Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Authority of Christ

(This message was preached 12/16/15 at Heritage Baptist Church

THESIS: To explain the authority of Christ, and how said authority impacts the believer.

This evening we’ll be considering the verses 21 to 28 of the 1st chapter of Mark.  Please turn there and follow along as I read. Mark 1:21-28, “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.  And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.  And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.  And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.  And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

We have here the narrative account of Christ’s effect as He taught.  We do not in this account get a glimpse into what he was teaching, only that He had a profound effect upon all present!  All we are told outside of this was that it was his practice to go to the synagogue and teach on the Sabbath.  The question of Christ’s effect as he taught is the only significant issue at hand and to this question we turn this evening.  To answer it we need to consider the two portions of the account and find what might have led Mark to include it in his Gospel.  Luke has a parallel account we will also consider.  First off, it may appear that there are two matters dealt with here, Christs teaching and His exorcising a demon.  That would not be accurate.  The demons exorcism is germane to the account of Christs teaching as we will see.

The effect of Christ was such that as he taught, people began to be aware that he taught quite differently from the other Rabbi’s and men who taught in the synagogue.  This was not a just a difference in style, but something much greater!  The Scripture says they were astonished at his teaching.  The Greek work behind astonished is ekplaso and has at its root to be struck.  We might say they were literally awestruck or dumbstruck as he taught.  John Gill says of the teaching that “he penetrated them with it.” [1]

We are told immediately the reason for their thoughts, for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.  

Consider this – the actual authority of the Scribes was being called into question by Him!  Not explicitly, yet how He taught betrayed the ill manner they taught.  In their minds we must suppose that He taught them in such a way as to call out the very errors of the Scribes – using the Scriptures themselves as the authoritative resource.  But not the Scriptures only, for having established His position He went on to speak directly as the authority.  We need to give some background here.

I want to do three things at this point.  I’d like to give four of the many examples of Christ’s authority being demonstrated from other passages, I want to give a small history lesson on rabbinical teaching methods, and then close with some dialogues of Christ in the gospel of John.  We’ll begin with examples of Christ’s authority.

1.   Consider Christ’s authority as demonstrated in the Sermon on the Mount.  Turn to Matthew 5:20, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.   Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (5:20-22a)

Jump ahead to verse 31, “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:  But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” (5:31-32) Christ expounds the Scripture and very plainly adds to the requirement!  He did so on His own authority!  What would you think if I or anyone else did that?!

2.   Christ authority in cleansing the temple.  Here we are presented with an almost renegade of a man! John tells us he made a scourge of small cords and drove them out!  (John 2:13-17)  Now we know that He did this more than once.  In John 2 we read that this was the Jewish Passover then later in John 12 we read of the last Passover when Christ was our sacrifice.  When Mark records for us the temple’s cleansing, he ties it directly to Palm Sunday thus his account is of a second cleansing just prior to His sacrifice for us. In Mark’s account, no one questions him that day, but the day following the ‘so-called’ authorities of the temple ask that famous question. Please read with me in Mark 11:27 and following, “And they come again to Jerusalem: and as he was walking in the temple, there come to him the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders, And say unto him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?

And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? Answer me.

And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people: for all men counted John, that he was a prophet indeed. And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Mark 11:27-33) Do you see what authority the Scribes and Pharisee’s stood upon?  That of other men – they even feared the people.  Christ, on the other hand establishes His authority, in the very testimony of John the Baptist, who indeed was known to be a prophet, that this is the Son of God!

3.   His authority in His preaching at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-22) - This account actually precedes immediately our passage today.  Christ is teaching in Nazareth and is handed the scroll of Isaiah.  He reads a small portion of Isaiah 61 and then proclaims, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”  Let me ask you, from what source did He discern that?!  From Himself!  He makes no apology for it, in fact He goes on speaking and provokes the wrath in those unbelieving Jews so much that he is nearly thrown over a cliff! 

4.   Finally – His authority in sending the 12 and later the 70.  We read in Luke 9:1-2 that He gave them power and authority over devils and diseases.  Luke 10 is similar.  How can one give authority or power which one does not have?

At work I have been given a credit card.  I have authority and power to do all the purchasing for the department I work.  In fact, I do nearly 80 - 90 percent without any explicit permission.  The power has been granted and I use it at will.  Yet I am not free to do whatever I want with that power.  If I bought a ham radio for my personal use, I would quickly find that power and authority lost – I might even lose the job! 

At home, I am the man of the house, and as such I can establish the rules.  Yet even there I have to tow the line.  If I suddenly begin to trample the rights of my wife or children – asking of them things I have no right to ask them Scripturally – I am outside of my responsibilities and in danger of losing the commission. 

Folks, any authority we carry is a derived authority from one another.   We can do nothing outside of our granted authority without risking our possession of it. 

But in the case of Christ we see something different.  Christ preaches something they don’t like – and instead of Him going over the cliff – he escapes their grasp and goes on – for it was not yet His time.  He cleanses the temple and no one interferes.  The following day being challenged the ‘so called’ authorities are not satisfied but sent off with a stern word, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.  Men sent to arrest Christ return saying, “Never did a man speak like this before!Christ’s authority is derived from his deity, ours is from our relationships. 

In our account we have a demon crying out suddenly.  Our text reads, “What have we to do with thee” (vs. 24) but it is probably better rendered, “Why do you interfere with us, Jesus of Nazareth?[2]  John Knox tells us that even the demons were struck by the teaching of Christ![3]

Demonic possession is really a problem of authority or power.  The person afflicted does not have full control of his faculties and the demon exercises his will over that person.  So Christ’s teachings were a direct assault on this demon.  And when the demon comes under the direct command of Christ – though against his will – he obeys Christ, screeching as he goes.

At this point I’d like to begin a breakdown of the teaching of the Scribes.  I have 3 different sources on rabbinical teaching methods as they relate to Christ’s teaching.  First let’s consider J. Dwight Pentecost’s observations.  He states, “The scribal method was to quote the ancient Rabbis and compare teacher with teacher…. The scribes sought to produce witnesses to support their interpretations of the Scriptures.[4]   Folks this leads me to a question.  How does what the Rabbis did, as Pentecost described, differ from what we do right here in this pulpit?!  Isn’t it the case that I frequently quote the works of Tozer, Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon and others?  Don’t Mike, Don & Tim do the same? 

Before we answer this charge it might be helpful to see what two others have to say regarding the Scribal method.  

James Morrison says in his Practical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark, “The scribes were proud of their ability to lead their hearers through endless mazes of the imaginations of the preceding rabbis….They would have no power, or almost none to move the conscience toward true goodness or to stir the love of the heart toward God and toward men.[5]

I really like the way Morrison puts it.  The scribes weren’t interested in leading the congregation into more holiness – but rather to gain their approval by speaking almost philosophically and moving their minds – but not their hearts.

John Shepard states “They had been accustomed to hearing the rabbis quote extensively the opinions of their predecessors claiming no authority to say a word of their own….Here was a preacher (speaking of Christ) who made His appeal direct to the Scriptures and to God….[He] held in his own possession the authority and right to speak the final words to their hungry hearts.[6]

We are not committing the same sin, but realize this – we could fall into that very same sin.  It is possible that some in this room have indeed sinned in the same way.  What exactly is this sin which the rabbis were guilty of and which we are in danger of?  When men measure their doctrine against that of other men, and not first by the Scripture, we lose our authority.  If we quote Spurgeon, is it because we seek to lead this congregation to holy living, or are we using him to break down doctrinal straw men we set up previously – so that we look more intelligent?  In other words are the men who preach from this pulpit leading you to more frivolity in discussion and debate, or are we seeking a more reverent congregation? Shall we debate Arminianism, or dispensationalism so as to lift ourselves up before you?!

When we measure man versus man we do no one good.  This is not for the pulpit.  There may be a place for it, but it is not the pulpit.  We cheapen the pulpit by lowering our doctrinal beliefs as though these matters were up to debate.  Never!  The authority of the Word is not to be debated – It is to be reckoned with!

If I discuss whether a man’s doctrinal system is right while in the pulpit, it can be that I begin to sit in judgement of the man and the Scriptures as I interpret them. It is they which judge me!  How dare anyone toy with a passage of Scripture as though it were a sort of mental exercise!

When we today reference a godly man of the past – it should be to give weight to the Word – not to debate matters.

Consider the tenor of these two verses in 1st Timothy: Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. (1 Tim 1:4)

But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. (1 Tim. 4:7)

Both of these verses speak to handling the Word of God with reverence and seeking godliness in our study of it.  Paul is instructing Timothy, a young minister on the purpose of Scriptural instruction.  And it is not to bring matters up to debate – but to bring the people to godly living.

We must seek to know this book.  But we must seek to do it for the right reasons, and a primary reason is godliness.  Why?  Because godliness glorifies God.  It is the very root of the matter.  If we believe Romans 11:36, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.” then we must study this book, for it is the authoritative witness to us of God through Christ, by the Spirit.  There is much we may not know about the Father – but what is revealed is so revealed that we might be a people set apart for His good pleasure – which is to us, a godly life.  Want to know about God?  Look to Christ!  For there we see Him in radiant splendor as we study our Bibles.  And folks – consider this, we may not see him as did the apostles, yet we know (if we are the children of God) that we will see him face to face!  For now it is through dark glass of the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 13:12)  Yet we are not left without the light of the Holy Spirit to illumine these pages to our hearts!    Let us study and ruminate over this book!

In the book of John we read of several long dialogues Christ had teaching His disciples and others in the crowd.  In studying them briefly, we will again be struck by the question of the authority of Christ.  We read of one such dialogue in John 5:33-47.  We’ll only look at verses 39 – 47 today, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. I receive not honour from men. But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.  How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:39-47) Christ calls them out because they will not accept the Father’s witness of Christ.  Verse 43 bears repeating. [bold italics above] The phrase “in my Father’s name” is a reference to both the authority of the Father, and the relationship of Christ to the Father.

Another passage is found in John 6.  It is known as the Discourse on the Bread of Life.  It is a rather extensive dialogue and time will not permit me to read it completely.  But let me reflect on its context with you, and a brief snippet within.  Shortly after the feeding of the 5000 the crowd has been seeking Christ.  They are not interested in the Father’s plan – they want to make Him king (6:15).  Please follow along in John 6:34-42, “Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?(John 6:34-42)

Note how the issue at hand was who Christ was – for this is what establishes His authority.  Verses 38-39 especially speak to that point, yet in verse 42 they question that authority, because of unbelief. The questioning of Christ’s authority is always a matter of unbelief!

There is just one other passage I’d like to point you to and it is found in the next chapter of John.  Turn to John 7, and look down to verses 14-20.  Again we have Christ teaching and this time in the temple.  Follow along as I read, “Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?

16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?” (John 7:14-20)

Note the question posed in verse 15. [above] Our Lord gives answer immediately pointing them to the Father in verses 16-18.  Read further down and you’ll see the same thing in John 7:25-30.  I hope that this exercise in the authority of Christ reaches to your very heart!  There are numberless passages we could have looked at and indeed I left many I had hoped to consider. 

So how does our acknowledgment of Christ’s authority touch us?  We who hold to His authority over us, must hold to the authority of the Scriptures over us in every area of our lives!

How does the abandonment of the Bible as authoritative by the rest of the world affect us who still hold and claim the Bible as authoritative in our lives?  In one arena, we could claim that it ultimately does not matter, seeing that God is the Author and Sovereign and therefore we are bound to hold the truth.  And while this is true, it cannot be said that it matters not at all. 

It does matter - in that we will be challenged to bend to the masses.  We cannot do so insofar as the truth of His Word bears upon us.  So there is the rub.  We who hold the Word of God in highest regard will be challenged on our position regularly, and be pressured to compromise.  As public opinion goes increasingly against the Word, we will be subject not only to pressure, but eventually to outright persecution.

Brethren - Let us not lose hope, but remember that if the world persecuted our Lord, it will persecute us.  Recall that they tried to cast Him over a cliff!  Should we expect better treatment?  Consider what we read in John's gospel, "Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:20)  Later in John 16:33, we read, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." 

[1] Gill, John. Exposition on the Entire Bible. Entry on Luke 4:32
[2] Both John MacArthur and F.F. Bruce concur on this translation change.
[3] Notes in Geneva Bible on Luke 4:34
[4] Pentecost, J. Dwight. The words and works of Jesus Christ: A study of the life of Christ. Grand Rapids. Zondervan Publishing House. 1995
[5] Morrison, James. A Practical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Mark. London. Hodder and Stoughton. 1892
[6] Shepard, John W. The Christ of the Gospels. Grand Rapids. Eerdmans.  1946

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