The Church’s Exercise of the Keys of the Kingdom: What Sort of Authority Does the Church Have?

God has created various institutions within creation. To each one he gives particular domains of authority (e.g., parents/fathers over the home, elders the church, the government the state, etc.), and particular ways of enforcing their authority fitting to their particular type of authority.

In other words, not all institutions exercise or enforce their authority the same way. For instance, God has authorized the state to wield the sword (Rom 13). In other words, the state can coerce its citizens by threat of material punishment. The church however is a voluntary society. It doesn’t coerce; rather it persuades. People willingly believe and join, submitting to Christ’s rule.

But Christ did not leave the church without a means of exercising and enforcing its authority. Whereas he gave the state the “sword,” he gave the church the “keys of the kingdom” by which to state who is in and who is out of Christ’s kingdom (see Mt 16:18-19; 18:15-20; Jn 20:23).

The church is like an embassy of heaven that issues passports declaring who belongs to Jesus. Word (teaching, preaching) and sacrament (baptism, Lord’s Supper) are the means by which the church positively exercises this authority, persuading people to believe and obey (Word) and then marking off those who do (sacrament). And church discipline is the way the church negatively exercises this authority—declaring that one in fact is not a citizen of Christ’s kingdom.

But the church can’t make anyone believe and obey. The church doesn’t possess that sort of authority. We can only persuade (Word). And when persuasion fails and someone is unrepentant, which is characteristic of an unbeliever, we declare them so (church discipline). That’s the only authority we have; more importantly, the only authority Christ has given us, and so we dare not overstep those bounds.

Narnia’s Nikabrik, a Parable of Contemporary Evangelicalism? | “We Want Power. And We Want a Power that Will Be on Our Side.”

“All said and done,” he [Nikabrik] muttered, “none of us knows the truth about the ancient days in Narnia. Trumpkin believed none of the stories. I was ready to put them to the trial. We tried first the Horn and it has failed. If there ever was a High King Peter and a Queen Susan and a King Edmund and a Queen Lucy, then either they have not heard us, or they cannot come, or they are our enemies–“

“Or they are on the way,” put in Trufflehunter.

“You can go on saying that till Miraz has fed us all to his dogs. As I was saying, we have tried one link in the chain of old legends, and it has done us no good. Well. But when your sword breaks, you draw your dagger. The stories tell of other powers beside the ancient Kings and Queens. How if we could call them up?” ….

“Who do you mean?” said Caspian at last.

“I mean a power so much greater than Aslan’s that it held Narnia spellbound for years and years, if the stories are true.”

“The White Witch!” cried three voices all at once….

“Yes, said Nikabrik very slowly and distinctly, “I mean the Witch. … We want power: and we want a power that will be on our side. … They say she ruled for a hundred years: a hundred years of winter. There’s power, if you like. There’s something practical.”

—C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), pp. 393-394.

As I read the above section from C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian this evening, I couldn’t help but think of how it unfortunately seemed to parabolize much of the current posture of contemporary, American evangelicalism. We’re pragmatic over principled. Over against the “foolish” call to cruciformly, we’re entangled in a love affair with the corrupting influence of power. We want power — who cares if that power happens to be the “White Witch”?

Luckily, Prince Caspian and crew have the wherewithal to see through Nikabrik’s proposal, and they dismantle his plot right then and there. May we have the foresight in this moment to revive our call and do the same.

Using Logos in Pastoral Ministry (September 8th, 2021)

Join us for a special online seminar hosted by yours truly in partnership with Logos Bible Software. The topic is: How to best use Logos in ministry — pastoral and more.

Logos Bible Software is currently used by over 6 million people worldwide. In this free seminar, you will learn how Logos can help you accomplish Bible study and ministry tasks effectively and efficiently.

We’ll be joined by National Presenter for Faithlife and Logos Bible Software, Matt Stack. You’ll be able to ask questions, and together we’ll explore ways to utilize Logos in your ministry.

To access the special 25% discount offer, visit here — available through to Sept. 10, 2021. And email Matt with any questions you might have.

DaddyCast with Jubilee

My daughter, Jubilee (3 years old), starting asking to do podcasts with me. We talk through David Helm’s The Big Picture Story Bible and whatever else Jubilee feels like talking about that day. 😊

If you’re interested, you can find the episodes here.

Most recent episodes:

  1. First Day of School, Rebuilding after Exile, and Pilgrim's Progress
  2. Prophets, Packers, & Ferris Wheels
  3. Summerfest, the Fourth of July, & Solomon's Temple
  4. Bay Beach, Canaan Conquest, and Narnia
  5. Birthdays, the Exodus, and Trips to the Park

Logos Bible Software, Preaching Suite (Review)


The Preaching Suite is new base package from Logos Bible Software designed with tools and resources specifically with preachers in mind.

Some years back, Logos came out with Denominational Base Packages with resources specifically selected from various traditions (e.g., Reformed, Baptist, Methodist, etc.). You might think of the new Preaching Suite something akin to that, except instead of being a base package designed for a particular denomination, its resources are geared towards preaching.

You can break down the Preaching Suite‘s resources as follows:

  • A sermon scheduling tool (Sermon Manager).
  • Sermon prep and study resources (e.g., commentaries, Bible dictionaries, homiletical resources, Logo’s Factbook, passage guides, preaching workflows, etc.).
  • A sermon composition tool (Sermon Builder).
  • A sermon delivery tool (Preaching Mode).
  • And finally a streamline way to upload and archive your recorded sermons.

The Preaching Suite is available via a monthly subscription; or own it for a one-time fee.

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