Sunday, December 29, 2013

What does Jesus mean when he says he has all authority?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Matthew 28:18 (NIV)

Who is this Jesus? Jesus may well be the hardest person to define in the world. He is at once God, and yet fully man. He is not two natures, but the natures are fully merged, neither at the price of the other. He has been described as fully God and fully man. The technical term, fitting only Christ in all the universe, is theanthropic. Chafer says, “If the hypostatic union of two diverse natures in Christ is subject to superficial gloss, it is rendered ineffectual at every point, the purpose of God is thwarted, men are still in their sins and doom, Christianity becomes only a refined paganism, and the world is without hope.”1

So that is the explanation, but you may ask, do I understand it? No! I do not understand, other than to say it is the very best definition presented from the Bible. There are other things in the Bible that I do not pretend to understand, such as the Trinity. My lack of understanding in no way diminishes the truth that is being taught. It simply is what it is.

Describing the authority of Jesus in any length is beyond the scope of this short answer, so I have selected but five characteristics about Jesus that I want to present, all characteristics showing the God of power. First, Jesus is proclaimed to be the Creator of all things. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). The Bible claims that Jesus was not only present during the creation that is taught to us by Moses, but also that he was the agent creating. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:10). We use the phrase, ultimate irony, too often, and yet this is the ultimate irony, that the Creator of the universe should enter the world, and yet be unknown by that world. Colossians tells us a bit more about his creating power: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him (Col. 1:16). There is not anything in all of creation that was not created by the Son, and everything has also been created for him.

Secondly, Christ has power as the Sustainer of the world. The very next verse of Colossians tells us, “ And he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Col. 1:17). The word consist actually means to hold together, and when I read these words, I get the idea that it is Christ himself actively holding all things together. I think of his awesome power, holding all things together by his might, and that if he stopped that for a single instant, the very atoms of the universe might just dissolve.

Third, Christ is the Ruler of this entire universe. “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:24, 25). He is bringing all things back under his subjection. We are told elsewhere in scripture that Satan is the prince of the power in the air, and that he is controlling much of the world now. But he has always had limits, and his defeat is sure, whereupon all things will be again subject to the rule of God the Father.

Fourth, he is the Resurrector. Spell Check does not seem to like that word, and I suspect the world does not either. Yet, he is the one who resurrects. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25, 26). In one of the most dramatic chapters of the Bible, Ezekiel 37, God asks Ezekiel whether these “dry bones” can live. Ezekiel replies, “Thou knowest, Oh Lord!” Ezekiel then watches God resurrect and restore flesh on the dry bones. Jesus claims this power, and used it on Lazarus, calling, “Lazarus, come forth.” Some scholars feel that if he had not limited his call to Lazarus, we would have seen all the dead come forth. The Bible is clear, and teaches that man is made in the image of God, is not a temporal creature, and is meant to have eternal life. This life is restored by Jesus, where, it is taught, the sheep and the goats are separated, some to judgment and others to eternal life at the feet of Jesus.

Last, Jesus is presented to us as the Almighty God. John makes this clear, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:8). There are a great many cults who would try to deny these five characteristics of power present in Jesus, but they do so to their own detriment. The scripture is clear when Jesus declares that he that hath seen me hath seen the Father. At the end of chapter eight of John, Jesus makes the greatest of claims taking the very name of God, “I am.” The Jews who did not believe took that to be blasphemy, and tried to stone him right away. I think those cults who redefine Jesus to be what they want him to be, make the same mistake. They miss the Jesus so clearly presented in scripture, and thus they miss him altogether.

It is not an accident of history that this one man separates all men into two groups, one that anxiously awaits his coming, and one that denies his personhood. I do not think it an accident that we celebrate two Christmases each year—one that celebrates the advent of the Christ-child being sent to man, and the other who celebrates the good works of a funny man in a red suit. Some of us see him as he is, while others only seek to deny that which should be obvious to all. God has brought us to new life. And that life is in no one else except his Son. If you haven’t considered the claims of Christ, perhaps now would be a good time. What a wonder that God should come as a man, and be rejected by those whom he loves!

1. Chafer, L. (1948). Systematic theology. (Vol. 1, p. 385). Grand Rapids: Kregel, Inc.

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