In our last article, Submission—A Proper Foundation, we learned that the first step of submission is submitting to God. We can’t submit to any other authority on earth until we first submit to God in heaven. If you’re having trouble with submission, that’s the first place to start.

We all understand the transfer of authority. If you’ve ever worked in a corporation you’ve likely been under transferred authority. Transferred authority is when someone with real authority hands that authority over to someone who, otherwise, wouldn’t have that authority.  For example, if I own a restaurant, I am the only one who has a right to make food, run the cash register, set up the menu, and manage the books. Most business owners realize they can’t do it all. Suppose I hire five employees. Upon their hire I will transfer some of my authority over to them. I may put one or two employees in charge of running register. I may put one or two in charge of making food. Finally, I may decide to put one in charge of the other four and give them the added responsibility of setting up the menu and managing the books at the end of the day.

None of these people had any authority to come behind the counter of my restaurant until I handed it over to them. Ultimately, they are responsible to me. In large corporations this reality, oftentimes, gets lost as lower management starts to perceive one store as “their own.” Have you ever worked in a company where everything changed when the “District Manager” was coming by? Some hot shot from “corporate” shows up and rearranges everything, tells people what to do, and then walks out. Who does he think he is? I’ve felt that way. I’ve been in many companies where people “straighten up” when upper management stops by. Why do we “straighten up?” The reason we get so nervous is because the higher up a person is in the company the closer they are to the actual authority. We are concerned because they have more delegated authority than we do and they have the ability to take away transferred authority and transfer it to someone else.

There’s one other good example—if you’re a parent, or you were the oldest child, you can relate to the following illustration. Mom and dad are going out for a few hours, and no baby-sitter can be found. After giving certain instructions on bed-time, what to eat, and things not to do, mom and dad say to the oldest child, “You’re in charge.” That statement says to the other children that the authority of mom and dad rests on the oldest child. It also tells the oldest child that they are responsible for the actions of the other kids. If that authority is used to undermine mom and dad, then they will get in trouble when mom and dad return. If the other kids usurp the transferred authority, when mom and dad return (the actual authorities) they will be in trouble.

As we start thinking about transferred authority, I want us to take a rather gentle leap from heaven to earth as we look at the most important authority transfer in the history of Scripture. We started with God, and when he sent his Son to the earth, he transferred a lot of authority…

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” –Mat 28:18

This quote comes right after Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus tells us that the Father has transferred all authority in heaven and on earth to Himself. That is not to say that the Father lost any authority. Remember, if I own a restaurant, and I give you authority over my restaurant, that doesn’t mean I lose my authority. If I see that you are misusing, or abusing, the authority I gave you I can just as quickly take it back. It’s my authority. Jesus is a part of the triune Godhead and God’s authority is his authority. Since they are one in essence and three in persons we can safely assume that God has chosen a good candidate to transfer his authority to.

What comes next may be a surprise to some. When Jesus made this statement, after his resurrection, he followed it up with one of the most well-known Scriptural commands: The Great Commission.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Mat 28:19-20

Before we start talking about obeying earthly authorities such as government, family, and bosses, we need to start by obeying God’s chosen authority over heaven and earth. This begins by turning from our sins (repentance) and trusting Christ (faith) to take the penalty for those sins on the cross. We need to recognize, all the while, that our forgiveness is a gift from God (grace) and not a work of our own doing. After becoming a disciple ourselves, we need to obey the highest authority in heaven and on earth, Christ.

Questions for Discussion

When was the last time you made a disciple?

When was the last time you baptized?

When was the last time you taught another to obey the commands of Christ?