Saturday, January 9, 2010

Who Has Authority?

In Matthew chapter 9 Jesus heals a paralytic man. But before He does this Jesus heals the man's soul. Jesus said to him, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven (verse 2)." This caused no small consternation on the part of the scribes who were nearby and heard Jesus say this. They screamed, "This fellow blasphemes (verse 3)." The point they were making is that only God can forgive sins, and this fellow is not God! They were, of course, right and wrong. They were right to say that only God can forgive sins, but they were wrong in believing Jesus was only a man. Jesus knew what they were thinking (He always does), and He said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - then He said to the paralytic, 'Get up, pick up your bed, and go home (verses 4-6)." And the Bible says, "He got up and went home (I love the magnificent simplicity of the text; if man were writing this, we would have made it much more sensational. Thanks be to God that God wrote the Bible through human writers) (verse 7)." Jesus, the Creator and authoritative Son of Man, demonstrated His power and authority for salvation and renewal.

Here is the crux of the matter - authority. If I was asked what I think is the greatest essential, basic issue of religion, I would answer, "Who has authority?" So much in religion and spirituality centers on this issue. In fact, so much of life centers on this issue.

The New Testament says that Jesus Christ has all authority. In John 5 Jesus has authority to execute judgment, in Matthew 28 Jesus says He has all authority in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And Philippians 2 says that every knee will one day bow to Jesus and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. This is the language of exquisite authority! John writes in Revelation that Jesus will come back with power and authority to take His rightful place over human history.

In today's culture, the main question that arises again and again in moral and theological discussion is, "Who has the authority to tell me what is right or wrong, true or false?" The critical component of life is authority! Well, Jesus Christ has authority, the God of heaven and earth has authority, and He has invested His authoritative revelation in written Scripture. All ethical, moral, and theological questions must be relegated to the question, "What does the Bible say on this subject?" This is authority.

No Christian should speak in self-exalting, self-authenticating, self-determining language. The Christian speaks with authority when he speaks the truth of the Word of God. We who know Christ must confront a post-modern (self-deifying) culture with the claims of the authoritative Christ. Churches must not seek to affirm self-centeredness (I.E. Churches must not ask questions of visitors, "What do you want from us? How can we meet your needs?" Etc.). But churches, pastors, and Christians must bear witness to the transcendently self-existent God who has made Himself known in Christ through whom we have life eternal and the forgiveness of sins. It is ALL ABOUT HIM because of His authority.

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