All Authority?

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Matthew 28.18-20

I have been thinking about this passage for a few days now and I am still contemplating verse 18. Jesus said, 'All authority...on earth has been given to me.' What does this mean?

Some have stated 'all authority on earth' means:

Clarke -- '[To] convert sinners; to sanctify, protect, and perfect his Church; to subdue all nations to himself; and, finally, to judge all mankind.'

Henry -- [Having] prevailed with God, by the sacrifice of atonement, he prevails with men, and deals with them as one having authority, by the ministry of reconciliation. He is indeed, in all causes and over all persons, supreme Moderator and Governor. By him kings reign. All souls are his, and to him every heart and knee must bow, and every tongue confess him to be the Lord. This our Lord Jesus tells them, not only to satisfy them of the authority he had to commission them, and to bring them out in the execution of their commission, but to take off the offence of the cross; they had no reason to be ashamed of Christ crucified, when they saw him thus glorified.

Gill -- '...not only to the saints, whose King he is, and who are made willing to serve him; but to all flesh, to kings and princes, who rule and reign by him; and even to all the wicked of the world, who in some shape or another are made to subserve the ends of his mediatorial kingdom and government: and this is not usurped power, but what is given him, and what he has a right to exercise; having finished sin, abolished death, overcome the world, and destroyed the devil; and must reign till all enemies are subject to him...'

So, I guess my question here is: is this just in the 'unseen' world? I don't know if I buy that. Jesus' whole ministry was about bringing heaven (i.e., the realm of God) to earth (the realm of humanity). He instructed us to pray 'Your kingdom come...on earth as it is in heaven'. It seems to me that his whole ministry was concerned with the whole person, with all of creation, not just some platonic dualism where the 'really important part' is in the unseen world.

No. The whole verse seems to counter just that type of thinking. Jesus was given authority 'in heaven' -- so he has spiritual authority. But then he says he was also given authority 'on earth'. This can't mean he was also given spiritual authority 'on earth'. That doesn't make any sense. No. This seems to be saying that Jesus has been given the same type of authority on earth that he has in 'heaven'.  So what does this look like?  Can you think of some examples where Jesus' authority is manifested 'on earth'?

Peace be with you.

+ OD


Ted M. Gossard said…
I think of the new heaven and the new earth at the end in Revelation. It's all together, and God's throne is actually on this earth, not somewhere up in the cube that comes down to meet earth, as Dr. Grier pointed out to us this week.

Good grappling and thoughts here, OD.
Odysseus said…
Good thought, Ted.

In thinking more about this question, I re-read the whole passage. There may be some truth in some of the commentaries pertaining to the salvation of souls. I mean, Jesus said, right after making the statement about having authority on earth, that the disciples should go and change the world. So, I starting thinking. Jesus has been 'proven' to be Israel's Messiah and the world's true King because of the resurrection. What would a new king do to let his subjects know they had a new king? He would send out heralds -- people to make the proclamation that the communities now have a new king. Those heralds might be given certain jobs to do (say, implement new laws or whatever) in the new territories. This is exactly how I am seeing this and especially John 20.19-23. With that in mind, I can see the situation regarding the disciples: They walk into a village and starting doing extraordinary things and they are asked, 'By whose authority are you doing this?' Their answer would most certainly be, 'By the authority of the world's true Lord and King, Jesus the Messiah, whom God raised from the dead.' Isn't this what we find in Acts?
Ted M. Gossard said…
Yes, I think you're right.

I guess with my anabaptist background (raised in the Mennonite church, and wouldn't mind dying as a member of one, but happy in the Evangelical Covenant denomination) I do tend to see limitations as to the impact God's kingdom will make on this world until Christ returns.

But just the same, I don't think our work is to be limited to just saving souls. It needs to reflect God's redemption of all creation, and it needs to do so as Christ and the New Testament, the truth as it is in Jesus, shows and tells us.
Ted M. Gossard said…
Isn't it nice to have some time off. I'm off today. Ordinarily I'm just trying to survive each day and then crash part of the weekends. Fun to do a little blogging when I'm awake and at my best time, which seems ordinarily to be in the morning. Definitely not in the afternoon.
Odysseus said…
I really appreciate you taking some of your time off to add some insight to this conversation.

I completely agree with what you stated earlier regarding 'saving souls'. I guess I should elaborate a little on that. Notice that I wrote that the disciples went into villages and DID extraordinary things. That is where I hinted at more than just speaking to people about Jesus. I think the New Testament is clear that the New Creation began on that first Easter morning and the vocation of the church is to implement that in all sorts of ways. We need to be about doing things that invokes that exact question from people. Our actions should be more than just speaking about Jesus. We should be the Word [of Jesus} made flesh. We are, after all, called 'the Body of Christ'. We are the incarnation of Jesus in the world today. And I don't think we have every really looked at it quite like that in a very long time.

So, certainly, I think our vocation is more than saving souls. It is loving people and God's 'very good' creation. It is making sure that we, of all people, are good stewards with our Lord's world. We should be on the forefront of global issues. Too many times we come after someone else has started the movement and say, 'Well, yes, that is what Jesus would have done.' But we don't start those movements nearly enough. We are supposed to be the heralds of the good news that there is a better way of being human; of taking care of the poor, the needy, the outcast, the environment, the economy, etc.; not only on a local scale but on the global scale as well.

I guess what I'm saying is that you are right. We need to be about saving souls as well as implementing the gospel in the cosmos all the while knowing that, in the end, there will be an outpouring of God's grace as the cap stone to the whole project.

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