The study of Christianity must include the meaning of authority. Who is the source of authority? How is this authority revealed to man?
God, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, the creator of the universe (please read John 1:1-3) is the supreme authority. The epistle of Hebrews tells us:
"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe." (Hebrews 1:1, 2)
Many years before God sent His Son the people of the earth hallowed God by accepting the authority of Moses and the prophets. Today God reveals His will to us through His Son.
The apostle Matthew tells us about a time when God showed His approval of His Son. Please read Matthew 17:1-8. Moses, the Old Testament lawgiver, and Elijah, representative of the Old Testament prophets, were present. Read this fifth verse:
"While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, `This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" (Matthew 17:5)
We are to let Jesus tell us how to live. Our Lord gave such a command during His lifetime. After His death and resurrection, His authority took the place of Moses and the prophets. Please read Galatians 3:19; 24-25; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:7-13; 10:9, 10.
The Old Testament commands were delivered to the Jewish nation and carry examples for our learning. Read I Corinthians 10:1-6.
The instruction of our Lord are contained in the 27 documents we call the New Testament scriptures. It is essential that we give heed to these inspired words. Luke 10:16 says: "He who listens to you (the apostles of Christ) listens to me, and he who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." We who accept Jesus as Lord accept the will of His Father.
Read carefully John 7:16; 17:4, 8.
God is the source of all religious authority. He gave this authority to His Son. Jesus said:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28:18)
Since all authority is given to our Lord, we must not accept anyone or anything that does not agree with Him. The 27 New Testament books contain what Jesus wants us to do to be saved and live the Christian life. Please read John 6:68, 69; 17:3; II Peter 1:3.
The supreme authority of Jesus Christ is revealed in the superior place given Him by our Heavenly Father. The apostle Paul writes,
"Which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1:20-23)
Read Philippians 2:8-11; Colossians 2:9, 10; I Peter 3:22. The New Testament scriptures present Jesus Christ as Divine (John 1:1); Prophet (Acts 7:37); King (I Timothy 6:14, 15); High Priest (Hebrews 7:23-28; 8:1-5); Savior and Redeemer (Titus 2:13-14). These scriptures emphasize the superiority and authority of Jesus Christ.
As we have read in Luke 10:16, to accept Jesus' authority is to also accept the authority of His twelve apostles. These apostles were our Lord's personal messengers, or witnesses, on earth.
To these men Jesus said:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)
The apostle Paul wrote,
"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." (II Corinthians 5:20)
John, speaking of himself, and all the other apostles, declared,
"We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood." (I John 4:6)
Read I John 1:1-4.
The person who accepts the authority of Jesus Christ will also accept the New Testament teachings, which came through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Before He left the earth to return to His Father in heaven, the Lord promised to send to His apostles the Holy Spirit. To bear witness of Jesus Christ and instruct them in His teachings and authority so that they could proclaim Him and His teachings to men (John 14:26; 15:26, 27; 16:13). Through New Testament teachings the Holy Spirit convicts people "in regard to sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:7-11).
The Holy Spirit, in guiding the apostles in all truth, always expressed the authority and glory of Jesus Christ. Jesus promised His apostles:
"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." (John 16:13, 14)
Men who claim a special revelation from the Holy Spirit, but whose teachings are contrary to the gospel of Christ, are fakes. All the revelation given by inspiration through the Holy Spirit is included in the New Testament scriptures. In the New Testament Jesus reveals His authority to us. Those persons who teach and do that which the Bible does not authorize or approve are without Christ. John explains,
"Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son." (II John 9)
Because Jesus Christ is the supreme authority in religion and the Savior of men, we must go to His teachings to learn what we must do to be saved.
Before Jesus returned to heaven after His death and resurrection He gave to His apostles the "great commission," which reveals the terms of salvation through Christ. Three records are given of this commission:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19, 20)
"Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:15, 16)
"This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:46-48)
These words indicate that one must believe in Christ, repent of sins, and be baptized in order to receive salvation in the Lord. The following lessons will explain these steps. Men have salvation in Christ only when they submit to His will. To reject any part of His teaching is to reject the authority of Christ.
Jesus Christ, first authority in life, will also be the first authority in the day of judgment.
"For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man." (John 5:26, 27)
Each person's life will be judged by the teachings of Christ. Jesus said,
"There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." (John 12:48)
Therefore, we must be certain that we fully submit ourselves to His authority.
Jesus the Son of God and supreme authority in Christianity gives a loving and tender invitation for all people to come to Him for salvation:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)