Author: Ron Graham
Authority makes doctrine true. No doctrine is the truth unless it has the right authority, and no authority is valid unless it is based squarely on truth. Jesus Christ passes this test.
Note —The word “doctrine” is normally used when referring to what Churches teach, but the word “doctrine” simply means “teachings”.
To understand Christ’s authority, we need first to consider its origin. The authority of Christ preceded his life in this world, and even the world itself. Notice what John says...
¶“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God... 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,14).
When John says there in verse 1, “And the Word was God”, we must conclude that the Word had the authority of God. If the Word was God, he had all the attributes of God, including the authority of God, and there is no higher authority.
By saying “the Word was God”, John furthermore considered him to have full authority to speak for God and as God —otherwise why call him “the Word”?
When “the worlds were framed by the word of God” (Hebrews 11:3), who spoke? Did only the Father have authority to speak the worlds into existence? How strange if the One who is called “the Word ” could not speak!
Paul took this further: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities —all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
What authority did the Word have, that he could create all authorities in heaven and on earth? It could be no less than the authority of God, for all lesser authorities were those he created. Consider these things. The Word had all authority in heaven and on earth.
With that brief but important preface, we must now consider the Word’s authority as a flesh-and-blood man in this world. Did the Word lose any of his authority when he became human?
¶“6...though he was in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be held on to, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
¶“9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...” (Philippians 2:6-10).
The Word certainly suffered a loss, and emptied himself of much, when he became flesh. There is no doubt about that. But did he lose his authority? That is a very, very important question.
Some people think that when the “the Word became flesh”, in the person of Jesus Christ, he did not then retain the authority he had formerly, when he was with God in the beginning. They believe he gave up that authority and did not regain it until after his death and resurrection.
This idea is inferred from what Jesus said after his death and resurrection: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18-20). It is assumed that Jesus was given that authority only shortly before he said these words.
However Jesus was not implying some recent change or increase in his authority, but urging his disciples to recognize his eternal authority, and to teach and baptize by that authority. The authority given to the Word, from eternity, continued with him, undiminished, when he became flesh and lived in this world.
Nor, by the way, is it implied that the Father changed or diminished his own authority in order that his Son might have “all authority” (Matthew 28:18). The Father gave the Word his authority, and did not deny that authority to Jesus the man of flesh. That is why Jesus Christ was “full of grace and truth.”
Jesus is the unique Son of God. He is man, but unlike other men, he is God, having been begotten of the Heavenly Father, not an earthly father. So he was in a unique position to teach the world truth. “I speak to the world those things which I heard from [the Father]... As my Father taught me, I speak these things” (John 8:26-28).
In becoming a man of flesh, the Word had emptied and humbled himself, “being made a little lower than the angels” (Hebrews 2:9).. Nevertheless he retained his eternal authority as God and did not cease to be the Word.
[God later glorified Jesus, “highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:10). This was done not to increase authority, but to affirm that the man Jesus is indeed the Word, and “in him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). He should not, in anything, anymore be regarded as lower than God.]
Jesus is “the mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15), which is to say he brings the testament or covenant to the world from the Father, and on behalf of the Father.
¶“15Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16For where a will is involved, the death of the testator [the one who made the will] must be proven. 17For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive” (Hebrews 9:15-17).
Now notice, carefully, that Jesus is called not only the mediator, but also the testator. “For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of the testator” (Hebrews 9:16-17).
So, according to the express wish and instruction of his Father, Jesus was the testator, the maker of the new will or testament. Then, by his death, it came into force, and he became its mediator. That made redemption and eternal life possible for the beneficiaries of the will.
Jesus had to make this new will while he was on earth and before his death. He could not be the testator after his death for a will is not made when someone dies, but before death occurs. The preaching of Jesus reflects this new covenant —without at that time taking “one jot or one tittle” from the old covenant (Matthew 5:18).
Consider what authority Jesus held while he was on earth in order to make such a wonderful will. A testator may make his will to conform with the wishes of another; but this does not diminish the authority of the testator. It is, after all, his will and testament, whether or not he makes it in voluntary obedience to another.
The Heavenly Father gave full authority to his Son, equal to the Father’s own authority. In return, the Son always does the will of his Father, and exercises his authority in complete harmony and unity with the Father. There is no inconsistency here. Although two may have equal authority, one may defer to the other without any loss of authority.
The authority of Jesus Christ is given to him by the Father. It was always given, never borrowed, never withdrawn. The Son is entrusted with authority equal to his Father. He keeps that trust by exercising his authority always in deference to his Father. It was ever so; and so it shall ever be.
Note: In our next lesson we will examine some other matters concerning the authority of Christ when he was in the flesh.