The Path of Authority
Goal: To understand where the authority for religious doctrine and ideas comes from and now resides.
* As Creator, God has the right to command His Creation.
If you were to create a game using a deck of cards, you would get to make the rules. If you told me that when someone draws the Ace of Spades from the deck they automatically lose, then that would be the rule. If I then draw the Ace of Spades from the deck, I have automatically lost. Why do you get to decide that drawing the Ace of Spades means I automatically lost? The answer is simple. You created the game and therefore you make the rules.
Since God is the Creator of the Universe and everything in it, including mankind, then He naturally gets to set the rules for how things should be. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
We see God setting the rules for the behavior of man. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
We also see people conforming their actions according to what God commanded. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (Genesis 6:22)
* Later, God said listen to Jesus.
God spoke directly to man in the past, or through His spokespersons, the prophets. But in the last dispensation, we are told to listen to the Son of God, Jesus the Christ. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” (Hebrews 1:1-2) “And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18 ASV)
* Jesus transferred authority to the apostles.
Jesus transferred His authority for the work and teaching to the Apostles. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus spoke to God, the Father, and said, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) Jesus stated that accepting the apostles was the same as accepting Him. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” (John 13:20)
We have the same principle on Earth today. Governments around the world have ambassadors. For example, the United States will have an ambassador to Great Britain that lives in Great Britain. Those ambassadors have plenipotentiary power. That means when they speak, it is the same as their government speaking. If the United States government wants to know the official position of Great Britain on a question, they can just go and ask the ambassador from Great Britain that is living in the United States.
The apostles were given plenipotentiary power. They could take independent action. When they bound something, (made it required), it was because it was bound in heaven. The apostles could require something, such as baptism (Acts 2:38), and it was the official position of the government of Heaven. If the apostles said that something was loosed, (not required), it was because the official position of Heaven stated that it was not required. Men did not have to go to Heaven to ask God His position on things, they could ask their ambassadors, the apostles, and get the official stance of the government of Heaven.
How did the apostles know the official position of Heaven in order to communicate it to man? The answer is that even though Jesus was going away, He was going to send someone to help the apostles. “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:25-26) “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” (Matthew 10:19-20) The Holy Spirit guided the apostles to know what the official position of Heaven was. Then they could confidently, and accurately, communicate that information to man.
But, once again, we are unable to go to the apostles in person today to ask them questions. So, what did they do with the authority they had?
* The Bible, Our Authority
The apostles and inspired writers wrote down what the Holy Spirit revealed to them so that future generations would know the teachings and commandments of God. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13) “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
The word preserved for us in the Bible is complete for what we need. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The Scriptures provide what we need for:
Doctrine - learning what is correct or incorrect according to God’s commandments
Reproof and correction - correcting those who are doing wrong according to God’s commandments
Instruction in righteousness - learning how to do what is right according to God’s commandments
We are so well-equipped, in fact, that we are “throughly furnished unto all good works.” We have what we need to do good works and be pleasing to God and obey His authority.
The authority of God is now locked in the complete Bible.
When it comes to the idea of being an ambassador for Christ, some claim that Christians today are ambassadors for Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:20. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” Let’s use our mining tools (hermeneutics) to see what God is saying here.
Author and Audience - This is a book written by Paul, an apostle, to a group of Christians in Corinth.
Grammar - Paul says “we are ambassadors for Christ.” The word “we”
is 1st person, plural, meaning that the author, along with other people are the subject. Whoever these others are, they and Paul are the ambassadors.
He further states, “as though God did beseech you by us:” Now, Paul is referencing someone as “you” in the 2nd person. Since Paul is writing to the Corinthians, it would be natural for him to address them as “you.” If I am writing to you to tell you to be safe, I might say, “You take care out there!” The ones mentioned as “you,” the Corinthians are being beseeched “by us.” “Us” is another 1st person, plural word, and therefore references the same group as before that was called “we.” “We are ambassadors” (Paul and the others) and God beseeches “you” (the Corinthians) by “us” (Paul and the others). Even though this letter was written to Christians, Paul is not saying that “we” and “us” (you Corinthians and I) are ambassadors. If he were saying that, then who is the “you” that is being beseeched by the “us”? If Paul and the Corinthians are in the 1st person, then who is the “you” of the 2nd person?
Context - By looking at surrounding verses, or even the entire book, we understand better the context of what is being said. In verse 16 Paul states, “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” (2 Corinthians 5:16) Here Paul says that “we have known Christ after the flesh.” Who saw Jesus in the flesh? The apostles did.
If Paul is discussing himself and other apostles as “we” in verse 16, then it make sense to see that he is still discussing himself and the other apostles as “we” in verse 20. Paul and the other apostles were ambassadors for Christ, and God was beseeching the Christians in Corinth through them.
One might say we are “goodwill ambassadors” for Christ, showing people His love, but we are not the same type of ambassadors as the apostles were. The apostles and inspired writers were given plenipotentiary power to speak independently. We (today) must consult the written word of the Bible. 2 Corinthians 5:20 does not teach we (today) are “ambassadors for Christ.”