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by Dennis L. Allen

The great controversy of the universe is centered on who shall have the authority. Satan and his hosts rebelled against the authority of God. “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God… I will make myself like the most high.” (Isa. 14:13).  His rebellion will find its climax in the beast.  (2 Thes. 2:4).  All mankind at that time will actually believe his lie. “Who is like unto the beast,” they will reason, “who is able to war with him?”


When Adam was created and placed in the garden of Eden he was given dominion over the earth, but it was dominion under God and subject to God’s authority. The fall of man was due to disobedience to God’s authority. Eve, instead of being in subjection unto Adam, made her own decision. Eve’s action was motivated by her own will. She made up her own mind, disregarded God’s order, and in her rebellion fell. But Adam, in listening to Eve and eating of  the forbidden fruit sinned against God’s revealed will, so he too, though not deceived, was disobedient to God’s authority.

Man by his disobedience forfeited his authority to Satan, who thus became the prince of this world. Since then, every time man sins he increases Satan’s authority a little more. When we sin it is like saying to Satan, “May you kingdom here continue.” After Adam’s fall God’s plan was to regain His authority through the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then through Him the church will come under His authority and through the church the whole world.

Since the fall, because of man’s rebellion against God’s authority, disorder has prevailed on the earth. Everyone thinks he is able to distinguish good from evil -- to judge right from wrong. But
“it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).


When the Son of God came to the earth it was for this purpose -- to restore the kingdom (the authority) of God on earth. For this purpose the Lord Jesus took the form of a man. He emptied Himself of His glory, power, status and form. He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. No one by their fleshly nature or insight knew Him or recognized Him as God. When Peter confessed Christ as the Son of God, Jesus said, “Flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 16:17). Men in the flesh treated Him as an ordinary man and extremely resented His claims to the contrary. As a man he had to fight all His battles. He was completely dependent upon the Father for everything.

The attitude and actions of the Lord Jesus in all of this is most wonderful. He kept His Father always before His face and was never moved from His course of trust, dependence and obedience. He was obedient even unto death. This was in accordance with His purpose in coming. Authority cannot be established in the universe without obedience. The first Adam lost his dominion through disobedience. Christ, the last Adam, was perfectly obedient.  Thus He established the authority of God in all things. Even under the most trying circumstances there  was no hint of rebellion in Him. Because of this, God highly exalted him and gave Him the name that is above every name. When He left the glory of heaven, it was that He might return exalted as a man, and so He did. As a man he had fought His way through. Now He is the first born among many brethren, and His desire to bring many sons to glory can be accomplished.

Let us go back now and look more carefully at the attitude of the Lord Jesus to authority while He was here on earth. How soon the child Jesus knew who He was we do not know, but at the age of 12 He said to His parents, “Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Nevertheless when He returned with them to Nazareth He was subject to them. He recognized their God-given authority over Him as a child in their home. However, when He began His public ministry He let His mother know that He must act independently of her authority.

Toward the Devil and his hosts Jesus from the beginning of His ministry gave absolutely no place. To Satan He said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'" (Matt. 4:10).  He gave no place to demons, and they feared Him and were subject to Him. To the returning 70 disciples He had sent out He said, “I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven.” (Lk. 10:1). He showed His assurance of His final victory over the evil one. He had come to destroy the works of the devil.

What was Jesus’ attitude toward the religious leaders of His day? He told the apostles, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach…. 5 Everything they do is done for men to see” (Matt. 23:2). It was a good office though  filled with bad men. The Lord Jesus honored the position they filled, but then condemned the men that filled it. Jesus recognized the authority of the law and the prophets and said He came not to destroy them but to fulfill. At His trial when the high priest said, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God,” Jesus answered, recognizing the high priest’s position, even though the high priest was wholly unworthy of it.
When Jesus was before Pilate, the governor said to Him, “Do you refuse to speak to me? Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19:10-11.)


It seems to me these occasions of Jesus’ dealing with authorities should furnish guidelines for Christians today. Rulers have some God-given authority, but when they demand that citizens deny their duties to God they have stepped out of bounds. As Christians, too long we have been apologetic. When a conflict comes we need to remember to whom all authority belongs.

Brother Andrew tells of an occasion when he was stopped at the Russian border and found to have Bibles and other incriminating evidence. Rather than acting ashamed and guilty he remembered that he was on the King’s business which they were hindering, so he began to preach boldly to them pressing the claims of Christ, and found the border guards backing off from their arrogant attitude. One guard tore up the incriminating evidence he had taken, and also  admitted he ought to go to church.

To the Jews Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17). Caesar can ask for his coin back as taxes, but man is made in the image of God, and Caesar has no authority over man’s soul.

Christ learned obedience (submission to authority) by means of the things that He suffered. Because He submitted Himself wholly and continually to the authority of the Father, His Father  could trust Him with authority. Only the person who is under authority and has learned obedience can be trusted with authority. The centurion recognized the authority of the Lord Jesus and its source and the Lord Jesus said of him, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” The centurion recognized that the One who could cleanse the leper and cast out demons was not restricted to location. Even though not present He could speak the word and his servant would be healed. In response to his faith Jesus said, “Go your way; as you have believed it will be done to you.” (Matt. 8:13).

The Gospel of Matthew reveals Jesus as the King and more than any other Gospel shows Jesus’ use of authority. He is presented as the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Through each He inherited certain exclusive rights and prerogatives. At the beginning of His ministry He announced that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. When He unfolded the nature of that kingdom in the sermon on the mount even the multitudes marveled because He taught with authority and not as their scribes. When He healed the sick and forgave their sins, again the multitudes glorified God “who had given such authority unto men.”

(Conclusion next month)

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The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10