(footnotes are at the bottom of the article)
I have been thinking about authority. One of the things that people most marveled at about Jesus was that he â€śspoke with authorityâ€?1 whereas the scribes and Pharisees did not when they taught. â€¦And then there was the incident where the Roman centurion came to Jesus on behalf of his servant. When Jesus offered to go to his home, the centurion refused. The following comes from Luke 7:6-9.
He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 9When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
Somehow or other there is an important link between the understanding of authority and the faith the centurion possessed. That is still true today. People pray for healings and deliverance and for salvation for people that they care about, and yet, here in modern America, it seems that prayers of that nature seldom get answered in such a way that people stop and marvel about the authority of the words spoken, as they did with Jesus.
The fact of the matter is that if we truly understood the authority that we have in Christ, we could speak with confidence. It doesnâ€™t really matter how much faith you have. A little will do if you know that you know that when you petition, God will not only hear, but He will answerâ€¦ and He will answer in a mighty way when we place the full weight of Christâ€™s authority into the words we speak from our hearts.
In Colossians 2, Paul wrote that Christâ€™s crucifixion (rather than his resurrection) was where He disarmed the enemy and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it2. People often mention this, but an often overlooked verse in this passage about the benefits we have as believers is farther up in the chapter. In verses 9 and 10 it says, â€śFor in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.â€?
I say with authority that my name is Cara Colleen, not because someone told me that was my name, but because I live with the fact and it is a truth that is etched into my soul. I know that my name is Cara and so when I speak it, it comes out of my mouth with a weight that other spoken words do not have. In the same way, we can know with certainty that Godâ€™s power to heal, deliver and save is available to us as believersâ€”because Christâ€™s death bought back the authority that man lost to Satan in the garden of Eden.
When Jesus spoke what has come to be known as the Great Commission, he prefaced the command with a statement. â€śAll authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.â€?3 Right after the seventy returned from their first missions trip in Luke 10:18-20, Jesus said this: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” The same authority that he said he has, he has already given to us.
Another aspect of this whole idea of authority is to remember something else Jesus said. The reason Jesus spoke with such authority was that he said, â€śI tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.â€?4 If we listen to what the Father is saying to us and are obedient when the Holy Spirit moves us to speak or act, then we can do what He tells us to do in complete confidence that His authority is behind us. This includes being silent.
I had an interesting experience a number of years ago. I was visiting in someoneâ€™s home who, although a churchgoer, was not under the Lordship of Christ. In fact, although I would never have said anything to them, I was very aware of some serious demonic influence in their life. The Lord allowed me to visit with them, but did not allow me to â€śpreachâ€? in any fashion. I was simply spending time with them and I think we were doing nothing more than watching a football game. Unexpectedly about an hour or so into the visit, they lost their temper at me and told me I needed to quit preaching so much about Jesus and that I needed to leave them alone. Mind you, I hadnâ€™t said a word about the Lord during that period of time. It was the presence of the Holy Spirit in me and my obedience to the instruction of the Lord that carried the weight of authority. The unseen forces at work in that home didnâ€™t like what was going on. I was astounded at the reaction and was asked to leave due to the animosity that had been stirred up.
It is this sort of reaction that convinces me, not only of the weight of authority, but the importance of obedience. How can we speak with authority if we are walking in disobedience? How can we tell the mountain to move if the Lord is not ready to move the mountain? How can we command the demons to leave and the sick to be made well if we are not sensitive to the Holy Spirit regarding the circumstances surrounding the person involved? Timing is just as important as need.
Yes, the Lord does want to heal all who are ill and bring freedom to the captives, but I have discovered that sometimes the physical ailment has simply brought a heart issue to the forefront and the Lord wants to deal with the heart issue before He brings full healing. The same is true for deliverance. There may be forgiveness and repentance issues that must be dealt with in order to rid the enemy of any â€ślegalâ€? right to maintain a hold on the person.
I did not always feel this way. It irks me still sometimes to read the gospels and find that Jesus did not do much counseling with his patients. The man who was lowered through the roof could be considered an exception to the rule, but he still was offered forgiveness and then instant healing. The man who lived among the tombs and had a legion of demons wasnâ€™t sent through any other type of emotional healing counseling. Jesus simply ordered the demons to leave and they left. I think there will be circumstances in which Father gives us authority and direction even now for such dramatic, freeing words to be spoken, but that will not always be the case.
I had a conversation with the Lord not too long ago, however. I was thinking specifically about emotional/mental healing. My thought processes went something like this: Well, Lord, it seems to me that if you can heal cancer and restore broken bones, that you ought to be able to heal emotional wounds in the same instantaneous way. I tell you, the answer came to me as clearly as I have ever heard. He responded, â€śThe human heart is not built that way. I can take away the pain and the poison of the wounding in the heart, but the person still has to grieve the loss, whatever it is, in a healthy way, in order to be whole. It is a matter of will for them to agree with what I have done in their inner man.â€?
In other words, we speak with the authority that Christ has given to us. We act in accordance with His will. But the people that we deal with have to willingly participate in the process. The centurion acted on behalf of his servant who (according to the centurionâ€™s reputation) probably served his master with a willing heart. Therefore, the centurion had the authority to request healing and his willingness to accept whatever Jesus dictated, due to his understanding of authority, enabled faith to step into the gap and the power of God to be released in the situation. Healing took place.
Faith is intertwined with authority in a strange way. We must accept by faith that God is acting in our lives in a positive way; that He does interact with us and speak to us here and now; and that we can hear His voice if we listen with our inner being. The scriptures say that without faith it is impossible to please God. We come to him believing that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.5 Beyond that, we obey the voice that we hear,6 as Jesus did. Then when we speak and move and act, His authority will manifest itself in power as it did throughout the book of Acts. Jesus spoke at length on this subject in John 14:
10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
15If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.
The passage above is not simply a promise of miracles that stands on its own. He did say that we would do greater things than he did,7 but it is sandwiched between a discussion on how he himself was submitted to the Father who was working through him and how important it is to obey his commandments. And then, â€śyou will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.â€?8
We can speak with His authority when we are submitted to His authority. As the centurion said, â€śI am a man under authority with soldiers under me.â€?9 Jesus said he was under the Fatherâ€™s authority and he therefore spoke with an authority that no one had ever encountered. All things are under Christâ€™s authority.10 We have his authority because he gave it to us. Therefore, we can preach the good news to the poor, proclaim freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, release the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lordâ€™s favor.11 Whatever we do, we do in his name and for His glory. It is not simply a matter of faith. It is a matter of acting on His behalf, with His authority, and for that reason alone, He moves. The more confidence (and I think this should be synonymous with humility) we have in trusting that we are His agentsâ€”His ambassadors to the world around usâ€”then, the more He will be able to move through us.