by J. Randal Matheny, editor
In his book Jesus and Power, David Prior saw little use in a distinction between the terms “power” and “authority.”
The importance of that distinction can be seen in Micah 2:1 where evil people carry out their plans to sin “because they have the power to do so.” Certainly, no authority inheres in their plans or activities.
What one has the power to do does not mean one is authorized to do it. Authority means the right to exercise power.
Jesus has both power and authority.
In the Great Commission, the Lord plainly states:
Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
This passage tells us at least five things about Jesus’ authority.
1. Complete Authority. Jesus has “all authority.” He uses a common Jewish construction which we call a divine passive. The passive verb is understood to have God behind it as the subject or acting force. With all authority given him by his Father, no one ever has any space to dispute an order or decision of his.
Jesus detains today all authority in matters of faith, practice and mission. No one today has authority to impose on others. The only time a disciple has authority is when he speaks God’s word (Titus 2:15) — and the authority is still God’s, not his.
2. Exercised Authority. Based on his authority, Jesus gives orders: “Therefore.” He makes use of his authority to command his people, so his is not an authority that can be ignored, bypassed or substituted. Christ is not an absent or inactive Master.
3. Benevolent Authority. Jesus wields his authority for good. Making disciples and baptism brings forgiveness to the world. At the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus declares that he has authority on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6). His authority does not send us out for humanitarian relief, political action or benevolent causes, but for the spiritual redemption of all, the greatest good that can be done for another.
4. Specific Authority. Jesus does not leave it to our imagination as to how a disciple is made. By the two participles in the phrase, he orders that we make disciples through baptism and teaching. Baptism is the response to the preaching of the gospel. Jesus sends us into the world to preach and teach. Jesus’ authority is specific, and that means when he specifies, we forget all other options.
5. Supported Authority. “I am with you always.” Jesus does not send us on an impossible task. His presence guarantees his help and strength. Whatever he commands us to do, we can by his help perform.
What does having all authority make Jesus? Lord of lords, and King of kings!