Let us consider the issue of power with respect to Jesus Christ. He says of Himself in Matthew 28:18, "All authority [power, KJV] has been given to Me in heaven and earth." "Authority" is translated from exousia, which has wide usage in the Greek language. It can be used to indicate jurisdiction, privilege, capacity, freedom, influence, force, and right, besides authority and power. Obviously, its usage is not restricted to sheer, brute strength. Jesus, then, is perfectly equipped to handle our needs in the widest variety of situations.
Notice that Jesus says authority has been given to Him. For this to be true, a greater Being must be the Giver. In this vein, I Corinthians 15:25-28 transports us into the future, revealing the source of His powers:
For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
The Giver in Matthew 28:18 must be the Father, so the word "all" in that verse excludes the Father, who is supreme in authority. The resurrected Son is the channel through which the Father's every purpose and plan are being worked out.
How extensive is Jesus' given authority? Colossians 1:14-19 explains some of His authority more specifically:
. . . in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell. . . .
Paul stresses Christ's positional authority, that is, where Christ stands in relation to all other beings, whether human or spirit. "Firstborn" in verses 15 and 18 does not refer to His being created, as other verses clearly show that He has eternally existed. Here, the word indicates primacy of rank, since the apostle is showing Christ's status in relation to all other beings and institutions.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Power Belongs to God (Part Two)
In verse 18, the emphasis is on the word "all." His authority is no longer as it was when He was a man preaching in Galilee and Judea but is once again universal. It is "as it was when He was with the Father" before. He has died and been resurrected, and all authority is once again His. Therefore, His disciples are to understand that wherever they go, everything is subject to His authority. This is a good thing to remember: Everything is subject to Christ's authority.
As they go, they are to make disciples. Teaching and baptizing do not make a person a disciple, though they play a part. Just because a person is baptized does not mean he is converted. Nor does it mean he is a member of the church of God or part of the Family of God. Just because he has been taught the way of God does not mean that he has fully accepted and committed himself to what has been taught.
This is why the emphasis must be on "making disciples." Baptism and obedience to instruction will be a response a person will make who is being made a disciple.
The preaching of the gospel brings a person to faith, repentance, baptism, and seeking further instruction. These are outward responses.
At this point, baptism is very important because it is the outward sign of something exceedingly more important than the fact that one has been "dunked." Baptism is the outward sign of commitment—of coming under the authority of the Father and the Son. Disciples are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is only when a person comes under or is committed to the authority of the Family of God that he is truly a disciple. This marks the difference between one who is truly a disciple and another who has only been dunked.
Once a person has been truly baptized and has truly committed himself to be under the authority of the Family of God, the issue for the disciple is continued learning as a student and loyalty as a member of the Family—as a new creation to the One he has committed himself to.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works
By stating this as He did, He was admonishing the apostles not to become fixated on the fulfillment of prophecies but to remain focused on preaching the gospel. For that end, He will give them power. He wanted them to concentrate on the job at hand. The Great Commission, though, is now not only global geographically, but in terms of time, it is also totally open-ended. Moreover, no God-given, intermediate goals are in sight. The church today must take its cue from the way Jesus Christ handled the situation with the first-century church.
What began at this critical time in history was that God's global re-educational institution—the church, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16)—was taking its first steps in teaching everyone worldwide how they should live. The church Jesus founded was beginning to preach the gospel from this starting point in both place and time, an activity that will eventually reach every person who has ever lived. In other words, beginning then, the church became the focal point of God's reeducation program.
Jesus was transitioning His work from what was merely an Old Covenant, Israelite, religious organization—of interest to relatively few outside Israel—to an educational organization that in terms of time will span thousands of years and become of intense interest to everybody. In directing the apostles in this way, Christ wanted His church to inaugurate this work yet keep it contained within the parameters He and the Father set as the church progressively developed at the speed it could handle effectively.
It may be helpful to remember that the earliest brethren in the church had to face their public responsibilities to Jesus without the help of what is now roughly one-third of the Bible—the New Testament. Scholars posit that the gospel of Mark was written first, followed by Matthew, Luke, and John. The earliest possible date even for Mark appears to be around AD 40, but some place it as late as AD 65.
In addition, it appears that I Thessalonians was the first of the epistles circulated within the church, but the apostle Paul did not write it until approximately AD 50. How many new converts even possessed their own copy of an Old Testament in their homes? Very few. There were no printing presses, no radio and television broadcasting, and no computers. To purchase a copy of the Old Testament would have cost a working man an entire year of wages! Was there a reference work similar to a Strong's Concordance of the Bible for somewhat more serious researching? Of course not.
Looking back in this way confirms that the early preaching of the gospel was a work of faith, highly dependent on the apostles' spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. What likely sustained the members' spirituality was the spoken word delivered to people who listened carefully and concentrated with great intensity. These “pioneers” were remarkable, spiritually-minded people.
The Jewish religious leadership perceived that the apostles lacked preparation for such a huge responsibility (Acts 4:13). This terminology does not mean that the apostles had received no education at all. The wording expresses that the Jews considered the apostles to be common men who lacked the educational advantages they would have received had they been prepared for such public evangelism in rabbinical schools. However, recall that Mark 3:13-14 establishes that Jesus chose and appointed those He specifically wanted as apostles so that they might be with Him (that is, to witness His teaching and activities), and He sent them out to preach. Undoubtedly, He was searching for budding characteristics that He could build upon. He prepared them well to carry out their responsibilities.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Four)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 28:18: