Christian Authority

by Jill Nowell, Deaconess Candidate

Who is the ultimate ruler in this world? According to a poem written by William Ross Wallace in 1865, it is the “hand that rocks the cradle.” As recently as 2011, popular singer Beyoncé  performed a song asserting, “Who run the world? Girls!” Some conspiracy theorists would disagree with each contention, claiming it is the current version of the Illuminati, a secretive group of powerful men (and women), who retain power through brainwashing via media manipulation. Really, though, the question arises from the secular realm and is philosophical in nature, with no straight answer in this era of postmodern thought; on any given day, one could argue that a plethora of answers fit the question and each could be accurate. For example, in American on the afternoon of September 11th, 2011, logical arguments could be made for both hatred and love ruling concomitantly: hatred in the act of 9/11 itself, love in the actions of those who were first responders, volunteers, and others who were selfless and gave of themselves to save others.

If the focus of the question is turned toward sacred answers, the response becomes much more concrete: The Bible states in 1 John 5:19 that “we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” Satan, the wicked one, certainly would love to lay claim to the title “Ruler of the World.” However, “the power and authority of Satan has been dealt a fatal blow by Christ. The Cross, The Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the Ascension tremendously weakened any power or authority that Satan enjoyed, but it didn’t annihilate him.” Therefore, though Satan’s influence is strong and all who live in this world find themselves in the unenviable position of being swayed by an evil ruler (indeed, even those in Christ are being subjected to the whims of this nefarious, cunning leader and his horde of followers), Christians know that Christ had the ultimate victory on Earth and will be coming again to remake this broken world. A quick survey of the evils of earth reveals that Satan’s sway is strong. Yet, Revelation 19:10 assures us that the “…devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone…(to) be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Therefore, ultimately, at Christ’s return, no doubt about omnipotence on Earth will exist: it will become fully evident to all. Yet, while we await that triumphant day, where is our hope now? How can Christians lay claim to the notion that all authority lies in God, His Son, and within the Holy Spirit? What structural evidence of God do we see today in this fallen world?

First, as Christians, a bedrock of our faith is knowledge that God is the creator of all. Genesis 1:1 proclaims, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word used in this first chapter of the Bible is “Elohim”, which, in Strong’s translation, means “possession of control, authority, or influence over others….” As the true author/creator of everything, God is omnipotent, meaning He is all-powerful. Isaiah 44:24 states, “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself….” A.W. Tozer puts it thus:

Since He has at His command all the power in the universe, the Lord God omnipotent can do anything as easily as anything else. All His acts are done without effort. He expends no energy that must be replenished. His self-sufficiency makes it unnecessary for Him to look outside of Himself for a renewal of strength. All the power required to do all that He wills to do lies in undiminished fullness in His own infinite being.

Article 1 of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion echoes this omnipotence, adding the qualities of omniscience (“infinite wisdom”) and omnibenevolence (“infinite goodness”): “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things….” God alone is our able Creator and the One who preserves frail humanity, from conception through death.

Irenaeus of Lyons (AD 130-202) spoke of Jesus Christ, in stating that “he received testimony from all that He was very man, and that He was very God, from the Father, from the Spirit, from angels, from the creation itself, from men, from apostate spirits and demons.” Scripture also attests that Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was with God at creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Despite his co-equal status, Philemon 2:6-7 states “…although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of man.” Though still God in essence, Christ gave up His power and position to become man. He received the Holy Spirit at His own baptism and began an earthly ministry, where he performed many miracles, some of which are detailed in Matthew 11:3-5: “…the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news preached to them”. Christ was sent in order that the plan of redemption of God’s people would be accomplished on earth, by His own death, resurrection, and ascension.

Corrie Ten Boom states: “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.” God’s Spirit, whom Genesis 1:2 declares “…was hovering over the face of the waters” at creation, is also the Holy Spirit we refer to when baptizing in the name of the “Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. He is the third person of the Trinity, “…proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.” Peter enunciates a co-equal relationship between God and the Holy Spirit when he chastises Ananias for lying directly to God when “…Satan filled (his) heart to lie to the Holy Spirit….” The Spirit is included in the Grace, as a legitimate third person of the Trinity; Jesus also presents Him in Luke 12:12 as a teacher, capable of empowering believers to speak of Christ in the very moment a retort is required. In John 14:16, the Holy Spirit comes from the Father, through the prayers of Jesus, as “another Helper” to abide with the disciples (and mankind) forever, as the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit “…dwells with you and will be in you” and acts as a guide, regenerator (through baptism), sanctifier, revealer of God’s truth/will to believers, and giver of spiritual gifts. Very importantly, we are ensured of the validity of Holy Scripture as God’s Word, through the intercession of the Holy Spirit; He inspired the writers to record the words of the Bible: “…no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit is alive and active within the hearts and minds of believers to this day.

Oswald Chambers beautifully sums up the power of the function of the Trinity in Christian lives: “My unrestrained commitment of myself to God gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to grant to me the holiness of Jesus Christ.” Through Christian faith, in perfect harmony, the Three-in-One works to allow the chance for transformation into the likeness of Christ. When congregations recite the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed, our collective belief in the work of the Trinity is affirmed. We follow the truth of Article 8, which states the creeds, along with the Athanasius’s Creed, “…ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture.” From initial creation of the entire universe, through redemption from sin unto eternal life, to daily guidance, wisdom, and power, the Trinity provides the necessary power for Christians to live a life that is forever meaningful, salvaged from death, provided direction and insight, and full of supernatural ability.