In the two previous articles, we looked at some areas in which the authority of the Lord Jesus was exercised during His ministry here on earth – acknowledged by some and denied (unsuccessfully) by others. This month we will see that His authority is not confined to when He was in this world, or only to those with whom He came into contact. Rather, it is wide ranging, covering the past, present, and future, and extending over all people.
There are four statements that He made, showing the universal nature of His authority. In each reference, the word used is the one we have been looking at in the previous two articles – exousia, sometimes translated “power,” sometimes, “authority.”
First, we turn to John chapter 10:17, 18: “I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father.”
How different was the death of the Lord Jesus to the death of any other person! To us, death is the ultimate sign of human weakness. None of us can prevent it, and any day we could meet someone who could take our life away. Yet to Him it was the very opposite – death was not inevitable – in fact, it had no claim upon Him at all. He had no fear of someone taking His life. He states here that no one could do it. And, far from being a sign of weakness, it was something He would voluntarily do, with full authority: “I have power to lay it down.”
That this was no empty claim is shown in what follows: “I have power to take it again.” An impostor could claim to have authority to lay down his life, but the emptiness of such a boast would be exposed by his remaining in the state of death. It was not so for the Lord Jesus: His resurrection vindicated the whole claim made in these verses – the unique authority to give His life, and to take it back again.
The blessed consequences of His death and resurrection are stated in the second statement that we will consider from John 17:1, 2: “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee: As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.”
In the early part of John 17 He speaks mainly concerning His apostles, with whom He was present at the time. However, the reference to “all flesh” and “as many as Thou hast given Him” indicates that more than the apostles are in view in this statement, a conclusion consistent with the fact that, later in the chapter, He encompasses all those who would believe in Him in His prayer (see particularly verse 20). How wonderful it is to know that the day I came to the Lord Jesus as a lost sinner and put my trust in Him Who laid down His life and took it again, I received eternal life from the Lord Jesus Himself, Who has the full authority to give it. Surely this fact is a tremendous source of assurance to every believer.
Our third reference is in Matthew 28:18: “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” – words spoken by the Lord between His resurrection and His ascension. While the use of the word “all” and the reference to “heaven and earth” indicate that the authority referred to here is all-embracive, yet it pertains to this passage in at least two specific ways: First, He has the authority to command His disciples to go everywhere and make disciples (“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”); second, He has the authority to expect obedience to all His commands, from all who become His followers (“teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”). So we, who have received eternal life, have the responsibility, in recognition of His authority, to obey His Word, and to make disciples of others.
This brings us to our fourth reference – John 5:27: “And [the Father] hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.” The word here translated “judgment” is rendered “condemnation” further up the passage, in that well-known gospel promise – “and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (v24). The believer will never face the judgment of which the Lord Jesus speaks here, but, solemnly, He Who has the authority to give eternal life to all who believe is the same One Who has the authority to execute judgment on those who refuse; and Who will surely carry it out.
We note that, in each of the four cases, the authority has been given to Him by His Father. This is explicitly stated in the three passages in John, and is implied in the reference in Matthew (“given”). This does not indicate any inferiority in the Son – we trust that sufficient has been said in earlier articles to make that clear. It does, however, show the distinctions between divine Persons, the complete unity and harmony within the Godhead, and the Father’s full confidence in the Son.
How great and how far reaching is the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ; authority to lay down His life and to take it again; authority to give eternal life to those who believe and to judge those who do not; authority to send out His own to tell others of Him, and authority to command us all to obey all His Word. May we recognize His authority, not only by our words, but by our willing submission to it.