The Person of Christ (07): His Unchallenged Authority Pt1
by David McAllister
A few months ago, we looked together at Scriptural evidence for the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the intervening months, we have considered His humanity and His impeccability. We will now see how this One Who is truly God and the only perfect Man, demonstrated His authority during His public ministry here on earth.
Evidences of His authority are abundant in the gospel records. One example that comes to mind immediately is the stilling of the storm on the sea of Galilee, which elicits the following response from the disciples: “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!” (Matt 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25). We cannot possibly consider every demonstration of His authority, so we will limit ourselves to looking at His authority to meet the needs of those with whom He came in contact. These needs were many and varied, but can be grouped under three spheres: their need of teaching, of healing, and of forgiveness. In all three areas, the fact of His authority is explicitly stated. The word used in each case is exousia, which, in the KJV, is sometimes translated “authority,” and sometimes “power.”
The Need of Teaching
The people needed to hear the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel writers record many of the words that He spoke, and also make reference to messages He gave, the words of which are not recorded. Whether it was His teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath (Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32), or at the conclusion of His long “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt 7:29), the response of His listeners was that “He taught them as one that had authority (exousia), and not as the scribes.”
The teaching of the Lord Jesus must have been a refreshing change for these people in comparison to the rabbinical sermons. Doubtless His messages were much more interesting; His illustrations were much more vivid; His words were uttered with warmth and conviction, in contrast with the lifeless uttering of the Jewish religious leaders. His communications challenged the people and made them think, unlike the tedious monologues to which they were normally subjected; and surely the people were impressed by the weighty subjects with which He dealt, as opposed to the petty and peripheral issues that so exercised the minds of the legalistic leaders among the Jews.
While all that is true, yet the phrase “He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes,” goes much deeper, to something more fundamental. Whereas the scribes, in support of their teachings, quoted other authorities, the Lord Jesus spoke in His own Name, authoritatively, as One Who was to be listened to and obeyed, because He Himself had spoken. This sharp contrast is epitomized in the words that He speaks several times in Matthew 5: “Ye have heard that it was said … But I say unto you … “. The first phrase, “Ye have heard that it was said,” summarizes what these people had been accustomed to hearing from their scribes, who quoted others; the second, “But I say unto you,” summarizes the authority with which the Lord Jesus delivered His words to them. The people noticed the difference, and they were impressed by it.
The Need of Healing
Just as the Lord Jesus spoke with authority, His authority was also evident in the deliverance of people who were suffering. This is highlighted particularly in the case of those possessed by evil spirits. Indeed, an incident referred to above, in which He was acknowledged as speaking with authority in the synagogue in Capernaum is immediately followed by a miracle in which He cast out an evil spirit. The people were amazed, and said, “What a word is this! For with authority (exousia) and power He commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out” (Luke 4:36; Mark 1:27). The fact that the demons had to depart immediately from the possessed man showed that the Lord Jesus was more powerful than the demons; that is obvious. However, and perhaps this is the more pertinent point in the context, it showed that He had an authority that the Jewish exorcists (such as those referred to in Matthew 12:27) did not possess. Those exorcists invoked other authorities, but the Lord Jesus cast out on His own authority. They could not guarantee the obedience of the demons, whereas in His case, the demons had to obey, instantly and fully. The greatness of His authority was evident, and amazing.
The Need of Forgiveness
While many needed healing, everyone had a deeper need for their sins to be forgiven, and we are not wanting for evidence of the Lord’s authority in that area. The healing of the paralyzed man is a manifest example (Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26). The Lord tells him, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” and He gives unequivocal proof of His authority to do so. “But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power (exousia) on earth to forgive sins, (He saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all” (Mark 2:10-12).
The response of the crowd was one of astonishment. “They marveled, and glorified God, which had given such power (exousia) unto men” (Matt 9:8). His authority to heal the paralysis of the man was evidence of His authority to do an even greater work – to grant forgiveness to this man – and to any who would turn to Him in repentance and faith.
We thank God that, though He is no longer on this earth, He still has that authority, and that we have come into the great blessing of having experienced His forgiveness.
The Person of Christ (07): His Unchallenged Authority Pt2
by David McAllister
We have seen that the Lord Jesus, while here on earth, showed His authority in teaching the Word of God, healing people, and forgiving sins. In each case, multitudes of people acknowledged His evident authority. However, this acknowledgment was not universal. I would like to consider three occasions when He was verbally confronted by those who considered that they had greater authority than He, and who tried to show it. We will consider them in chronological order.
The first challenge to His authority was in the spiritual sphere – Satan himself – in one of the temptations in the wilderness. Showing the Lord all the kingdoms of the world in a moment, the devil said, “All this power (exousia; authority) will I give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If Thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine” (Luke 4:6,7). There is no doubt that Satan does exercise considerable power in the world’s kingdoms. The Lord called him “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and Paul wrote of him as “the god of this world” (2Cor 4:4). However, in making this offer to the Lord, the adversary was claiming something that was not his – authority over it all; and in addition, the right to give it to whomever he chose. Surely this was an empty boast; the same one who had made false promises in the garden, at the beginning of Old Testament history, was now making equally false promises in the desert, at the beginning of the New.
That the devil would make such a dishonest offer to any person would be bad enough, but to make it to the One Who has authority over all things was the height of insolence. How did the Lord Jesus deal with it? Not, as we might have expected, by pointing out the inaccuracies in Satan’s claims, but by authoritative quotation from the Word of God: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8; Deut 6:13). His quoting from the Scriptures, of which, of course He was the Author, was a statement of His authority; and showed Satan clearly that it is the Lord, and not Satan, who is to be worshiped; showed that it is He, and not the devil, Who wields the true and ultimate authority in the spiritual realm.
So much for a challenger in the spiritual sphere. We turn now to those in the religious and civil spheres – Jewish leaders, who were proud of their status, and resentful of the words and works of the Lord Jesus. The “chief priests” (religious leaders) and “elders of the people” (civil leaders) challenged Him thus: “By what authority doest Thou these things? and who gave Thee this authority?” (Matt 21:23). In Him they saw a challenge to their own authority, and were desirous to discredit Him, being sure that their authority was greater than any He might claim.
The subsequent discussion is most interesting (vv23-27). The Lord, in His infinite wisdom, did not give them a direct answer to their question, but turned it back on them, asking them their position on the source of John’s baptism. By doing so, not only did He expose their evil hearts, but He also laid bare their own lack of authority. They had to resort to a discussion among themselves, as to their strategy in the response they should give. This reply was not to be based on the merits of the case, but on what the comeback would be for them personally, either from the Lord or from the people. So they were reduced to a feeble, “We cannot tell.” How rich! Here were those who claimed to be the voice of authority to the people, but who based what they said, not on what was right, but on what would be least damaging for them. Their pathetic, “We cannot tell” demonstrated how paltry their authority was, in comparison with His.
We come, finally, to one with judicial authority, Pontius Pilate, and his challenge to the Lord: “Knowest Thou not that I have power (exousia; authority) to crucify Thee, and have power (exousia; authority) to release Thee?” (John 19:10). Pilate was the representative of the great Roman world power – Caesar’s representative in the region. In contrast, the Man standing in front of him had just been whipped (v1) and crowned with thorns (v2). Certainly He did not look powerful. Pilate did indeed have the authority to condemn or release a man, yet, in this case, he could not have been more wrong in his statement.
How simply, eloquently, and graciously the Lord replied to him: “Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above” (v11). Though Pilate would pass sentence on Him, it was only because of God’s purpose. No better commentary could be given on this than the prayer of the believers in Acts 4:27,28: “For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.” What an irony – Pilate, in condemning the Lord to be crucified, unwittingly demonstrated, not his own authority, but the authority of the One Whom he was condemning. Pilate was but an instrument, through whom God’s eternal counsel was being carried out.
So, yes, there were those who presumed to challenge the Lord’s authority. However, whether in the spiritual, religious, civil, judicial, or indeed any other area, such challenges were unable to stand. We, His people, gladly acknowledge His absolute, unchallenged authority.
The Person of Christ (07): His Universal Authority Pt3
by David McAllister
In the two previous articles, we looked at some areas in which the authority of the Lord Jesus was exercised during His ministry here on earth – acknowledged by some and denied (unsuccessfully) by others. This month we will see that His authority is not confined to when He was in this world, or only to those with whom He came into contact. Rather, it is wide ranging, covering the past, present, and future, and extending over all people.
There are four statements that He made, showing the universal nature of His authority. In each reference, the word used is the one we have been looking at in the previous two articles – exousia, sometimes translated “power,” sometimes, “authority.”
First, we turn to John chapter 10:17, 18: “I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father.”
How different was the death of the Lord Jesus to the death of any other person! To us, death is the ultimate sign of human weakness. None of us can prevent it, and any day we could meet someone who could take our life away. Yet to Him it was the very opposite – death was not inevitable – in fact, it had no claim upon Him at all. He had no fear of someone taking His life. He states here that no one could do it. And, far from being a sign of weakness, it was something He would voluntarily do, with full authority: “I have power to lay it down.”
That this was no empty claim is shown in what follows: “I have power to take it again.” An impostor could claim to have authority to lay down his life, but the emptiness of such a boast would be exposed by his remaining in the state of death. It was not so for the Lord Jesus: His resurrection vindicated the whole claim made in these verses – the unique authority to give His life, and to take it back again.
The blessed consequences of His death and resurrection are stated in the second statement that we will consider from John 17:1, 2: “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee: As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.”
In the early part of John 17 He speaks mainly concerning His apostles, with whom He was present at the time. However, the reference to “all flesh” and “as many as Thou hast given Him” indicates that more than the apostles are in view in this statement, a conclusion consistent with the fact that, later in the chapter, He encompasses all those who would believe in Him in His prayer (see particularly verse 20). How wonderful it is to know that the day I came to the Lord Jesus as a lost sinner and put my trust in Him Who laid down His life and took it again, I received eternal life from the Lord Jesus Himself, Who has the full authority to give it. Surely this fact is a tremendous source of assurance to every believer.
Our third reference is in Matthew 28:18: “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” – words spoken by the Lord between His resurrection and His ascension. While the use of the word “all” and the reference to “heaven and earth” indicate that the authority referred to here is all-embracive, yet it pertains to this passage in at least two specific ways: First, He has the authority to command His disciples to go everywhere and make disciples (“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”); second, He has the authority to expect obedience to all His commands, from all who become His followers (“teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”). So we, who have received eternal life, have the responsibility, in recognition of His authority, to obey His Word, and to make disciples of others.
This brings us to our fourth reference – John 5:27: “And [the Father] hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.” The word here translated “judgment” is rendered “condemnation” further up the passage, in that well-known gospel promise – “and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (v24). The believer will never face the judgment of which the Lord Jesus speaks here, but, solemnly, He Who has the authority to give eternal life to all who believe is the same One Who has the authority to execute judgment on those who refuse; and Who will surely carry it out.
We note that, in each of the four cases, the authority has been given to Him by His Father. This is explicitly stated in the three passages in John, and is implied in the reference in Matthew (“given”). This does not indicate any inferiority in the Son – we trust that sufficient has been said in earlier articles to make that clear. It does, however, show the distinctions between divine Persons, the complete unity and harmony within the Godhead, and the Father’s full confidence in the Son.
How great and how far reaching is the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ; authority to lay down His life and to take it again; authority to give eternal life to those who believe and to judge those who do not; authority to send out His own to tell others of Him, and authority to command us all to obey all His Word. May we recognize His authority, not only by our words, but by our willing submission to it.