Author: Ron Graham
Did Jesus have the same authority while on earth, when humbled in the flesh, as he had beforehand as the eternal Word, and has now as Jesus Christ exalted to God's right hand?
We discussed this question as part of our previous lesson and now we consider some more aspects of Christ’s authority during his earthly ministry before his death on the cross.
Some people think that Christ had no authority (before his death) to preach the doctrine or covenant that Christians would follow.
¶“16So Jesus answered them, 'My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17If anyone’s will is to do the will of God, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.'” (John 7:16-17).
This doesn't mean that Jesus denied all ownership of his teaching. He called it “My teaching” (John 7:16). He owned it as “These sayings of mine” (Matthew 7:24). So in what sense was his doctrine his, yet not his?
Jesus meant that he did not speak with human authority as a mere man. He spoke as God and from God; in complete harmony with his Father’s will; with no addition of human wisdom.
The doctrine of Jesus was not his own. It did not originate in him as a man. Yet his doctrine was his own. It was given to him by God. He owned his doctrine as the word of God which he was taught by the Father.
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).
God’s Son emptied and humbled himself by becoming a human being obedient to his Father (Philippians 2:6-10). But did he empty himself of his former authority for the period of his earthly life?
¶“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).
Before the world existed, the Word was “in the form of God” and in that form he was equal with God. However, he emptied himself of that form, and took on “the form of a servant” as the man Jesus (Philippians 2:6-8).
As to form, he was now equal to man. As a human being, he “humbled himself and became obedient even unto death” (Philippians 2:8). But as to authority, he remained equal to God.
He at no point, by humbling himself, diminished his authority. He obeyed his Father by his own volition. He went when God sent —because he wanted to. He respected the authority and will of his Father without diminishing his own.
It might be said that he became “a servant”, and a servant does not have the same authority as his master. This is a reasonable and important objection, so we will deal with it in the next point of our lesson...
The Son of God is in subjection to the Father, and this may seem inconsistent with his having equal authority with the Father.
¶“27Scripture says, 'God has put everything under his feet.' Obviously 'everything' does not include the one who subjected everything to Christ. 28And when everything is subjected to the Son, he will be subject to the one who put everything under his feet —so that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:27-28).
The phrase, “Then the Son himself will also be subjected to the Father”, does not imply that before then the Son was not in subjection. It simply means that then, as always, the Son will be subject to the Father —because that is the nature of the Godhead.
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, even serve and obey the other. This does not require the one to lose authority, but to exercise it in harmony with the other’s authority.
The Word became flesh, able to serve and obey God because his own will had always been to do his Father’s will. Nevertheless Christ has always been granted the full authority of his Father.