Authority

MENU:

[A]: INTRODUCTION

[B]: THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST

(i): Life and Ministry

(ii): Obedience to Death

(iii): The Climax of Authority

[C]: CHRISTIAN AUTHORITY

(i): Christ in you

(ii): Authority and Suffering

(iii): Which Father?

[D]: CONCLUSION

[E]: APPENDICES

Appendix 1: Cultural Approaches to Authority

Appendix 2: Jesus’ authority as God

INTRODUCTION

All human beings are immediately and unavoidably confronted from the time of their earliest awareness that someone other than themselves initiated their existence.

This is obviously true in relation to conception and parenthood, but a deeper truth is taught in scripture.

The psalmist confidently says,

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13 ESV).

Contrary to our scientific and psychological judgements, the Bible suggests that the human foetus is aware of God even in utero.1)John the Baptist was “filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb” and somehow recognised the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary Luke 1:14,41-45

The scriptures emphatically teach that the knowledge of God as Creator is universal, and unwanted…

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20 ESV). 

… As human beings we do not want the knowledge of God as Creator in our consciousness, because we it teaches us that we are totally responsible to God as our absolute point of origin.2)It is a brute fact that we have authority [and responsibility] over that which we author, be that a book, a child or a creation.

Romans teaches us that the avoidance response to the general revelation of God as Creator is idolatry, all idols are attempts to avoid the “obligation of obedience” to God’s authority.3)Obligation is how things are experienced in an already fallen world; it is not how God originally intended things to be. “For although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:21-23 ESV)

Such images are not merely contained in inanimate objects, like the wood and stone idols of Canaanite religion, they are first of all embedded in the human heart.4)E.g. ““Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?”” Ezekiel 14:3 ESV More subtly, pervasively and influentially, we are to discern such idolatry in human cultures all of which carry the distortion of the image of God in man.5)Sin reverses the Creator-creature relationship so that man creates God in his own image, “you thought that I was such a one as yourself” Ps 50:21


Without our consultation, the LORD invested humanity with authority from the beginning;
 

All social structures depend on the use of authority, this is acutely related to the use of discipline and punishment in a fallen world. e.g.

“”Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”” (Genesis 1:26 ESV).

And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”” (Genesis 9:5-6 ESV).


The context the use of authority as punishment and discipline ,within families and institutions, is another powerful force corrupting the human understanding of true spiritual authority.

Broadly speaking, cultures seem to polarise in their respect for authority. Western culture has a pragmatic approach; any respect is dependent on performance and is selfishly motivated.

Non Western societies trend to be deferential on the basis of age, status, education, wealth and so on. 

These differences of perception and practice are determined by factors history and geography and are grounded in divine revelation.

Therefore contrary to first impressions, the revelation of the true nature of authority must provide a bridge for cross cultural communication.6)See Appendix 1 – Cultural Approaches to Authority.

The fullness of such insight is possible only in the Church, but its potential is rarely realised. If democratic, egalitarian and hierarchical approaches to authority are grounded in human culture rather than scripture, final clarity concerning authority can only come from understanding and sharing in the life of Jesus.

NEXT: Life and Ministry 

References   [ + ]

1. John the Baptist was “filled with the Spirit from his mother’s womb” and somehow recognised the presence of Jesus in the womb of Mary Luke 1:14,41-45
2. It is a brute fact that we have authority [and responsibility] over that which we author, be that a book, a child or a creation.
3. Obligation is how things are experienced in an already fallen world; it is not how God originally intended things to be.
4. E.g. ““Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?”” Ezekiel 14:3 ESV
5. Sin reverses the Creator-creature relationship so that man creates God in his own image, “you thought that I was such a one as yourself” Ps 50:21
6. See Appendix 1 – Cultural Approaches to Authority.

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