“For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many, and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (I Corinthians 8:5,6).”
Admitting all that can be claimed by principalities and powers, either in heaven or earth, to us, that is to those who are the called, quickened, and spiritually instructed, there is but one supreme ruling power, transcending all the powers which are put under him. He is the only wise God, our Savior. His name is called THE WORD OF GOD. All the powers in heaven acknowledge his majesty, and all the angels of God are commanded to worship him. The four beasts (or living creatures), and the four-and-twenty elders, which represent all the principalities and powers in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, acknowledge him to be the Head over all things to his church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. And he himself declares his supreme power over all flesh, which he must needs possess, that he might give eternal life unto as many as the Father hath given him. When by a commission from him, his apostles were seated upon thrones of judgment, to judge and administer to the twelve tribes of his spiritual Israel, and the keys of the kingdom of heaven (that is the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, with which they were baptized on the day of Pentecost), was given them, expressly to make binding on earth, all their apostolic decisions, they were distinctly informed that the excellency of all this power was of God, and not of them. “He came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).”
In asserting the absolute supremacy of our Lord Jesus Christ over all beings, all events, and all worlds, we design in this article to show that in ascending his Mediatorial throne, all temporal as well as all spiritual authority was vested in him. The apostle in showing what is the exceeding greatness of God’s mighty power to his church-ward, who believe according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, adds: “And hath put all things under his feet,” and in all this fullness of power over all things in heaven and earth, in this world and that which is to come, “gave him to be the head over all things to his church, which is his body, and the fullness of him that filleth all in all (Ephesians 1:19-23).” We will notice first his supreme power in the heavenly places, and secondly, his supreme authority over all the principalities or departments of power in this world.
First. Christ is supreme, blessed and only Potentate in his spiritual kingdom, the departments of which are called Heavenly Places, wherein are set thrones of judgment; the thrones of the house of David (Psalm 122:5). There are no thrones of legislation: for not even the apostles were allowed to enact any law, or amend, annual, or altar any part of the law of Christ. His princes shall sit in judgment. They shall sit in judgment over his chosen tribes, giving judgment and decision on every part of the law of Christ, and their judgments and decisions are authoritative, for they sit on thrones, and thrones signify places of imperial power. Thus in setting forth the principalities of the heavenly places, the apostles are first brought to view, endowed with power from heaven to administer the laws of Christ, to set in order all that belongs to the organization and travel of the church of God. What they have written by inspiration of the Holy Ghost makes up a full, perfect, and complete directory for the observance of all the children of God throughout all time. The man of God is perfectly and thoroughly furnished to every good work. The primitive church was organized on and in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and only so far and so long as we abide in the doctrine of the apostles, can we continue in their fellowship. What they have bound on earth is bound in heaven; also, what they have loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Next to the apostles in authority are the prophets which God has placed in the church, having gifts from the Lord for the edification of the saints. Thirdly, teachers, in a more general acceptation of the word, as this principality embraces, as we apprehend, all the gifts, or all those to whom God has given ability to teach the doctrine, order, and ordinances of the house of God. The same gifts which are simply called teachers in I Corinthians 12:28, are in Ephesians 4, called evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Next to these in their order come the gifts of healing, of helps, governments, tongues, etc., and all for the edifying of the body, the church. None of them are to be despised or unappreciated, for these all being established as principalities in the heavenly places of the church and kingdom of Christ are to be regarded as thrones of power which Christ himself has set. They are to teach, exhort, reprove, and rebuke with all authority. That is with all the authority by Christ invested in them, and that is to be determined by his word. These principalities cannot be disregarded without violation of our loyalty to Christ; for he has said to his servants, “He that receiveth you receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me (Matthew 10:20).” The Pharisees were astonished at Christ’s doctrine, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes; and it is a distinguishing mark of a servant of Christ now, that they, and only they, have divine authority for what they teach. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.” But we should remember that it is only when the servants of God speak as the Lord Jesus has authorized them, that they speak or teach with authority. Now all these principalities and powers which Christ our King has set in the heavenly places of his kingdom are in subjection to Christ as the Blessed and only Potentate. He is exalted not only above, but far above all principality and power, and every name that is named, both in this world, and that which is to come. They are only his servants, acting by his authority, having none of their own. He is the Head, and they the members of his body: and to him they constantly ascribe all power, might, and dominion; saying, “for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever, amen.”
Should any one therefore attempt to introduce into the kingdom, or to bind any obligations upon the saints which our Lord Jesus Christ has not authorized, whatever their position may be in the church or in the ministry, their effort should be firmly resisted. Even the apostles are to be followed only as they follow Christ. And if Paul or an angel from heaven should teach any other doctrine than that which the apostles have preached, let them be accursed. To hold Christ as the blessed and only Potentate will not allow us to receive from any of his servants, or professed servants, aught in doctrine or order that does not bear the broad seal of his Holy Spirit. All the power or authority any of his apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors or teachers can have, or that the children have a right to regard or obey is the power and authority of Christ himself, as he is the only, as he is the Blessed Potentate. And it would be treasonable in any of his subjects to bow to any other sovereign or potentate in his kingdom.
Secondly. The principalities and powers of the earth, as well as all those of the heavenly places, are subordinate to him, whose name and titles are written upon his vesture and upon his thigh; King of kings, and Lord of lords. The boundaries of his government in providence are from the rivers to the ends of the earth. The heathen are his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth are his possession, and all legitimate powers, governments, thrones, and dominions of or over the tribes of mankind are from him; and no power can be exercised over men except by usurpation that comes not from him. He as God of the whole earth has instituted human governments, set up kings, governors, rulers, and judges, limiting their rights to govern within such bounds as to be a terror only to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well. Paul gives this as the reason why every soul shall be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. This applies alike to all degrees of power or authority, by special ordinance of God, whether it be vested in kings, governors, presidents, judges, husbands, parents, masters, or wherever it exists, and for the limitation, regulation, and duration, Christians are to examine the ordinance of God in which all these several powers are authorized. The powers are widely different in degrees; the parent or the master has not the power which God has given to kings; but their respective powers to the extent provided in the ordinance is as legitimate in the one as in any of the other departments of human power, and in every case Christians are to respect all these powers and authorities, simply because God has ordained them; not because one man of himself has more right to rule than another. The Christian is to “honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, and honor the king,” upon the very same principle that servants are commanded to obey or be subject to their masters with all fear, because it is God’s ordinance, and our obedience as children, as servants, and as citizens of states and nations, is, so far as Christians are concerned, that thereby we honor and obey God.
This motive for the submission and obedience of every soul to the higher powers or authorities is urged alike in regard to every grade or degree of authority which God has ordained and enjoined. Children are exhorted to obey their parents, because God has commanded it. It is the first commandment with promise. Servants are commanded to obey in all things their master according to the flesh; “not with eye service,” as though it were only from fear of man; “as men-pleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; and to do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:22,23).” Obedience to kings, governors, judges and magistrates is by special command of our blessed and only Potentate, to be faithfully rendered, because God has commanded it. Not merely because men have enacted the laws, or kings have decreed them, with pains and penalties, but in the fear of God and in obedience to him. “For rulers are not a terror to good works.” That is those whom God has invested with power, and who are his ministers to us for good. The extent of all power given of God to rule is that they shall be a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well. They are ministers of God, in the civil department of his government, to protect the law-abiding in all their rights, and to punish those who infringe upon the lawful rights of others; hence the power to be recognized by Christians, although ministered by rulers and judges divinely appointed, is none the less the government of our Blessed and Only Potentate. And all kings, governors, and rulers of the earth, are as firmly bound to rule in the fear of God, observing the limitation of all their powers, as their subjects are to obey them, as the ministers whom God has put in authority over us.
A careful examination will show every candid and honest enquirer after truth that the obligations of subordination, submission and obedience, enjoined on Christians to all the principalities of the heavenly places; that is in the church of God; and their obligations to obey all men who are divinely invested with authority over us in the flesh, as kings, rulers, parents, husbands, masters, and all other institutions of power, to the full extent of the power thus given to them over us, rests alike upon the recognition of the divine power. They should be cheerfully rendered in obedience to our Blessed and Only Potentate, as unto God, and not unto men. It is then as disloyal to our Potentate as for a child to dishonor or disobey his parent, a servant to dishonor or disobey the lawful commands of his master, as it is for a citizen to disregard, dishonor, or disobey the wholesome laws of the state or nation where he owes his obedience.
No man on earth is invested by any ordinance of God with unlimited power or authority. Some have indeed usurped and exercised such power for a season, making the monarch’s will the supreme law. Such were the pretensions of the haughty king of Babylon, when commanding all his subjects to worship his golden image; but God rebuked him, and drove him from the society of men to eat grass with the beasts of the field till he confessed the supremacy of the God who rules over all. No earthly government has any divine right to judge the saints in religious matters; nor has any saint a right to be judged by them in meats, or drinks, or holy days, new moons, or Sabbaths. Nor has any husband a right to dictate the religious faith of his wife; nor has a parent a right to command his child to disobey the laws of God or men; nor has the owner or master of a servant a right to require of him anything that God has forbidden, or that would be in violation of the legitimate laws of the land.
In this view of the subject, we bow our knee, and swear allegiance to our Blessed and Only Potentate, as the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and whatsoever we do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:23).”
“All hail the power of Jesus’ name,
Let angels prostrate fall;
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown him Lord of all.
Let every kindred, every tongue
On this terrestrial ball,
To him all majesty ascribe,
And crown him Lord of all.”
September 15, 1865.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 237 - 243