Understanding Spiritual Authority
Nov 08, 2011
A major question that weighs on the minds of many Christians is about spiritual authority. Where does it come from? How does one tap into it? What are the limits (if any) to our spiritual authority?
Such authority is the basis of all healing ministries, intercessors, and those engaging in spiritual warfare. This covers a vast area of Christian experience and ministry. The exercise of spiritual authority also has everything to do with ruling and reigning with Christ in the world today. Jesus demonstrated his authority over sickness, death, distance, time, weather, and the elements. Our authority is based upon the same spiritual laws, but few really comprehend those laws well enough to utilize them properly.
Romans 13:1 makes it clear that "there is no authority except from God." It is obvious that all authority, whether spiritual or in earthly governments originates with God. Even the devil has no authority of his own. He is not sovereign. His general authority is based upon sin, because the judgments of the law for sin empower him to carry out that judgment.
Yet there are more specialized cases, such as what we find in the book of Job, where he must obtain special permission. This was because Job was a righteous man and lacked only some fine tuning in one of the highest truths known to man. In the end, God used satan's attack to disprove the theology and logic of his well-meaning friends and to teach Job a lesson in the hidden pride of men who think that they are wise enough to criticize God's way of handling the injustice of the world.
For our purpose, this also teaches us something of the sovereignty of God, His rights as Creator, and the fact that man's authority is subordinate to Him yet limited only by His character of Love.
Spiritual authority is subordinate to God and is therefore limited only by God Himself. Thus, if we wish to know the limits of our authority, we must have some understanding of God and His character. Any exercise of spiritual authority that goes outside the character of God is unlawful.
Trying to understand the full character and mind of God is not possible, apart from being fully like Him in our being and in our experience. It is only in the transformation of our mind and body that we become "like Him" (1 John 3:2) and can therefore receive a Head transplant without the use of antirejection drugs. Our Head is Jesus Christ, and we are His body. The only way to join the two is to be of the same type of flesh (and mind) as He is.
This is, of course, seen first in the marriage principle of Gen. 2:24, where God stated "and they shall become one flesh." The law also forbids plowing with an ox and an ass yoked together (Deut. 22:10), because, as Paul says, they are "unequally yoked together" (2 Cor. 6:14). Paul applies this principle of law to the marriage of believers with unbelievers, but in the highest application, it speaks of Christ the Head being united with His Body.
Spiritual authority can be exercised properly when the Head is joined to the like-minded body, for then the body is in full agreement with the commands of the Head. How dysfunctional a body would be if it refused to do the bidding of its Head. That would imitate paralysis or the uncontrollable shaking of Parkinson's disease or the laborious muscular movement of cerebral palsy.
All of these diseases are allegories of the dysfunctional body of Christ as it manifests in various Christian people, churches, and denominations.
Yet when the body of Christ is fit and fully functional, it is an expression of the character of the Head. In my view, the character of God is seen in three primary attributes, from which all other attributes are derived. The three are: Power, Love, and Wisdom.
This means He has the ability to do anything and everything that He sets out to do. His plan for creation will be fully accomplished in the end. He will never fail to accomplish His purpose. There is no will of man, beast, or devil that can thwart His plan. All authority is subordinate to His power, because it is a derivative of His power and does not function independently by any supposed "free will" of man or devil.
Within this category is also the will (thelema) of God as distinct from His plan (boulema). The plan cannot be altered, for it was set in granite from the start. However, the will of God is defined by the law (Rom. 2:18), and so sin itself is a violation of His will. "All have sinned," Paul says in Rom. 3:23, and hence, all men have violated the will of God. Nonetheless, the divine plan took all things into account from before creation to ensure that it would not fail, but would succeed at the end of time.
Because the power of God determines His ABILITY to succeed, then whatever God planned from the beginning will surely succeed. No amount of sin by the will of man can ever succeed in overthrowing the divine intent as planned from the start. No man's will is more powerful than the will of God. Nonetheless, the plan of God called for (or allowed) the will of man and the will of the flesh to do its best to unseat God as God. The plan gave this opposition a certain allotment of TIME to fully prove its inability.
In the end, the power of God is manifested by His ability to accomplish His goal. If we know the goal of God, we will understand the purpose of time and history and will be better equipped to function in unity with our Head. This is the key to being an AMEN people, those who say and do only what they hear and see what their Father says and does. When spiritual authority is in perfect harmony with the mind and power of God, then all things are possible to him that believes.
The Love of God is His personal character. It is the passion out of which He exercises Power. Love is His motivation, the source of all that He is and all that He does.
It is also the basis for His entire plan for creation. Because that plan called for the problem of sin, He designed all of His judgments according to His character of Love. It is not possible to understand God without understanding His Love. There are varying levels of love that men experience: eros, or physical attraction and attractive personality; phileo, or brotherly love that seeks equality and justice; and agape, which is so outrageous that it loves not only friends but enemies as well (Rom. 5:6-10).
Understanding the Love of God is crucial for anyone striving to rule with Christ (both now and in the ages to come). Any exercise of authority that is not based upon the Love of God is deficient. This is especially true when believers are called to judge righteous judgment. Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:2,
(2) Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest [lowest] law courts? (3) Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life? . . . (5) I say this to your shame....
Love does not judge with anger or with partiality, even if such motives seem apparent on the surface. The "wrath" of God is little understood by Christians today, because they define wrath in human terms and then apply it to God. The word for "wrath" is actually heat or passion, which can manifest in a number of different ways. Human anger is seldom based on Love, but upon pride that has been pricked by a challenge to one's authority, or (worse yet) a reaction to being inconvenienced.
To be continued....
This is the first part of a series titled "Understanding Spiritual Authority." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones