OUR GREAT COMMISSION   Part 2

ďWe Are AuthorizedĒ

Matthew 28.18-20

 

EXPOSITION:

1.   Turn in your Bible to Matthew 28, where we will read the account of the 8th time the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to His disciples following His resurrection from the dead.  When you have found Matthew 28.16, please stand for the reading of Godís Word:

16     Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.

17     And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.

18     And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

19     Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

20     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. 

2.   The Greek lexicon defines the word which is in verse 18 translated ďpowerĒ as ďthe right to control or command, authority, absolute power, warrant[1]

3.   Last Sundayís message dealt with the triune Godís authority.  In that message I addressed the issue of the Lord Jesus Christís innate and essential authority that is His from His position in the godhead, but I then went on to point out how, in Matthew 28.18, He begins to speak with authority that He claims has been given to Him; meaning that He is wielding authority that is not His Own innate and essential authority, but authority that is given to Him by the Father.

4.   This introduces a concept to many of you that is new, the concept of derived authority.  So, before I explore some necessary issues related to derived authority, let me digress for a bit to explain something to you.  You need to recognize the difference that exists between your ability to do something and your right to do something, a distinction that does not need to be made when considering the authority of God the Father, or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the blessed Holy Spirit.

5.   In the secular society that we live in, might seems to make right, brute force appears to be all the permission needed to forge ahead and do what you want to do, . . . or a brash and loudmouthed personality.  And it never enters into most peopleís minds that just because you have the capability to doing some thing doesnít mean you have the authority, or the moral right, or the ethical permission to do that thing.

6.   An illustration:  Pat Boone has a swimming pool.  Thus, he had the ability to dunk people under water in his back yard swimming pool.  But that doesnít by any stretch of the imagination mean that Pat Boone was authorized, back during the Jesus Movement days, to actually baptize people in his pool.  He just assumed that he had the derived authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to function as an individual in baptizing people.  I am convinced that he assumed wrongly, in part, because he doesnít understand authority, specifically the finer points of derived authority.

7.   Another illustration:  In James 3.1 it is written, ďMy brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.Ē  The prohibition in that verse seems to me not to be a prohibition based upon an inability to teach Godís Word, which is what the word ďmasterĒ refers to, for there are many capable teachers of Godís Word.  Rather, it is a prohibition based upon being authorized to teach Godís Word.  Thus, just because you can do some thing doesnít mean you have the right, the authority, to do that thing.

8.   Now folks, Iím not mad at Pat Boone.  And Iím not mad at people who insist on conducting their own unauthorized Bible studies.  These types of  things happen in our culture all the time.  Itís a sign of the times, just like in the days of the judges, ďevery man doing that which was right in his own eyes.Ē[2] 

9.   Such things serve only to illustrate that you and I have no right to do anything that we are not authorized to do.  And on the flip side, we are guilty of great negligence if we do not wield authority that has been given to us.  Now, in our culture the tendency is for wives to wield authority not granted to them, while men tend not to wield authority that is granted to them.  Let us purpose then, as a Church, to neither overstep our bounds or fall short of what we have been authorized to do as a congregation.  Amen?

10. There are two issues that I would like for you to consider before this morningís sermon; the whole issue of derived authority, and then the issue of authorities in conflict: 

1A.   First, THERE IS LEGITIMATE VERSUS ILLEGITIMATE AUTHORITY

If all authority ultimately is Godís authority, then any creatureís authority or institutionís authority must, of necessity, be derived authority.  That is, what authority is wielded by Godís creatures cannot be their own, but must come originally from God.  Let me expand on this.

1B.    Jesus, holy angels, the family unit, and the Church have what is recognized as what I choose to call legitimate derived authority.

1C.   As was fully covered last week, the Lord Jesus Christ is not a created being, being the second person of the triune Godhead, fully and in every way God.  But Jesus specifically informs us, in Matthew 28.18, that He executes the ministry the Father gave Him with authority given to Him by the Father.  Thus, Jesus does not use His Own authority, but authority He has legitimately derived from God the Father.

2C.   I will not take the time to work through an argument on this, but merely state that holy angels who serve God in a variety of ways are also duly authorized by God, and have now been placed under the authority God gave to His Son, Jesus, to do His bidding.  Therefore, angelic authority is legitimately derived authority.

3C.   Of course, it can also be shown in many ways in Godís Word that the family unit has been authorized by God to fulfill their assigned tasks of raising and training children, with the husband authorized to fulfill his duties and the wife authorized to fulfill her duties.  So, the family unit has legitimately derived authority from God to fulfill their God-assigned tasks.

4C.   And then there is the Church of Jesus Christ.  Brought into existence by the Lord Jesus Christ, a Church is authorized to represent Jesus Christ to a community, to speak for God in an authoritative way, to administer the ordinances of baptism and the communion of the Lordís Supper, to address issues of discipline within its membership, and to carry out the Great Commission . . . which we are dealing with in this series of messages.  Therefore, the Church obviously has derived authority.

5C.   With the exception of the Lord Jesus Christ, of course, these are individuals and institutions brought into existence by God and authorized to serve and glorify Him in a prescribed manner.  Their authority is derived authority, meaning that it has been delegated by God, and their derived authority is legitimate, meaning they are not doing what they have not been told to do by God or by the Lord Jesus Christ.

6C.   Looked at one way, most spiritual behavior can be understood in terms of the humble surrender of an individual to the divinely instituted authority structure God has placed him in.  Submission to the Church as unto Christ and to the pastor as Scripture directs, Hebrews 13.17, and submission to the family unit, whether as wife to husband or as children to parents.

2B.    But we live in a fallen world, and the authority wielded to influence our lives is not always legitimately derived authority.  Much of the authority we see affecting people each and every day is illegitimate authority wielded by Satan, by fallen angels, by false religions, by slave owners and employers, and by government.

1C.   Do I need to prove to this crowd that Satan and his fallen angels, the demons, as well as the false religions they inspire and energize, wield usurped authority, illegitimate authority, in the lives of countless millions of people to their eternal harm?

2C.   And does any time need to be spent establishing to your satisfaction that a master owning a slave constitutes a wielding of authority over the life of another that has no legitimacy whatsoever?  Iíll deal with your boss in a moment.

3C.   Allow me now to address the subject of governmental authority being a usurpation of Godís authority.  Remember, except for the direct rule of God over the Israelites, all human governments are manmade, having their origin with a fellow named Nimrod, who combined false religion with governmental might to rule over the population of his empire.

4C.   Almost without exception in the history of mankind three institutions have been used by the Devil himself to cruelly enslave sinful men; human government in its various forms, false religion in its various forms, and the master slave relationship in its various forms.  These have been institutions wielding illegitimate authority over the lives of men, exercising a derived authority that has been usurped and not granted by God.

3B.    Let us not deny that God providentially makes use of illegitimate authority from time to time to thwart His enemies and fulfill His ends, as well as blessing His people thereby.

1C.   What the religious leaders of the Jews and Pontius Pilate did to the Lord Jesus Christ was a classic display of both religious and governmental authority that was entirely illegitimate, yet Godís purpose was fulfilled in it.  Listen to Peter in Acts 2.23:  ďHim, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.Ē

2C.   And how about Acts 16.29-31?  Paul and Silas unjustly and improperly arrested, beaten and imprisoned; a clear example of the illegitimacy of Imperial Roman might.  Yet God used it, did he not?  ďThen he [the jailor] called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.Ē  Marvelous!

3C.   And what about Paulís arrest in Jerusalem, for no reason, three years of incarceration, and then his transportation to Rome?  Paul knew he was to preach in Rome, but he didnít know by what means God would get him there.  And how did God get him there?  By the providential use of the illegitimate authority of Imperial Rome.

4C.   And God providentially makes use of such governmental authority even today.  Romans 13.1-7, please, and then I will explain three things to you:

1          Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.  For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

2       Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

3       For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.  Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

4       For he is the minister of God to thee for good.  But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

5       Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

6       For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are Godís ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

7       Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. 

5C.   Verse 1.  God commands subjection to higher powers, not because He brought governments into existence (because He did not), but because He makes use of governments.  The word ďordainedĒ in verse 1 does not mean God created these higher powers, as some would have you to believe.  Itís the same Greek word that we find in Matthew 28.16, translated ďappointed.Ē  Thus, as Jesus directed His people to meet Him at a certain place, God invisibly directs governments from time to time to suit His purposes and to achieve His ends.

6C.   Second, Paul calls government officials ďministersĒ because God providentially makes use of them, not because they are godly.  Anyone God makes use of is a minister, whether he knowingly serves God as a spiritual man, or is unknowingly used by God as a wicked man.

7C.   Third, verse 5, subject yourselves to government because if you donít you will suffer the wrath of government.  It may very well be that you will someday suffer governmentís wrath for doing right, but itís foolish to suffer governmentís wrath for doing wrong.

8C.   So, there is legitimate authority and there is illegitimate authority.  And we are not only supposed to submit to legitimate authority structures because we thereby submit to God, but we are also called upon to submit to illegitimate authority figures because, #1, God oftentimes makes use of such institutions for our good , and, #2, because you will suffer greatly if you do not. 

9C.   Are taxes unjust and illegal under our constitution?  They may very well be, but pay your taxes anyway.  Because if you donít youíll go to prison.  If you do go to prison, go to prison for preaching the Gospel, not for stubbornly refusing to render unto Caesar what is Caesarís. 

2A.   Next, THE ISSUE OF AUTHORITIES IN CONFLICT

The child of God must be extremely conscious of authority, whether it is legitimate or illegitimate, whether it is God-given authority or whether it is usurped authority that is wielded, and whether or not God is providentially making use of a personís or an institutionís illegitimate authority.  At times great wisdom from God is needed to make decisions that will honor and glorify Him.  Three kinds of examples for your consideration:

1B.    First, there are the examples of Daniel

1C.   Six centuries before Christ a young Jewish man named Daniel was captured and removed to Babylon, mutilated by them, and enslaved.  A more clear cut example of an abuse of illegitimate governmental and religious and master over slave authority cannot be imagined.  Yet throughout his life Daniel, first with the Babylonians and then with the Persians, exemplified a godly humility and a servantís spirit toward his masters.

2C.   On only one occasion during Danielís long life was he faced with a conflict between Godís authority over his life and his captorís illegitimate authority over his life that could not be avoided.  That was when Darius signed a decree forbidding any man to pray to any god for 30 days.  Well, Daniel was not about to be bound by any such decree, but prayed as was his custom, and was willing to suffer the consequences.  And suffer the consequences he did, being thrown into a lionís den.  But God delivered him, as we see in Daniel chapter 6.

2B.    Next, there were the examples of the apostles.  With Peter and Paul the conflicts that arose were with the religious leaders, both Jewish and Gentile, as well as with the might of Imperial Rome.

1C.   And, of course, the classic declaration of principle was made by Peter when he was told by the high priest in so many words to stop preaching the Gospel.  But ďPeter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men,Ē Acts 5.29.

2C.   So, there you have it.  Always submit to divinely instituted authority.  Submit even to illegitimate authority structures whenever you can without committing sin against God.  But when there is a conflict between Godís authority (or the authority delegated to an institution of divine origin) and an illegitimate authority structure, and you have not the wisdom to avoid a conflict, or there simply is no avoiding the conflict, then you must refuse to submit to doing wrong and be willing to suffer for your decision.

3C.   Daniel was incredibly wise.  And when they tried to force young Daniel to eat the kingís meat he was faced with a dilemma.  By virtue of his wisdom he was able, Daniel chapter 1, to negotiate through the issue without sinning against God or refusing to obey his captors.  But when the time came in his old age that he could not by wisdom avoid such conflict, he was willing to suffer whatever came rather than sin against God.  What an example for us all.

3B.    Letís bring this issue home to our day.  What about Christians today who face unavoidable conflicts between submitting to Godís authority and dealing with the demands of some illegitimate authority?

1C.   Overseas we find such conflicts in China, in Pakistan, in India, in Vietnam, in sub Sahara Africa, and in East Timor, where Christians try to submit to totalitarian regimes, or try to submit to Muslims without compromising their convictions and sinning against God.  But when they must they rightly suffer death or mutilation or imprisonment rather than sin against God.

2C.   In our country such conflict most usually occurs in the form of the employer / employee relationship.  This is really not the same kind of authority relationship that I mentioned earlier, since where you work is entirely voluntary.  The Christian in China; is that a voluntary relationship he has with the government?  No.  How about the Christian in East Timor?  Is that a voluntary relationship he has with Islamic oppressors?  No. 

3C.   But cannot any Christian in the United States simply quit his job rather than work on Sundays?  Sure he can.  There is no coercion in the United States in this way.  No Christian has to work for an abusive boss, or a boss who insists that he work on Sundays.  He can simply quit the job. 

CONCLUSION:

1.   So you see, there are really two kinds of authority structures in this fallen world we live in.  There are those authority structures which are divinely instituted, which God brought into existence, and there are those God did not bring into existence, but which He frequently providentially uses to the Christianís advantage.

2.   If you can exercise wisdom to avoid conflict between the two kinds of authority structures, then do so.  But if you find yourself in a situation in which you must sin against God in order to comply with the demands of illegitimate authority, then you have no choice.  You must make a stand and resist the evil and be willing to suffer persecution, because it is always right to suffer affliction instead of committing even the least sin.

3.   But what happens when you find yourself in a situation in which it isnít a conflict between Godís authority and illegitimate authority?  What if there is a conflict between Godís authority and something thatís entirely voluntary, such as a job?  Simple.  You walk away.  ďBut I canít just quit my job.Ē  Why not? 

4.   Your boss has no authority in your life.  You trade skilled work and a measure of respectful obedience in return for money.  As soon as he asks for more than money can buy you quit.  Another way of putting it is, As soon as he attempts to use the money he pays you to get you to sin against God you quit.  You do not prostitute yourself into sinning against God for money.  After all, youíre not a whore.

5.   Now that we have chewed on the subject of authority a good deal, brother Isenberger is going to come and lead us in a song before this morningís sermon. 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   Last week we dealt with the Lord Jesus Christís authority, the authority that was given to Him by the Father. So far this morning I have discussed the whole topic of authority in a manner that I am quite sure you have never heard it discussed before.

2.   And what I want to do in my sermon this morning is deal with the authority that Calvary Road Baptist Church has as a Church of Jesus Christ, before we even begin to address the specifics of Christís delegation to us of His authority in the Great Commission.

3.   That group of disciples Jesus had assembled in Matthew 28.16-20 was the Church.  The Church later settled in Jerusalem and waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus elsewhere commanded them. 

4.   Then they, being hereby authorized and later on empowered, went forth to turn the world upside down . . . bringing us 2000 years later to this auditorium.

5.   Before we see what the Lord Jesus Christ authorized the Church to do, which we will do next week, the Lord willing, let us consider the very nature of the authority the Lord Jesus Christ has delegated to us.

6.   Want to know how Daniel was able to stand as he did?  Want to know how Paul and Peter and the others were able to stand as they did?  Want to know how Saleema was able to witness to her friend, knowing that terrible persecution awaited her for presenting Christ to a Muslim girl?  Want to know why the Chinese Christians are able to stand for Christ even when threatened with genital mutilation at the hands of the communists?

7.   To be sure, God gives them abundant grace to serve Him.  But included in His super abundant grace is an awareness, and understanding, of our authority as Christians to serve Him.  Four things: 

1A.   First, OUR AUTHORITY IS LEGITIMATE

1B.    This is no usurped authority by which we are commanded to act.  This is no illegitimate authority that we seek to wield in an attempt to gratify our own lusts or fulfill our own selfish desires.

2B.    Authority is ďthe right to control or command, authority, absolute power, warrant[3]  The original right to control or command is Godís and Godís alone.  God granted authority to His Son, Jesus Christ.  But Jesus Christ authorized us.

3B.    The Lord Jesus Christ did not authorize Imperial Rome.  The Lord Jesus Christ did not authorize the city of Monrovia, or the county of Los Angeles, or the state of California, or the United States of America, as He has authorized us.

4B.    My friend, we may not look like much to this lost and dying world.  And we certainly are not impressive by worldly standards.  But we, and other congregations like us, have something that false religions do not have, that governments do not have, that well financed organizations do not have. 

5B.    We have legitimate authority granted to us by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thus, we have more right to do what Jesus Christ commands and commissions us to do than anyone on the planet has to do what they do.  And our right to do what we do comes from the throne room in heaven. 

2A.   Next, OUR AUTHORITY DOES NOT CONFLICT WITH ANY OTHER LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY

1B.    There is no conflict between our authority and the authority God gave to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Quite the contrary.  Our authority derives from His authority and is in complete and harmonious submission to His authority.

2B.    Neither is there any conflict between the family unitís authority and the Churchís authority.  People would sometimes have you to believe that there are conflicts between family and Church, but they are mistaken.  God is a god of harmony and peace and not a god of discord.  Neither is He the author of confusion, but of peace.[4]  So, any time there seems to be a conflict between the Churchís authority to function and serve God, and the familyís authority to function and serve God, it can be traced to a misunderstanding about either the Church or the family.

3B.    Now, there will be times when there is conflict with government or with the job, but the government does not wield legitimate authority, and the job wields no authority at all.  When an unavoidable conflict appears with government then you must submit to Godís legitimate authority and resist governmentís illegitimate authority.  When such a conflict appears with a job you walk away from it as not being at all worth sinning against God to keep.  No job pays enough money to justify sinning against God.  Amen? 

3A.   Third, OUR AUTHORITY SUPERSEDES ANY ILLEGITIMATE AUTHORITY

1B.    Now, what does this mean?  It means that this Church has more authority to do what we do than the city of Monrovia does, than the county of Los Angeles does, than the state of California does, than the United States of America does.

2B.    This does not mean we should not submit with a sweet spirit to these various levels of government whenever and wherever we can.  But submitting to government does not mean that we acknowledge their authority over us, or that we have any thoughts that they have more of a right before God than we do.  Quite the contrary, I assure you.

3B.    Some fellow may think he is big daddy scratch because he represents the president of the United States or the Prime Minister of England.  Now, thatís fine and good and I will do my best to show deference and humility toward him . . . all the while recognizing that I, on the other hand, represent the king of all glory.  And so do you, Church member.

4B.    This is why Paul could call upon a slave to obey his master, as unto Christ, Ephesians 6.5-8.  Itís no longer the masterís illegitimate authority that slave was submitting to with his obedience, but the Saviorís ďall power . . . in heaven and in earth.Ē  And itís quite a different thing to submit to a master because you think he owns you, and then to submit to a master because the Savior commands it.  John 8.36:  ďIf the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.Ē

5B.    Psalm 115.3:  ď. . . our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.Ē  Is God pleased for us to submit for a time to those who have usurped authority and who wield it unrighteously and unjustly?  So be it.  He is wise and knows what is best for us.  So, while our authority supersedes any illegitimate authority wielded by the Devil or man or any worldly institution, we do our best to submit as wisely and as humbly as we are able . . . because this pleases our Lord. 

4A.   Finally, OUR AUTHORITY WILL BE OPPOSED

1B.    We live in a fallen world, after all.  We live in a world that is arrayed against our God and against our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, there will be conflict between us and the world, between we who represent God and Christ and the world that is controlled by the god of this world.

2B.    In John 15.20, Jesus said, ďRemember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord.  If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.Ē  And in John 16.33, Jesus said, ďIn the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.Ē  Things are going to be rough at times, but it will turn out okay for those who are converted. 

3B.    Governments will decide that we have no right to hang door hangers, that we have no right to pass out fliers at the street fair, that we have no right to baptize in the ocean, that we have no right to do any street preaching, that we have no right to go door to door. 

4B.    So, what do we do?  Do we resist the illegitimate authority or do we comply with their wishes?  It depends on whether we can get our business done another way or not.  If we can do a Daniel and wisely discharge our duties without conflict, then we will do so.  But if we cannot find a way to obey God without disobeying the illegitimate authority of government, then we may have to go to jail.  But we simply cannot allow anyone or any thing to stop us from serving God.  Amen? 

CONCLUSION:

1.   Look, we donít want to fuss with anyone.  We donít want to argue with anyone.  We donít want anyone to get mad at us.  We certainly donít want to violate any laws or do anything government officials disapprove of. 

2.   The only thing more important to us than getting along with people and not offending them, not breaking their rules or violating their codes, is pleasing God and serving our Savior.

3.   So, if we can stay within their guidelines and serve God, great!  If we can abide by all their rules and get the job done for Jesus Christ, super!

4.   But we have authority to act on behalf of the Son of God, and our authority is legitimate.  Therefore, we must allow nothing to deter us, nothing to stop us, nothing to distract us, from accomplishing our assigned responsibility.  Amen?  Nothing!  Nothing!  Nothing!


[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 353.

[2] Judges 21.25

[3]Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 353.

[4] First Corinthians 14.33

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