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Saturday
Jun232007

Spiritual Power and Spiritual Authority

Philippians 2:5-11 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on the earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Ephesians 1:15,16,18,19,20-23 “Therefore I [Paul] … mak[e] mention of you in my prayers … that you may know … what is the exceeding greatness of His power …which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

THE NATURE OF SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

In explaining the nature of spiritual authority, it is useful to examine the difference between the words ‘authority’ and ‘power,’ as they are used in the following statement made by Christ - “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19).

The Greek word translated as ‘authority’ here is ‘exousia,’ and its basic meaning is to have the right to rule or govern, as one whose will and commands ought to be submitted to and obeyed.

In contrast the Greek word translated ‘power’ in this reading is ‘dunamis,’ which means to have the inherent strength or actual ability to bring about a desired purpose.

A modern illustration of these two different meanings is provided by the roles of a truck driver and a traffic officer. An eighteen wheeler has inherent strength and so its driver has direct or ‘dunamis’ power at his disposal to perform his task. While a traffic officer has insufficient physical power to stop a truck, he does have delegated or ‘exousia’ authority at his disposal. When the traffic officer puts up his hand the truck driver stops his vehicle, because behind that gesture lies the whole weight of the Police Department.

This distinction between the two Greek words is not always made clear in English translations. For example the Authorized or King James Version renders the above reading as, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” In order to discern the true meaning of the word translated as ‘power’ in the KJV, it is necessary to be aware of which Greek word is actually being translated - whether ‘exousia’ or ‘dunamis.’

Examples of the word authority in the Bible.

  • Matthew 7:29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
  • Matthew 21:23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
  • Mark 10:42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
  • John 5:27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
  • Titus 2:15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.

Examples of the word power in the Bible.

  • Luke 9:43 And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. But while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples,
  • John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
  • Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem , and in all Judaea , and in Samaria , and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE AUTHORITY TO USE JESUS’ NAME

When the statement in Luke’s gospel is correctly translated, it becomes clear that Christ has not given us direct or ‘dunamis’ power to overcome the power of Satan. Instead He has entrusted us to wield the authority that is attached to His name, the name which is the greatest in all creation.

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Key Bible Reading ).

We are entitled to exercise the authority contained in the name of Jesus over the power of Satan as those who must be obeyed. For instance we may, in the name of Jesus, cast out demons, or bind the powers of darkness away from our circumstances, or loose those who are held in bondage to the enemy.

However it is important to see that our authority to use the name of Jesus is closely linked with our spiritual state of union or relationship with Him. Just as the traffic officer in our example is stripped of his authority if he steps outside of his jurisdiction, so too we lose our authority when we are no longer in an abiding relationship with Christ our Lord.

Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5).

Before we can wield the authority of the name of Jesus we must be united and one with Him—so bound and yoked to Him that we are of one mind and one heart with Him. He must initiate, and we must respond in obedience. He then confirms our legitimate use of the authority of His name by instructing the Holy Spirit to perform the works that we have commanded.

Satan understands the real basis of our authority. He knows that he does not have to submit to any lawless or presumptuous use of the name of Jesus.

In fact those who are lawless in this matter may place themselves in extremely hazardous circumstances, as did “some … itinerant Jewish exorcists” reported in the book of Acts ( 19:13 ). They “took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’”

But because they were not united and one with the Lord Jesus, their lack of real authority was obvious to the demons they were attempting to cast out. “And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” (Acts 19:15-16).

PROGRESSIVE AUTHORITY

God is the supreme head of all authority and power. Beneath Him exist many different levels of delegated spiritual authority, which when joined together in descending order, make up what is called ‘progressive authority.’

An example of progressive authority, or ‘a chain of authority’ is provided by the Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians: “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Cor 11:3).

The case of the centurion who sought healing for his servant provides a more detailed example of progressive authority in operation. “And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ The centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come,” and he comes; and to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it.’ When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel !’” (Matt 8:7-10).

When the centurion said, “For I also am a man under authority,” he was identifying his position with that of Jesus, in that both of them were part of progressive authority.

He knew what it was like to be under authority.

Above him was:

  • the Tribune of the Legion,
  • the Governor of the Province, and above them all,
  • Caesar.

Below him was a company of soldiers and various household servants. And when the centurion gave an order to those below him he knew it would be obeyed, because he spoke with the authority of those above him. His words were upheld by the weight of the entire Roman Empire .

The centurion was also acknowledging Christ’s position in a chain of authority. He understood that Jesus was the Almighty God, and that Christ had to “only speak a word” and his servant would be healed.

And so it was. “Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour.” (Matt 8:13 ).

AUTHORITY IS INEFFECTIVE WITHOUT OBEDIENCE

Obedience is the key to successful operation of progressive authority. If there is obedience throughout the chain, then each link is upheld by the authority of the links above it. However if one link in that chain is disobedient, then its authority can no longer be upheld by those above it, and the chain is effectively broken.

The authority of Christ was always upheld because He was always one with the Father, and He was perfectly obedient to His will. Jesus was therefore able to say to Philip, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” (John 14:10).

We understand that Jesus was referring to the subjection of the flesh to the Spirit. In this light, Jesus (the Flesh) commanded as the Father (the Spirit) directed Him, and His Father verified those commands by doing the works that fulfilled His words. Similarly, if we use the authority of the name of Jesus only as He directs us, then we can be assured that He will respond by performing the appropriate works.

Now compare progressive authority in obedience, to the breaking of the chain of authority because of disobedience in today’s world. Jesus predicted a general climate of lawlessness in Matthew. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt 7:22-23).

Notice that Jesus is addressing those who consider themselves to be Christians. They had “prophesied,” “cast out demons,” and “done many wonders,” and all in the name of Jesus. But one thing was missing. They had in effect denied the sovereign Lordship of Christ by failing to seek, and then be obedient to His will. Instead they had presumed that works initiated by their flesh would meet with His approval.

The Lord’s condemnation of their presumption is severe. It does not matter that ‘prophecy,’ ‘deliverance,’ and ‘miracles,’ appear worthy ministries in themselves. The point is that they have used His name to do their works. So He disowns them and their works. “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

God is the supreme head of all authority. His ultimate omnipotence cannot be disputed. The words of King Jehoshaphat clearly express this: “O LORD God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?” (2 Chronicles 20:6).

God is invincible, and no one can withstand His purposes. Despite this fact, it is necessary to recognize that His authority is not upheld by force, but by willing obedience. And since all authority hinges on obedience, where there is no obedience there is no real authority in a practical sense.

In order to appreciate how disobedience has diminished God’s practical authority over man, we shall go on to explore the significance of mankind’s initial disobedience in the Garden of Eden.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FALL

God gave man a clear command in the Garden of Eden. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat the fruit of it you shall surely die.’” (Gen 2:16-17).

A direct consequence of ‘the fall’ is that in choosing to obey Satan rather than God, Adam and Eve unwittingly gave Satan a legal right to contest God’s authority over mankind.

Satan, in the guise of a serpent, then seized the opportunity to entice Eve to disobey God. “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” (Gen 3:4-5).

Eve had a clear choice. She could obey God, or she could obey Satan. She chose to eat the forbidden fruit, and Adam consented to join her in disobedience.

The problem is not that we don’t understand the situation. It’s that we don’t like the situation! We understand the choices given. We just think there should have been more choices!

  • I only want to taste the fruit of the tree to see if it’s good.
  • I want to make a preliminary decision about eating the fruit without consequences!
  • I want to choose another tree to avoid.
  • It is unfair to be put in this kind of strait-jacket.
  • I don’t want to be told what I can and cannot do.
  • To submit to these parameters is to give up my rights and my free will.
  • If you loved me, you wouldn’t limit me.

Do not minimize this account as questioning taste, looks, procedure and process. This was, is, and always will be about God’s authority over our lives.

This was a crucial episode that decided the fate of mankind. Adam and Eve represented mankind. At issue here was whether man would consent to obey God his Creator, or use his free will to rebel and submit to Satan. The tragic outcome is that when given a clear choice, man chose to obey Satan rather than God. And because authority hinges on obedience, when man obeyed Satan, he gave him a legal right to impose his evil influence on human life.

Satan’s authority over mankind is not absolute. It is proportional to the degree to which man chooses to disobey God. Because of the depravity and rebelliousness of fallen man, the apostle John conceded that, “…the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19). Jesus also recognized the extent of Satan’s authority over fallen mankind, referring to him as “the ruler of this world” on at least three occasions (John 12:31 , 14:30 , 16:11 ).

  • John 12:31 “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”
  • John 14:30 “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.”
  • John 16:11 “Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.”

The Greek word for “prince” is archon, meaning one who is first in rank or power. The fact is that we are not just dealing with Satan as a deceiver, a liar, an evil spirit, etc. We are dealing with him as one who is in authority over this present world. The only way an individual can be delivered from the authority of Satan is to submit to an authority that is higher than Satan!

Colossians 1:12-13 “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”

Again, we can illustrate this principle by looking at the way governments operate today. No one can travel to another country without a passport or an agreement between countries. All kinds of issues come up in this relationship, like “Do I have to obey the laws here? Can the authorities here steal my money and throw me in jail? Will my native country get me out if I get in trouble here?” No person is an authority unto themselves. Regardless of where we are, someone has authority over us, usually depending upon our citizenship.

Partial Obedience Does Not Lead to Full Authority

This is where many people become confused and operate under false assumptions about their relationship with God. Is it possible to be a little bit obedient and a little bit disobedient? Absolutely. This position cannot last forever, but temporarily, it can seem to work.

For example, an illegal alien can come into the USA and exchange some money. The inscription on our money says that this note is a legal tender and can be used to purchase whatever is for sale. He can go into a restaurant and have the authority to buy a meal. He can go into a clothing store and buy a shirt and a pair of pants. He has enough authority to conduct business on a small scale.

Beyond that, however, he starts to have trouble. He cannot vote. He cannot expect the full protection of the law in our justice system. He cannot draw a social security check. He cannot purchase a firearm. If he makes the mistake of thinking that some money in his pocket qualifies him for all the privileges of a citizen, he may end up being deported.

Now, here’s the mistake that people make who try to mix a little obedience with their disobedience. They do a lot of right things:

  • They pray.
  • They come to church.
  • They read the Bible.
  • They do some good deeds.
  • They give in offerings and even pay their tithes.

In doing these things, a person receives limited benefits in return. Whatever good things anyone does in the name of Jesus will get the favor of God for that particular act. It’s the same as being a guest in a club or association or being a full-fledged member. 2 Timothy 3:5 says, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”

The problem is, however, their prayers are without true faith; they come to church with no intentions of being changed by the church service; they read the Word with a closed mind; they do some good deeds to convince themselves and others that they have a good heart; they give in offering and tithes to buy their way into the favor of God. All of this is an attempt to manipulate God into doling out his blessing without getting full obedience in return.

It all boils down to authority: The story of Saul.

1 Sam 15:16-23

16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on. 17 And Samuel said, When thou wast little in thine own sight, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel , and the LORD anointed thee king over Israel ? 18 And the LORD sent thee on a journey, and said, Go and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they be consumed. 19 Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? 20 And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. 22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

As a result of his continuing disobedience of God’s will, man in his unredeemed state is subject to Satan’s authority. Paul writes, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air [who is Satan], the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Eph 2:1-3).

Under obedience to God and the authority of God, you are promised protection. You have full recourse to the provisions of God. In disobedience and without God’s authority, you are fully exposed to the wiles of Satan.

The OBEDIENCE of the SON

Since obedience is at the heart of all true authority, it was appointed to Jesus to become a sacrificial offering, as an atonement for the sins of mankind. It was the ultimate display of obedience.

God’s requirement was that Christ should redeem mankind back to Himself. The Scriptures say of Christ that “…by Him [ie Christ] all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth … All things were created through Him and for Him.” ( Col 1:16). As the Creator of mankind, Christ was required to become their representative. In obedience He willingly agreed to bear the punishment for the sins of mankind in their stead, allowing the full weight of all their evil consequences to fall upon Himself.

Jesus went to the Cross as the representative of all mankind. He received their sentence and bore the fullness of their punishment until the very last demand of justice had been met. The mocking abuse, the beatings and scourging, the agonizing death on the cross, were all the price of restoring man’s right relationship with God.

But before He could be mankind’s atoning sacrifice, Christ had first to be a perfect expression of obedience and righteousness, witnessed by man and God, and all in Satan’s kingdom. It was only then that He could truly be “a lamb without blemish and without spot,” (1 Pe 1:19 ), to be presented as a guilt offering for the sins of mankind.

The cost of Christ’s obedience is beyond human understanding. We can only catch a glimpse of it as we contemplate the words in the first Key Bible Reading.

Jesus relinquished His position of equality with God. He let go “…the glory which [He] had with [God] before the world was.” (John 17:5). And He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Even before He took upon Himself the mantle of human flesh, Jesus knew the enormity of the sufferings that awaited Him. As the time of His crucifixion drew near He prayed, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. ‘Father, glorify Your name.’” (John 12:27-28).

He prayed “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me..” (Matt 26:39). But then, because of His commitment of obedience, He prayed “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matt 26:42).

Finally, as Jesus hung on the cross, “knowing that all things were now accomplished … He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:28,30). His task of redeeming mankind was complete - a perfect work done in perfect obedience.

By accomplishing His perfect work, Christ has laid the foundation for re-establishing God’s authority on earth.

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Reader Comments (3)

very insightful and a must read for all believers.Some Christians lack this understanding and knowledge.
God bless you Rev

March 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEmmanuel Ampofo

wow, when i read this a deliverance took place in my life because of something God told me to be obedient about in 2006, and for my disobedience I was blessed with 7 years of bi-polar depression, where i could not hardly ever feel the presence of God except I was at church and then it was fleeting. So, when I tell you when I heard God say that that season of my life and wife's life was over I began to rejoice. May the Lord of Glory richly bless you for this has brought a mighty deliverance into my mind and spirit today... I shared this article on my page on Facebook as well so others can get free also..

September 1, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjoshua foster

Today, am blessed because I now know my position in Christ Jesus, the love He has for me and the finished work on the cross. The importance of obedient to God's word and why I should study the word, spiritually and physically am healed. Blessed be the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen. Godwin udom

August 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGodwin udom

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