Paul challenged the Colossians to do everything in the name of Jesus (Col. 3:17). The phrase highlights the supreme position held by Jesus. There is the danger that we can become so familiar with this title and therefore use it in an unthinking way. In addition, we have lost the concept of lordship – we watch the activities of the House of Lords and probably find their titles and interaction irrelevant to us. These individuals don’t look as if they have much power or authority. Yet if we lived in Colosse at the time Paul wrote his letter, or anywhere else in the Roman Empire, we would know that to say Jesus is Lord was to make a public announcement that affirmed he was the supreme ruler, higher, much higher, than Caesar himself.
The distinguishing mark of real authority is that those who possess it have the ability to make laws and have the power to enforce them. They need both – ability without the power only reveals that the person is wise and weak; the power without the ability will result in cruelty or chaos, or both. We should gladly confess that Jesus has both the ability and the power. He is the wonderful counsellor predicted by Isaiah, able to provide all the laws that are needed in his kingdom (he does not call a parliament every so often in order to discover what to do); he is the supreme Lord who possesses all power in himself (he does not need to have an army to protect him or to defeat his opponents because he is always almighty). It gives us great joy to recall that this is always true of Jesus.
Yet it is also the case that those who acknowledge the position of Jesus may be ignorant of his requirements. We have an election this month and I suspect that the vast majority of those who will vote did not pay any attention to the manifestos of the several parties. And I also suspect that even the supporters of the winning party will not pay much attention to the various laws it will enact, unless of course these laws have an adverse effect on them. Yet they, and everyone else, are responsible to find out what laws are binding. Whatever we will do or say, there are laws governing our speech and our actions, and if we fall foul of the civil authorities, we cannot plead ignorance. Neither can we plead ignorance when it comes to the requirements of Jesus.
Unlike most human governments, Jesus’ commandments are found in one small volume, the Bible. Further, unlike the laws of human governments, the laws of Jesus do not have to be adjusted because of developments in society – his wisdom is such that the laws he has devised will always be relevant to whatever circumstances his subjects find themselves in. And, again unlike most laws passed by human governments, the laws of Jesus are easy to obey – he told his listeners in Matthew 11:28-30 that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
Usually the leaders of human governments cannot be contacted by those under their authority. How different with regard to the kingdom of Jesus – any of his subjects can speak to him all the time and all of them can speak to him at the same time. They can go to him and ask him to teach them his laws and he will be delighted to do so. In fact, when they became members of his kingdom, he wrote his laws on their hearts and since then they want to obey him. But sometimes, spiritual enemies hinder their growth in knowledge and they have to approach King Jesus and confess their failures; and unlike human rulers he does not send his erring subjects to prison, instead he restores them to his service.
Furthermore, Jesus will enable his subjects to practise his laws. I am sure that all human governments would love to have a means by which they could cause their subjects to obey laws from the heart in a glad manner. Sadly they do not have such a means; indeed it would probably be abused by them if they had it. But in the kingdom of Jesus, there is such a means and he achieves it in the lives of his subjects by the work of the Holy Spirit. Of course, the presence of the Spirit is not an encouragement to laziness, as if the disciples of Jesus can leave it all to the Spirit. The way the Spirit usually works is by enlightening their minds regarding the teaching of Jesus, causing them to love it, and then guides them to obey it.