The Chain of Authority

by David Gibson

I am indebted to Owen D. Olbricht who helped me understand the chain of authority.

God the Father

He is “one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6).

Jesus the Son

Jesus frequently referred to Himself as having been sent by His Father (John 4:34; 5:23, 24, 30, 36, 37, 38; 6:29, 38, 39, 44, 57; 7:16, 18, 28, 29, 33; 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 42; 9:4; 10:36; 12:44, 45, 49; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3, 18; 20:21). If I counted correctly, He said it 33 times in John’s Gospel!

Repeatedly Jesus stresses the source of His teaching:

For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me” (John 12:49-50; see also 8:28; 15:15; 17:8).

The Holy Spirit

The night before He died, Jesus told the apostles:

These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:25-26).

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:12-13).

These promises were made only to the apostles (Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14) and have already been fulfilled.

The Apostles

The Spirit-equipped apostles were Jesus’ direct representatives to the world (Matthew 10:17-20, 40; John 17:6, 8, 18, 20; Acts 2:42; 2 Peter 3:2). Therefore their words have all the authority of heaven behind them.

The New Testament Scriptures

F. F. Bruce has written, “The apostolic teaching was authoritative because it was the teaching of the Lord communicated through the apostles. In due course this apostolic teaching took written shape in the NT scriptures” [Commentary on the Book of Acts, 79].

The Spirit-inspired written word is our authority today (John 20:30-31; Ephesians 3:3-5, 8-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Peter 3:15-16). It is complete, needing no supplement or update (II Timothy 3:16; Jude 3; Revelation 22:18-19).

The message God the Father revealed to His Son, Jesus communicated to the apostles, and then He sent the Holy Spirit who equipped the apostles and prophets with the full revelation of God’s will. This was first preached orally, then put in written form for all succeeding generations.

And we are the blessed recipients of this precious message!

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