The Authority of Christ - John 5:17-31

Expositions by H. A. Wilson

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


The authority of Jesus shows His Deity. His authority is such as no mere man could ever rightfully claim or substantiate. He has absolute authority in all spiritual matters, as well as in material things. He had just demonstrated His power and authority in the material realm by healing the impotent man. The Jews had witnessed this demonstration and now took Him to task because it was done on the Sabbath day. So men constantly insist that God do His mighty works in accordance with their puny ideas of propriety. They invent a great organization, with an excess of machinery, and then ask God to work through this organization. They make great plans and then insist that if God's work is to he done it must be done in accordance with their plans. They establish, to their own satisfaction, some interpretation of spiritual truths, and then ask God to agree with them, and are offended if He does not see fit to do it. Jesus was the Creator of men's bodies and could heal with a mere word, as was demonstrated in His healing of the impotent man. He was the Lord of the Sabbath, for He it was Who ordained the Sabbath. The Jews had put their own perverted interpretation in the place of God's institution, and when Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth, did not see fit to order His miracle working in accordance with their ideas they were offended. They recognized the clear claim to Deity in both the words and works of Jesus and sought to kill Him because of it. So it has ever been, and will be until God puts an end to it. If men sought to kill Jesus for claiming Deity, it is little wonder that they persecute and ridicule those who now dear to believe and affirm that He is God. But God He is, and as God He has supreme authority. Col. 1:16-18.


John 5:17-23.

Jesus definitely identified Himself with the Father, and in a most striking way, for He claimed the worship which is due to God alone. He said that God had given Him authority in other realms that men might recognize His authority in the realm of worship. He even went so far as to state that those who would not give honor or worship to Him did not give honor or worship to the Father. What a staggering and stupendous claim this is! If Jesus were not God it would he sheer blasphemy, but because He is God manifest in the flesh He is simply stating the truth. Jesus the Son and God the Father are so intimately related, so closely identified, that to reject the One is to reject the Other, and to worship the One is impossible without worshipping the Other. Jno. 14:7-13.

Jesus' pre-eminence in the realm of worship is taught throughout God's Word. He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the rightful center of the worship of Israel from the beginning. Isaiah, seeing Him, cried out, "Mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts." (Isa. 6:1-4, 9, with Jno. 12:40-41.) The prophecies of His virgin birth said that this One Who was thus to come to earth was "Emmanuel, God with us." Throughout His earthly ministry He taught and permitted others to teach that He was one with the Father and logically deserved the worship of men. He definitely received worship a number of times, without rebuking the worshippers. He taught clearly that the ministry of the Spirit was to testify to Him. And God makes it even more clear by teaching that He has exalted Him above all creation and ordained that at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Surely the One Who was willing to die for us merits our heart's best praise and worship and adoration now. Matt, i :2i-23 ; Isa. 9:6-7; Isa. 7:14; Jno. 20:28; Jno. 15:26-27; Phil. 2:5-11.


John 5:24-28.

Jesus spoke of deep spiritual truths as One Who had authority. Constantly He spoke thus, and of another time the Scripture says, "When Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine : for He taught them as One having authority and not as the scribes." (Matt. 7:28-29.) And indeed there was a difference between the teaching of the scribes and the teaching of Jesus. The scribes could only speak as the messengers of truths which they had received, but Jesus spoke as One Who was the Author of Truth. And so He is. It was He Who spoke with Adam in the garden of Eden. It was He Who walked and talked with Enoch. It was He Who spoke with Abram. It was He Who met Moses at the burning bush and Who spoke through him. It was He Who inspired and commissioned the psalmists and prophets. Before long He was to breathe, by the Holy Spirit, in the writings of His New Testament messengers. Thus the authority in the revelation of truth manifested in this chapter is only consistent with the facts of all revelation. Jesus here speaks of matters which are mysteries to men, as One Who has perfect understanding of them.. He speaks as One whose very word can give life. Only a little time before it had given life to a helpless paralytic, and now He applies the truth contained in the miracle. He shows the murmuring Pharisees that it is His Word which can give life to those dead in sin ; it is His Word which will quicken the dead bodies which sleep in the grave ; it is His Word which will determine the reward of the righteous; and it is His Word which will pronounce the sentence of the wicked. What staggering claim is this? And yet it was substantiated by the Father, for on the Mount of Transfiguration He said, "This is My beloved Son, hear Him." (Mark 9:2.) II Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1-3.


John 5:21, 25-26.

Jesus' authority in the realm of life and death is shown in four things. Three of these are plainly stated in this chapter, and the other is clearly implied.

1. Jesus' authority over life and death is seen by the fact that He has life inherent and self-contained. This is one of the essential attributes and characteristics of God. He alone has life in Himself. All other forms of life came from His hand, and are the creative expression of His life. This fact is the very opposite of evolutionary theories, but it is the only satisfactory explanation of creation and existing phenomena of life. Science has recognized in part that there can be no life produced without antecedent life; so every form of life sprang from the life-giving hand of God. He alone could endow inanimate clay with life in the creation of man, and He alone can give life to lost and dying souls, for He alone has life inherent and self-contained. Gen. 1:11, 20-27; Jno. 1:1-4; Col. 1:16.

2. Jesus' authority over life and death is shown in His guarantee of eternal life to all who believe in Him. If Jesus had been mere man He Himself would have been a dying creature, and such an offer as this would have been a pitiful absurdity; but because He was God He could offer in all sincerity and truth to give men eternal life if they would only believe in Him. Because He was God, and because He alone can give life, men can be saved only in the way He has indicated here. Jno. 3:16; Jno. 10:28; Rev. 22:17; Acts 4:12.

3. Jesus' authority over life and death is shown in His relation to the, resurrection. Jesus' voice will summon the bodies of men from the grave in the resurrection. All men, saved and unsaved, shall be resurrected. Every body which has lain in the grave shall be quickened with new life, but unbelievers shall be resurrected to judgment, while believers shall he resurrected to eternal life. "As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive." I Cor. 15:20-22; Rom. 5:12, 17.

4. Jesus' authority is shown in the implication of the coming resurrection. Jesus humbled Himself to a place "a little lower than the angels" that He might die for us, but it was impossible for death to hold in its chill grip the One Who had life in Himself. He laid down His life for us, but He took it again, and lives forever, now, a deathless life. Heb. 2:9; Acts 2:24; Jno. 10:17.


John 5:27-31.

Men seem to forget that Jesus is the One who will one day judge the world. He came the first time as the Saviour. On the cross He died that men might live. He is now offering to give them eternal life if they will accept Him. But the day is coming when the heavens shall open and He shall come forth in judgment. He will speak from heaven, and the awful hordes of Antichrist will flee in terror, only to be overtaken with swift and terrible judgment. He will summon believers before Him. Those who are dead will be changed into resurrected beings, raised from the grave. Those who are living will be changed instantly, without dying, into His own glorious likeness. Both those who were dead and those who were alive will be brought into His presence to be judged. But that judgment will not be for salvation, thank God! He who will then be our Judge has said, "He that heareth My word and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life." We have the guarantee that we will never come into judgment for salvation. Ah, no! When we stand with other believers before the judgment seat of Christ it will be "to receive the deeds done in the body." That is a judgment to determine our rewards. We may stand before that judgment seat without the least degree of fear, for we are saved; but let us take heed that when we stand there we may be found approved and worthy to receive a full reward. Then after He has reigned for the millennial period of one thousand years He will summon the unbelieving dead to appear before the great white throne. But that throne is not a throne of mercy. Those who come there are damned, and appear there to hear their sentence. They are judged according to their works and the degree of punishment which must be theirs is decided. Thank God, our salvation is secure and we will never appear before that dread throne to be judged; but let us labor to bring others to know the Saviour that they, too, may enjoy eternal life. Rev. 19:11-21; II Thess. 1:7-10; Rom. 14:10, 12; Rev. 22:12; I Jno. 4:17; I Cor. 3:11-15; Rev. 20:11-15.