Matthew 7: 28,29, “When Jesus had finished saying these things (The Sermon on the Mount), the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”
What is a believer’s authority? Where did it come from and what is it for?
The Greek word used in Matthew 7 is Exousia. It is a derivative of the word, exesti. The two words used together combine the idea of right and might. It includes permission, authority, right, liberty power to do anything. It is used other places in Matthew, all of which connotate authority and power. Matt 7:29; 8:9; 9:6, 8; 10:1; 21: 23, 24, 27; 28: 18. It appears in the gospels 40 times; the New Testament 87 times and more times in Revelation than any other book of the Bible (18).
Our best understanding of authority comes in the form of our military. It is an organized, structured environment that is predicated on authority from the top to the bottom. The mission is key and everyone in the chain of command is committed to the accomplishment of that goal.
In Luke 7 a military man (Roman Centurion) asks Jesus to come and heal his servant. On the way, the centurion sends a servant to say that he is unworthy to have Jesus in his home. “But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to 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 these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
The Roman military was a well-oiled machine. The centurion would have been responsible for about 100 soldiers. He is a man who had authority and was under authority and he understood the implications of both. His response enlisted Jesus’ amazement. That’s noteworthy. In his response, Jesus connects the man’s understanding of authority to faith. Obviously then, understanding the nature of authority is important to our faith.
You see, the supernatural world has laws just like the natural world. Gravity is a law of nature. The law of sowing and reaping is a spiritual law. “What a man sows, he will also reap”. (Gal 6:7) Authority is a spiritual law and the nature of the supernatural is built upon an order and structure where authority is delegated from top to bottom. This is true of both good and evil in the spiritual realm.
Jesus delegate authority to his disciples in Matthew 28 for the purpose of making more disciples. He also gave them authority over evil forces, sickness, and disease. All of Jesus’ disciples have this authority. But where did it originally come from? For what purpose?
In Genesis 1: 26-28, we are told that we were made in the image of God. That subject is a deep theological doctrine. But, in that same section, we are told to have dominion, rule over, and subdue all of creation. The Hebrew word for dominion or rule is “radah’. It’s a royal word. This is the dominating rule of a king.
From the beginning, we were created to reign. Of course, the consequences of sin made this job much more complicated and difficult. But God has been at work since then to restore ALL of His Creation to it’s proper order and the scenes in Revelation 2:26; 5:10; 20:6; 20:4; clearly show that is what we’ll end up doing.
I would go as far as to say that the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Protestant doctrine) was incorrect when it said that the primary purpose of man on earth is to bring God glory. I believe Scripture clearly shows that the primary purpose of man on earth is to rule and reign with Christ forever.
We will reign and rule over the angels. I would go as far as saying that the Westminster Shorter Catechism is wrong about the chief purpose of man being to glorify God. I would say it is to reign with him on high forever.
It is important to realize that this is no sideshow in the biblical story. Man’s ruling over creation on God’s behalf is a foundational and organizing reality of the biblical outlook on the world. One can get a hint of this from the consideration that as this is man’s task set out in the very first chapter of the Bible, so is it man’s climactic vocation in the very last chapter of the Bible—“They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5). Dominion over creation is man’s original task set out in Genesis 1, and reigning with Christ is his ultimate end, envisioned in Revelation 22. It is my contention therefore that Christian sanctification and discipleship is fundamentally a matter of training to reign.
Anyone who understands the nature of eternity and the supernatural will then understand that our most important task is to become more and more like Christ. That is what we call discipleship. God is trying to build up character in us that he can trust to do what he has equipped and empowered us to do not only in this life, but forever. He doesn’t want to do anything for us that we can do ourselves. (Great parenting advice.) And so, he gives us the example of Jesus, the power of His Holy Spirit and uses every day circumstances and situations to build that character in us. This is really the story of the Parable of Talents in Matthew 25: 14-30. The Judgement Seat of the Christ becomes that place of accountability where we are rewarded (or not) for our work on this earth and then given the corresponding places of honor (or dishonor) in the Kingdom of God where we will certainly exercise our gifts forever. Work is a holy thing and it will certainly continue forever. The notion of heaven being a 24/7 church service is only for those who are young in the faith or just immature.
And what is our authority given to us for? What is the purpose of our authority? In Matthew 10, Jesus calls his disciples together and sends them out with authority to accomplish the mission of healing every sickness and disease and driving out evil spirits. In Luke 10, he sends out 72 more. We aren’t given their ‘marching orders’, but we know it included driving out evil spirits because they returned saying “even the demons submit to us IN YOUR NAME.” In the life of Christ we also see that he had authority over nature and its elements.
We, as followers of Christ must learn to exercise our God-given authority. It is part of what the Holy Spirit is working in us as Christ-followers. Remember that Jesus has no rival and neither do you when you appropriate His authority in His name. Satan is NOT God’s equal. Everything is under Christ’s feet.