In a near-by village (St. Bernard, Ohio), a “nativity scene” was set up to depict the night of the birth of Jesus. Articles have been previously published in these pages setting forth Bible teaching regarding the celebration of all such “religious” days and the absurdity of some of the things depicted in the name of Christ. For example, along with Joseph, Mary, the baby and the shepherds, three men (represented as kings) are presented in the above scene, bearing gifts, while the Scriptures know nothing of these men being there the night Jesus was born. The wise men arrived at Jerusalem seeking the “King of the Jews.” To answer their inquiry, King Herod gathered all the chief priests and scribes so that they could ponder the question. Discovering the Jewish King was to be born in Bethlehem (according to prophesy); Herod asked the wise men “what time the star appeared.” He wished to know this, as later facts reveal, so he could bring harm upon the child. The wise men arriving in Bethlehem, found the child and his mother Mary by going “into the house,” since the child had been removed from the “manger” where his mother had “wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him” the night of his birth. Herod to destroy Jesus as a rival “slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.” (See Matthew 2, Luke 2). By the time the wise men arrived Jesus was approaching two years of age. I have digressed. Back to the Village of St. Bernard. The news reported that someone had stolen Jesus from the Nativity scene. Imagine that, stolen baby Jesus. That suggested to me, that there are some who really have stolen Jesus. Think with me a few minutes about this.
JESUS AUTHORITY HAS BEEN STOLEN
1. His authority in religious matters has been stolen and given to others. After Jesus resurrected from the dead, He spent some time with the disciples whom He was going to dispatch into the world with the gospel. In His final words before leaving them for the last time, He declared, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Mt. 28:18). The American Standard Version renders the passage; “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.” The authority of Christ and the power of Christ have the same meaning. J.H. Thayer in his superior lexicon defines the word, “the power of rule or government.” He comments “the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to and obeyed by others,” (225). S.T. Bloomfield in The Greek New Testament with English notes, says, “all power of every kind,” commenting further, “the highest authority,” (152). Jesus said that this “power/authority” was “given unto me” He recognized the will of His Father who delegated this authority to Him. The Apostle Paul in writing to the Ephesians recognized this truth when he tells us that the Father, “hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church. Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 1:22-23). There is no person exempt from the authority of Christ in spiritual things. His word is the final verdict. There is nowhere else, no other person to whom we can appeal. He is all in all.
Dissatisfied with this arrangement, men have stolen the authority of Christ for themselves, either individually or in collective measures. With but a little thought this should be apparent to all. The Roman Catholic Church submits to the authority of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ. While Protestants cringe at the thought they are no better submitting to the various councils, synods, or committees pledging themselves to church manuals, prayer books and disciplines, etc.
Some may think that stolen is a bit harsh, as noble men of the past have submitted to the things mentioned above, which they view as expressions of the will of Christ. Regardless of ones intentions, the result has proven to be the same—people depend on the sayings and writings of these men in the stead or place of the word of our Lord. Strive as I may, I cannot locate a better word than stolen as they have taken authority unto themselves that belongs to Christ alone.
2. Civil governments have been crowned with the stolen authority of Christ. The New Testament recognizes that all men will not submit to the power/authority of Christ, therefore these people must be governed in order to live together in society. Civil governments/authorities have been established to control these people. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” (Rom. 13:1 etc.) This does not mean that a particular government had been selected and ordained to carry out the work of Christ. When this was written Rome was in power under the control of the Caesars. Up to that time and since, there has not been a government more wicked than Rome, nor rulers more self centered than the leaders of that government. Did God ordain everything they did? No! Did that government please God? No! Consult secular history or inspired history and see how these excised their power to stamp out Christianity from the earth. Yet, these early Christians were to submit to “the powers that be.” There is a glaring exception to this: when Christians were compelled to deny the authority of Christ, they would not do it. The Gospel is to go into all the world and whatever government is found the Christians in those places are to respect the government under which they live, obey the laws and pay taxes.
Yet, there are some that think the will of Christ is to be forced upon people by civil government. That never was done and the New Testament does not teach that it is to be done now. Through the ages of history crusades were gathered to march into various countries “in the name of Christ” to conqueror for Him. The power/authority of Christ was stolen and placed on civil governments and their leaders.
Political issues are to be settled by civil governments. Christians and congregations are no more to join together and march for or rebel against civil government than these civil governments are to write and battle for spiritual laws for Christians to believe and practice. It is grievous to the Cause of Jesus Christ for Christians to concern themselves more with political issues than for the spiritual issues that concern us in church affairs or those things that are individually necessary to pleasing the Lord of life. If and when we do, we are guilty of stealing Jesus power/authority.
3. Jesus authority has been stolen from the daily lives of Christians. There is nothing more disheartening than after someone has asked, “does that person attend church with you?” Then to hear them say, “well, if that is Christianity I want no part of it.” Every Christian should realize that we have an influence on those around us, and, whether we will admit it or not, the world is watching us. It has rightly been said, “Christians are the only Bible that some people read.” I often lament that such is the case, but there is nothing we can do about it except to live out the scriptures before our fellowman. If I, as a Christian, will not let Jesus rule my life how can I expect others to submit to him?
We steal the authority of Jesus when we fail to speak as Jesus would speak. If we curse, swear and tell smutty and off color jokes that is a sign that Jesus does not rule our heart, because “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Mt. 12:34). We can steal the authority of Jesus by the things we do or the way we act. A man told me that he went to a “fish fry” every year and because drinking of alcohol was present he would not go inside, but waited in line to receive his order and would take it home. One year while waiting in line a man came by with cups and a pitcher of bear for those waiting. The man with the bear claimed to be a Christian—he said I never went back again. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” (Prov. 20:1). We steal the authority of Jesus when we dress in a manner unbecoming a Christian or our sex. Failing to cover our body has been a sin since the fall of man. Some women do everything they can to appear as a man. Christian women are to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” (I Tim. 2:9). Some of you may find this instructive, if you think the world is not conscience of the way you dress. A sister in Christ told me that she makes a practice of buying cologne and other toiletries the last part of December, because better department stores have specials that they do not have at other times of the year. She said she was in such a store with people all around her, when all of a sudden a woman approached her and said, “I see you are a Christian.” How did she know that? But more, she said a few days later, on a like mission in a large shopping center, another woman approached her saying, “I know you are a Christian and I want you to pray for me.” She went on to tell of some personal problems. Let me ask you readers, if she were dressed (or undressed) as some of you, would these things have happened? Furthermore, we steal the authority of Jesus when we attend places of recreation that Jesus would not attend. We steal the authority of Jesus when we have as our close associates and friends people that reflect the world rather than the Savior, we claim as our Lord and King.
A brother said, “one of the first things I do when I get a new job or position is to tell my co-workers that I am a Christian.” Let me give you a “news flash,” you don’t have to tell people you are a Christian. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16). It is not “make your light shine,” or, “force your light to shine,” rather, it is let your holy life, your pure conversation, your faithfulness to the Lord, be the means of causing others to glorify God. Apparently, some Christians think that by pushing Christ on others they will be drawn to Him. Christians are not interested in men giving to us glory, but giving glory to God. Blowing one’s trumpet is not appreciated by fellow Christians and unbelievers alike. Such people have their reward when engaging in this practice. May I say that the reward seldom amounts to very much and certainly is not lasting. Live as the Lord instructs and it will be obvious to all that Jesus is the Lord of our life and the hope of our everlasting soul.
4. Jesus authority has been stolen on matters of morality. Let us first remember that Jesus did not introduce a single new moral principle into the world. That was not His purpose for coming. He stated, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Lk. 19:10). Jesus saving the lost involves all that He did, culminating in His dying as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. However, morality is involved because Jesus did not and could not save any who were not lost. It is a silly proposition that states “the only sin that one must repent of and be saved from is a failure to obey the gospel.” The gospel did not exist when Jesus died and He saved those under the first testament as well as we who live under the (second) New Testament.
Jesus embraced and authorized the moral principles already presented in Old Testament times to be accepted and practiced in these latter days. Man has exercised his power of choice to reject the morality of the Bible in order to live illicitly. There is little or no attention paid to the sanctity of marriage, homosexuals have “come out of the closet,” lying is practiced openly from the President of the USA down to the lowliest beggar. Stealing from big business is a common practice along with cheating, gambling, and lazy, slothful people taking from government through undeserved Welfare. Abortion is sanctioned by lawmakers. There is no shame anymore. Morality is old fashioned and out of date. Looking at the conditions in this country, it is clear that Jesus has been stolen from the hearts of many people.
Barney Owens 1402