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The "Authority" of the Believer
By David A. DePra
We possess the authority of Jesus Christ only to the extent that Jesus has authority over us. The authority of God is not a THING that God hands to us – that we have the right to use as we see fit. No. Spiritual authority is the life of Christ in us. Thus, spiritual authority is only authority to do what Christ would do – God’s will.
All of the rights of a Christian are based solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is not vested in ourselves as a person. It is vested in HIM. It is therefore conclusive that the authority of the believer is only the authority to do God’s will. Again -- I can have the authority of Jesus Christ to do only that which Jesus would do.
Failure to see this Truth has led to many abuses in the church down through the centuries. There have always been people, and groups, that have been deceived into thinking that God vests his authority in people, and therefore, whatever these people decide is God’s will – i.e., God is backing them up. And once you convince people that God is behind an authority, you can get them to obey. This is a pattern which the enemy has used throughout history.
Today we here folks claiming to have, "the anointing." This is another way of saying that God has given them authority – authority we ought to submit to. No. There is only ONE, "Anointed One" – Jesus Christ. In fact, the term, "Christ," means, "Anointed One." The only anointing you and I have is CHRIST IN US – and we all have that.
Again, authority isn’t an IT or a THING God gives to people. Authority is a PERSON in us, and therefore His authority will only say, do, and operate in accordance with His Person and will. In short, we don’t have authority. Authority has us.
Abuse of spiritual authority in churches has been taken so far as to mean that even if someone in authority is clearly wrong that we must obey them, because God is behind their authority, and will use the whole thing to His glory. Bill Gothard teaches this error, along with many others. So did the shepherding movement of the 1970’s, which is still around in some places. And need I mention the Roman Catholic Church and the middle ages? Today’s supposed apostolic and prophetic movement? Abuse of spiritual authority is not only WRONG, but it is out of the pit.
Notice that I am talking about spiritual authority here. Civil government is another thing. We might expect them to err. But in the church is where we find the worst cases of the abuse of authority: Leaders controlling the personal lives of others, all in the name of Jesus Christ – all in the name of, "submission to authority." This is an abomination in the eyes of God. God never tells us to obey ANYONE just because they are in a position. Rather, He tells us to obey HIM – and to be open to the Truth if it comes through anyone else. He never gives anyone authority to do anything except God’s will, and to edify others in Christ. And if a leader crosses that line they do not have any authority from God. Therefore, we are not only free to disobey; we OUGHT TO DISOBEY – lest we become part of the problem.
I realize the risk here. There are people who would jump at the chance to come against any authority. There are others who are being kept in line only through the mistaken notion that they must obey authority. But in the end, you never help anyone by keeping them living in a lie. It is TRUTH that sets us free, and not a system of control. If people want Jesus Christ, they will want him outside a system of control, just as they seem to tow the line inside of it. We are to preach the Truth and leave the consequences to God.
Spiritual authority is not the right to tell people what to do. Rather, it is the power to point them to Jesus Christ. Once we see this, it settles forever whether people have been given authority over the personal lives of others. They have not. The only authority you and I have is to set people free to worship Jesus for themselves, and then, as part of the Body of Christ.
Right and Might
There are two words in the Bible usually translated, "authority," or, "power." EXOUSIA means, "the right to do." DUNAMIS means, "the power to do." To draw a contrast, if I have a membership card to an exercise gym, I have the EXOUSIA to get into the gym – the right to enter and lift the weights in the gym. But this alone does not empower me to lift them. No. For that I must have DUNAMIS – the power to do.
EXOUSIA means to have the right. DUNAMIS means to have the might. Understanding this explains much about why some of the promises of the Bible don’t seem to work. If I am in Christ, I automatically have certain RIGHTS – exousia. I have authority over the enemy, etc. But that doesn’t automatically mean that I yet have the MIGHT to execute my RIGHT to the full. For that, it may require something ironic: That I be made weak in myself. Again, having the right to lift weights isn’t the same as having the might to lift them. In order to get the might, I must grow -- by becoming weak in myself, yet strong in Christ.
Another way to illustrate this is from a legal standpoint. EXOUSIA – my rights – is based on justification by faith. I am a son of God, and as such, have a new identity and have a full inheritance in Christ. But just as a little child would not be able to understand or live in an inheritance, here we see where DUNAMIS comes in. Having rights in Christ does not necessarily translate into the power to do IN GOD’S WILL.
Can we see that God’s power and God’s authority over anything must eventually be the product of His authority OVER us and IN us – coming through to God’s glory? Power is not merely a THING God gives us. Have we any idea what utter nonsense that would be, let alone how dangerous that would be?
Just look around Christianity today at the people, especially on Christian television, who claim to have power, authority, and the anointing. Are they using this to God’s glory? For the most part, NO. And what they claim to have isn’t even the real thing. Can we imagine if it were God’s power? Think of the damage.
This is precisely why DUNAMIS – the power to do – only comes about through the work of the Cross. Potentially we have the right to do if we are in Christ, because we do have all of Christ in us, and in Him is ALL power. But in order for the power to do to emerge in accordance with the will of God, we must become those conformed to the will of God. Otherwise, we’d use God’s power to do our will instead of His.
All spiritual strength – spiritual authority – is directly proportional to dependence upon God. And I don’t mean a verbal assent to dependency upon God. I mean a dependence that characterized who you are to Him, and who He is to you – in other words, your relationship with God is defined by your dependence upon Him. Thus, weakness in myself is the key. The weaker in myself that I am, the less I will depend upon myself, and the more I will depend upon God. This will result in spiritual authority having God’s way with in me, and therefore, through me. This must be a LIVING thing – not merely a doctrinal concept.
The fact is, until I am made weak, I cannot be trusted to exercise the rights I have in Christ. I may be sincere, and I may even want to do what is good, but just as an immature person cannot be trusted to rightly handle something of great value – because they still need to grow – so it is with the things of God. Except that in Christ things work backwards to our way of thinking. In order to have the MIGHT to exercise your RIGHT, you have to become utter weak and dependent upon God. Then the power of God can flow through you, for there is nothing in you to corrupt it.
Here we see why Jesus said that we must become His servants to possess His authority: The reason you must become a servant to possess the authority of Jesus Christ, is that in order to possess His authority, you have to be crucified of those things in yourself that would otherwise abuse it.
Right Without Might = Abuse
Exercising the authority of Jesus WITHOUT first being made weak results in exactly what we have been discussing: People telling others what to do, all in the name of Jesus. People using the things of God like toys. What you get is bondage, spiritual disease, and in some cases, people turning the power of the Holy Spirit in a sideshow. This would never happen if we were made weak – for by the time you are made weak, you know Jesus Christ. You would therefore want to do only that which He wants to do. There would be a reverence for the things of God that can come in no other way.
For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: (2 Cor 10:8)
Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction. (2 Cor 13:10)
If the apostle Paul had used his authority for destruction, would God have backed him up? Would God have required the people, "under him," to obey him, and submit to such destruction? People like Bill Gothard would say yes. The answer is NO. Paul clearly says that he does not have ANY authority from God to be spiritually destructive. Thus, no one needs to submit to it. Indeed, the only way to stop such abuse is to refuse to submit to it.
People who disagree with the Truth on this are either ones who want power over others, or those who don’t want to take responsibility for their own choices – they feel safer and more righteous because they have, "submitted." God wants to bring this whole system crashing down. Get into business with Jesus Christ and you will obey all authority IN THE WILL OF GOD. And you will not obey where doing so conflicts with His will.
I once asked the following question to someone who was a teacher of Bill Gothard’s ideas about submission to authority. Incidentally, Mr. Gothard teaches that you are only under God’s authority, and in God’s will, if you submit to those in authority over you. Thus, you must basically do what they say. You are allowed to appeal to them, but in the end, they are speaking FOR GOD to you – even if they don’t know it. Gothard would except obvious sinning from the requirements of his system, although even his definition of that is suspect. Well, anyways, here’s the question I asked, "If I believed God told me to do something that conflicted with what, ‘my authority," told me to do, who should I obey?" Without hesitation, the answer was, "Obey your authority. God will bless your obedience to them."
Folks, this is abominable heresy. There is no other word for it. And I don’t care how you slice it.
Christians ought to be open to the Truth as it might come through anyone. But I said, "Open to the Truth," not, "blindly accept," because someone claims to speak for God.
You and I might as well get ready. This kind of spiritual abuse of authority is starting all over again under the guise of the restoration of the apostolic and prophetic offices in many churches. Expect signs and wonders. Expect this to become a big deal. But it is error, and the spirit of the enemy. We need to start looking at what the Bible says about these things.
Scripture is a plain as can be about this issue of dominion and authority. Here are just a few examples:
But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and says unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (Mark 9:34-35)
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
If you read these scriptures, and many more, you will find that authority has very little to do with the right to tell others what to do. Rather, it has to do with OVERCOMING all that is not of God – IN US. Authority and power, in the kingdom of God, have to do with bringing the kingdom of God – which is the RULE of God – into new areas.
Now, if you examine that, it brings us right back to the fact that we have no authority except to do God’s will – to be instruments of HIS kingdom. None whatsoever. You and I have no power or authority outside of God’s will. And we cannot even be used as instruments for God’s will until we come UNDER God’s will and kingdom ourselves. It is utter nonsense to think that God is going to delegate His authority to those who reject it for themselves. Besides, authority is not, "delegated," in the kingdom. Authority FLOWS. His authority flows through you only if the Cross has paved the way.
Submit to God
Be you followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Cor 11:1)
Paul never wanted a following. He never said, "I’m God’s apostle and so you’d better submit to me. Rather, he said, "Follow me – the word in Greek is mimic – as long as it constitutes following Christ. One might ask as to why any leader in the church today would want anyone to follow them otherwise?
Now, of course, false leaders will say they are following Christ, and therefore, this mandates that you follow them. One of the most common scriptures twisted to try to make a case for this is found in Hebrews:
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Heb 13:17)
What is the Truth here? That we ought to blindly submit to anyone who RULES over us? Well, first of all, Paul is predicating his words upon the fact that the leadership in question is Godly. He is not talking here about false teachers. But that aside, what does he mean by these words.
There is a problem here with the KJV. If you look up the Greek in this verse, you see that the tone of the verse, and therefore, the intent, is much different than is translated into English. The verse actually could read, and this is a paraphrase, as to intent, rather than a word for word translation:
Allow yourself to be persuaded (of the Truth) by those who are your spiritual guides. They must answer to God for the spiritual impact they have in your lives, and so if you are open to the Truth as it comes through them, this will enable them to be used of God with joy and not grief. This will be more profitable for all.
The passage is simply stating that God has given spiritual gifts to leadership in the church, for the purpose of edifying and guiding His Body. We are to be open to the TRUTH – and only the Truth – as it comes through them. The implication is built into this admonition that we are NOT to be open to error simply because the person teaching it is a leader, or usually teaches the Truth. No. We ALWAYS reject error and embrace Truth – no matter who it comes through.
The moment we cross the line and say that we must SUBMIT ourselves to error because it is coming through someone in authority, we are violating the Holy Spirit. Likewise, the moment we say that God will back up error because of the position of the one teaching it, we are being foolish. No. We are to submit to JESUS CHRIST alone. And if He is being revealed through someone in leadership – and He ought to be if that leader is called of God – then submit to the Truth of Jesus. The leader is the servant and has that place in the Word of God.
Reigning With Christ
In the Bible, authority and power from God is the result of ME coming under the authority and power of God – which boils down to the Cross. But another way of saying the same thing is this: Power and authority is the result of overcoming in Jesus Christ.
To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Rev. 3:21)
According to this verse, authority with Christ is the result of overcoming. But what does it mean, "to overcome?"
Well, obviously, "to overcome," means to COME OVER obstacles. But what kind of obstacles? Any obstacle IN ME that hinders the reign and rule of Jesus over ME. We overcome these, not by turning inward and fighting the hindrance – although there will be a struggle. We overcome by surrendering to Jesus Christ.
All warfare in the Christian life is a struggle to STAND and to REST in what Jesus has done. It is a struggle to BELIEVE despite all that contradicts faith. THAT is the warfare. Jesus has already won all the battles. When we finally surrender to His authority, then we are reigning and ruling with Him. There is no other pathway to authority possible.
It is a sad thing to see people parading across television claiming power and authority over the Devil, and thinking that this is where the battle rages. Well, I’ve got a news flash: The battle is IN US. It is for our hearts. God has already defeated the Devil. Now He wants a people who are willing to allow Him to reign and rule over THEM – and if we do – then we will be able to reign and rule over the Devil.
You and I have no authority over the Devil except we be under the authority of the kingdom of God – which is Christ in us. None. Christ in us is the only authority there is, and in Him is all authority. Work from any other basis and you are deceived.
Authority in Christ is the result of Christ’s authority over me. But notice: That makes me His servant. It crucifies out of me any pride or potential for abuse. How could it be any other way?
We possess the authority of Jesus Christ only to the extent that Jesus has authority over us. We are strong in Christ only to the extent of our surrender and dependence upon Him. The authority of God is not a THING that God hands to us – that we have the right to use as we see fit. Authority is a Person, and only as HE is glorified can His power be made known.
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