By what authority doest thou these things?
Alan H. Linton, Bristol, England
IT IS OFTEN SAID that our Christian witness lacks power. Men are not gripped by the Gospel as once they were; rarely do we see anyone broken down under conviction of sin and we are tempted to ask a bygone generation the querulous question, 'Tell me . . . wherein thy great strength lieth?'. There is no simple or single answer, but days of revival and spiritual reawakening were characterized by the fact that men spoke with authority. Their preaching rang with the note, 'Thus saith the Lord'. Today we seem to have lost that note of power. But what is the nature of this authority? What does Scripture teach on the subject? Three main authorities are recognized.
1. The Authority of the Lord Jesus Christ
The great purpose of the New Testament is to display the supreme authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether we study the Gospel records of the life, death and resurrection of the Saviour, the power of His name in die Acts, the declarations of His deity in the epistles or the glory of the One who alone is able to break the seals of history in the Revelation, each attest His claim, 'All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth', Matt. 28. 18, R.v. He stands alone, the final and supreme authority and it is He who commissions His messengers, 'Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations'.
2. The Authority of the Holy Scriptures
This rests upon the testimony of the Lord Himself. Repeatedly He sets His zeal to the authenticity of Scripture, to the old Testament in retrospect (e.g., Luke 24. 44; John 10. 35), and to the New Testament in prospect, John 16. 12-15. The New Testament, as a whole, verifies the Old, and the authority of the apostles, recognized by the early church (e.g., 1 Thess. 2. 13), underlies the authority of the New (see article in previous issue). All Scripture is a declaration of God. The voice of Scripture and the voice of God are one (e.g., Rom 9. 17; Gal. 3. 8). No wonder the Scriptures are called the oracles of God. As the Word of God they speak with finality and authority.
3. The Authority of the Holy Spirit
The application to our lives of the two authorities so far discussed rests upon submission to the third, the authority of the Holy Spirit. To recognize His authority is, therefore, of great practical importance. Since the Holy Spirit guided and inspired men to write the Scripture it is clear that this is the channel through which He will speak and reveal Christ as Lord. His authority may be experienced in conviction of sin, John 16. 8-11; in conversion, John 3. 6-8; 1 Cor. 12. 3; in assurance of salvation, Rom. 8. 15-17; in understanding, 1 John 2. 27; and in Christian witness, Acts 1.8. The authority of the Holy Spirit was the great dynamic in bringing into being the church at Thessalonica for we read, 'For our gospel came not unto you in word only but also in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance', 1 Thess. 1. 5.
Surely this is the greatest need at the present time