The Source of Authority in Christianity

Posted by

As in any area of life, authority is exercised in some form or another, both by individuals and groups, throughout the world of Christianity. Leadership takes on so many varied forms that believers often become confused as to what constitutes legitimate practice of Biblical authority. Some Christians in positions of leadership exercise Biblical principles of authority, while others apply human standards, perhaps mixed with some godly principles. Christian leaders do well to have a healthy understanding of Biblical teaching relating to authority which must be derived from the Word of God.

The basis of all authority is God. He is our Maker. He, therefore, has the absolute right to command and it is our absolute duty to obey Him. God governs personally and also delegates authority to others. God the Father delegated authority to God the Son. (See Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 1).

There is a difference between power and force. Power, when directed by intelligent love, is always pleasing to us. There is force in a lightning bolt. Jesus Christ, who is God himself, is a manifestation of the power of God, not of the force of God.

As long as Jesus was on earth, He talked with people face to face. Directly under His command they could claim His promises directly. But He has passed away from earth and does not rule anymore by His own direct authority. Just as the Father delegated His authority to the Son, so Jesus delegated His authority to the apostles.

In the transfer of authority from God the Father to the Son there was no danger of error or mistake. The Son, being divine, could receive without misunderstanding all that the Father communicated. But the apostles were human with all the weaknesses and imperfections of their humanity. There was danger, therefore, that they might not correctly understand or apprehend the revelation which Christ made to them.

It became necessary, therefore, for some power or influence to be exerted on their minds to preserve them from error either in taking in or in giving out the teaching which they received. Christ therefore promised them the Holy Spirit, who was to guide them into all truth in the conveying of the Gospel to the world. (See John 16:12-15; 1 Corinthians 2:9-13).

The Spirit-guided apostles were the representatives of God on earth for the purpose of making known His will to the sons of men. Their teaching is Christ’s teaching. Their authority was the authority of the Lord. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” So, when the apostles completed the revelation of the will of God in Jesus Christ, that revelation became the perfect law of liberty to which nothing could rightfully be added or taken away.

Anyone who teaches others to disobey the plain commandments of the apostles cannot be guided by the same Spirit that inspired them to proclaim these commandments. The same Spirit which led an apostle to proclaim truth will not lead anyone else to ignore or to disobey that truth.

Mark Hill

BiBloS 01 - March 2015 smallThis article is from BiBloS, a teaching resource of the British Bible School. To read more articles or download the whole of Issue 1, click here.