Thursday, August 27, 2009

Who Has Received the Authority?

“By what authority are you doing these things?” This was a question that was hurled at the Lord (Matthew 21:23-27). While Jesus treated the question with disdain, it is still asked in Christ's church, sometimes with serious practical implications. What, then, is the basis of authority in the Christian church?

It is based in Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5; John 14:6; Acts 4:12). A mediator is a go-between, and anyone who claims that we have to go through them to get to God is setting themselves up as a mediator in place of Christ. The ultimate expression of Christ's authority is the Bible, and it is by the Bible that all things are to be tested (Galatians 1:8,9; Acts 11:17; 2 Timothy 3 :16,17). Human authority is justified by the teachings of Scripture (Hebrews 5:4-6).

But where does human authority come from in the church? In John 1 :12 in the Greek, it reads “But to those who receive Him, that is to those who believe (have faith) in His name, He gives the authority to become sons of God.” (It is clear here in the context that “sons of God” does not mean everyone, but those who are born again of the Spirit of God; see John 1:13, 8:42-47; Romans 8:16,17). Peter professed faith in Christ (Matthew 16:13-17) and was promised the authority of binding and loosing (Matthew 16:18-19). It is those who have the faith of Peter who share the authority of Peter. Christ, after claiming all authority resided in Him, told the 11 disciples (note: not "apostles," referring to their office, but "disciples," referring to their being followers of Christ) that they had the authority to make other disciples, baptize, and teach. Christ, speaking to his disciples on the subject of church discipline (Matthew 18:1, 15-20), stated that they all would have the authority of binding and loosing and what they would agree on when they gathered together would be established. When the followers of Christ gather together, they have the authority to do the work of the church. I do not see this as advocating a specific procedure (such as voting), but as grounding whatever is done in the consent of the disciples of Christ. Leadership is based on this authority, but once instituted there is a obligation to be subject to them (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13). But leaders are to act as servants (Luke 22:25,26) and not lord it over the flock (1 Peter 5:1-4).

In all this I do not see a specific system, but a set of general principles, with considerable latitude in their application. The real basis of authority is obedience to Christ and to His word. The emphasis in Scripture is not on what individual is in charge, but that those in charge are to decide issues based on what Christ wants and what His word says, not on what pleases them.

No comments:

Post a Comment