Authority and Power - RR272C6
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Let us begin with prayer. Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth; thus saith the High and Lofty One, Who inhabiteth eternity, Whose name is Holy. I dwell in the high and holy place with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite. If thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
Let us pray. Glory be to Thee, O God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We praise Thee on this day and always, that Thy hand is ever upon us for good; that all the days of our life, Thou art mindful of us. Thou hast beset all our goings and our comings with Thy gracious love and care. Give us grace, so to walk, O Lord, that in all things, we may seek to serve Thee, be faithful to Thy Word, and rejoice in Thy providence. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our scripture this morning is two verses of the first chapter of Acts: Act 1:7-8. Our subject is authority and power—authority and power. “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. 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.” [00:02:12]
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 23:7, it is translated as “jurisdiction”; in I Corinthians 8:9, as “liberty.” Many times, exousia is translated as “right”; and when it is used in these various senses, 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 a 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. [00:04:09]
There can be no separation of authority and power in the Triune God. This is why kenosis is so evil and destructive a doctrine. But we have to go a step further: can we legitimately separate godly authority and power? An ironic fact is that, in the modern age, a great deal of to-do is made about mothers when their authority is at a low ebb; but in terms of scripture, there can be no separation of authority and power. In this sinful world, godliness may have authority, but it attracts hostility; it incites attacks. The aim of the ungodly is to obliterate God’s witness in man’s righteousness. The Westminster Confession of Faith says with regard to holiness, that we are quickened and strengthened, and given more authority in the practice of holiness. We are told that they who are “effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which, no man shall see the Lord.” So that, the Westminster Confession tells us very quickly, very plainly, in the compass of one brief paragraph, that there is a relationship in our lives between authority and power, because when we grow in the authority of faithfulness to God in the exercise of our calling, we grow in power. And this development is not a Saint Vitus dance in No Man’s Land; it is in the real world of everyday life, and the growth of holiness must be seen as the growth of power in and through the Holy Spirit. [00:06:56]
In the American version of the Presbyterian form of...
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; we gain authority; we gain strength. In brief, two 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 is in order to goodness; it is also in order to authority, holiness, and power. [00:08:18]
I believe that one of the greatest statements made...
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 XV. His papacy was brief—1914 to 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, a 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. Benedict’s 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. [00:11:20]
The church today wants to be a democracy, not a monarchy
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 who 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. But we are told in the Book of Acts, first chapter, verses 7 and 8, certain things: first, the word that is used in verse 7 is exousia—power and authority; then we are told that we shall receive power. God the Father keeps in His own power the knowledge of the timing of history. Men cannot seek after that knowledge; they must know only what He tells us. As Deuteronomy 29:29 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. [00:13:23]
Now, the believer who is faithful to God in this sense...
Now, the believer who is faithful to God in this sense receives power and authority. He shall receive power. How? In order to do His will, to be His witnesses, to do His work. Now the reference here, some would say, is to Pentecost; but it is far more, because the primary emphasis—in fact, the exclusive reference here—is to the testimony, the witness; not the gifts of the Spirit, but the gift of the Spirit that we might function day by day in whatever we do for the Lord and His Kingdom. So the emphasis is upon the power that manifests itself in faithfulness to the Word, in the proclamation of the Word, and being governed by the Word: ye shall be my witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth. 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 order for me now; what doeth 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 in 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. [00:16:40]
The Holy Spirit gives us power to act for the Lord...
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. Very shortly after the end of World War II, a book was published, which was an instant best seller; and the title of it sets forth the goal of man in the postwar world. I believe the author’s name was Liebermann. The title was Peace of Mind—Peace of Mind. This has been the great quest of modern man. Virtually all of us want peace of mind, and we forget that 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. 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 eleuthera. 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 two years, I have met a woman whose name was Eleuthera. Her parents, who were obviously well educated and knew their Greek; or else they probably had a great-grandmother who had that name. Eleuthera, 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. [00:20:18]
Now this matter of access to God, of which Paul speaks...
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 a great king, the king of 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 in to 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 is the privilege of being a Christian. It gives us power and authority—if we want it. [00:22:02]
About, oh, seventeen or eighteen years ago, I had devoted...
About, oh, seventeen or eighteen years ago, I had devoted an entire issue of the Chalcedon report to one subject. I titled it, “Why pray, when you can worry?” Why pray, when you can worry? And I think that’s the motto of most people—all of us, sometime or other. It’s so much easier to worry. After all, when we worry, we have control of the situation, or we think we do. When we pray, we’re saying, “You take it God; it’s too much for me.” And there’s a difference in the two attitudes. We have royal access. It gives us power and authority, and we do not choose to use it.
Today, the world is—as Otto Scott and I were discussing before the meeting began—very much as it was before the Reformation. The church of its day was very much decayed; it was controlled. The papacy had become religiously a dead letter; it was not allowed to be relevant: the monarchs did not permit it, and it had gone off into being a patron of the arts. And into that world came the Word of God. It is interesting that at the beginning of this century in 1917, Benedict XV made a statement, which, in effect, was a call for a new reformation—a reformation not unlike that which Luther and Calvin started: one in terms of laying hold of the power that had enabled the church at the beginning, when it was a mere handful of people, to overthrow Rome. Let me read Benedict XV’s words again, speaking of the paganism of this century in 1917: “The causes of those 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, that they found minds more readily disposed towards the gospel, or that they met with less opposition to the Law of God.” [00:26:10]
Well, we must say that no other conclusion than this...
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 and 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 choose 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. O 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 is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith. Bless us to this purpose, we beseech Thee. In Jesus’ name. Amen. [00:28:04]
Are there any questions now about our lesson? Yes?...
Are there any questions now about our lesson? Yes?
[Questioner] Rush, can we say that power and authority are, in a certain sense, potential; but the power hasn’t manifested itself, except in accordance with God’s Law?
[Questioner] On any other law basis, it is boot power and usurped authority?
Any other questions or comments? Yes?
[Questioner] I was listening to Pastor Sullivan’s case. I don’t know whether you had heard them, or not. They belong to Cam Thurston, I believe, but they’ve been circulating. And I was listening to his message, and he was talking about his experience in jail and everything like that, and how he was able to witness there. And he certainly has an “Onward Christian Soldiers” message. But, he mentioned when he was witnessing in the jail, he was, you know, giving them literature, and trying to feed them and all in jail. One of the books that he gave them was Hal Lindsey’s Late, Great, Planet Earth. Now, how can he be so right in his perspective and still hold to Hal Lindsey’s …?
[Rushdoony] Yes. Pastor Sullivan is a very remarkable man. He is greater than his theology, at points, and while he does hold to the premillennialism, he also has seen, and as very few people have, the necessity of standing up to the state and asserting the freedom of Christ’s kingdom. On that point, he’s very strong. I have mentioned this before and it’s worth mentioning again: I first met him a good many years ago, I think in ’78 or 9, when several of us—myself, John Whitehead, and others—spoke on the church and state issue. And he came up to me and expressed his appreciation for it, and said that he was not a scholar, and there was no contribution he could make to the subject. But, he said, “One thing I can do: if need be, I can go to jail for Christ.” And he has done that, and he’s shaken up the country with what he’s done.
[Questioner] Just before I left home, I heard the most...
[Questioner] Just before I left home, I heard the most gross thing I think I’ve ever heard. There was this gentleman, I think from England—it was a minister preaching on the tube—and he said he had 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 and released. Had you heard anything about …?
[Rushdoony] Several books have already been written along those veins, which go through the Bible and list 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 that 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 20 years or more as historical fact, until one man back 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 than 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 and churches on the subject, and that’s the evil. [00:33:27]
[Questioner] Two things: one of the things—that a lot of people don’t connect ideas and consequences in the modern age, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Pastor Sullivan has his problems. The other thing—about the movie, I know that for almost a decade now—a little more than a decade, since 1973 or so—there has been a number of individuals trying to put together motion pictures based upon the homosexuality of Christ, and all of them have failed so far. And the reason why is because distributors are very, very afraid of what may happen in the marketplace if such a film comes out. And without distributors giving you advanced guarantees on play dates and things of that nature, it’s very difficult for a producer to raise money to do such a film. I know one film was supposed to star Donald Pleasence, and it got right down to the point where they were about three months before they were getting ready to shoot; and they had everything, they thought, cast and all that; and they had a guarantor of the loan all lined up and everything, but they couldn’t get enough distribution for it in order to secure their loan agreements. And this battle for a homosexual film on Christ has been going on for well over 10 years, and it’s not something that’s going to go away, at this point.
[Rushdoony] Um hum.
[Questioner] Well, the campaign is a little deeper...
[Questioner] Well, the campaign is a little deeper. The argument has been raised that the Holocaust occurred, because it was the culmination of Christian thinking. And I received a letter the other day from somebody who said that Billy Graham’s movie was rated PG (parental guidance suggested) according to the motion picture group that makes the ratings, because no pre-teenaged child should be exposed to Christianity without parental consent. So what we are seeing is an effort, a campaign practically, to outlaw Christianity.
[Questioner] Sometimes we feel that the more vigorously they attack, the greater strides we’re making.
[Rushdoony] Yes. One reason for the attack today, that has in the past decade become so venomous, is because of the revival of Christian faith, the Christian school movement, and much more. Naturally, they’re concerned. They had written it off. In 1952, the Supreme Court, in one of its decisions, in effect, said Christianity is dead, and we don’t have to worry about it, and we can begin non-Christian legislation and decisions. But, it isn’t dead, and this is upsetting, too. One of the interesting things is that in one or two of the very early decisions on Christian schools, the courts were favorable to Christian schools in an indulgent way. Their attitude was, in effect, here are some harmless people who are going to be gone within a generation; so we can make a show of being civil libertarians on this issue. Now, some state boards of education took the same attitude: the first Christian school or two they had to deal with, they were very indulgent about and said they were happy to indulge such groups. But when they saw them growing, they became furious; and it is because there is a dramatic change underway today. [00:38:11]
[Questioner] But it appears that the Christian school movement is almost the only area of revival that goes beyond just an emphasis on salvation, being more prone to seek God’s Word. Why, I was just going to say, are there any other areas that we could concentrate on? Is abortion another one, or the creation issue another one?
[Rushdoony] There are a great many areas, and we’re going to do some work on that. In the double issue of the Journal, we’ve surveyed some; but we will be reporting on some other aspects of this: for example, the number of agencies now that deal with welfare; or, for example, a group of Christian laymen headed by a Texas oilman, who are going across the border into Mexico into some of the very primitive areas, where the incidence of disease is very high, because they have, either only shallow wells, or very polluted muddy little streams. They’re going there with drills that can put in some very good wells. Just in that respect, they’re changing life in one community after another. Now, that’s one of thousands of things that nobody hears about; but these things are beginning to have an impact here in this country and abroad. A great deal is taking place—dramatic things—but there is no mention of this. We’re going to try to let people know about these things, and also encourage them to do the like. [00:40:16]
[Questioner] That’s one of the problems there that...
[Questioner] That’s one of the problems there that I see is that most Christians, when you talk about Reconstruction; and you talk about the Christian solution of welfare, and the Christian solution to poverty and disease, and these other kinds of things, most people have a great deal of difficulty believing you, because they see no evidence of it happening anywhere. And the principle advantage in publishing the Journal the way we have is the fact that it provides concrete proof to other people that something really is happening –
[Questioner] – you see, because now they get 90% of their information from the media, and of course, the media is going to ignore it. And it tells people, “Hey, you know, this is not a new idea. There are other people who are doing it, and it’s working very successfully. It’s more efficient, it’s more caring and loving of people; and all of the things that the Christian message is supposed to be is demonstrated in these kinds of projects and this kind of publishing; and getting publicity for these kinds of things is immensely important for the whole Christian body, because it shows it can be done.
[Rushdoony] Yes, and is being done.
[Questioner] And is being done.
[Rushdoony] Well, if there are no further comments, let us bow our heads now in prayer. Our Lord and our God, we thank Thee that Thou art at work in our world, in our lives, in our time. We thank Thee Lord that the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. And now, go in peace. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always. Amen. [00:42:08]