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Thinking of God with Larry Sheehy: Who has the spiritual authority in your life?
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Larry Sheehy

In many - perhaps most - families, parents and children often find themselves in conflict, sometimes seriously so. It's normal for children, often beginning at a very young age, to challenge the authority of those who raise them. But everyone benefits when children learn early on that Mom and Dad, generally speaking, have the final say in things that affect the individuals in the family.

In civilized societies, people are normally and rightly concerned about authority, law and order. Otherwise, chaos would be the terrible result. Civil authority should be important to everyone. Even more important is spiritual authority. Think with me a little bit about it.

In one of Jesus' last meetings with his apostles, as recorded by Matthew, Jesus told them that "all authority in heaven and on earth" had been given to him, and he commanded them to go to all nations "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," that is, by their divine authority. (See Matthew 28:18-19.) At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, the people who heard Jesus recognized that he taught with authority (Matthew 7:29), unlike some of the recognized religious leaders of the day. His authority was evident in the way he spoke but also in what he said.

Although some disagree, the importance of the authority of Jesus Christ can't be over-emphasized; it is the basic issue of the New Testament when man's salvation is considered. The major theme of the New Testament - God's love for all men - is built on it. His love is taught over and over, in virtually every context. Surely one of the best known texts in Holy Scripture is John's testimony that Jesus was sent into the world so that men might be saved when they believe in him (John 3:16; note also Romans 5:8.)

But if Jesus had no authority, his death would mean little. His resurrection from the grave is the final proof of his identity as the Son of God (Romans 1:4). It is the basis for the teaching about Jesus Christ and Christianity. Without it, there is no such thing spiritually as "good news."

Paul based his lesson in Athens on the authority of Christ. In talking about what the Greeks called the "unknown God," he showed what God had done in creation and his attitude and actions regarding sin, concluding with the declaration that God "has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). He felt so strongly about the place of Jesus in the plan of salvation that he told the Corinthian church that he had "decided to know nothing among [them] except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2).

We need to understand that all the teachings of the new covenant are important because of Jesus' authority. Consider that the church was purchased with Christ's blood; baptism is important because believers are baptized into Christ; the Lord's supper is important as a memorial of Christ; and we're commanded to observe high moral standards by a Savior who has the authority to do so.

The Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - are more than accounts of Jesus' life. They are presentations of his authority as the Father's messenger. Remember the words of Paul to the people of Corinth, that everyone will "appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Corinthians 5:10).



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