The Expository Files


Living Under Christ’s Authority

Matthew 28:18-20

“Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on hearth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”

Matthew chapter 28 begins with an event that lies at the center of our faith in Jesus Christ and our hope for His return. The angel reports to the women who came to the tomb, “He is not here; for He is risen.” The risen Lord did not immediately ascend, however. The eleven apostles reported to Him at the appointed place and worshipped Him. Then He spoke these words to them. A study of this passage brings before us some basic things requiring our attention and response to God: authority, the making of disciples, baptism, teaching and obedience. If you are not yet a Christian, your knowledge of these simple things may bring you to necessary obedience. If you are a Christian, it will be good to reflect on these words of Jesus again.

Authority brings up something so many people do not want to face: we need to be governed. This fundamental derives from two simple truths set before us on the opening pages of the Bible. One, we were made by God (Gen. 1:26). The Creator has the right to govern the products of His work. Thus, even before sin came, Adam and Eve needed to be governed (see Gen. 2:16). In fact, when they rebelled against their Creator, their lives changed in many dreadful ways. Two, those who have sinned can never extract themselves from their lost condition without coming back to God, with readiness to submit to His government (repent, be forgiven, start over and obey). So if you were made by God, and you have sinned against Him, one pressing need of your life is, to submit to the government of God. Simply expressed, everybody needs to obey God.

That leads to another simple thing, expressed in these words of Jesus Christ: God gave all authority to Him! The risen Lord said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Everybody needs to obey Jesus Christ. God gave Him that right; the right to govern us. This is God’s will and plan. Authority is the right to govern. Jesus has that. Our response (as creatures of God who have sinned) should be, to obey Jesus Christ.

If you do not acknowledge this, or if you are not ready to obey Jesus Christ, you need to understand your situation: You are a lost sinner, living apart from God and not ready for your life to end! If you believe in God and seek to live according to His will, it must be on this basis – submitting to the authority of Jesus Christ. You cannot work around this. You cannot “cut through the red tape of authority.” You cannot come up with your own plan of salvation. You cannot just let a group of religious creed-writers dictate to you. You should not just do what others are doing. God gave “all authority” to His Son, Jesus Christ. Submitting to His authority is a “make or break” deal. You want to be right with God? You must come to Christ, to receive pardon and submit to His authority.

Disciples become disciples in just this way, by being taught and submitting to the authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus told His apostles to “go . . . and make disciples of all the nations.” This is not the “make” that would be force. God has never wanted robotic servitude. How did the apostles of Christ “make” disciples? They did this through teaching. To discover this for yourself, do some reading through the book of Acts. The book of Acts tells us about the apostles doing the work Jesus commanded them to do. They told their audiences about the problem of sin (Acts 2:23; 7:51). That indictment was quickly followed by teaching sinners about the remedy: There is salvation in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). What is all of this? Teaching to make disciples!

This is confirmed by the meaning of the word. A disciple is “one taught.” So the Risen Lord was given “all authority” by God. One of His first commandments was, to tell His apostles to “go” to people of all nations and teach them, in the hope of good response: becoming disciples. To become a Christian and be a Christian, learning is required. Not learning just anything. But learning about Jesus Christ – who He is, what He provides and how to be saved, then live in obedience to His authority.

Baptizing was a part of the teaching these men were commanded to give. Like authority, many in the modern religious world do not hold baptism to be important. It has become, in many places, a ceremony to celebrate salvation already received. The role of baptism in someone’s denomination or tradition is not the critical matter. Remember, God gave all authority to Jesus Christ. What He says is all we need to know on the subject. All you need to know, you can read in the New Testament! See what Jesus said about baptism, for example, in Mark 16:16 – “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” Jesus makes baptism essential, as a response of faith to Him, thus applying the benefit of His blood. While there is symbolism in baptism, it is not just optional ceremonial symbolism. Jesus, in His orders to His men in Matthew 28, was not talking options, preferences or ceremonial choices by denominational “authorities.” He said, “baptize them.” Jesus told the apostles to baptize the people they taught, upon their response (see examples all through the book of Acts). You may believe in God, accept what the New Testament says about Christ and consider yourself a Christian by virtue of your good conduct. But, have you been baptized?

Teaching doesn’t stop once a person has submitted to Christ’s authority initially in baptism. Those baptized must be taught: “…teaching them…” The letters (or epistles) of the New Testament are written to Christians, to supply the instruction from Christ they need. Husbands and wives need instruction (Eph. 5:22-33), as well as parents and children (Eph. 6:1-4). Families need instruction about taking care of their poor (1 Tim. 5). Elders, deacons and preachers need to know their duties (1, 2 Tim., Titus). Every individual Christian needs to know Christ in attitude (Phil. 2:1-5), and wear the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17). And when Christians come together to work as a local church, there is a pattern for their work (see Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 12-14; 1 Cor. 16:1,2; Phil. 3:17). As a Christian, are you careful to abide in the doctrine of Christ? “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ, does not have God!” (2 Jno. 9).

“Observe All Things,” Jesus said. His apostles were to go and make disciples (through teaching), baptize those who responded and then teach the new Christians to “observe all things.” So when you realize you are guilty of sin, come to Christ to be baptized and saved by His blood, then follow the instructions given through the apostles, you are living under the government of God (the authority of Christ), and you are doing what this says: observing all things. Jesus promised to be with these men as they carried out these orders. They did, and thus we have the New Testament. Have you read it? Are you living under the authority of Christ?


“Baptizing” and “teaching” are participles that are dependent on the action of the verb, “make disciples” – i.e., they explain how disciples are made. (From The Gospel of Matthew, Ken Chumbley, referencing The Christian System, 211, by Campbell.)

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 17.1; January 2010