Christ’s Authority | Spirit Filled Community, pt. 2
Our two main presuppositions or assumptions are that the Early Church (E.C.) is Pentecostal and a community.
We will focus on ways the Holy Spirit (H.S.) impacted the E.C. development. What made the E.C. become so successful? We are going to look at the development of the Church from the Great Commission until Stephen. We’ll look at some observations about the first Church, some characteristics that we can adopt.
“Within the four years more or less that elapsed between the death of Christ and the persecution that rose about Stephen the church had become a distinct body with its own peculiar organization, beliefs, and purpose.”
You may ask, “Why look at Church history?”
Acts isn’t just a history of the Church, but a handbook. It reveals secrets of a Church driven by the Holy Spirit.
When it began, the Church was a completely new organism. There was nothing else like it in the world or in history.
We look at E.C. history to connect with our roots and to see how Church is meant to be.
We are living in an age of renewed interest in the Pentecostal Church and movement
“The astounding growth of the Pentecostal movement around the world has brought to the forefront of theological reflection important questions about the Holy Spirit that have been central to missiological reflection and writing in recent years. This happened partly because Pentecostals put great emphasis on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit but also because theologians and Bible scholars interested in the mission of the church rediscovered the important role the Holy Spirit plays in not only the Pauline epistles but also the Gospels, especially Luke-Acts.”
The Pentecostals are the newer evangelicals on the scene, and the Primitive Church. But the rapid growth has shown the world that we are not going anywhere, we’re here to stay. We’re catching the eyes of Historians and Theologians worldwide who are tracking developments.
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
What was it that Jesus imparted to the Disciples that day? Was it salvation, the Church, or more? Today we want to look at what it means to the Church.
What does it mean to walk in the authority of Christ, as believers, as a body? Why was the authority of Christ so vital to the Early Church? What can we gain from understanding Christ’s authority?
I. AUTHORITY FROM THE FATHER, John 19.21
The verb “hath sent” is the Greek word apostello. It is in the perfect tense meaning completed, i.e. mission accomplished. It means to send under authority, with a commission. The noun is Apostle.
To “send” is to thrust. In other words Jesus thrusts the Early Church into the harvest. Does He need to thrust us into the Harvest?
“As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” The word “As” and the phrase “even so” is very strong language denoting the same calling, the same commission. The Early Church was birthed in the same authority that Jesus had in His ministry. Do we realize that we carry the same authority as Christ?
We are to continue to carry out Christ’s very own mission for Him.
II. AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH
“The Bible teaches us that Christ is Head over all things: He is the Lord of the universe, not merely the second person of the Trinity . . . He gave to the Church its constitution and officers, and clothed them with divine authority, so that they can speak and act in His name.”
It is clear that His hand is involved in setting up the authority of the Church. The Church’s power doesn’t just flow from the H.S.’s miraculous gifts, but from Christ’s authority.
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 always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Jesus proclaims, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (verse 18). The term “power” here is rightly translated “authority” in other versions. It is the Greek term exousia. The other term for power in the commission stories is dunamis. Dunamis is the miraculous power of God and exousia is the authority to use that power. One does not exist without the other.
This authority of the Kingdom is transferred to the Disciples with the command, “Go ye therefore” (verse 19). This is a conjunction that could read, “Because I have been empowered, I am empowering you,” or, “Go in the same authority that I have been given.” In effect, Jesus establishes the authority of the Church.
There are two kinds of power
God sends us in Christ’s authoritative power. The Holy Ghost backs up our authoritative power with His miraculous power.
God still offers the Church His authoritative and miraculous power today.
III. AUTHORITY FOR THE MISSION
Jesus commissions the Disciples, John 20.21. This is John’s version of the Great Commission. Jesus is establishing the work of the Church. He is calling the Christians to go to the world.
Jesus shares His authority for the mission with the Disciples in John 20.21.
“The authority and responsibility of mission that the Father gave the Son moves to believers. The Father and Son send the Spirit, who works in the world by giving life and sanctification to believers, thus empowering them; the Spirit in turn convicts sinners to whom they will preach.”
The Mission is to win the lost.
“‘Why has God placed us as a community, at this time, in this neighborhood, in this city, in this country, in this world?’ . . . Many times in history, churches that were great and powerful disappeared because they lost the sense of mission. They became so identified with their culture that they lost any sense of mission to it, any ability to be prophetic in the name of Jesus.”
IV. AUTHORITY OVER SIN, John 20.23
“‘In the same manner as the Father sent me, so I am sending you.’ This was a statement of the authority He was giving them, as verse 23 indicates. (The meaning there is that for all of the disciples, divine authority would back up their preaching. When they gave the gospel promise of remission or forgiveness of sins, those who believed would indeed be forgiven. Those who did not believe would indeed remain under judgment.)”
There are many Church words and practices associated with this verse
You may have heard of confession, penance, absolution, excommunication. You may have heard of discernment or Church discipline. Regardless of the excesses and extremes you’ve heard, there is still truth in this verse.
The Church carries authority over sin, authority to hold people accountable
Some may say, “I make my own decisions. I’m a Christian. I don’t need the Church.”
And they’re dead wrong! We’re connected to the Church. We do answer to someone.
Jesus clearly gives the Disciples His authority to back up their preaching.
Remit and Retain
Remit, we have the ability to recognize when people have been forgiven.
Retain, we have the ability to recognize when people are still living in sin.
How do we use this authority?
We already use it more than we know, when we use discernment in dealing with others. Richard Foster points out that we do have this authority and we must use it wisely.
“The ministry of retaining sins is simply the refusal to try to bring people into something for which they are not ready. Sometimes people are so anxious to get others into the kingdom that they will try to announce their forgiveness before they have sought it or even wanted it.”
We often force people to Christ before they’re ready, so we drive them away. Can we tell if people have truly made a heartfelt commitment to God? Yes, we must use discernment as we remit and retain.
We use it in confession and repentance. We share our secrets more with each other than with the minister. What are we doing? We are confessing and remitting sin.
Why do we have this power? Because God isn’t looking for a perfect community. He’s looking for a forgiven community. Through Church we receive the mercy of God, and share the mercy of God.
If the Church represents Christ, then what does this say about submission to the Church?
Will God bless us if we are not under the authority of a local body of believers?
Are we not rebelling against Christ when we are rebelling against the Church?
How can we expect the power of God to flow in our lives if we are not in submission to the authoritative power of the Church?
No Church is perfect, but the Church does bear the authority of the Kingdom.
pic credit: jaefrench | 01.03.17 | pixabay
For more writings on the Kingdom of God CLICK
- Merrill C. Tenney, New Testament Survey (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1985), 240.
- Samuel Escobar, The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 113.
- L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1941), 582.
- Ben Aker, “John,” in Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament, ed. French Arrington and Roger Stronstad (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), 111.
- Escobar, 93.
- Stanley M. Horton, What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit, Rev. ed. (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2005), 130.
- Richard J. Foster, Celebration Of Discipline: The Path To Spiritual Growth (New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), 156.