Whether we actively consider it or not, authority is a very important part of our existence as human beings. Throughout time people have always recognized that there must be some person or entity that maintains power and regulates everyday existence. That person or entity is thus vested with authority, or power.
Since America, at least in theory, is a representative republic– two-thirds of the government is directly chosen by election by the people to represent them– many feel that they are the ones who have the authority. The great amount of liberty that exists in America also provides legitimacy to this idea. On account of these things, along with inherited cultural traditions, Americans often have difficulty respecting authority and submitting themselves to authority.
While at least the pretense of a representative republic may exist in the political sphere, we must recognize that no such thing is true in the spiritual arena. The Bible makes it very clear who has all authority in heaven and on earth: Jesus the Christ (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:36).
The Bible reveals that God the Father, who as the Creator has all authority over His creation (cf. Genesis 1, Romans 9:20-21), gave this authority over heaven and earth to Jesus after His resurrection and ascension (cf. Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus obtained this authority because He glorified the Father an d learned obedience through the things that He suffered, being made high priest in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 4:15, 5:5-10).
If we recognize that Jesus is indeed Lord and Christ– in fact, the Lord of lords and King of kings (Acts 2:36, Revelation 19:16)– our obligation should be evident: we must serve Him and do His will (Luke 17:5-10, Romans 6:16-22). The Bible teaches us that everything we do in word or deed should be done “in the name of,” that is, by the authority of, the Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17). The Bible also makes clear that those who do not serve Him and do His will shall be condemned eternally to the misery of Hell (Romans 2:5-10, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). It is critical, therefore, for us to make sure that everything we do is according to the will of God in Jesus Christ!
But how do we go about establishing that kind of authority? How can we know whether what we are doing is really by Jesus’ authority? Some people believe that Jesus directly communicates to them what they should do. Others believe that God entrusted a religious organization and its officials with that responsibility. Many look to the New Testament and the teachings of the Apostles alone to establish justification for faith and practice. Which of these, if any, is appropriate?
1 Corinthians 13:8-10 makes it difficult to believe that Jesus directly communicates to anyone today; even if He did, it would be according to what was already revealed (Galatians 1:6-9, 1 John 4:1). You will search the New Testament and early Christian history in vain to find any idea or example of God investing any religious organization with the ability to determine faith and practice.
Instead, the Bible makes it quite clear that while on earth, Jesus invested the twelve Apostles with authority. They would bind and loose on earth what had already been bound and loosed in heaven (cf. Matthew 16:19, 18:18). God would send the Spirit to the Apostles to remind them all things that Jesus taught them and to establish the will of God for mankind in the new covenant He made with them through Jesus the Christ (cf. John 14:26, 16:7-13; Hebrews 9). The New Testament records that the Spirit descended upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), and from that point onward they preached the good news of Jesus living, dying for the sin of the world, being raised from the dead in power, and ruling from heaven (cf. Acts 2:16-36, etc.).
From that point on, disciples of Jesus Christ devoted themselves to the Apostles’ doctrines (Acts 2:42). The Apostles taught many things recorded for us in the New Testament, and we can devote ourselves to those teachings (cf. Hebrews 2:2-4, 2 Peter 3:1-2). There is no indication that the authority vested in the Apostles was ever vested in any man or organization: instead, Jesus maintains all authority, and He has set forth His will for us in the Scriptures. Therefore, if we seek to serve God according to His will, to be able to do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus and to be saved, we will seek to establish authority for our words and deeds in the Bible, declared sufficient to equip us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible will provide us authority for our actions either by direct command, approved example, or necessary inference. Everything we do ought to be justified by an appeal to Biblical precedent or a justified Biblical liberty. Anything that cannot be so proven ought not be done!
What about you? Do you, and/or the church with which you associate, do all things according to Jesus’ authority? Can you show us from the Bible all things that you do? If not, by what authority are you doing the things that you do? Let us all serve Jesus the Lord according to His will as revealed in the Bible!
Ethan R. Longhenry