e call ourselves Christians, and rightfully so. If we are to be true to the name we wear, however, we need to keep a clear understanding of the unique position Jesus occupies in the divine arrangement. Paul summed it up with his great statement in Col. 1:18: "He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might have the preeminence." Consider, therefore, just a little of what Jesus is with reference to the faith that bears his name.
1) Jesus is the foundation. In the long ago God said, "Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation." The Christian faith is built, as we are wont to say, "square dab" upon this great "stone". All true disciples stand "upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone." This means Christ is the bedrock upon which our faith is established. He is at the bottom of everything that counts.
Jesus Christ is also at the top, for 2) Jesus is the Lord. When the Christian system is compared to a kingdom, Christ is the king. When it is likened to the organism of a human body, Christ is the head. When it is pictured as a flock of sheep, Christ is the good shepherd, the Chief Shepherd.
3) Jesus is the prophet. A prophet is one through whom God speaks. In the past God spoke through a variety of men, like Moses, Elijah, etc. In this dispensation He speaks to all mankind through His Son. "Hear ye HIM," God said.
4) Jesus is the priest. A priest is one who stands between man and God. Under the law there were many high priests, each succeeding the other because of death. But Christ has been made a high priest "forever" after the power of an endless life (Heb. 7:16-17).
Now none of this presents the slightest problem to Bible-believing people. Ask any believer, particularly a fundamentalist, if Jesus Christ is the founder and foundation of true faith. He will say, "Yes". Is Jesus at the top, the Lord of all? Yes. Is he the king? Yes. Is he the head? Yes. Is he the great shepherd of the sheep? Yes. Is he God's prophet? Yes. Is he our high priest? Yes. All this is very good. Everyone is glad and agreed that Jesus has been put in an exalted position. Everyone seems happy to let Christ be preeminent until - until preaching turns into practice; until the truth of his eminence is really applied; until Christ-anity collides with Church-anity. Then it is another matter. Strange as it may seem, when someone INSISTS that Jesus Christ be left alone in his position of eminence, and that absolutely no one be allowed to usurp his holy place, many otherwise nice folks (even some preachers) simply will not hear to it. Let us look into this situation briefly.
Some folks apparently do not realize that Jesus is EXCLUSIVE in all the above roles. As Paul said, "Other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Jesus Christ." The Bible tells us there is "ONE Lord." Also that there is "ONE mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.' On and on it goes. The Scriptures do not even remotely suggest that Christ has ever relinquished his preeminent position or any capacity thereof. He is today what he has always been. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Here comes the strange and sad part. Many who exalt Christ in theory end up demoting him in practice. I will not make a long list, but consider these. The Mormons talk about Jesus. But in reality the foundation of their particular religion is not the story of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the story of Joseph Smith. Move over Jesus. You are no longer a sufficient foundation for faith. Also among the charismatics Jesus is loudly proclaimed. Yet in matter of fact, there are all kinds of men loose on the airways today claiming to have daily communications from God. They regularly announce "new revelations" from heaven. So move over Jesus. Someone else is now speaking for God. Likewise, in typical Old Line Legal Reserve Denominations Christ is dutifully given the honor of being called the "Head" of the Church. He is only the nominal head, however. When it comes to the ACTUAL decision making, when the real decisions are made as to who can do what, when, and how, make no mistake about it, THESE decisions are not made in heaven by Jesus but right here on earth at Church Headquarters by those who are "in charge" of said Church. Move over Jesus. Another "head" is calling the shots. Are we now coming closer to home? What about people of contemporary Church of Christ/Christian Church vintage? Perhaps we ought to take a look at the supremacy of Christ as it relates to us also.
In the final analysis the preeminence of Christ may well come down to the question of authority, a matter on which Jesus himself was definite and clear. His work on earth done, just before taking leave of his chosen apostles, he made the following announcement: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:18). The word "power" means not just the ability to act for yourself, but the right to have others act for you. It has to do with rule or government. "Authority" is the word. According to the Scriptures Jesus Christ is the supreme and only ruler of God's people today. Isaiah said of him: "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders." It turned out that his shoulders were broad enough for the task. Jesus became, therefore, the head of all principality and power. Inasmuch as a proper respect for the authority of Jesus is so vital to true discipleship, it is imperative that we understand the full truth about it, as follows.
The SOURCE of Christ's authority is God. He did not possess "all authority" to begin with, nor did he make a move on his own to seize such power. It was "given" to him. The Father gave Christ his place of authority "when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named ..." (Eph. 1:20-21 ). The EXTENT of Christ's authority is unlimited. Notice that he was given a place "far above" all others. In both heaven and earth he claimed to have "all" authority or power. How much authority does Christ have? ALL of it! This does not leave ANY authority for anyone else, does it? This means I do not have an ounce of religious authority. None. But then, neither do you. Neither does anyone except Jesus. What will the DURATION of Christ's authority be? How long will he exercise all power in heaven and earth? I presume, "Always, even unto the end of the world." As long as this present age lasts Jesus Christ will be the final voice of authority in matters pertaining to God. Jesus is reigning now and will continue to reign til the very end,, when he will put down the last enemy, death, then turn the kingdom back to the Father who gave it to him (1 Cor. 15:24-26).
How does all this involve or implicate us? You can probably guess if you think hard enough. The preeminent authority of Christ has a direct bearing on the continuing controversy among those of restoration heritage as to the "authority of elders." Without getting into the discussion of who N.T. "elders" were and how they got to be such, without getting into the original meaning of words like "rule" and "submit," let me merely make one observation. The question of the presumed "authority" of elders is forever settled in the above mentioned facts. If Jesus has "all authority," then no one else has any. It is as simple as that. Of course, many brethren will agree that Jesus has "all authority." They can hardly deny it. But they also have a theory about something called "delegated authority," claiming that Jesus has "delegated" some of his authority to certain subordinate rulers. Now if this be the case, if indeed Jesus is "sharing his authority" with others, we surely need to know who they are and what territory he is sharing with them, so we will know when to obey Christ and when to obey someone else.
In defense of this theory someone always says, but what about the apostles? Didn't they have some "authority" given to them by Christ? Let me answer very carefully. I do hope you will think about it just as carefully. NO. THE APOSTLES DID NOT HAVE ANY AUTHORITY DELEGATED TO THEM. Please listen before you jump to the guns. I said THEY, in themselves, were not given any authority. I did not say the apostles did not speak authoritatively. Indeed, they spoke with great authority. They spoke with the authority of Jesus himself. Why? Because they were conveying HIS message. Not their message, but his. Peter on Pentecost said to the inquiring Jews, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST." By whose authority did Peter give this command? Not HIS! Peter had absolutely no "authority" to give that audience a command, of his own making. Did he? But as a chosen and "sent' representative of Jesus, he spoke the word that JESUS had given him to speak. Therefore he spoke with "authority." He spoke as the Spirit gave him guidance. This is why those who heard Peter either obeyed what he said or stood in rebellion against God. But this is a far, far cry from the notion that Christ delegated to the apostles authority to render decisions, according to their own judgement, that others had to obey under penalty of hell. Yet theory has it that "elders" have just such authority. How can this be? The Lord did not say to Peter: "Now Peter, I am going to delegate to YOU the authority and right to make the decision as to what sinners should do in order to be forgiven. Whatever YOU decide, by the authority vested to YOU, they will have to do." No such thing ever happened. Not even with the apostles. If it did not happen with the apostles (Jesus did not give up any of his authority to them), does it happen with elders? If so, then elders have more authority than the apostles had. Yes, in Heb. 13 we are told to obey and submit to certain men. But why? Is it because THEY have been delegated the authoritative right to order us around? No. A thousand times no. According to what the Hebrew writer said, the reason for submitting to such men is because they "have spoken unto you the word of GOD" (v. 7). In other words, these men have told us what the LORD wants us to do. In that case, we should obey such men. But thinking brethren can surely see the difference between delivering to someone the will of God, and in being granted the divine right of imposing your OWN will upon someone. This kind of authority was not "delegated" to anyone in the realm of faith. Not to the apostles, not to prophets, not to preachers, not to elders, not to ordinary disciples, not to anyone else. Why? Because Jesus has "all authority" as the one and only ruler of God's people. He is King!
Perhaps one quick paragraph is needed to add one thought. None of this means that it is wrong to abide by decisions made by men known as elders. (It is not even wrong, so far as I can see, to accept most decisions made by a Men's Business Meeting.) Such decisions may well represent the best and wisest judgement available. What is bad however, and what should be resisted, is the doctrine that these man-made decisions are equivalent to commands from God; that is, they must be obeyed "or else." For all practical purposes this kind of thinking moves Jesus over and puts men in his place. It cannot be true.
This great fact apparently needs repeating. Jesus Christ has all authority! Pause and let it soak all the way to the bone. JESUS (the one from Nazareth) HAS (present tense, he is still very much alive) ALL (not some or part, but all; he has not given up, passed on or delegated a single drop of his authority to anyone)AUTHORITY (the right to command, the right to be obeyed without question) IN HEAVEN AND IN EARTH (if no one but Christ has authority in heaven, how in heaven's name can anyone but Christ have authority on earth?) To repeat again: JESUS CHRIST HAS ALL AUTHORITY.
Let me be frank about this in closing. Jesus Christ has not turned a particle of his business over to ANYONE, period. Therefore it is high time you and I, both in doctrine and practice, returned the Lord Jesus to his rightful place. The issue is really very simple. Jesus Christ is an either-or proposition. We either accept him for what he is, or we reject him. There is no other foundation, no other head, no other mediator, no other savior, no other authority.. There is no room for another. He is not only the one, he is the one and ONLY. Move over Jesus? No way! Christ simply will not be moved over, or out of the way. The one we follow is, and will be til the very end, the Preeminent One of God. Thus we call ourselves Christians, and rightfully so.