Jesus was crucified on the cross and buried in a tomb. In fulfillment of His words and the words of Scripture, He rose from the dead on the third day and appeared to many witnesses.
Chief amongst these witnesses were the apostles He had selected to carry His words to the world. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-5) Having risen from the dead, when Jesus appeared to His apostles, He declared to them, “All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18) The resurrection of Christ was the crowning of Jesus as King, and the fulfillment of the second Psalm, in which we read, “I have set my King on my holy hill,” and “you are my son, today I have begotten you.”
This psalm declares the Jesus will rule the nations with a rod of iron, a rod that the New Testament confirms Jesus now has. (cf. Psalms 2:6-9; Revelation 2:27) The Bible calls Jesus the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. When Jesus claimed to possess all authority, He was claiming nothing less than the full power of divinity. His word is law. His judgment is absolute, and to Him, every knee shall one day bend. But what does that authority mean for us today? Many are willing to give faith in Jesus lip service, but are not actually willing to live their lives according to His commandments. When Jesus says, “all authority,” He is demanding a choice… do you believe that the Son of God rose from the dead and deserves to command your every word and deed by the power of His authority, or do you reject His authority? (cf. Colossians 3:17) It is not enough to nod in agreement with the words of Jesus. A king expects those things he commands to be carried out.
In one place, Jesus said that the man who heard His words and did them was like a wise man, building his house on a firm rock, and was able thus to withstand the storm. But the man who hears the words of Jesus and refuses to do them, Jesus said, is a foolish man who has built his house on sand, and is destined for a great fall when the storm strikes. (cf. Matthew 7:24-27) Though there are many possible storms that can afflict a man’s soul, we cannot forget the rod of judgment the Bible says that Jesus possesses: that same rod He will use to dash the wicked and rebellious nations to pieces. It seems like a rod powerful enough to punish nations is likely effective against a single wicked and rebellious man.
After declaring the force of His authority, Jesus then proceeded to give a command. His followers were authorized to go out and make disciples. Specifically Jesus commanded, “Go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) Jesus was speaking, at this time, to those who were already disciples – men and women who already believed in Him and accepted His authority. He was telling them to go find others who would be willing to accept His authority, obey His commands, and follow Him all the way, wherever He would lead.
A disciple of Christ is thus one who accepts the authority of Jesus and wants to obey Him. In obedience, that person is going to be baptized, beginning a walk of righteousness and obedience. This baptism, we are elsewhere taught, is a baptism of believers (cf. Mark 16:16), who have repented of their sins (cf. Acts 2:48) and who want to have those sins washed away through the blood and power of Christ (cf. Acts 22:16). This new birth of baptism (cf. John 3:5; Romans 6:4) is a burial with Christ, and a rising to walk a new life. This new life is one lived in conformity to the Lord, who also said that disciples to come were to be taught to obey all those things He had commanded. (Matthew 28:20) Obeying His commands brings us right back around, full circle, to His authority.
The question for each one of us is this: do we believe that Jesus is the Son of God who is risen from the dead, and who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth? If so, then the wise man submits to Him in full obedience (cf. Psalm 2). Such a man will obey the commands of Christ, beginning with baptism, but certainly not ending there. And such a man, walking in the full authority of Christ will then seek to go out and find others who also desire to be the disciples of Christ, and teach them, just as he was taught of Christ. The church of Christ is a group of disciples who want to do all those things Jesus taught us, including the making of new disciples.
We would love to have you study with us the words of Jesus, joining us in worship at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.