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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Supremacy

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SUPREMACY.—Few things are more remarkable in the Gospels than the absolute supremacy over nature and man which Christ is represented as both claiming and exercising. In this respect the Synoptics bear, if anything, a more striking witness than the Fourth Gospel. Christ appears from first to last as exercising lordship over matter and natural forces. He heals incurable diseases, stills the storm by a word, multiplies food, withers the barren fig-tree. And, beyond these things, He appears also as supreme over the world of spirits. He calls back the human soul to the body after they have been separated by death. He is acknowledged as lord by the unwilling and undesired testimony of the demons (Mark 1:34, Luke 4:33-35 etc.). Such a supremacy He appears, in the Gospel narrative, to exert without laying any special claim upon it. He accepts, indeed, with praise the confession of the centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), that such authority belongs naturally to Him; yet He does not represent these wonders as being the chief purpose of His ministry. He appeals at times to their evidence; but His most characteristic claim is something even greater and more fundamental.

Christ plainly claims supremacy over the moral nature of man, over human conscience and human destiny—a supremacy extending through all time, and without limitation. His association with or subordination to the Father is not referred to as limiting, but rather as justifying His own claim (Matthew 16:27, John 5:19-27). On His own sole word He reverses human standards of judgment (Matthew 5:3-10; Matthew 19:30, Luke 6:20-26). He expands, modifies, or abolishes by His own ‘I say unto you,’ laws or institutions which were admittedly Divine in their origin (Matthew 5; Matthew 19:3-9; cf. Matthew 7:28-29). Yet at the same time He refuses to enter into competition with temporal rulers, or to give decisions, as even a prophet might have done, on human matters of dispute (John 6:15, Luke 12:13-14), His supremacy is too great and too comprehensive for Him to involve Himself in such controversies, which men will learn to settle when they have learned the greater lesson. His words, He asserts, are more lasting than heaven and earth (Matthew 24:35). He proclaims Himself King and Judge of the Kingdom which He is founding. The members of it are His servants, and responsible to Him alone (Matthew 24:25, Mark 13:34; Mark 13:37, Luke 12:35-48). But His supremacy extends beyond the limits of His own Kingdom. He claims to be the final Judge of all the nations, to allot the eternal punishment or reward of every individual soul (Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31; Matthew 25:46; cf. Mark 13:26-27, Luke 21:27-36). And this universal dominion over both matter and spirit is expressed finally in the tremendous closing verses of Mt., ‘All authority hath been given (ἐδόθη, the aorist of an eternal fact) unto me in heaven and in earth.’ It is indeed in this Gospel that the claim of Christ to be King and Judge of all men is stated in the most detailed and vivid manner. But there is no inconsistency with the other Gospels. A similar claim is implied in all; cf. esp. Luke 19:11-27.

In the Acts, Christ is preached by the Apostles as ‘Lord’ (Acts 2:36), as ‘prince (ἀρχηγός) of life’ (Acts 3:15), as universal Judge of men (Acts 10:42, Acts 17:31). St. Paul from the moment of his conversion speaks of Jesus as his absolute Master, whose ‘slave’ he is (Romans 1:1), whose ‘marks’ he bears branded upon his body (Galatians 6:17). The descriptions of the nature and office of Christ in the Epistles of the First Imprisonment state and justify this supremacy in the most startling and comprehensive manner. ‘In the name of Jesus’ all creation must bow; all creation must confess His Lordship (Philippians 2:10-11). All things have been created through Him and unto Him: creation not only starts from Him, but converges in Him (Colossians 1:16-18). Christ is the ‘head of all principality and power’ (Colossians 2:10). All things are ‘in subjection under his feet’ (Ephesians 1:21-22).

This supremacy of Christ is again the most characteristic feature of the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Everywhere the eye of the believer is directed to Him (Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 12:2-3; Hebrews 13:8; Hebrews 13:20). His figure dominates the whole of man’s life; and the writer plainly implies that this supremacy is essential and indefeasible.

The same teaching appears in a more pictorial form in the changing scenery of the Apocalypse. Christ receives the homage of all creation (Revelation 5:9-14), He is associated with God the Father in the possession of ‘the kingdom of the world’ (Revelation 11:15), He Himself is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:11-16).

Christian worship, Christian art, Christian sufferings are full of the same testimony. Christ is worshipped personally as Lord and God. He is portrayed as universal ruler, bearing the insignia of empire over all the thoughts and needs and works of men. The martyrs incurred the reproach of disloyalty to temporal rulers, nay, even of being enemies to human society, by their unswerving allegiance to Christ as supreme over all human laws and customs. Polycarp, confronted with death, confesses Him as ‘Saviour and King.’ The narrative of his martyrdom contrasts the brief authority of Jewish and Roman officials with ‘the reign of the eternal King, Jesus Christ’ (Letter of the Smyrnaeans, 21).

The Christ of the Gospels, the Christ of Christian experience, must be supreme or nothing at all. The idea of a limited or temporary supremacy is self-contradictory. The Christian conscience, however laggard the will, cannot but confess the justice of the Master’s question: ‘Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ (Luke 6:46). See also artt. Authority of Christ, Divinity of Christ, King, Lord.

Literature.—Liddon, Divinity of our Lord (Bampton Lectures, 1866); Gore, Incarnation of the Son of God (do. 1891); Seeley, Ecce Homo, 1866; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 1883; Père Didon, Jesus Christ, 1891; Sanday, art. ‘Jesus Christ’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible ; Westcott, Christus Consummator, 1887; Ellicott, Christus Comprobator, 1891; Stubbs, Christus Imperator, 1894.

A. R. Whitham.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Supremacy'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/s/supremacy.html. 1906-1918.

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