Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations (Matt. 28:18-19).
The great commission as recorded by Matthew is the proclamation of the all power, or authority, of Jesus Christ. The claim of all power, or all authority, “in heaven and in earth,” is a high claim and accompanied by the very tone of finality. Yet it is a rightful claim. He had fought and conquered the powers of the Hadean world, thus “through death” destroying “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Heb. 2:14.)
All power, therefore, in heaven and in earth—power seen and unseen, power unlimited and unbounded by geographical or ethereal lines—was given unto Him.
Christ Has All Power—Now
There are three branches of power in our earthly government—legislative, executive, and judicial—vested, respectively, in our Congress, President, and Supreme Court. The divine government of heaven likewise has these three branches of power—all of them vested in Jesus Christ, our Lawgiver, King, and Judge.
God announced his Son as the new Lawgiver on the mount of transfiguration in the presence of Moses and Elijah, the pioneers of law and prophecy, saying: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” The regime of Moses and the prophets was passing. The law was about to be abrogated. Christ was soon to assume the reins of government. Judah’s Shiloh had come, and “unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be.”
Christ has all power. He is not only Lawgiver, with legislative power; he is King, with executive power. His kingly power is strikingly set forth in the first chapter of Hebrews. He has been appointed heir of God’s throne. He is seated in majesty at God’s right hand. He is above the angels. On the throne of God in the heavens he sways the scepter of his righteousness and his kingdom, and will rule until all enemies become his footstool. Such an exalted position is proof of his Kingship, and we may join in the glad refrain of the coronation psalm:
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. . . . Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory.” (Ps. 24:7.)
When Jesus ascended in the clouds, the gates of heaven received him, the King of glory entered in. Amid the shouts of a myriad of angels he was escorted to the throne of God. The inaugural ceremonies of heaven were held. The King was seated on his throne and began his reign, which will continue until every foe is vanquished and death is destroyed. Then the kingdom in which he now rules by appointment from God will be surrendered to the Father, Christ will then take his place with us in heaven, and “the Son also himself be subject to him that put all things under him, that God my be all in all. (See 1 Cor. 15:24-28.)
Christ Exercises All Power—Now
It is mistakenly assumed by some that since all evil has not been banished and Satan bound, and all the world not converted, that Christ does not now exercise all power. This is a misconception of the nature of Christ’s power and how it is exercised. It requires as much power to save one soul as it would to save every soul. It is through the gospel that all power is exercised. Hence, upon his announcement of all power, Jesus said: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” or, as worded by Mark, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel.” The power of Christ is moral, not physical. It is planted in the heart, through the gospel. And every time a soul is saved in obedience to the gospel “all power in heaven and the earth” has been exercised in the salvation of that soul.
Acting by Divine Authority
In the salvation of souls, Christ’s power is exercised in the gospel and applied to the heart in faith and obedience. Thus the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 1:16.) In the church, Christ exercises power in rules of government. Hence, the second charge of the commission reads: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Christ is not only head of the church, but also head over all things to the church,” (Eph. 1:22.) All that pertains to the church must come by his authority, observing only the “all things commanded,” Paul re-enforces this principle in the charge: “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of [by the authority of] the Lord Jesus.” (Col. 3:17.)
Thus, when the New Testament commands a thing to be done, it authorizes the doing of that thing only-nothing else, nothing more, nothing less. Space will not allow the citation of numerous examples to illustrate the truth of this principle. But it seems so evident as not to require argument that we can act by divine authority only in the doing of the “all things commanded.