Authority

Though recognizing God as supreme, the general theme of authority may be extended from that point on almost without end. All the material is subject to a twofold division, namely, (1) authority which is external to man, and (2) that which is internal.

1. External. This conception includes the authority of God, of the separate Persons of the Godhead, of angels, of human governments, of the apostles, of the Bible, and of the church. The subject matter in cludes every situation wherein one or more intelligences determine the actions of others. Comment bearing upon each of these several divisions is in order.

a. the triune god. By right of creation—the most absolute of all prerogatives—comes the ground of divine authority. To be the Originator, the Designer, and the Executor of all that exists becomes at once the basis for transcendent, peerless, and incomparable authority. Whatever lesser authorities there may be, it must be predicated of them that they are only relative and such as are allowed by the One who is supreme. The fact and extent of other authorities than that of God should not be contemplated apart from recognition of the over-all authority of God. Authority in the hands of those who are unworthy of it is most dangerous, and so it is cause for great thanksgiving that God is what He is; His is perfect trustworthiness, perfect wisdom, perfect purpose, infinite power, and infinite love.

b. the father. In the present relationship which exists within the Godhead, the Father is revealed as granting authority to the Son and directing the Holy Spirit. It is to the Father that Christ ever turned in prayer and expectation, and the believer is directed to pray to the Father (John 16:23) with the same recognition of His supreme authority and power.

c. the son. Though Christ could say, "All power [R.V., authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18; cf. 1 Cor. 15:25-28), He does, nevertheless, acknowledge that the power is granted Him by the Father. He said accordingly, "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (John 5:26-27). Much indeed is implied when He claimed "all authority" and "judgment." These are the prerogatives of God. There is no intimation here that in His adorable Person the Son is inferior to the Father. In the outworking of creation and redemption, however, it has pleased the Persons of the Godhead to be related to each other as They are. Christ in consequence did His mighty works through the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. All such representation of the Son is better understood when it is remembered that Christ was living in the human sphere and adapting Himself to that limitation. Respecting Christ's authority, note Matthew 7:29; 9:6, 8; 21:23-27; Mark 1:22, 27; 11:28-29, 33; John 5:27.

d. the holy spirit. The Holy Spirit is sent forth by both the Father and the Son, which fact indicates that He receives authority from those who send Him; He indeed exercises great authority in the world. He it is who restrains evil, who convicts the world, and who guides and empowers the believer (cf. Acts 13:2).

e. the angels. When angelic creation is described as in Colossians 1:16, there is mention of "thrones, dominions, principalities," and "powers." By these terms reference is made to the authority which the angels exercise within their own order and sphere. It is true, as in the case of Satan, that some authority is granted them in their appointed relations with men (cf. Luke 4:6; 12:5; 22:53; Acts 26:18; Eph. 2:2; Col. 1:13; Rev. 6:8; 9:3, 10, 19; 13:4-5, 7, 12; 20:6).

f. the civil rulers. The Word of God not only requires subjection to earthly authority, but declares that rulers are appointed of God. Such, indeed, is the supreme authority of God over all else as to control even government (cf. Prov. 24:21; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17).

g. the apostles. Very special authority was extended to the apostles and for this the Apostle Paul contended throughout his ministry; not for self-advancement, of course, but that his God-given right might be exercised in full according to the plan and will of God (Luke 9:1; 2 Cor. 10:8).

h. the bible. Reflecting the supreme authority of God as actually His revealed will, the Word of Truth is to be obeyed by all who come under His divine rule.

i. the church. This kind of rule may be perverted, as in the case of Rome, but the Word of God directs that subjection be rendered by all within the church to those who are set over them in authority. The practical outworking of ecclesiastical authority has been the cause of endless strife throughout the history of the church.

2. Internal. Without perhaps the same degree of definiteness, there is to be recognized the authority which arises through spiritual and moral appeal, through conscience, through customs, and through sentiment. All this and more like it may so dominate the mind and heart as to become a motivating influence.

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