Authority and Power

From: Systematic Theology – Authority
Authority and Power
Rushdoony Dr. R.J.R.

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Our scripture this morning is two verses of the chapter of Acts, Acts 1:7&8. Our subject is authority and power, authority and power.

“7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

As we have seen the New Testament word for authority in the Greek is exousia. It is translated in several ways in the New Testament. In Luke twenty-three verse seven it is translated as jurisdiction. In first Corinthians eight verse nine as liberty. Many, many times exousia is translated as “right” and when it is used in these various sense what it is trying to convey is that the authority to speak or act and the liberty to do so, and the rightness of such actions are all one and the same. We also have it translated as “strength” in one instance. In other words there is a relationship between power and authority; they are essentially one in God. In man power and authority do not necessarily go together. A tyrant may have a great deal of power but no, or very little, legitimate authority. A usurper or conquering army may have power, but no legitimate authority. A gunman breaking in and holding a family as hostage has power, but he has no authority. Authority means legitimate jurisdiction, a rightness morally; a liberty which comes from this legitimacy. There can be no separation of authority and power in the triune God. This is why kenosis is so evil and destructive a doctrine.

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“Kenosis theology” teaches that Christ was less than divine, when He walked on the earth. This interpretation of Philippians 2:6-7 is false:

Did Jesus cease to be God during His earthly ministry? Certainly not, for deity cannot stop being deity or He would never have been true deity to begin with. Rather, the “emptying” is satisfactorily explained in the subsequent words of the verse, taking note of the two participles which grammatically modify and explain the verb: He emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. This emptying, in fact, was done as the man Christ Jesus, and neither of these ideas necessitates or implies the giving up of divine attributes.

Theopedia: Kenosis

Christ had both divine authority and divine power while on earth. When He spoke, it was with divine authority: even the evil and hateful demons were compelled to obey Him, as did the elements of the winds and the waves.

Going back to the doctrine of authority and power, modern humanists assume that authority gives power, and power gives authority. When they declare otherwise, it is only because power was lost.

“So, if the Nazis and the Soviets won their wars, the modern intellectual would have been pleased to bend the knee to them?”

“Oh, absolutely. Just as many actually did, while those evil regimes actually existed.”

“But they lost, and it became politically expedient to shun them.”

“Quite so, quite so.”

Christians are expected to be wiser than that. God determines the lawful limits of political power, not the political expedience of “what can powerful men get away with today.”

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In the American version of the Presbyterian form of government in 1788 when it was formulated the statement was made that truth is in order to goodness. And the statement goes on to declare very plainly that there is a correlation between virtues. When we develop one virtue we are going to strengthen ourselves in every virtue. We gain power and we gain authority, we gain strength. In brief true virtues do not come singly, and the grace of God comes to us to give us strength, growth, in every area of our lives. The fallen world is in hostility to God, it reacts with hatred and hostility and conflict ensues wherever Christian strength is manifested. But there is victory, and we must never forget it. Truth in order to goodness, it is also in order to authority, holiness, and power.

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To grow in Christ is to grow in holiness in every area of our lives: and to grow in holiness is to grow in lawful power and authority.

To grow in Christ is to gain more, and more significant, victories: in the inner man, but also in the outer world. That is what the Holy Spirit desires: the Kingdom of God must fill the world, and be publicly respected and honoured as such, just as the Holy Spirit fills us.

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I believe that one of the greatest statements made in this century was made on June 15 1917 by a very remarkable man, Pope Benedict the 15th. His papacy was brief, 1914 – 1922. He is a virtually forgotten man today, but he had a great deal to say about the scriptures and about Biblical preaching. Consider what he said in these words, now this was when the war was being fought, little before we landed troops into Europe. And I quote, speaking of the reviving paganism of the world in the twentieth century “The causes of these evils are varied and manifold. No-one however will gainsay the deplorable fact, that the ministers of the word do not apply thereto an adequate remedy. Has the word of God then ceased to be what it was described by the apostle, living and effectual and more piercing than any two edged sword? Has long continued use blunted the edge of that sword? If that weapon does not everywhere produce its effect the blame certainly must be laid on those ministers of the gospel who do not handle it as they should. For no-one can maintain that the apostles were living in better times than ours. Or that they found minds more readily disposed toward the gospel, or that they met with less opposition to the law of God.” That’s a tremendous statement. Benedicts point is very clear. The authority and the power of the word of God enabled the apostles and their successors to challenge and overthrow the paganism of their day against incredible odds. It was a grim battle, but very early Rome knew that the Christians represented power.

We have less opposition said Benedict in 1917, and the fault is not that the word of God has lost its power, but that we do not proclaim it as we should. The church today wants to be a democracy, not a monarchy whose king is Christ. Is predestination unpopular with the people? Well then we won’t talk about it. Is the doctrine of responsibility unpopular with the people, we want to blame the environment and everything else? Well we won’t stress it. This is the order of the day, men preach to please people. Congregations object if what is said from the pulpit does not agree with them. Private judgment rules against God’s word.

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There was an attempted Catholic revival of Pope Benedict XV’s viewpoint, with Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013). That flickering conservative revival failed, obviously.

It’s up to us Christian Reconstructionists to get the work done, in expanding the Kingdom of God. It would be good if we work with Charismatics/Pentecostals on this project, as currently many of us are still tied up in crippled Calvinist denominations to really expand the Faith, and the next form of a flourishing church – without the seminaries and the temples, obviously, and with a strong outlook on expanding the Christian Social Order – has yet to be manifested, at least in my sight.

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As Deuteronomy 29 verse 29 says “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” What is the purpose of knowledge? That we may do all the words of this law Moses said.

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If we want to win, in time and on earth, then we must take what Moses said seriously.

Righteousness does not mean piety. Righteousness means justice.

And not just hear, but obey, as Christ would – and does – expect us to.

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Our Lord here speaks against curiosity, he recalls men to their duty. What the disciples had been asking about was “you tell us how history is going to develop.” And today a great deal of preaching is about the rapture, and people want charts to know what to expect. When will Russia move against us, or when will the rapture or the tribulation and all that nonsense take place? Morbid curiosity, not “what are God’s marching orders for me now?” What doth the Lord require of me? 

These are two different religions. One that seeks knowledge in order to protect oneself and withdraw from reality, the other to go out and conquer, to exercise power in the name of God. Today we honor the forms of power. We honor authority outwardly and we have a Mother’s Day and we have a Father’s Day and we have all kinds of days on the calendar. But in reality the authority that should be represented in what those things symbolize is lacking. Authority and power come from God, and they must be united. The Holy Spirit gives us power to act for the Lord, this gift of the spirit is not for our personal pleasure or satisfaction or contentment.

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A multitude of Christians are uninterested in knowing what God demands of them, and more than a few are actually hostile to the suggestion that God gives orders that Christians must obey.

They are at risk of being deemed worthless servants, who either resent or outright hate their Master. And Jesus already spelt out what will happen to worthless servants.

Christians would be wise, to take the Word of God seriously.

When Mother’s Day and Father’s Day was being developed (~1868 and 1910, respectively), the actual authority of mothers and fathers were already in decline. The story is much the same as “In God We Trust”, first used for the US Government – the first Western government in centuries not to formally recognize the supremacy of Jesus Christ as supreme over the State – and then in 1956, right before the sixties, the sexual revolution, easy divorce & abortion, etc.

Gestures of authority are no substitute for actual authority, actual respect, actual power.

“Authority and power come from God, and they must be united. The Holy Spirit gives us power to act for the Lord, this gift of the spirit is not for our personal pleasure or satisfaction or contentment.”

Words to live by.

We are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to further expand the Kingdom of God in time, and on earth.

So what is the kingdom of God?

The kingdom of God is a counter revolutionary prophetic social order structured by the covenant of grace—the true society that God intends for mankind. This social order is what all Christians are commanded to seek now, on earth, first, before all else. It is not something that we merely look forward to in the resurrection, but something we are to seek to make a reality on earth now. Without this being the central goal of our life the assemblies of Christians, i.e. the Church, becomes merely a Christian mystery cult—which alas is what has happened today. Therefore, the most important thing we are to seek as Christians in this life is the establishing of this social order as a real community, a real society. Nothing else in our life comes before this according to Jesus, since he tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Righteousness means justice, not piety. But please note that the Church is only part of this kingdom, not the whole of it, and it is the usurpation of the kingdom by the clergy, who are predominantly dualistic cult builders, that has caused and continues to cause such problems for the building of the kingdom, and has reduced the kingdom to the Church, over which the clergy exercise control. In other words the kingdom is reduced to a Christian mystery cult, with the result that it becomes ineffective as the real agent for the transformation of the world, which is what it should be.

The Kingdom Of God Is A Social Order

The temples will have to be repurposed, and the priesthood dramatically expanded to include all faithful believers. All this will take time.

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Virtually all of us want peace of mind, and we forget that peace of mind we are never told in scripture that it is a legitimate goal, it’s only a byproduct. Happiness is not a legitimate goal, it’s a byproduct; Of what? Of doing the will of God, of working in terms of what God has appointed us to do, of being useful to him and to his kingdom. So that if we want peace of mind we must say “Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?” Paul tells us in II Corinthians 3:17 “Where the Spirit of God is, there is liberty.” Because there too is power, there too is authority, and there is freedom then to go forward in the name of Christ and His kingdom.

When Paul says “where the Spirit of God is there is liberty, the word liberty is a translation of the Greek word eleftheria. Once in a while you encounter that as a name, it was once a little more popular than it is now, but in the past few years I have met a woman whose name was Eleftheria. Her parents who were obviously well-educated and knew there Greek, or else they probably had a great-grandmother who had that name. Eleftheria as Paul uses it in II Corinthians 3:17 means freedom of access to God, and freedom in Christ for greater movement. Where the Spirit of God is there is liberty, freedom for greater movement and freedom of access to God. Now this matter of access to God of which Paul speaks is something that doesn’t mean much to us today. But we must remember that scripture presents God as the great King, the King of all creation, king of the universe, and access to the king meant that power and authority had been conferred upon you. Tremendous fact, if you could walk into the presence of an emperor, when you walked out people virtually bowed before you because they knew they would never get to see the emperor, but you had power. That access gave you authority and power so that they sought favor from you, sought to please you because you were a person of power. And what are we told? We have that access. We have it when we walk in faithfulness to God. We walk in the Spirit and we have power, we have access. We pray, and we have access, it’s the privilege of being a Christian. It gives us power and authority if we want it.

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It’s time for us to accept the power and authority God has given to us… as well as the accountability and responsibility that is tied with it.

We will need it, to expand His Kingdom across our lives, our neighbourhoods, and the world.

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Well we must say that no other conclusion than this is possible from scripture. The word of God is the totally authoritative word and therefore the word of power. If Christians in their churches are powerless and sit in their pews week after week wondering why the world is going to hell it is because they have neglected the all conquering weapon which is at hand. We have access to the throne of power, we are given authority and power if we chose to use it. We have been called to be kings, priests, and prophets in Christ. The world is ours to conquer, will we do it? Let us pray. 

Oh Lord our God Thy word is truth and Thy word is the word of power and authority. Make us strong in Thy word, in Thy work, and in prayer; that we might be a generation of victors knowing that this the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith. Bless us to this purpose we beseech Thee, in Jesus name amen.

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The world is ours to conquer… for Christ’s name, for His Law-Word, and as directed by the Holy Spirit.

It’s time we did what God told us to do.

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[Audience member] Just before I left home I heard the most gross thing I think I’ve ever heard. There’s a gentleman I think from England, it was a minister preaching on the tube {?} and he said he has just written a book on the homosexuality of Christ and the book will be published and released in Christmas, December, and then the movie will be made next year {?} have you heard anything about?

[Rushdoony] Several books have already been written along those veins which go through the Bible and claim to enlist as homosexuals, or prove they were homosexuals, a number of the great saints of old, and Christ and others as well. This is nonsense. They also say when the Bible condemns homosexuality it’s not really saying they are bad. Now this shouldn’t surprise us, they’ve gone through history and done the same with any number of historical figures. A very prominent historian wrote a book a few years ago which purported to prove in terms of ancient documents that Richard the Lionhearted was a homosexual, and that was accepted for about twenty years or more, as historical fact until one man went back over the records and demonstrated that everything this earlier scholar, who proved to be a homosexual, had said about Richard was false. That he never was. We’re getting a manufactured version of the past by these people and naturally they’re going to strike at the Bible most of all because no-where are they more condemned then in scripture.

So what else do you expect from them? Being what they are they’re going to do these things. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is the silence of so many Christians in churches on the subject, that’s the evil.

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It’s the silence in the churches, that acts as the tip-off of what’s really going on in the heads of the pastors and the priests.

People who hew closely to the Commandments of God will have to go on a different road.

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