This is part one of a series of blogs by John Alley on Apostolic Authority. These are taken from Chapter 5 of his book, The Apostolic Revelation.
The question of authority is one of the pivotal issues for the reformation of the church. As we often say, “this is where the rubber hits the road”. Either apostles do have authority over the church on behalf of Christ, or they do not.
If apostles do have authority, then the church needs to listen to them. If there is no apostolic authority, then it remains for every church, movement or denomination to establish their own authority and leadership systems — they may do what is right in their own eyes. That is precisely what we have had, creating an inordinate amount of disunity in the body of Christ. A divisive, denominationalistic spirit has often ensnared the church, and the world sees it as both a mess and a joke. Jesus said that when we are one, as the Father and the Son are one, the world will believe (John 17:20-23).
If a church or denomination rejects apostolic authority, they have closed their hearts to much of what the scriptures say about the leadership and structure of the church; especially the means by which Christ exercises His leadership and authority in the church. Such groups are operating on a foundation of limited understanding. Any denomination or ministry built on a limited view of the biblical revelation of leadership, must by definition be something other, or less than, what Christ really wants.
This is not to say they are not good people — not great Christian ministries in other ways. But apostolic authority is lacking, and therefore the body is disjointed. According to Ephesians chapter 4, the problem of the body being disjointed, disunited, infantile, and unstable (Ephesians 4:14-16) is precisely the problem to be addressed and overcome by the ministry appointments of Christ which must include apostles and prophets (Ephesians 4:11-13).
Undisputed amongst believers should be the truth that Christ holds all authority, given by the Father. He Himself said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18), and the apostle Peter explained that, “...Jesus Christ, ...has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand - with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (1 Peter 3:21-22). Paul made it even clearer, with passages like Ephesians 2:20-23, and Colossians 1:15-20, and 2:9-10.
Even earlier, there was a noticeable change in the authority structure of ministry as soon as Jesus began to teach. Everyone noticed that He taught as one who had authority, so unlike the religious leaders of the day (Matthew 7:28-29) — and this authority He immediately began to divest to others, beginning with the apostles (Mark 3:15, Luke 9:1,10:1,10:19).
To be vested with authority will be the first manifestation of an apostle’s commission. When the twelve were appointed by Jesus to be apostles, He sent them out to preach and “...to have authority to drive out demons” (Mark 3:15). At this point the authority was over demons, but the authority of the twelve was progressively expanded. By the time we come to Matthew 28 and the Great Commission, Christ bestows His complete “authority in heaven and on earth” upon the apostles, and ultimately, to the church through them. We see this because He says “therefore go”. There is a clear implication in Jesus’ words: the authority of Jesus over all things has been placed upon the apostles. In that authority they will go to all nations to bring a people to obedience to Christ, and in exercising this authority Christ will be with them.
The authority of Christ is to be exercised on earth through His body, the church. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:22-23). The scriptures abound with such amazing statements, and the intent is for us to understand our high position in Christ. God placed everything under Christ’s feet, but the verse is specific in its reference to the church. We are His feet under which all things have been placed, and we are the fullness of Christ who fills everything. This shows us the extent of the authority we are meant to exercise.