Church Authority and the Presence of Christ

Posted on October 6, 2010


Authority and Presence

Matthew 28:16-20

After the disciples worship Jesus, He approaches them with a new command and the authority to carry out the command.  Jesus will not leave the disciples alone or without the authority to accomplish the mission He is sending them.  He, by proclaiming his authority in issuing the command, gives the disciples the authority to carry out the command.   “It is accordingly the one who has ‘all authority in heaven and on earth,’ i.e., the sovereign authority of God, who now sends out his disciples on the mission to evangelize the world.  This is to provide them in turn with authority and supply them with confidence as they go.”[1]

There has been a grand debate concerning this authority, namely, was it intended for the disciples in general to carry out or was it to be carried out under the authority of the local church?  This authority was meant for the local church to carry out the commission.  As one such author who points to local church authority states, “There is likely to be a specific echo of the authority given in 16:19 to Peter and in 18:18 to the community: authority in the church is grounded in the full authority of Jesus.”[2]

Jesus not only gives the authority in carrying out His commission, but he promises to help and be with His bride as the church fulfills her mission.  How is this done? Jesus not only sends the Holy Spirit to be with His saints, but to also be in them (Matt 14:16-17) so that they may walk in a manner that will lead to obedience (Col 1:1-12) and fulfillment of this commission.  It is the Spirit that convicts the world of sin and righteousness (John 16:8).  It is also the Spirit that regenerates the sinner (Titus 5:5). The church cannot expect the cleverness of man to win the world to Christ.  Again, while there should be flexibility in methodology that addresses its particular life situation, this is not the basis that Christ has provided for His church in accomplishing the Great Commission.  It is not by marketing techniques, cultural fads, or seeker sensitive services that Christian discipleship occurs (Zech 4:6).  It is only by embracing the fullness of Christ as revealed in His Word and being empowered by His Spirit (Acts 1:8) and presence that the church will fulfill her duty in making disciples of all nations.


[1] Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14-28, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 33b (Waco: Word Books, 1995), 886.


[2] John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew : A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2005), 1265.

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