In order for us to see the kind of law or the authority in Christianity, let us note the different kinds of authority. (1) There is inherent or primary authority. This is the kind of authority that God has. God exists in His own right. His existence is not predicated upon the existence of any prior individual. His authority is ultimate and belongs to Him because He is God. Authority inheres in Him, because He is the source of all authority. (2) Then there is usurped authority. This is the kind of authority the devil has. His authority does not belong to him, but has been taken from another or others. However, we are not primarily interested in this kind of authority at the present. (3) There is also delegated authority. This is authority that belongs to one, but is given to another. With authority being inherent in God, with God being the source of authority, for any authority to reach earth, unless God personally spoke with man, His authority had to be delegated to someone.
The Authority of Christ
Christ was the One to whom God delegated His authority. Jesus was a messenger from God commissioned with divine authority. So the words that he spoke constituted divine law. He said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then shall you know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; he has not left me alone; for I do always the things pleasing to him” Jn. 8:28, 29). The words spoken by Christ were God-given. Jesus said, “For I spake not from myself; but the Father that sent me, he has given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life eternal; the things therefore which I speak, even as the Father bath said unto me, so I speak” Jn. 12:49, 50). Jesus again asserts his divine commission in Matt. 11:27; “All things have been delivered unto me of my Father: and no one knows the, Son, save the Father; neither does any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son wills to reveal him.” Then perhaps the best known of Jesus’ statements of His authority is this: “All authority has been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” This statement just precedes the great commission and is recorded in Matt. 28:18.
In transferring the authority from God, in whom all authority is resident, to Christ, there was no possibility of error, for Jesus was deity. Jesus was God manifest in human form. In John 14:9 Jesus said, “he that has seen me has seen the Father.” Phil. 2:5-7 says that he “counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped” or held on to. He was God’s equal. In Heb. 1:3, we read that Christ was made in the “express image of God.” Col. 2:9 says that in him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. So after deity became incarnate in the form of humanity in Christ Jesus, he taught with the authority of God. So the Bible says: “God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in divers manners, has at the end of these days spoken unto us in his Son” (Heb. 1:1, 2). God has spoken in his Son! The teachings of Christ constitute divine laws.
Christ Delegates Authority
In the providence of God, it had been willed that Christ should die on the cross, be resurrected, and finally ascend to heaven. So provision had to be made for the perpetuation of the teaching he had declared to the sons of men. The apostles were chosen, trained, and were therefore prepared to become ambassadors of Christ, earthen vessels of the truth. Speaking of the apostles, Christ said, “Now they know that all things whatsoever you have given me are from you: for the words which you gave me I have given unto them, and they received them.” In the same chapter, Jesus further says, “I have given them your word” (Jn. 17:7, 8, 14).
Christ had been made in the “express image of God,” and thus infallibly delivered the message given to him by God. However, these apostles were mere men. So provision was made to safeguard the revelation which was to be given to them. This safeguard given to them was the Holy Spirit, who was to insure that the message was received, declared, and recorded without error. As Jesus promised to ascend to the Father, he promised to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles. He said, “These things have I spoken unto you, while yet abiding with you, but the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have spoken unto you” (Jn. 14:26). What was the work of the Holy Spirit? He was to remind the apostles of the words spoken by Jesus. In almost a parallel passage, we find this reading; “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (Jn. 16:13). The Holy Spirit was to guide the apostles into all truth and bring to their remembrance the words of Christ. So the words spoken by the apostles were true, for they were the words spoken by God.
When the apostles spoke, they spoke with the authority of God. They were ambassadors of Christ, who was the Son of God. Paul says, “Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches; combining spiritual things with spiritual words” (1 Cor. 2:13). In another place, the same writer asserts: “For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11, 12 ff; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21; 3:2; Luke 10:16; Rev. 1:1-3.) However, the authority of God is resident in the words spoken through the inspired apostles, and infallibly recorded in the Bible. This is the law, the divine law, of the church. There has never been any further delegation of authority in revealing divine truth.
Preachers all over the land are claiming inspiration. They claim divine aid in their preaching, even saying that God chooses their subjects, and their very words. But, God has spoken unto us in his Son, recorded by the apostles and other inspired men. There is divine authority in no other. This fact indicates that no council, no synod, no assembly, no conclave of man has the right to legislate for the church. The only law of the church of Christ is the word of Christ as revealed in the Bible. We have no creed-book but the Bible. We are bound by no man-written discipline, manual, or confession. The Bible and the Bible alone is the creed-book of the body of Christ. We propose to speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent. Let us call Bible things by Bible names, and do Bible things in Bible ways. If we will but accept the Bible, and only the Bible as our rule of faith and morals, religious division will soon be abolished. Any church of Christ which deviates from these basic principles is nothing more than a denomination cloaked in the Lord’s name. It takes the preaching of something other than the Bible to make one anything more or less than a Christian. Denominationalism will die when the Bible alone is preached. It takes the creeds of men to make people what members of some religious bodies claim to be. The Bible will not do it. The only divine law for the divine church is that received, revealed, and recorded by the Holy Spirit through the inspired apostles of Jesus Christ.