I was preparing to write about a shocking verse I just read, but I wanted to use an example from our modern world. This double-shocked me! When it comes to the office of public officials, I could not think of a role where everyone accepts his or her authority?1 Your local police chief? Doubtful. Your mayor? No way. Your governor? Not a chance. The further we go up the public sector food chain, the more authority we find being rejected. For me, the only public servants I could think of whose authority is universally accepted are Fire Marshalls.
Now that we have some sense of America’s conundrum, let’s consider the first century Church. Some of Jesus’ Apostles were alive for much of the first century, with the last apostle, John, surviving to 100 AD. We can safely say that the apostle John had authority granted him by God, and he was also the apostle that Jesus loved (John 13:23).
As the first century of Christianity was closing, after Jesus, Himself, the apostle John was the person Christ granted the single most authority in the Church – loved by Jesus, author of five canonized books, preacher until his death at age ninety-four years old. For anyone alive in the Church during the life of John, they would know he had true authority. Yet, we read:
I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. – 3 John 1:9
Can you imagine anyone claiming to be Christian yet refusing to acknowledge the authority of the apostle John? I can’t wrap my head around this rejection. There is even a chain of continuity that Jesus created to help launch His Church. Jesus taught John, and John taught Ignatius of Antioch, and Ignatius taught Polycarp.
From the opening verses in the book of Genesis to the closing verses in the book of Revelation, we see that God establishes order and purpose. John then Ignatius then Polycarp show us God’s order and purpose. When He punishes, God often scatters people (Ezekiel 36:19), breaking their ordered lives.
When we see disorder, chaos, rejection of authority, and everyone doing what is right in their own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:7-9), we need to pay attention. God is up to something with that society. So, here’s the good news. God’s good news to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is this:
“a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.” – Newton’s First Law of Motion
What?! I just wrote a law of physics that Jesus created (Colossians 1:16); it also applies to people. When there is unrest, discord, or a movement of thoughts or actions throughout a society, those people wake up and consider their condition. The Holy Spirit is the “outside force.” He creates divine appointments for the lost to hear about Jesus, about salvation, about being reconciled to God. And when the fabric of society is in flux, it is the perfect time for people to hear about Jesus Christ, the True Authority.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Matthew 28:18
Don’t fear. Instead rejoice for the times in which we live! Your friend, your neighbor, your loved one, they all feel uncertain, feel a weight inside them, and are hurting. Right now, they may be more receptive to the Gospel than at any time in their lives. Let’s tell the good news so they can receive the peace that is not available in this world (John 14:27). And that same peace that comes from our Lord, Jesus Christ, is ours too.
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1 – authority is the legitimate power that a person or a group of persons possess and practice over other people, Wikipedia