By George H. Warnock
The principle of delegated authority is not too difficult for us to comprehend as it relates to us in the realm of earthly governments. We send ambassadors to other countries, and they send ambassadors to our country. These ambassadors are delegated by the government of the country from whom they come, to declare in their name the message that they want the other country to have. He lives in our midst... and is given certain rights and privileges and guarantees of safety... even though the country he represents might in many respects be hostile to ours. When he speaks, he speaks what he considers to be the mind and the will of the government he represents. Thus far it is not too difficult for us to make the analogy. Jesus said,
"He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me" (John 13:20).
They would truly be His representatives in the earth, declaring God's Truth to a world that is at enmity with the Government of Heaven.
But the conclusion that men often draw from this principle is not properly founded. "These men are sent of God, and therefore we will submit to them and obey them, regardless of what they teach... We know that as men they are weak, and subject to infirmity, and they may not always walk as Jesus walked... nevertheless they have been delegated by the Lord to represent Him in the earth, and we must submit to them and obey them even if at times we do not have a clear witness in ourselves concerning their teachings, or the things they are seeking to establish..."
This concept of the Authority of God's ministers has been brought forth in the Church, with varying degrees of emphasis, from the earliest beginnings of her apostasy. And after every new moving of the Spirit of God in the earth... as the sovereign presence of the Spirit begins to ebb away... sooner or later there is a reoccurrence of the same teaching in one form or another. It has resulted in the formation of many new denominations in the Church from time to time... and it has also brought into being other Church structures and systems which have not been around long enough yet to find their place in history, and which generally are not recognized as a denominational structure... but which bear the same stamp if you look at them closely. The phraseology changes from time to time, but the basic concepts of the doctrine remain about the same: A man sent from God has the authority of Christ conferred upon him, and he must be obeyed because of this authority, and not necessarily because his teachings are always entirely right or infallible. He may be wrong in many of the things he is seeking to promote, and he may err at times in his understanding of what God is saying to the people... but that is between him and the Lord... (God will correct him in his error.) But you and I must give him our submission if we are to abide safely under the covering of God.
We feel it is important, therefore, that God's people have a sound scriptural understanding concerning this whole matter of delegated authority; for though these ecclesiastical orders soon perish and vanish away, especially in this day and hour when God is bringing all things to a swift and final conclusion... it is also true that new kingdoms of a similar nature are constantly arising. And though it may seem to be a matter of insignificance right now to many Christians, let us realize that the time may be close at hand when ecclesiastical and earthly governments will once again walk together hand in hand (as the mystery of iniquity hastens on to full fruition); and God's people are going to have to stand up in the power of the Spirit of God against the combined might of the Man of Sin and the god of this present world, as he sits in the very Temple of God in the earth.
Let us pursue this matter of delegated authority as it pertains to the Son of God when He was here in the earth. Jesus said, "The living Father hath sent me" (John 6:57). All Christians recognize this. But let us go a little further: "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself..." (John 14:10). Literally He was saying, "I speak not FROM myself," for the Son of God on earth was not only delegated by the Father to speak God's Word to the people, but the living Father actually dwelt within Him, and the Son spoke out from the very heart of God. The authority and the power that He manifested here on earth was not like that of an ambassador who had to search about in his heart for the answer that he thought would please his government at home. This was something far different. Nor would he just use His own good judgment in matters that seemed beyond His capacity as man to understand. Having learned obedience through the things which He suffered He was the Son who walked in total union with the Father, so that the very words He spoke and the very Works that He performed... though falling from His lips or emanating from the touch of His hand... it was in reality God the Father Himself speaking and working... as He walked in His Son, talked in His Son, lived in His Son, and showed forth the love and mercy of His own heart in His Son. Not, indeed, as a robot of some kind that was under the control and power of another in an involuntary sort of way... but as the Son who purposed in His heart when He came into the earth to do God's will and not His own. "Lo I come to do thy will, O God." Christ Was never guilty of acting on His own, by reason of delegated authority. According to the Covenant of Incarnation He refused to do so. "Lo I come to do THY WILL, O God." He was subject to constant pressure to do His own will, but He remained true to the covenant. Satan tried to get Him to act in His own best interests as the Son of God on the Mount of Temptation (...if you are the Son of God...) but He steadfastly refused. The disciples sought to get Him to act on His own, for they were sure He was the Messiah... and they knew He would be acclaimed as the Messiah if He would only submit to the will of the people, but He refused to be pressured. It was not for lack of power or lack of authority that He said, "I can of mine own self do NOTHING" (John 5:30)... but it was rather because of the covenant relationship which He had with the Father. "I can do nothing of Myself, because I have purposed to do everything and to say everything... IN UNION WITH MY FATHER, and not as springing from my own heart's desire."
Therefore, as Jesus walked in total union with the Father, the Father's will became His will, and the Father's works became His works... and there was never any desire on His part to have it otherwise, But it was in the utmost of obedience to the Father that He would learn this kind of union. and it would be through much suffering and anguish that He would have to resist all attempts, whether human or Satanic, to act as the Messiah in His own good judgment, with the authority that the office of Messiah carried with it.
Having learned this kind of obedience, His will became ONE with the Father in all respects... so that even in the dark hours of anguish in Gethsemane, when under the pressure and the burden of the sins of the world being laid upon Him... He cried out in anguish of soul: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me." Even then He was quick to respond, "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." He conquered in the temptation to act in His own right on the Mount of Temptation... He conquered in the temptation to act in His own right under the pressure of the people to make Him king... and He conquered in Gethsemane under the pressure of the powers of darkness to throw away the cup that God had given Him to drink.
It Was Good That Jesus Went Away
Now it would certainly seem logical that this kind of Man should continue to live on the earth, and to finish the work which He started by way of gathering together the lost sheep of God's heritage. But to the dismay of the disciples He told them He must go away... but that in going away, it would be to their advantage. Let us repeat it again and again, that we might catch the significance of these tremendous words:
"IT IS BEST FOR YOU... IT IS PROFITABLE... IT IS GOOD... EXPEDIENT... ADVANTAGEOUS FOR YOU... that I go away. Because if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you..." As clearly and as beautifully as any translation can express it, Jesus would tell us that the Holy Spirit, taking up His habitation in the Body of Christ in the earth, would be absolutely EVERYTHING THAT JESUS WAS WHEN HE WAS HERE in the days of His flesh. But it would be BETTER for God's people, and more glorifying to God, because the Christ that was limited and confined by reason of His humanity would become universalized and expanded to embrace a BODY that would fill the whole earth... and reach even into the heavens, by reason of His exaltation to God's right hand.
Now what we want to emphasize concerning the authority of Christ's ministry in the earth is simply this: that His Authority SPRANG FROM HIS UNION WITH THE FATHER, AND NOT FROM HIS MESSIANIC OFFICE. It was not a Messianic Office that He came to fulfill. but it was His union with the Father that made His Messianic Office vital, and meaningful, and valid.
The conclusion of the whole matter is now quite evident... and may God's ministers everywhere, and all of God's people... find grace to grasp the significance of this beautiful teaching. The Only Begotten Son of God would not speak, or work, or minister... out of virtue of His Office. Where, then is that apostle, or prophet, or teacher, or healer, or miracle worker... or elder, or deacon... who would presume to minister in virtue of his office, rather than in virtue of the Abiding Christ within? Or assume spiritual authority over the souls of men in virtue of his office, rather than in virtue of the Christ who dominates his words and his whole way of life? But let us pursue the matter a little further. When Jesus was here on earth He was the Prophet that Moses spoke about, who would come into the world, that all men must hear and obey. He was the Apostle, and High Priest of our profession. He was the Evangelist, the bearer of good tidings. He was the Teacher, who gathered the disciples about Him and unfolded the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. And He was the Good Shepherd... or the Good Pastor, that would lay down His life for the sheep. In other words, He was the fulness of ALL MINISTRY. But now He is exalted at God's right hand, and He has sent forth the fulness of His ministry (even the five-fold ministry) into the Church. This five-fold ministry therefore is but the overflow from His exalted throne in the heavens of the ministry that was His alone when He ministered here on earth. But now He is glorified, and as a result of His glorification He is able to send forth from His own heart a corporate ministry into the earth, who would minister as He did when He was here... but doing even "greater works" because he has ascended to a greater Throne. Then shall we not learn from His example?
It was not because He was the Apostle that He claimed the authority to tear down the old temple, and build the new. It Was rather because He had come into a true Father-Son relationship; and He was simply doing what God was doing.
It was not because He was the Prophet foretold by Moses that He expected the followers of Moses to hear His Word... it was rather because He was showing forth the Truth of God, and men loved the Truth (the Truth of God... the Truth that Moses gave... the Truth that the prophets brought forth)... then they would love Him, for He spoke the Truth direct from the heart of God.
The Son honored the Father in all things, and for this reason only He expected that men who loved God would honor Him. Many thieves and robbers had come before Him... and many would come after Him. But they would come in their own name, assuming they had the authority of the Messiah, and claiming to be the Messiah. But Jesus simply claimed to SPEAK THE TRUTH and to LIVE THE TRUTH, and therefore men and women who were seeking for the Truth recognized the Voice of Truth and followed Him FOR THAT REASON AND FOR NONE OTHER. Have we not wondered why Jesus would seemingly evade the issue of His Messiah-ship when contested by the religious leaders of His day? For He was not interested in satisfying their curiosity... He was only interested that men should come to know the Truth. Telling the learned and wise theologians who He was might give them something to argue about, but it wouldn't change their hearts. But if they were seeking the Truth, they would discover the Truth in the words he spake, in the life He lived, and in the works that He performed. Jesus knew He was the Messiah; and John had witnessed before that He was the Messiah; and wise men from the East recognized Him to be the Messiah. But as Jesus pursued His pathway of ministry in the earth He would point to none of these things by way of vindicating Himself, or by way of establishing His authority over the people. His only desire was that men should HEAR and KNOW the Truth, that in knowing the Truth they might be made free. When John later sent a delegation of his disciples to Jesus that they might confirm John's earlier conviction that Jesus was the Messiah... Jesus might have said something like this: "Remind John of the time he baptized me in the Jordan... how he heard a voice from heaven saying, This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased... Remind him of the vision he had of the Dove resting on My head..." But no! For Jesus wanted to assure John not merely of the great office He had as the Messiah, but that He was indeed the living expression of the Truth of God in the earth.
"Go your way," He said, "And tell John what things ye have SEEN and HEARD: how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in Me" (Luke 7:22, 23).
For Jesus would have all men to honor Him and receive Him simply and only because they behold the Father Himself working in Him, and speaking through Him. His ministers we must learn to honor for the same reason, and for none other. Paul, in fact, taught the same thing.. but this is scarcely noticed. "Follow me..." (Because I am the apostle to the Gentiles? Ah, no!) But "Follow me, even as I follow Christ..."
If Divine Government were God's ultimate purpose, then a strong and righteous Messiah, ruling in equity, could perhaps be the answer, And if Divine Government in the Church were God's ultimate... then strong and righteous apostles and prophets, ministering with authority and power, could perhaps be the answer. But God's ultimate is SONS... Sons from Adam's race... fallen so low, yet to be raised so high... even unto UNION WITH HIMSELF... Sons walking in love, in truth, in meekness, in mercy, in grace... Therefore His own Son must be the PATTERN SON, and BECOME THE WAY... for in all things, even in His life here on earth, He must have the preeminence.
What we have observed, then, concerning ministry is not just some far-fetched doctrine that we are trying to promote. Jesus is not only the TRUTH, and the LIFE, He is also THE WAY... and we must follow Him as the WAY, if we are going to come into the fulness of TRUTH and LIFE.
God Himself, in His sovereign utterances from Heaven, was always very careful to show His Son the WAY, and through Him to show you and me THE WAY. Never on any occasion would the Father say: This is your King; this is your Messiah; this is My Prophet... submit to Him. Invariably the Word was simply: "This is my Beloved Son, in whom Lam well pleased..." Or, "This is my Son, hear, ye Him..."
"If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly," the Jews said (John 10:24). It almost seemed that the Lord was seeking to evade the issue, and we used to wonder why. But declaring Himself to be the Messiah, and being received by the people as the Messiah... would not change their hearts... but receiving the Truth that He declared WOULD. True, they were all looking for the Messiah, but many of them had no desire to walk in the Truth. Jesus, therefore, would expect all men to honor Him, simply and only because He was the Son of God, honoring the Father in all things, in the Words He spoke, in the Works He performed, and in the Life that He lived.
Is it necessary to suggest that God may require NO LESS of His ministers in the earth today? Or are we to believe that God would give more honor to his delegated ministers in the earth today than He would give His own Son? Or permit them to assume spiritual authority over the people of God today, that even His own Beloved Son would not assume? God forbid! For His ministers must learn to walk in the steps of the Lord who sent them, and declare the Truth as it proceedeth directly from the throne of God in heaven. "A servant is not greater than His Lord. neither is he that is sent greater than He that sent him..."
But when His ministers learn the WAY, then the sheep will hear God's voice again, and will follow. And then will the Word be fulfilled, as it is written: "He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent me" (John 13:20).