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There are many kinds of dogmas regarding “power”. Many churches have copied old Catholic doctrines, and claimed that they have “apostolic powers” and that they through that have a right to “rule” and “judge” people, and to decide what is “truth” and what is not.
This article considers what the New Testament actually says in regard to what powers the apostles were given. It will also be considered whether the apostle Peter received some special authority, or “primacy”.
(The article raa011.htm with its appendix considers the matter of churches, including the “true church” dogma. The article raa031.htm takes a closer look at the “church eras” doctrine which some non-Catholic churches have used as a part of their claims regarding “apostolic succession”.)
Already before the Holy Spirit was given, the apostles received “power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:15, Luke 9:1).
Then, a number of days after Jesus’ ascension, they received the power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father on you: but tarry you in the city of Jerusalem, until you be endued with power from on high. (AKJV)
Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you. And you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (MKJV)
(The fulfilment of that promise regarding the Holy Spirit is recorded in Acts 2.)
Also, the apostles were given to their custody the Good Tidings which were called “the power of God for salvation”.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (AKJV)
John 14:13 And whatever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (AKJV)
Regarding John 14:13–14 – please note that that is something Jesus said and promised to those people, the apostles, in the first century. Here is an example of things of the kind that Jesus may have referred to:
Acts 3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time for prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried up, who was placed at the temple gate called “the Beautiful Gate” every day so he could beg for money from those going into the temple courts 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple courts, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked directly at him (as did John) and said, “Look at us!” 5 So the lame man paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!” 7 Then Peter took hold of him by the right hand and raised him up, and at once the man’s feet and ankles were made strong. 8 He jumped up, stood and began walking around, and he entered the temple courts with them, walking and leaping and praising God. (NET)
Consider this: Did Peter himself perform that miracle? Did he personally have the power to do that? Perhaps not. In the above-quoted John 14:13–14, the words “I will do it” indicate that it actually was Jesus who did the miracles (or an angel sent by him, or something like that).
So, regarding Acts 3:6 which records that Peter spoke to the lame man “in the name of Jesus the Messiah, of Nazareth” – obviously, it must have been things of that kind that the in John 14:14 recorded words “if you shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” referred to.
Even this passage mentions “power”:
Luke 10:19 Behold, I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (AKJV)
How should we understand those words – “nothing shall by any means hurt you”? For, we know that for instance the apostle James was killed, just as John the Baptist was. John 21:28 indicates that even the apostle Peter was to be killed. And, all of the apostles were at times imprisoned, and beaten, and so on. So, how should we understand the last words of Luke 10:19? It could eventually be that Jesus was talking about the future time when those men became immortals.
They were given,
Also: Certain New Testament passages show that the apostles were to serve as representatives of God’s Reign, at least as judges. But, that was when they had become immortals.
(Here, some might come to think of 1 Peter 2:9, the words “priests and kings”. Clarification: The apostle Peter quoted in a poetic manner certain Old Testament passages. But, his poetic citations of the OT did not make the saints into literal “priests” or “kings”. They had only one priest, the resurrected Jesus. And, they were not “kings” either. The article roa032.htm has some notes on this.)
Some have copied old Catholic dogmas and claimed that the apostle Peter received special authority, so that he was given “primacy”. Those claims have been formed by taking verse 18 in Matthew 16 out of its context. Also, there is a misunderstanding regarding the words “stone” and “rock” (Greek petros and petra) which that verse contains.
Those who carefully study the context in Matthew 16, will find that the subject was neither a “church” nor the apostle Simon Peter. The subject was Jesus himself. He asked his disciples, verse 13, “who do men say that I, the son of man, am?” When the disciples had answered him, verse 14, he asked them a new question, “but who do you say that I am?” (verse 15). This time, it happened to be Simon Peter who gave the answer (“you are the Messiah, the son of the living God”), and so, Jesus directed his comments especially to him. But, this did not mean that Simon was given “primacy” or that the other apostles were “sorted out as second rate”, just because it was Simon who happened to give the answer to that question. Other New Testament passages, such as Matthew 19:27–28, show that even the other apostles were to assist Jesus, acting as judges. That probably is what the words “bind” and “loose” in Matthew 16:19 refer to. But, that was regarding the time when those men had become immortals.
Again, those who study the context in Matthew 16, can see that the subject was Jesus himself, and not Simon Peter or some “church”. (The immortal ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form, verse 18, is not an earthly one.) The article raa011.htm with its appendix has more on Matthew 16:13–18, including the “stone” and “rock” matter and the “true church” dogma. The article rba071.htm takes a closer look at Matthew 16:19 and related passages.
The Catholic Church has claimed that it has the “power of teaching, ruling, and sanctifying”. That includes a claim that they can “set doctrine“. Many other churches have then copied those originally Catholic claims and concepts.
Many preachers give to their “colleagues” and to themselves lofty titles, such as “Doctor of Theology” which means “Master of God-knowledge”. And, they produce teachings, “doctrines”.
Here, it can be good to know that the old Latin nouns doctor and doctrina mean “teacher” (“master”) and “teaching”. In the religious context, the Latin noun doctor has been used in the same meaning as the word rabbi which is of Hebrew origin. – Jesus forbade his disciples the use of such titles:
Matthew 23:8 “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 “And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 “And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. (NASB77)
Those clear words of Jesus certainly had a bearing on the matter of “power” and “authority” among his disciples. As you can see, Jesus made it clear that there were not to be any “power-structures” among them. Jesus alone was their Master, Leader, Ruler and Teacher. And, they were to have only one spiritual Father: God. Also: He noted that they were all brothers – equal.
Yes, it is true that Jesus said those things to his disciples, people of the first century. But certainly, those words of Jesus are something to take note of, even for us today.
The article rsa061.htm considers the matter of “spiritual authority” – the question, who can speak for God?
If we look for the word “leader” in the New Testament part of king James’ bible, we find it only in Matthew 15:14.
Matthew 15:12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? 13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. (KJV1769)
The in Matthew 23:8–10 recorded clear words of Jesus were quoted above. In contrast to what that passage says, there are many kinds of dogmas regarding “religious leadership”.
Around 1970, a certain American writer began talking about “servant leadership”. Apparently, that was in business connection, but some “clergymen” have then built dogmas around that phrase, and used those dogmas for turning such passages as Matthew 23:8–10 totally upside down. The article rea032.htm sorts out that matter.
Some might quote certain New Testament passages where a number of bible-translators have made it seem that the apostle Paul told people to follow him as their “leader”. But, the Greek text of those passages shows that he did not do that. What he did, was that he told the saints to imitate the example which he and his companions had set, in regard to certain things. The article rma032.htm has more on this, including the nature of that example.
The articles rea021.htm takes a closer look at the originally Catholic concept “ordaining” (“holy orders”).
Jesus was given power, over everything and everyone:
Luke 22:69 Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. (AKJV)
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. (AKJV)
Please note that Jesus does not have any mortal “deputies” or “special representatives” here on Earth, today. See the article rsa061.htm.
A note: In the future, the two witnesses of Revelation 11 will represent Jesus, here on Earth.
Another note: Even though all power now belongs to Jesus, at this present time this planet is still in the hands of rebels: Wicked spirits and their fleshly cronies. Consider what happened to John the Baptist, and then to Jesus, and after that to many of those who had turned to God: They were persecuted, and some of them were tortured and even killed. And, even in what we today view as “end time”, many of those who turn to God may face that fate. – Regarding the Kingdom or Reign of God and when it will come into effect here on Earth, see the article roa011.htm.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
Please send or mention the address to this site to others. Please also link to this site. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/contents.htm
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → rsa091.htm
Matthew 16:18, “I will build my assembly, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it”. What and where was the ekklêsia or assembly which Jesus said he would form? Was it an earthly religious organisation as some claim, or something else? → raa011.htm
“Church eras” – do they exist? Are there seven “eras of the church”, as some say – “Sardis era”, “Philadelphian era”, “Laodicean era” and so on? → raa031.htm
Are believers a “royal priesthood” or “kings and priests”, as some say? How should one understand 1 Peter 2:4–9? → roa032.htm
Matthew 16:19, the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and “bind” and “loose”. What kind of “keys” and “binding and loosing” was Jesus talking about? → rba071.htm
What does the Bible say about authority? Who has biblical, spiritual or religious authority? Who can speak for God? → rsa061.htm
On the example the apostle Paul set, for others to imitate. → rma032.htm
What does the Bible say about ordaining or ordination? How did the saints choose their elders? Were those elders “ordained”, and did they function as “priests” of some kind? → rea021.htm
Is “servant leadership” a biblical concept? On what the Bible says about leadership among Jesus’ disciples. → rea032.htm
What is the Kingdom of God? Where is it located? Does it exist already, or is it only going to be established in the future? Or, is it merely something “in the hearts of men”? → roa011.htm
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