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Church Authority - A. T. Jones

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Position Gives no Authority.


This also must be considered: that position, place, never gives authority. Authority qualifies for place—when God calls the man to a place. I will say it again; it must be a watchword for everyone in this Conference. Position never gives authority.  Whomsoever God has called to be the president of the General Conference the next term—when he shall have been chosen, and shall stand before us here elected—will have no more authority than he has right now: and we do not yet know who he is. Place, position, never bestows authority. No authority is derived from place. But authority that a man already has from God, which God has put upon him, will qualify a man for the place to which God calls him; and if he has not that authority before he enters the place, he has not the authority when he is in the place. The view that place gives authority is precisely the principle of papal infallibility. The pope is not infallible before he is elected. Nobody claims that. He is only a cardinal before he is elected; but as soon as he is elected, then he is infallible; then he is inspired by the Holy Ghost, because he holds his place. That is the papacy.

Christianity is that God clothes men with authority: and whether they have any place or position, or not, they have authority. Look at it: Jesus Christ was in this world, truly saying, “All power [and that is “all authority” in the Revised Version] is given unto me in heaven and in earth. And He had no place at all. He had no position at all. The Pharisees, the priests, the scribes, the lawyers, the hypocrites, had position; they had place; and they could lord it over Him, and summon Him before them, and sit in judgment upon Him. But where was their authority? --

They had none: and so He told the people: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do,”—because, as they sat in Moses’ seat, they read the words that Moses had written. All right; that is the word of God; but “do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”

With Moses in the seat, there was authority from the seat; but with a scribe and a Pharisee in the seat, in the place of Moses, there was no authority except from God in the word which the man happened to read, and which, because of his hypocrisy, was altogether independent of him and apart from him.

But it is said of Jesus: They all “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth.” And why?

  • O, “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Precisely. All that the scribes could speak was borrowed, and everybody could know that it was borrowed; for it was alone, so far as any connection that they had with it was concerned. But when Jesus Christ spoke the same words that the Pharisees and scribes had said, everybody knew that what He said was not borrowed, but was substance; that it was of Himself: that that word lived in Him; that He Himself was but the expression of the word which He spoke; and when the word was spoken, it was with weight that impressively struck the ears, and rested upon the hearts of those who heard. It rested upon the hearts of those men with comfort, and brought them joy. And that is the grace with which God wishes to clothe every one in this whole assembly and throughout the world.

Thus Jesus Christ had the authority. And the people knew it. And the Pharisees who did not have authority, grew so jealous of Him that they could not bear Him any longer. All the world has gone after Him, and so they must put Him out of the world to “save our place. If we do not we shall lose our place. If we let Him thus alone the Romans will take away both our place and nation.”

But the man who is connected with the Head, the man who serves God, the man who lives in Jesus Christ, can never lose his place; for his place is with Jesus Christ under the wings of the Almighty, and he is safe.

The True Source of Authority. But where was Jesus’ authority, when He did not have any position or any place? How could He have authority? -- Ah!  it was where true authority always lies in the truth which He preached from God. All true and right authority of any man in the church comes to him only through the truth of God which he receives. When we shall find a man in this world who has as much of the truth of God as had Christ, we shall have found a man who has all authority in heaven and earth, because he has all the truth in heaven and earth.  The measure of truth that a man has, is the only measure of authority that he has wherever he is. And if he is in the highest place of responsibility on this earth, and that is the presidency of the General Conference, if he has no truth, he has no authority. All the authority he can ever have in that place is simply from the truth that is in him, and which is a part of him. Therefore Jesus said: “The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you.” What do the princes of the world do? -- They exercise authority.

God has never given to any man in His church authority to exercise authority. That is the difference between the princes of the world and the princes of God; for we are princes of God. The princes of this world in places of authority, but without true authority, exercise authority.  The princes of God having true authority, never exercise authority; being the authority of the truth of God, it exercises itself. Therefore, there is no such thing as dominion among the princes of God. There is no lordship. There is none of that kingly spirit which was described to us. There are no territorial boundaries among the princes of God, -- that this is my Conference. It is God’s Conference. It is not my territory. It is God’s. The princes of this world who have no real authority, are they who exercise authority. The princes of God have true authority, but exercise no authority. The princes of God have authority, and that is enough to satisfy them, and God takes care of the rest, so that no one is greatest; but only one is Master, and all of us are brethren. Then, let us see that we be organized from the Head. Let us see that our authority shall come from God; and that we never exercise authority. Yet speak with all authority, because the authority is in the truth which we speak. Only there lies our authority. Let us now read again the passage that we have studied: “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.  Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. . . . And He gave some apostles and some prophets, some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

Remember that we were called today to put away childish things, to be no more children, tossed to and fro, not knowing where we are, not knowing whether we are on solid ground. God wants us to build upon the foundation, the truth, which makes men free, and which we know is the truth. Then will not we fear though the earth be moved out of her place, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

What man, what set of men, can select a worker here and another there, and fitly join them together? Well has it been expressed that this work of conducting the cause of God is the most delicate in the universe, because it deals with minds. How can we fitly join together living souls in spirit, with the life of God? Only God can do that. Only Christ, the Head, can do that. He will use us in joining us together, knitting, -- not weaving, but knitting—us together. In weaving, the threads are held side by side, and across, that they shall hold; but in knitting it is only one thread, in and in, in and in, each stitch holding to all the others. That is what God proposes to do with us.  We are joined—knitted—together, and compacted by that which every joint supplies, so making increase of the body the church, unto the building up of itself in love: building up itself from the Head.

That is organization. That is reorganization. Come, brethren, let us be organized; let us be reorganized.—

Sermon in General Conference by Elder A. T. Jones, 7 P.M., April 2, 1901.