The Authority of Christ

By Aude McKee

One of the most basic problems in our divided religious world is a lack of appreciation for the authority of Jesus Christ. In some cases there is lip service paid to His authority, but when it comes to actual practice, there is a woeful lack of compliance. In this article we want to look at the extent of the Lord’s authority and the foundation upon which it stands.

His Authority Is Universal

In Matthew’s account of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), Jesus said, “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.” The words “all,” “heaven,” and “earth” emphasize the universality of that authority. And then the words that follow do the same. What justification could Jesus have for instructing His apostles to “teach all nations” if all nations were not included in the scope of His authority? In a debate between E.C. Fuqua and Thomas B. Warren in 1954, brother Fuqua affirmed the proposition that those in the world were not amenable to the authority of Christ. “While in the world,” Fuqua said, “people cannot be with or without a scriptural cause for anything, seeing they are not under Christian law, but under civil law exclusively.” It seems to this writer that if this were true, we might be able to go to heaven on the basis of works. Observe speed laws, be honest in the payment of taxes, etc., and so having met the requirements of the only law binding on us, we would stand before God free of sin. The truth of the matter is, all of us are duty bound to observe civil law because of the authority of Christ. No one in the world would be duty bound by God to observe civil law were it not for passages like Romans 13.

In Acts 2, Peter preached to Jewish people. After a number of arguments relative to Jesus’ Sonship, death, etc., he said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 37). Many in the audience then cried, “What shall we do?” Their response to the sermon had to come as a result of a recognition of Jesus’ authority and the reply Peter gave to their question had to be obeyed for the same reason. Acts 2 shows clearly that Jews were subject to the law of Christ.

Then in Acts 10, the same preacher went to the house of Cornelius and delivered a message that resulted in salvation for those who obeyed it. These people were not Jews, they were Gentiles. But as you read the account of their conversion, you have to be impressed with the fact that their obedience sprang from a recognition of the authority of Christ over their lives and destiny. In fact, one of the first things Peter told them was that “God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.”

In Romans 14:9, Paul wrote, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.” With this passage before us, we have added another dimension to our outlook. Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth, He has authority over both Jew and Gentile, and now His authority extends to both the dead and the living!

Writing to the Colossian Christians (3:17), they were told that “whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Him.” “In the name of” means that all our words and deeds must have the Lord’s approval. “Words and deeds” cover a lot of ground, but if someone should think that our thoughts are not governed by the Lord’s authority, attention should be given to Matthew 5:27-28. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. ” Jesus Christ has the right (authority) to look into the recesses of a person’s heart and judge those desires that might never come to light in overt action.

Perhaps Moses reduced this matter of Jesus’ authority and the extent of it to the simplest form possible in Deuteronomy 18:18-19. Peter quotes this passage in Acts 3:22-23: “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; Him shall you hear in all things whatsoever He shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” The words “all things whatsoever He shall say” and “every soul which will not hear that prophet shall be destroyed,” are too clear to be misunderstood.

The Lordship Of Jesus

When the subject of authority is under consideration, attention needs to be given to the word “Lord.” The Greek word means “master, ruler; one in possession of absolute power and authority. ” Jesus, in Luke 6:46, asked the question, “Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say?” In John 13:13, “You call me Master and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. ” In Matthew 22:41-46, we learn that David called Jesus “Lord,” and this really caused the Jews a problem. Jesus wanted to know if the Christ was the son of David, then how could David call Him “Lord”? He was indeed David’s son (in the flesh), but He was at the same time David’s Lord because He is the Son of God. Then in Philippians 2:5-11, there is a passage that deals both with the humiliation of Jesus and His authority. In verses 5-8, we are told of His becoming man and of His obedience even unto death. The following verses (9-11), tell of His exaltation and the authority He now possesses. As a result of the fact that He has been given a name that’s above every name, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The Expression Of Christ’s Authority

The metropolitan government of Nashville has authority over all of Davidson County. There are hundreds of intersections where thousands of automobiles converge every day. If the government had no visible way of expressing its authority at those intersections, Nashville would be a mess. So stop lights are installed and traffic moves pretty well as long as people understand and respect those signs. In religion, Heaven must command and man must obey or chaos will reign. We have learned that Jesus is Lord, but the question facing us just now is how does the Lord express His authority to man? In Hebrews 1:1-2, we are told that “God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in the times past to the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son . . .” God’s written expression of authority in the past was made known by the Old Testament Scriptures. However, in this passage we are told that now it is different. God’s spokesman in our time is Jesus Christ. When we turn to Hebrews 9:15, we are told that Jesus “is the mediator of the New Testament. . . .” The Old Testament is God’s Word, but the laws of that document have been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). As we learned a moment ago, Moses (the one through whom God gave the Ten Commandments) himself said that Christ was to be heard in all things, and anyone who would not listen to Him would be destroyed. We need to recognize that the New Testament is Heaven’s way of guiding all who live on this earth, and none can ignore it and at the same time show respect for the authority of Christ. Indeed, Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, He has the right to command both Jew and Gentile, all our words, deeds and thoughts must be brought into harmony with His Will, and not only the living but also the dead are subject to His authority. Jesus’ authority is expressed in the New Testament and to that book we must turn, believe it, love it, and obey it in order to go to heaven when we die.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 3, pp. 75, 77
February 6, 1986