The source of authority: God
When we speak about authority, then we need to ask about the source of authority. What or who is the source?
It is, of course, God. Ultimate authority belongs to God alone—to God the Creator and Redeemer of life. God is the absolute and final authority with respect to all things: Nature, history, faith and morals.
After the LORD God had shown his sovereignty over nature and history by bringing his people Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground and had drowned Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and all his soldiers in the midst of the Red Sea, then Moses and the Israelites sang a song which praised God as the One who has authority over people's lives and over all of creation. They ended the song (Exod 15) with the triumphant words: "The LORD will reign for ever and ever."
Many of the Psalms describe God as the great, ultimate, and final authority over all things. Psalm 93 says: "The LORD reigns, He is robed in majesty; … and is armed with strength. … Your statutes stand firm … for endless days, O LORD."
The Lord Jesus told us not to fear those who can kill the body and after that can do no more. Rather, said He, we ought to fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw a person into hell. And then He was talking about God the Father.
One of the apostolic letters of the New Testament, the letter of Jude, ends with these words: "… to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!"
We can also think of the book of Revelation which shows so powerfully the authority God has over all the peoples of the earth, over all of nature, and over all of history.
Authority given to Christ
God the Father has given authority to his Son—to God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As Jesus Christ himself said in Matthew 28:18: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
What kind of authority did the Lord Jesus Christ receive? He tells us, in the gospels.
The gospels tell us that He had authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10). He had the authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:15). He taught as one who had authority, and not as the teachers of the law of his time. The people recognized that. When He spoke, they listened (Matthew 7:29). God the Father gave his Son authority to judge (John 5:27). John 17:2 teaches that the Father gave Jesus Christ the authority to give eternal life to all those the Father had given Him.
God the Son has authority by virtue of being God. Because He, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is true and eternal God, He has authority over all things. But He was given authority in a special way—authority to forgive sins, to heal, to teach, to judge and to give eternal life.
The authority of God's Word
How does this authority—the authority of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ—reach us today? Through the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ and of God the Father, speaks to us today through the Word, the Bible. The Scriptures, as the very Word of God, has authority over us.
The authority of Scripture lies in the fact that it is inspired, the infallible Word of God. In 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17, the Apostle Paul wrote: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
God breathed the Scriptures out. God speaks to us today by way of the Holy Scriptures. We need to listen to them. Woe unto him who would ignore what the Scriptures say. The Bible has total authority over us, over every aspect of life, both doctrine and conduct.
It is the Bible that teaches us how to live. It teaches us what God's will is and how to live a life pleasing to Him. We need to read the Bible, every day at home, to study it, in order to know what the Lord requires of us. It is the Bible that teaches the gospel which tells us about what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for sinners. It speaks about how He died to set people free from their sins.
The Lord has given the task of proclaiming the gospel and teaching the Word to the church. All people need to seek out the church of Jesus Christ to sit under faithful and authoritative preaching to hear the good news of salvation and to be taught how to live in obedience to God's Word and in thankfulness for his goodness and grace.
(The next posts begin exploring the topic of the agents of authority.)
This series of blog posts were originally presented as a speech at the October 1998 Ontario Women's League Day in Ancaster, Ontario. Much of the spoken style remains.