The Authority of Christ, the Apostles, & the New Testament

Intro: Umpire training meetings; difficult and unique plays were discussed, and individual umpires voiced their calls. There was always more than one. How did we decide (pick one that seemed fair to us, umpire with the most experience, how it had always been called in the past?)

  • We always referred to the rule book for the final answer. Yes we had to interpret the words, and in baseball the rule book changed every now and then, but there was never any question about the authority of the book.
  • Any subjective, feeling oriented, judgment is unacceptable because the standard exists.
  • The crucial point of every religious discussion and controversy is authority. Many people have concluded that no standard of authority exists, and therefore subjective judgments have permeated the practice of most churches and individuals
  • We can never be united on any issue unless we agree on a standard of authority.

What is the standard for us? Maybe the better way to ask this question, WHO is the standard?

Begin with a scripture that we noticed last week

I. Jesus Christ Has All Authority: Matt. 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (NKJ)

A. There are two primary words that are translated by the English word “authority” (or power) in scripture.

1. dunamis – (from which we get our word dynamite, dynamic) means authority by strength, power or might. Ability to act. 2 Peter 1:3as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,

2. Exousia – primarily refers to power through privilege or right. Right to act. (Your boss might be short and wimpy, but he is the boss).

B. Jesus has both dunamis (power) and exousia (authority). Jesus not only has great power but the right to exercise that power. Luke 4:31-37 Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths.32 And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, 34 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are — the Holy one of God!” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him.36 Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, “What a word this is! For with authority (exousia) and power (dunamis) He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.”37 And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

1. Jesus has the authority to tell you how to live. He has the right as your Creator, and He has the might as your Judge. He demonstrated both when He came out of the grave.

2. The one in Matthew 28 is exousia. Its use here references absolute & unrestricted jurisdiction. If he has all authority then his authority is from God – He is God.

a. Sometimes this word is used of the domain in which the power is exercised – so that we are “under the authority of Christ”. The domain of Christ’s authority is comprehensive. He is over all things – He is head over all things.

3. Based on this authority established, Jesus commissions the apostles to go and make disciples. So any disciples made by the apostles were to be made “in the name of Christ”, or by His authority.

4. Acts 4:12Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Peter was announcing the exclusive authority by which he preached the message of salvation. There was no other power or right.

How does Jesus lead us today? How does He express His authority (headship) over His church?

II. Jesus and His Apostles… It is impossible to answer our question without recognizing the unique relationship between Jesus and His apostles.

A. Christ intended to exercise His authority through the apostles: When Jesus was upon the earth he always taught the truth, but He did not teach all the truth. He told his apostles that He had other things that they were not ready for, but that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth. Read John 16:12-13“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. John 14:2626 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. – If Christ has all authority and the apostles were to be guided into all truth, then the apostles must be the avenue through which Jesus would exercise His authority.

1. In Acts 1, just before his ascension Jesus commissioned His apostles to be his witnesses. Acts 1:6-8Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” In Jesus’ discussion with the apostles concerning the coming of the Kingdom (when He would sit upon His throne; Father had put it under His own authority – exosia) He promised them power (dunamis – the ability to rule).

B. In the first mention of the church in the NT, Jesus outlined the delegation of His authority through the apostles. Matt. 16:19 “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The Apostles were promised the keys of the Kingdom. They were to bind and loose.

1. The key was a symbol of Jesus messianic authority in His Kingdom – Isa. 22:22 The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open.

a. The keys of the kingdom reference the absolute authority of Christ in His kingdom – Later Peter would use the keys (authority of Christ) to open the door of faith to the Jews at Pentecost, and to Gentiles at the house of Cornelius.

b. To “bind” & “loose” meant to prohibit or permit. The expression here does not note any legislative authority, but is best rendered in the future perfect tense as “shall have been bound”, and “shall have been loosed”,(as in the earlier versions of the NASB) – indicating that the apostles were simply expressing the authority that came from heaven.

2. Notice Jesus’ predictive description of the emergence of authoritative apostolic doctrine: Matt. 19:28 “So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” The apostles are seated on the twelve thrones in the regeneration, at the same time in which Jesus sits on His throne.

a. The time period involved here (the regeneration) is a description of the period in which we now live. In Luke 22:30, he uses the term “in My kingdom” – he is now reigning as King on “the throne of His glory”, and men may be regenerated or born again through the preaching of the gospel. – Titus 3:55 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,

b. The twelve thrones are not separate kingdoms, but the expression of the authority of Jesus’ on His throne, through the witness of the apostles. The apostles were given the power of the Holy Spirit in order to make known the authority of Jesus to all men. Their witness to that authority “opened up” the kingdom to both the Jew and the Gentile.

C. The apostles recognized and expressed this delegated authority.

1. 2 Cor. 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. – the apostles represented Christ. To reject their word was to reject Christ Luke 10:16 “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

2. Eph 3:2-6 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:

3. 1 Thess 2:13For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

a. Although the apostles exercised authority in the N.T. church, they always recognized the absolute position of Christ as the head of the church. – 2 Cor 4:5-7For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

D. Apostolic teaching emerged as the standard of authority in the NT church.Acts 2:4242 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

1. As prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 19, the apostles judge by their written word. Any disputed matter in religion may be settled by an appeal to what they wrote in scripture. Notice this illustrated in the letters of Paul written in the 1st century.

a. Even though Paul taught at Thessalonica, he found it necessary to write 2 letters to them to correct a misunderstanding about the second coming.

b. Paul spent 18 months at Corinth and the church had prophets among them, but they still had problems. How were they solved? Through the written words of Paul. “I have written to you not to keep company…”

2. Apostolic doctrine, as the true message of the Holy Spirit was to be taught as the continuing standard of the church. The truth of God was not a dynamic, ever evolving subjective standard. It was contained in the writings of the apostles and was the objective standard for every generation.

            • Paul told Timothy – 2 Tim 1:133 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
            •  2 Timothy 2:2“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
            • 2 Tim 3:14-1714 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. Paul said that all scripture was given by the inspiration of God, and was able to make a person complete unto every good work. Scripture was and is sufficient.

Conclusion: The 1st century church recognized the position of apostolic teaching, and the subsequent authority expressed through scripture. The place of apostolic teaching in exhibiting the authority of Christ demands a call for restoration. Not a restoration of tradition, or church teaching, but a restoration of NT Christianity through planting the seed of the word of God.

  • Ephesians 2:19-2019 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone”
  • Whatever was taught in one church by the apostles was taught in all the churches. 1 Cor. 4:16-17 “Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church. Thus the pattern for Christianity was drawn for all time. We strive to follow that pattern today, looking for apostolic teaching for all that we do. This was the basis of the unity that existed in the 1st century, and will be the basis of it today. We need to set our watches by the word of God.
  • Are you willing to submit to the authority of Christ alone? Mark 16:1616 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

2 Cor 4:5-7 – For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.