By John C. Carpenter
The Holy Scriptures tell us, And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine [instruction]: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes(Mat 7:28-29). What is this "authority" with which Jesus taught, and where did His authority come from? Who has authority? Does Satan have authority? How about evil spirits; do they have authority? Do believers in Christ have authority, and if so, what authority do they have? There is some teaching in the Christian church that believers have the authority to control and command the physical and spiritual realms, to control and rebuke demon spirits, and to "speak" to this or that, and have their needs met, their desires fulfilled, and their words come to pass. Is this teaching scriptural? Let's examine the scriptures to see who has authority and what kind of authority individuals have. The word "authority" in the Scriptures is translated from the Greek word "exousia," which means "authority, jurisdiction, power, right, privilege, liberty, strength, freedom, or capacity." Authority should be distinguished from "power," which is often translated from the Greek word "dunamis." Dunamis means "force, miraculous power, ability, abundance, or might."
As we would expect, the Holy Scriptures instruct us that God the Father certainly had and has authority. Speaking to the apostles He had chosen, Christ commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? and he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times [season, space of time] or the seasons [occasion, event], which the Father hath put in his own power [exousia; i.e., authority] (Acts 1:4-7). God the Father not only has the authority, jurisdiction and freedom to control the natural and spiritual timeframes and events in the lives of each and every individual, but He gave and assigned Himself this authority and freedom. Second, God the Father also has the authority to kill individuals as well as condemn them to hell. Jesus said to His own disciples, Beware ye of the leaven [fermenting, boiling up, swelling] of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy [deceitfulness]. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power [exousia; i.e., authority] to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him (Luke 12:1-5). We know these verses are referring to the authority of God the Father, and not Jesus Christ, because Matthew's account of this same story ends by saying Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father (Mat 10:29). God the Father has the authority to destroy both body and soul in hell. He also has the authority to mold and save humans according to His own will. While we know from the prophet Isaiah [Isa 64:8] that the potter is God the Father, the apostle Paul said, Hath not the potter [God the Father] power [exousia; i.e., authority] over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Rom 9:21). God the Father clearly has authority over all clay vessels.
Holy Scriptures also make it clear that Satan has authority. Luke, the beloved physician, explains this when he gives us his account of the temptation of Jesus Christ. Luke wrote, And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him,All this power [exousia; i.e., authority] will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it (Luke 4:5-6). Satan's authority is also verified in the book of Acts. In describing to King Agrippa his meeting with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, the apostle Paul wrote, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power [exousia; i.e., authority] of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Acts 26:14-18). The worldly spirit of Satan also has authority. Speaking to those in Ephesus, the apostle Paul said, Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power [exousia; i.e., authority] of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph 2:2). In addition to Satan and the evil spirits that work with and for him, the scriptures also teach that "darkness" itself has authority. Just prior to being captured, Christ went with His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray. As the leaders of the Jewish church approached him, the scriptures tell us, Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power [exousia; i.e., authority] of darkness [shadiness, to vaguely and temporarily overshadow due to error] (Luke 22:52-53). In other words, for a brief moment in time, Christ allowed the Jewish leaders to exercise their authority and bring to fruition the works of Satan by accusing, arresting, imprisoning, and eventually crucifying the Son of the living God. Lastly, in the book of Revelation we also learn that locusts will be given authority (Rev 9:3), and the beast will be given authority by the dragon (Rev 13:2). It is perfectly clear that even Satan, and those evil forces that carry out his will, are periodically given authority to accomplish God's eternal plan.
In addition to God the Father and Satan, Holy Scriptures also teach that Jesus Christ apparently was given and has different kinds of authority. First of all, Christ has authority to forgive sins. In one story we are told, And he [Christ] entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power [exousia; i.e., authority] on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitude saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power [exousia; i.e., authority] unto men (Mat 9:1-8). Second, Christ had also been given the authority from His Father to die for the sins of mankind. When contrasting Himself to hirelings, or false ministers, Christ said, I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power [exousia; i.e., authority] to lay it down, and I have power [exousia; i.e., authority] to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father (John 10:11-18). Christ explained that He had the jurisdiction and freedom to both lay down His own life as well as supernaturally raise it up again. Third, Jesus Christ has also been given authority to judge unbelievers for their sins. The scriptures tell us, And [God the Father] hath given him authority [exousia; i.e., authority] to execute judgment [condemnation, judgment, justice, damnation] also, because he is the Son of man (John 5:27). Fourth, Jesus Christ has authority to command unclean, demonic spirits. While Jesus was teaching in a Capernaum synagogue, those standing around were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority [exousia; i.e., authority] commandeth [arrange, charge, command, injoin] he even the unclean [impure, lewd, foul] spirits, and they do obey him (Mark 1:27). Fifth, Christ has authority to grant eternal life to whatever flesh His Father wills to have eternal life. Praying to his heavenly Father, Christ said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power [exousia; i.e., authority] over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him (John 17:1-2). Sixth, and lastly, Jesus Christ clearly taught the complete extent of His authority, freedom, and influence when He said, All [all, any, every, whole] power [exousia; i.e., authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Mat 28:18-19). Jesus Christ has total authority in all matters pertaining to life and death.
The scriptures tell us that the people around Jesus were astonished[amazed] at his doctrine (Mat 7:28-29), for He taught them with authority, and not like the scribes. Luke's account similarly says,And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word [sayings, discourse] was with power [exousia; i.e., authority] (Luke 4:32). If Jesus' teaching [and words] had authority and the teaching and words of the scribes did not, what was the difference between the teachings [which had authority] of Jesus and the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees [which had no authority]? I believe one possible answer is found in the Lord's actual words. First of all, Jesus had been sent by His Father (John 5:36; John 8:18). Secondly, Christ said My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me (John 7:16). Christ taught the people only the doctrine of His Heavenly Father, and not His own doctrine. Third, and last, Christ openly spoke the truth, and what He said came to pass. Christ clarified that He spoke and taught the truth when He said, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest thou the high priest so? Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil [amiss, in error, untruth], bear witness of the evil: but if well [honestly, truthfully], why smitest thou me? (John 18:20-23). Jesus spoke and taught with authority because He had been sent by His Heavenly Father, because He taught what His Father wanted Him to teach, and He spoke openly and truthfully. Conversely, Jesus Christ explained how the scribes and Pharisees were speaking and teaching. Jesus warned His disciples, Take heed and beware of the leaven [puffed up, deceptive hypocrisy] of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees (Mat 16:6), and ...Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known (Luke 12:1-2). Christ also said of the scribes and Pharisees, But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments (Mat 23:5). Regarding the scribes and Pharisees, the Lord instructed His disciples and the multitudes, All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not (Mat 23:3). These Jewish leaders clearly did not live what they preached. In order to be seen by men as holy and righteous, the scribes and Pharisees hypocritically gave an external impression that was not a true reflection of how they were on the inside. Simply and honestly put, they were not sent by God the Father, they taught the doctrines of the Jewish church rather than the doctrines of God the Father, and lastly, they lied, deceived, and taught and modeled untruth. Their behavior was in stark contrast to the behavior of Jesus Christ. Clearly, the apostle Matthew succinctly and accurately wrote how different Jesus was when he wrote, "for He taught them as one having authority [truth], and not as the scribes."
Jesus Christ gave special dispensational authority two thousand years ago to His own disciples. At one point, Christ appointed seventy disciples whom He sent out two at a time. He instructed them, Behold, I give unto you power [exousia; i.e., authority] to tread on serpents [sly, cunning, malicious individuals] and scorpions, and over all the power [dunamis; i.e., explosive power] of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you (Luke 10:19). Scorpion is the English word translated from the Greek word "skorpios," which means "to pierce, or sting." Although it is somewhat unclear as to what scorpions represent in Scripture, they may represent the act of being painfully stung or bitten by a venomous creature, which is of course symbolic of Adam and Eve [and as a result, all mankind] being bitten by the venomous and deadly serpent in the garden east of Eden. Jesus Christ not only knew the Jewish church leaders were subtle and deadly, but He openly described them as such. Jesus angrily said to a group of Scribes and Pharisees, Ye serpents [ophis; i.e., perceptive, sly, cunning, malicious creature], ye generation of vipers [echidna; i.e., poisonous snake], how can ye escape the damnation of hell (Mat 23:33). Jesus later said, Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness (Mat 23:27). In these verses, Jesus described the scribes and Pharisees as cunning, deceptive, manipulative, hypocritical, self-serving individuals who, because of their own ego needs and agenda, deceived themselves and others by representing themselves as religious and spiritual holy men, when in fact Jesus knew they were not. By describing these false leaders as scorpions, Jesus implied that the scribes and Pharisees had the capacity to inflict a very painful, poisonous sting of deadly venom. Elsewhere, the Lord stated the scribes and Pharisees actually led men to eternal death by keeping men out of the kingdom of heaven (Mat 23:13). When Christ said He was giving His disciples authority over serpents and scorpions, He probably meant He was giving them freedom from the influence of perceptive, cunning, deceptive, manipulative, and worldly individuals, hirelings, and false teachers who would attempt to deceive and dominate them, and who would eventually lead them to hell itself. Jesus protected His disciples by giving them authority and miraculous power over all false spiritual and religious leaders. Jesus Christ also gave His twelve disciples special authority to heal physical diseases and to cast out demons. Scripture tells us And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power [exousia; i.e., authority] to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils (Mark 3:14-15). The apostle Mark tells us that Jesus also gave His twelve disciples power [exousia; i.e., authority] over unclean spirits (Mark 6:7). Christ told us that demonic spirits were subject to His disciples (Luke 10:20). Interestingly, the apostle Paul plainly tells us why Christ gave His disciples and apostles supernatural gifts, power, and authority when he said, Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? (Heb 2:1-4). By performing signs, wonders, miracles, and through the gifts of the Holy Ghost, God bore evidence and confirmed to men that salvation and eternal life are possible. God the Father, in essence, was showing all men that if He could cause the lame to walk, give sight to the blind, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils, and even raise the dead, He could also bring about salvation and eternal life. God clearly gave special authority and power to Christs' disciples, and through these disciples, God performed miracles to serve as evidence that salvation and eternal life were also possible.
Some believe and teach that all modern day believers in Christ have [or should have] and exercise the same authority and miracle working power that Jesus' disciples had two thousand years ago. In my opinion, the scriptures [and experience] do not clearly indicate thatall modern day, New Testament Christians have been given the same kind of authority and power that Jesus' disciples had. In fact, based on 2 Peter 2:10-11 and Jude 8-10, some scholars believe and teach that men have less authority and power than demonic spirits. Additionally, despite the enthusiastic and consistent mention of power, healings, deliverance, and miracles in the modern church and media, I believetrue miracles generated from Jesus Christ in the Christian church are few, although I also believe miracles definitely do periodically occur. If New Testament Christians have not been given the same special authority and supernatural power that Jesus' disciples had, what authority [freedom], if any, have believers been given? The apostle John tells us, But as many as received [accepted] him [as the Christ, Messiah, and Son of God], to them gave he power [exousia; i.e., authority] to become the sons of God, even [specifically] to them that believe on his name (John 1:12). Believers, those that believe that Jesus is the Christ, that He came to earth, was crucified, died, and rose from the dead, have been given the authority, right, freedom and opportunity to be sons of God, and as a result, have eternal life.
Where does authority come from? Where did Jesus Christ get His authority? Where do secular or religious leaders get their authority? Scripture teaches us that all authority, worldly and heavenly, is given by God the Father. Jesus clarified God the Father's authority and ability to delegate authority to men when Jesus was being tried by Pilate. The apostle John tells us the story: Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; and went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power [exousia; i.e., authority] to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power [exousia; i.e., authority] at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin (John 19:5-11). Jesus makes it clear that the worldly authority that Pilate had was given to him from "above." The word "above" suggests that Pilate's authority came directly from God. Jesus also made it clear that not only believers in Christ, but worldly, secular men and women can have no authority except that which God the Father gives them, even if the individual in question is a poor authority figure, or is evil.
Those in authority positions in civil or church government are there because God the Father has ordained their positions. Over and over again, Holy Scriptures make it clear that Christians are to respect all laws and authority figures because the positions of authority these individuals hold are ordained by God. Regarding how and what should be taught to church leaders, Paul instructed the apostle Titus to Put them [church leaders] in mind to be subject to principalities and powers [exousia; i.e., authority], to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men (Titus 3:1-2). Also regarding the appropriate behavior of believers and church leadership, Paul wrote and instructed Timothy that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good [valuable, virtuous] and acceptable [agreeable, welcomed, approved of] in the sight of God our Saviour (1 Tim 2:1-3). Paul specifically taught that submitting to those in authority is approved of, welcomed, valuable and virtuous in Christ's view. Lastly, Paul clearly instructed believers in Rome who were being persecuted by the government how they should respond to authority figures. He first wrote, Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not (Rom 12:14), then later said, Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers [exousia; i.e., authority]. For there is no power [exousia; i.e., authority] but of God: the powers [exousia; i.e., authority] that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power [exousia; i.e., authority], resisteth the ordinance [institution, instrumentality] of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid [phobeo; i.e., fear, reverence] of the power [exousia; i.e., authority]? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake (Rom 13:1-5). Paul instructed believers to subject themselves to those in authority not only because there would be consequences of resisting authority, but because submission was the right thing to do in God's view. The apostle Peter also taught, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: (1 Pet 2:13). Paul wrote to Timothy, I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (1 Tim 2:1-2). Speaking at one point to His disciples and others, Jesus Christ gave a blistering criticism of the scribes and Pharisees by describing them as fools, blind, serpents, full of hypocrisy and iniquity, who actually kept men out of the kingdom of heaven. Very interestingly, just before this long winded criticism of the scribes and Pharisees, the Lord said to those around Him, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid [command, speak to] you observe [hold fast to, keep], that observe and do [execute, fulfill]; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not (Mat 23:2-3). Why did the Lord speak so critically of the scribes and Pharisees, yet instruct those around Him to observe and do what they commanded and spoke, but to not do their works? The probable answer is that, although the scribes and Pharisees were false, blind spiritual leaders who actually kept individuals out of the Christian church and brought about their damnation, the scribes and Pharisees held positions of authority in the Jewish church. Jesus expected those who followed Him to humbly and respectfully submit to the authority of those positions, because humble submission to authority is God's way and it pleases Him.  AMEN.
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                    A Judeo-Christian Bible Study
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