Therefore, it is the supremacy of Jesus Christ as our sovereign and exalted God that is our authority for mission. There is not one inch of creation, one culture or subculture of people, one lifestyle or orientation, one religion or philosophical system, over which Jesus’ throne does not rule. We derive our authority to preach the gospel to all peoples, times, and places from the glorious exaltation of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed all authority for himself and commanded us to go in his authority to preach the gospel truth: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”73 Jesus himself said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”74 Indeed, the authority of our mission rests on nothing less than the authority delegated to us by the exalted Lord Jesus Christ who rules over all. It is the one gospel of Jesus Christ that is needed by all tribes, races, nations, tongues, ethnicities, religions, and cultures.

Nevertheless, as we Christians enter into our local culture and its subcultures, we must also remember that it is Jesus who is sovereign, not us, and it is Jesus who rules over all, not the church. We are to come in the authority of the exalted Jesus, but we are also to come in the example of the humble incarnated Jesus. This means that we must come into culture like Jesus did—filled with the Holy Spirit, in constant prayer to the Father, saturated with the truth of Scripture, humble in our approach, loving in our truth, and serving in our deeds.

Jesus gave his life for the church and continually lives to care for his church. The connection between Jesus and the church is incredibly clear in Scripture. In Acts 6–8 we read of a zealous man named Saul who persecuted Christians and even oversaw the murder of a church deacon named Stephen. In Acts 9 the living Jesus actually got off his throne to come down and confront and convert Saul, saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul replied, “Who are you, Lord?” To which Jesus said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”75 Thus, Jesus’ own words reveal that Jesus is so closely connected to the church that he too suffers when it is persecuted.

Perhaps the most vivid metaphor used in the New Testament for the church is Jesus’ own words that he is the vine and we are the branches.76 Therefore, both the life and unity of the church, despite all its diversity, is its connection to the living Jesus. One theologian has said:

Unity, however, does not demand uniformity. Indeed, from the beginning the church has manifested itself in many local churches (in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, etc.); and the one NT [sic] church had neither uniformity of worship nor structures, or even a uniform theology. . . . Unity is possible when we stop thinking of our church or denomination as the vine and all others as the branches. Rather, Jesus is the vine and all of us are branches.77

Because the church is so dear to Jesus, it is dear to Christians who love Jesus and are part of the church because of justification on the cross and regeneration in their hearts. This is why the church father Irenaeus rightly said, “Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church.”78

ANSWERS TO COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

It is important to remember that the power of salvation is not in the strength of our faith but in the completeness of Jesus’ saving work. Jesus said that even faith as small as a grain of mustard seed (Matt. 17:20) connects us to God’s power, which raised Jesus from death, giving us new life and forgiveness of all sins (Col. 2:13). Through faith we can know the truth of what Paul said, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).