In my last two years of high school I had a coach, who was the parent of one of the players. He started coaching the year before I arrived at the school, and won the league. I had high hopes for the team when I joined, because they only lost one player, and were gaining several others. But my hopes were quickly dashed, when I realized what kind of coach he was. Instead of teaching his players, he would berate them.
I remember my first pre-season game my senior year with the team. We were playing against a team a division above ours and I was pitching. By the third inning, I had allowed 1 run, but they had kept us to 0. Their pitcher was either really good, or as I believed, we just weren’t prepared. Up to that point in practice I had taken five swings against a live pitcher. In two innings were the pitcher had struck out six players in a row. Then in the third inning, the first batter came up, strikeout; the second came up, strikeout; then it was my turn. The coach always put me last in the batting lineup when I pitched, even though when I played the field I hit 5th. But here I was hitting ninth. The opposing pitcher had eight straight strikeouts, and was looking for the ninth. I wasn’t going to let that happen. The first pitch I was given I hit, a ground ball to the shortstop, my team were on their feet cheering me on. I ran as hard as I could to beat out the throw and a split second before my right foot hit the bag, the ball reached the first baseman. I was out, the inning was over. I hustled back to the dugout and the first words out of my coach’s mouth were shouted at me, “You hit the bag with the wrong foot!”
Instantly I was furious. I tried not to respond as I entered the dugout to grab my glove, as he berated me for not hitting the bag with the correct foot. See, the general accepted technique to stepson a bag in baseball is with the left foot. This allows for the body to make a left turn easier when going to second base. And as I grabbed my glove the constant yelling from the coach finally broke me. My 5’11 skinny frame lunged at the 5’6” portly man, and if I would have gotten a hold of him, I don’t know what I would have done. Luckily my teammates grabbed me. I left then and there in a furious mood. Eventually I apologized for my behavior, never receiving one in return.
Years later, I met one of the shortstops from the other team who remembered me from that game. He told me that after I left, they destroyed us, a fact none of my teammates let me know.
My dad told me once, that he asked the principle why they kept that coach around, and the answer was, he got them free equipment through his work, and when his son graduated, he would be gone.
I never like that coach, because I believe he used his authority as a coach to berate and demean his players, going so far as the during year they won their league, chasing a player with a bat. No one on the team liked him, the staff tolerated him, but everyone saw, that this man was given authority and was not worthy of it.
And it’s this idea of authority and using it correctly that brings us back into the text of Matthew 28, verses 16 through 20; where, last week, we began to dissect, what is commonly referred to as the Great Commission. We started down this path, because as we talked about at the end of our ARK Series, when a person puts their trust into Jesus as their Savior, they are indwelled with the Holy Spirit and are now the ark of God’s presence on earth.
In our first week of the year, we tackled the context of the Great Commission. And in the context, we saw three important points: First, the disciples met Jesus on a mountain. The eye witness Matthew pointed this out, because mountains represented encounters with God throughout the Old Testament. The second point we noticed, was that the disciples worshiped Jesus. Matthew points this out, because Jesus himself makes the clear proclamation that only God is worthy to be worshiped (Matthew 4:9). So by the disciples worshiping Jesus, and by him receiving that worship, Jesus infers that he is God Almighty. The last point we saw last week, and the one that we walked away applying to our own lives, was the fact that Matthew pointed out that there was still disciples that were doubting. We talked about how even in their, and in our, doubt, God can still use us.
With the context understood, we can now jump back into the Great Commission of Matthew 28, verses 16-20. And like we said last week, we’re going to read through the whole passage and then focus on a particular verse or verses. So let’s read together starting in verse 16 of Matthew chapter 28.
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Like we said last week, when we understand the context of the disciples encountering God on a mountain, worshiping him and yet still having doubts, it puts into perspective the words of Jesus that follow their doubting.
In verse 18, Jesus speaks and says these important words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to.”
These words are in direct response to their doubting. Jesus is saying that there is no need to doubt because he has all authority in the universe. But today, I want us to focus on three words from this passage, “all”, “authority”, and “given”.
The reason I want us to stop and focus on these three words, is because when we glance over these words, I have found that people misapply their meanings and come up with all sorts of beliefs from them.
So today we’re going deep into Scripture so that we can fully understand the meaning behind what Jesus is saying in this verse and how we are to respond with what he is calling us to do. First, let’s tackle the first and the last words, because the one in the middle is the most troublesome it seems.
The word all, is the Greek word pas (pas), which means the parts making up the whole. Simply put, it’s a jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces of the puzzle are brought together to make the whole. In this case, it’s the pieces of heavenly authority and earthly authority.
One of the harder things to understand about Jesus, is that on earth he is both fully God and fully man. And as such, Jesus actually excludes himself from using his divine power. Paul says it like this in Philippians 2:6-7, “Who (Jesus), being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Those words, “he made himself nothing”, literally mean, he emptied (Greek: kenoó [ken-o’-o]) himself of his divine power.
And we see this through Jesus’ earthly ministry. In John 5:19 it reads, “Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
Later on in verse 30 of that same chapter Jesus says, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
Earlier in Matthew’s book, satan, recognizes that Jesus has put away his divine power when he became a human and so entices Jesus to break this emptying in Matthew chapter 4 verse 3 where it reads, “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’”
And so, when Jesus says, all authority, he is making a point to let us know that on earth, he only had some authority, which was the authority given to him to accomplish certain tasks. But now, all, every piece of his divine authority had been restored.
Which brings us to the word given. The Greek word didómi (did’-o-mee), has the idea behind it that something is being bestowed. In that Philippians passage, if we were to pick it up in verse 9 it reads, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
As Jesus completes his earthly work, which started with him emptying himself of his divine power, he is restored by God the Father in all of his infinite power and status.
Taking these two words together, we can now read verse 18 like this: Every aspect of Jesus’ divine authority, which he had emptied himself of, has been restored to him, because of his work on earth and through the cross.
Now, for some of us, maybe most of us, these two ideas are commonly understood. But there are those that want to either bring Jesus down to merely an exulted human or lift him him beyond human limitations, but the Scriptures won’t allow those interpretations. Instead, the understanding of Jesus being fully God and fully man, with the limitations of a human while on earth is the Scriptural view of Jesus’ earthly work.
But I’ve noticed that when it comes to the word authority, there is a lot of misunderstanding. I have seen this lead into one major misinterpretation of what authority means in Scripture and in the life of the believer.
And so, let us dive into what Scripture has to say about authority.
Now, we can go in one of two directions with the time we have left. We can either talk about Jesus’ authority or we can talk about the believer’s role in that authority. Through my time in prayer, it has been pressed on me that we need to focus on our role in authority, because more and more I have seen it be misinterpreted. Many people understand that Jesus’ authority is infinite and all encompassing. But what about the believer? And so I want to bring us to the misinterpretation of authority in the believer’s life first, and dive into what the Scriptures have to say about it.
One of the more common misinterpretations I have heard, uses verses like Romans 4:17. The verse reads, “As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.”
The common paraphrase that I’ve heard focuses’ solely on the last phrase of the verse and sounds like this, “We as believers can call things into being, things that were not.”
Not only is it taking the verse out of context, inserting us when the verse doesn’t mention us at all, but it gives us authority to do things that only God can do. This misinterpretation has at it’s core a misunderstanding of where we stand in authority.
So let’s get into what the Scriptures say about authority and what it means in our lives.
First, the word used of authority in Matthew 28:18, is the Greek word, exousia (ex-oo-see’-ah). Exousia (ex-oo-see’-ah) means the power to act, the right to have, the freedom to do. And so Jesus is saying in Matthew 28:18, that all powers to act, and all rights to have and all freedoms to do, are his.
But this word appears a lot in the New Testament, in fact it appears 102 times, and in almost every book.
Of these 102 times, we can break that down into 5 categories. First, the references to God or Jesus’ authority is referenced in 31 verses. Second, in reference to the believer there are 19 verses. Third, in reference to earthly governments we’re at 12 verses. Fourth, to satanic authority, there are 14 verses. And finally, the miscellaneous use of the word, with another 16 verses.
In several of these verses the term authority is used multiple times, and the Greek word gets translated into authority, power, right, and freedom.
But right off the bat, we can see the main focus of the word authority in the New Testament, far and above all other uses, exousia (ex-oo-see’-ah) is focused on God’s authority, his power, his right, and his freedom.
And so, when Jesus says that all authority in heaven and on earth is his, we can see throughout the New Testament, just what that means. And if you would like a list of these verses that talk about God’s authority, come tonight to our sermon discussion and I can given them to you.
But like I said earlier, there is a misunderstanding of what the role of the believer has when it comes to authority. And so, I think it best to allow the Scriptures to dictate to us what role in authority or what authority God didómi (did’-o-mee), or bestows to us. So let’s focus on those.
In the 19 verses that connect believers to authority, all 5 (Matt. 10:1; Mark 3:15, 6:7; Luke 9:1, 10:19) in the first three Gospels, reference Jesus giving authority to cast out demons, heal the sick, and proclaim the kingdom of God. The only reference in John’s Gospel (1:12) talks about a believer’s right to become a child of God. In the rest of the New Testament, there are five references to ministers of the Gospel having a right to compensation (1 Corinthians 9:4, 5, 6, 12,18; 2 Thessalonians 3:9). Two references to church discipline (2 Corinthians 10:8; 13:10). One reference is in having authority over, or being in control of our sexual appetites (1 Corinthians 7:37). One reference tells us to not misuse our authority or our freedom (1 Corinthians 8:9). Then there is one reference to being identified with Jesus in his suffering (Hebrews 13:10). And the last three references come from the book of Revelation where we’re told that when we overcome we’ll receive authority to judge nations (2:26), the second death has no authority over us (20:6), and we’ll have the authority or right to eat of the tree of life (22:14).
So now all that said, what can we glean from the authority that we have in Scripture? Well first, we’re intimately connected with Christ who has the authority. In 10 of the 19 verses the believer has no authority apart from Christ. Any authority we have comes from him, and is done at his command. That’s really important, because where he has every piece of authority, we only have a piece.
This is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” We are merely a representation of the authority that Christ wields.
Next, five of the verses show us that we should be in support of those engaged in ministry. So as believers we need to be looking for those ministry that are sharing the Gospel through speaking the word, caring for those in need, and honoring God though it. I’m not saying you should support the Alliance ministry, though I think you should, what I am saying is that you need to be led by God to find the ministries he wants you to support.
Then, two of the verses tell us that there is a structure in the Church of correcting Church related matters, and so we need to be under that authority. Each of us then, is called to a group of believers so that we can be accountable. If you’re not in such a group, then you’re actually missing out on the blessing that it brings. Because none of us is supposed to be a loner in this family of God.
Next, one verse calls us to be in control of our sexual desires. Really that means in control of our whole body. Our physical desires should not control us, but rather we should be in control of them
And finally, one verses tells us to not misuse any aspect of this authority. Not to misuse our thinking about where the authority comes from. Not misuse what ministries we support. Not misuse the accountability and fellowship of believers. Not misuse our bodies.
So the authority that Christ bestows to his disciples, is to spread the Gospel, support each other in spreading the Gospel, be humble in our spiritual walks by being accountable to other, be in control of our bodies, and to not misuse any of it.
It makes sense that this is the authority that we are bestowed by Christ, because the first two words following Jesus’ proclamation that he has all authority in heaven and on earth is “Therefore go…”
Each of us is to share the Gospel, each of us is called to support the sharing of the Gospel, each of us is called to a body of believers to be accountable, each of us is called to bring our desires under Christ’s rule, and each of us is called to not misuse any of it.
We are called by the authority of Jesus to conduct ourselves as he calls us. Not into what our own desires have for us, but what his desire is for us. We do not call those things that were not into being into being, but rather, we speak the words of Jesus, “Very truly I tell you, the Son (the believer) can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son (the believer) also does (John 5:19).”
My challenge for you this week is to take inventory of your life. First, in what areas are you trying to have authority, when the authority hasn’t been given to you? Sometimes, we try to force God into doing our will, but it is his will we need to be seeking. Second, in the areas of authority he has given you, what are you not following through in? Sharing the Gospel, supporting ministries, being accountable to others, not letting your desires overcome you, or just misusing it for your benefit and not Christ’s.
Jesus has only given us authority in a very narrow area, and even so, there’s a lot to be done with it. What are we trying to do beyond that?
Let us be God’s people, a people under Jesus’ authority, working out the limited authority he has given us today. Amen.