest prelate: the Spirit alone, has the power to decide all such matters.
The proud preacher probably has nothing useful to say: for the power of the Spirit, the authority of the Word, and the voice of Scripture combine to humble us all. The humbled and unheard preacher must find his courage, hope, and strength in Father, Son, and Spirit: not in any silent (inattentive and unhearing?) audience. Faithfulness to God is all that matters at the end of the day. Ultimately, the preacher must learn to walk in Job's shoes.