Sphere’s of Gospel Sovereignty
Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch Prime Minister of the 19th Century, developed a concept known as Sphere’s of Sovereignty. The idea is that different principalities hold different authorities in different areas in different ways. Last week in our Sunday gathering we were considering the Great Commission as presented by Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 28:18-20). Jesus says to his disciples in this passage, “ALL authority is given to me.” This would have seemed a radical statement to make to a group of marginalised peasants out in the sticks of the Roman Empire. But it’s true.
We live in a society that has authorities in different spheres. People go to work under their employer’s authority. They live in a nation under government authority. They live life in familial structures, in contexts of social authority. We are all dominated by authority structures and these are not a bad thing. Authority is God-given, but some authorities over-step their mandate. There is an authority that reigns supreme. All these domains of authority exist within the realm of Christ’s authority. It all belongs to Jesus. Kuyper, in speaking about spheres of authority says this, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry ‘Mine!'”
The fact of the matter is Jesus trumps all authority claims. The work place assumes authority that says, “you can’t mention Christ here.” Families assume authority that say, “Christ doesn’t have dominion over the skeletal closets, and familial practices.” Governments assume authority which says, “There is no place for your God here.” Society assumes authority that says, “Don’t talk about faith, that’s a private matter.” Religiously assumed authority says, “Every faith is equally valid, your faith is no more valid than mine.” But there is an over-riding all-legitimate authority. Jesus says, “All authority is given to me… Go…”
The Great Commission is about responding to a higher sphere of authority. Paul was subdued by political authority being placed in chains, but he said the gospel is not chained (2 Timothy 2:9).
There are other spheres of authority though. These are the spheres of our idols and fears. Sometimes, it is the unnamed things that wield the true weight of authority in our lives. The authority of approval says, “If you tell me about Jesus, I will no longer accept you.” The authority of comfort says, “To make disciples of Christ is work, and you will no longer be able to maintain your comforts.” The authority of control says, “If I make it clear that I’m a Christ-follower, I will no longer be able to control people.” The authority of superiority says, “This person doesn’t deserve to hear the gospel. I do not want to see them as my equal.” What fear or idol is assuming the authority in our lives and the lives of our church families? These are forces to be reckoned with. But here’s the answer. Jesus has all authority over every sphere. He is Lord of all.
The Great Commission is responding to Jesus’ All-authority, over all peoples, to obey all Jesus’ commands, recognising his empowering presence at all times and in all places.
Great thoughts Matt. We certainly need to recognize Christ’s rightful place of authority over all things. God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name above every name. It is phenomenal how many of those that claim to be Christ followers do not actually submit to His authority and how many areas of our lives are practically “off-limits” to His rule.
“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?
– Luke 6:46
We don’t submit those areas of our lives to Christ calling them “off-limits” when we are busy about establishing our authority over Christ’s. But if he has authority over that small pumping fist-sized organ in my chest, then he has all authority. The heart beats because God allows it. Nothing is off-limits to the Author and Sustainer.
Not so much an ‘off-limits’ for me as an, ‘I got this one…’ kind of thing (Gal 3). So, while not so much blocking Christ from entering, hindering His work, none-the-less.
Heart, yes, but (soberly) three other areas as well (soul, mind and strength).
Excellent post! The concept of authority is radically underrepresented in our Christian dialogue today. As I read the Scriptures, I realize more and more how many issues are in direct relation to authority. Moral infractions arise not necessarily from an inherent evil or defiling nature (although these are self-evident in many cases), but out of a break with God’s authority, or the delegation thereof.
Authority is a huge issue problem in our society. The cultural trend is to be our own authority. Often this is because of authority abuses, but it is also connected to the human nature claim, “We will not have this man rule over us!”
To be one’s own authority is to assume authorship. But we are not the Author. We are simply ink sketched into form on the divine parchment of God’s purposes.
Great post. Glad to see this site active again.