By What Authority?

Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, along with Benedict Arnold, surprised and overtook a small British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga on May 10, 1775. Scholars consider the capture of the fort as the first American victory in our war for independence. Allen and Arnold captured the fort less than a month after the battles of Lexington and Concord.


Fort Ticonderoga sits at the convergence of Lake Champlain and Lake George. “Ticonderoga” was an Iroquois word meaning “between two waters” or “where the waters meet.” Those in charge of the fort controlled access north and south between Albany and Montreal. The fort was strategic in location and armament.[1]


Allen, Arnold, and the Green Mountain Boys silently rowed across Lake Champlain from Vermont in an early-morning attack about dawn. The Americans invaded the fort while the British garrison slept. Allen and Arnold led the troops to the officers’ quarters and awakened General Jeffrey Amherst, demanding the fort’s surrender.


The startled general asked by whose authority Allen demanded their surrender. Allen responded, “The Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress.” And he added the phrase, “The authority of the Congress being very little known at this time.” He might have claimed the power of Congress, but it being new, he called on the ultimate authority, God![2]


I have been to Fort Ticonderoga and have seen for myself its strategic location. I stood at the site where Allen said the famous words to the startled British General. I let my mind imagine that morning’s victory for the Continentals.


The story goes on. On December 5, 1775, the twenty-five-year-old Colonel Henry Knox removed fifty-nine cannons and mortars from the fort. Knox’s troops pulled the sixty tons of weapons 300 miles by ox-drawn sleds. They brought the weaponry to a hill overlooking Boston harbor in fifty-six days. The British withdrew from the city at the sight of these cannons.


On May 31, 1775, three weeks after the siege of Ticonderoga, Harvard President Samuel Langdon spoke to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. He reiterated the need for God in America. He said:

“If God be for us, who can be against us? . . . May our land be purged from all its sins! Then the Lord will be our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble, and we will have no reason to be afraid, though thousands of enemies set themselves against us.”[3]


Fort Ticonderoga was a strategic military victory for Americans. The conquest was also a spiritual victory for the American cause. Ethan Allen laid out the bases for why he acted as he did. Yes, Congress authorized his actions. He and the Green Mountain Boys were not a rogue unit. They engaged in authorized, tactical warfare.


In addition, Allen and other Americans believed their cause was just and biblical. Preachers in their current and preceding generations had preached on the inalienable rights of God. As a result, Americans believed they had God’s authorization to resist tyranny and defend themselves. The battle of Lexington was the first organized military attack on the Americans. Self-defense became the order of the day as Americans fought back against the British tyranny.


Ethan Allen was not the only one whose enemies questioned his authority. Some of Jesus’ antagonists confronted Him one day and, according to Matthew 21:23 (NKJV), asked:

Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”


Jesus made people uncomfortable. He walked by the correct interpretation of God’s Law. So many people of Jesus’ day (and ours) prefer to go their own way. People want what they want and do not want to be challenged by God’s words.


By what authority did the government lockdown the nation and demand masks and injections? They acted on their authority, not the authority of Jesus. Jesus would have practiced the Levitical laws of purity and quarantine. He would have isolated the sick and let the healthy carry on with their lives.


By what authority is every form of immorality practiced today? We have every kind of degeneration. Our newest Supreme Court Justice is easy on pedophiles. Where do you think that will lead? The authority to practice evil is not of God. Yet, we want to be “happy” and think God wants us to be “happy,” so we do as those who do not live under authority. Those without authority become their standard and do “what is right in their own eyes,” according to Judges 21:25.


By what authority are churches sitting quietly and uninvolved as the world degenerates before our eyes? It is not by the authority of Christ. The Lord sent His disciples into the world to challenge and change the ungodly culture. Listen to the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV):

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.


The Great Commission is about saving the souls of men. Jesus came to do that (Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10). He also came to equip His followers to challenge and change the culture so that we can do on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). The early disciples succeeded. The pagans said, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” in Acts 17:6 (NKJV).


Let us reflect on the path we are traveling. Let us examine ourselves and ask, “By what authority do we do the things we do?” The colonists claimed no King but King Jesus during the War for Independence. Can we claim the same authority? Can we say, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and mean it?


Let’s Keep The Light of God’s Authority Burning!

[1] Editors.” The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga, A&E Television Networks, 20 May 2020,

[2] Youngs, Bill. “In the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress”, American Realities, 6 Nov. 2013,

[3] Federer, William J. American Minute. St. Louis, Amerisearch, Inc., 2012, p. 137.