Authority is a concept, which is often, immediately connected with dictatorship and oppression. From the examples of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Hussein, we tend to directly associate authority with evil and suffering.
In Western democratic culture, freedom of self-government and freedom of speech are an acquired right. These two are high on the banner! And yet we see in our society that to maintain good order, more and more laws are necessary. Out of this practical necessity comes this reality: now the law dictates so much, that everybody is gradually being forced to live in a more confined parameter. The patterns of our lives become more and more defined as society strives to advance. We can yell as loud as we want that we have freedom of speech, freedom to govern ourselves the way we want, and this is true, but some of the things we scream the loudest about have already been established by a majority, and their judgments have dictated the law. It is impossible to take every individual opinion into account; when the majority decides there is always a minority that has to bow to the convictions of the majority, whether they like it or not. Therefore, since the majority always decides, they have ruling authority over the minority. The point is, even in a democracy, where self-government and freedom of speech is so highly esteemed as superior to the dictatorships, direct governing authority is still needed. At times we will experience its imposing force on our lives. Whether we want it or not, we cannot escape the fact that we all have to deal with authority in some form. This is necessary to keep society livable.
So this authority, existing through majority, is meant to assist us, yet it must dictate us. For instance, the law governs the amount of noise you can make, allowing a certain amount of decibels so that people don’t bother each other. Authority is necessary to enforce the laws in traffic; otherwise nobody would be able to cross the streets safely. So authority is not negative by definition, but its nature is protective and positive, with its goal being to create a livable society.
Conclusion: Authority is necessary to protect and ensure the effective operation of a group of people living together.
When Jesus met a certain Roman centurion He was surprised by what he saw. This man recognized that Jesus spoke with authority. The officer’s immediate logical conclusion was this: “Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having 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” (Luke 7:7,8).
The centurion is comparing the power and authority of his own function to Jesus. As an officer, he easily recognized what Jesus had. Jesus, in submission to the Father, uses the authority of the Father to give orders to sicknesses. The soldier’s subsequent request was “But say the word, and my servant will be healed” Jesus was surprised, and He said, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel”. This soldier reveals a simple principle: You only have authority when you are under authority. So Jesus was never against authority, but He carried authority Himself and executed that authority. Jesus said: “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do” (John 5:19).
In the synagogue of Capernaum, Jesus spoke with power and cast out evil spirits with great authority. “Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are--the Holy One of God!" But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, "What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out." And the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region” (Luke 4:33-37).
Jesus used the spiritual authority of the Father to free people from evil, oppressive spirits. These spirits manifested in His presence, and they recognized that Jesus had a greater authority than they. They were afraid of being punished. In this historical account in Scripture we see the clashing between two spiritual kingdoms, or to say it differently, two spiritual authorities. The Father gave Jesus the authority that He exercised. Jesus had not robbed it, and therefore it was legal. This authority of the Father is carried out by love to liberate and to heal. Satan robbed the authority that the evil spirits exercise, in order to rule, destroy people, and keep humanity in slavery. So Jesus’ legal authority, through Father God’s authorization, is the strongest authority of the two. Father God Himself is behind it. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Jesus exercised legal authority against Satan’s illegal authority.
The authority through temptation
When Jesus wanted to begin His mission of man’s salvation and in order to enter Satan’s domain He first had to prove that He had the right to do so. This is why the Spirit of God brought Jesus into the desert to be tested. (Matt 4:1-11) The temptation in the desert is nothing other than a crucial test of authority. Jesus had to prove that He was not susceptible to Satan’s temptations. Jesus could only liberate and heal people and establish God’s Kingdom as He could demonstrate that He was stronger than Satan’s seduction. Where Adam lost his authority to rule on earth, a second Adam, Jesus, had to prove that He, as the Son of God, would not surrender to temptation. The reality was that Jesus could not just take over Satan’s domain. Satan’s rightful rulership over the earth was given to him by the first man, Adam, who himself had received it from God. “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26).
Adam, the human being, was destined to rule and manage the earth in delegated authority of Father God. Jesus, the second Adam, came to restore man in his original position of authority. This is why Jesus had to prove, as Man, that He could resist Satan: there where Adam and the rest of humanity had failed. So having and proving authority was necessary for Jesus to step into His ministry.
Jesus, our Master, went through the test and therefore it is obvious that we will have to walk the same road, proving our authority also. We are not more than the Master. If the Master was tempted in an authority test, then we will be, too. A slave does not excel his master. “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13:16).
Levels of Authority
In Matthew 4, the temptation in the desert, we recognize three kinds of temptation.
First, let’s examine the challenge of turning stones into bread after forty days of fasting. This level of temptation had to do with Jesus’ physical need for food. The test was whether Jesus had enough discipline over His desire for food. This involved nothing more than His own physical body.
Having discipline over your bodily desires is the first level of authority. If you can’t even exercise discipline over your own body, you definitely do not qualify as a mature son of God. Authority begins with you in your natural realm. In other words, if you can’t even have discipline over yourself, how can God trust you with spiritual authority? How can you take Satan’s domain if you can’t even control yourself? So Satan challenges Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, ...” Sons have to be tested to prove that they can resist the evil one and have victory. Standing firm in battle requires discipline and a well-formed character. Too many ministers have already lost their authority on this level. Within Christianity, the responsibility involving authority is too quickly given to people who do not yet master the first level of discipleship. We have a weak Christianity because we do not have spiritual insight into what our destiny is on earth. He who does not want to hear about authority has not understood exactly what he is called for.
The second temptation was to challenge Jesus in demonstrating His anointing. “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down” (Matt. 4:6)
In other words, ‘show who you are so that people will start believing in you’. The thing is, Jesus’ purpose in coming was to demonstrate the Father’s power, and give supernatural signs proving that God had sent Him. It was a temptation for Jesus, because that was precisely why Jesus came.
Jesus’ response was different than what we would expect. Jesus refuses to go along with this, and for this reason: He did not come to profile Himself, or to call attention to Himself, as Satan does. No, Jesus came to glorify the Father and not Himself. Satan does not succeed in tempting Jesus to act according to his prideful mentality. Jesus did not come to elevate Himself, but to glorify the Father. The Father sent Him to serve, and give Himself for us; this was what Christ desired to demonstrate. Servanthood, putting yourself aside for others, is the opposite of what Satan does. The fact that Jesus did not use His power and anointing selfishly, and thus not giving into Satan’s temptation, shows that Jesus would not submit Himself to Satan’s authority. Jesus was not focused on Himself. He was not driven to perform out of an ambition.
It would be beneficial to many servants of God today to examine themselves and see which motives they are using in God’s Kingdom. Clearly, if you are ambitiously driven or focused on performing, you are not working according to God’s character, but according to Satan’s mentality. Are there still servants capable of having enough authority over themselves that they can refuse Satan regarding honor and adoration? If Jesus, acting as a servant, wasn’t tempted by self-glorification, is that not a true example for us as well? Shouldn’t we have the same selfless attitude, and have authority over temptation? We were not given anointing to demonstrate ourselves, but to serve others. The anointing, which we have received, our supernatural talent, has been given to us to use within the Father’s plan but not for our own initiatives.
Jesus’ third test of spiritual maturity was the mountain, where all the kingdoms of the earth were offered to Him. The first temptation challenges you on your authority over personal discipline. The second temptation challenges you on your attitude and your relationship with the Heavenly Father. This third temptation challenges you on your function in the Kingdom of God. It tests you on your mandate, the assignment you are given to fulfill for God on earth. Here, Satan presents all the kingdoms for which Jesus came. He can receive them now in exchange for a bow of worship to Satan. If Jesus had worshiped Satan, then He would have failed. If Jesus had bowed to Satan, He would have submitted Himself to Satan’s authority, which is based on resistance, rebellion, and a jealous desire to be equal to God. Jesus did not contest the authority Satan had over the earth, but then again, He did not come to receive the kingdoms for Himself. Jesus was sent with delegated authority from the Father who trusted Him as His own Son. This authority is based on a love relationship of servanthood and respect. Jesus’ love for the Father was so strong that He refused to betray the Father by submitting Himself to Satan’s authority. The Kingdom of God is not based on taking, but on giving. Jesus did not come to be served but to serve. By rejecting the satanic mentality, Jesus offered no way for Satan to influence Him. From that moment on, Jesus had proven that He was a true Son of God and had the right to enter Satan’s domain. Every demon now had to obey Him, because Jesus had proven He was stronger than the temptations of Satan, their master.
Growing in authority
The first level of authority in God’s Kingdom is being a child of God. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12)
The writer of Hebrews speaks of babes who are not yet ready for solid food. “For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe” (Hebrews 5:13)
After a baby is born, it obviously needs to be nourished. It is the same in God’s Kingdom. As we saw before in levels of relationship, the Apostle John speaks of the children that know their salvation. He then speaks of young men that know the Word and have overcome the evil one. And then the fathers that know Him, who is from the beginning.
These family terms indicate that we are indeed a family, and like a family we grow into greater responsibilities and authorities. A child will not react to situations out of rational choices or conviction and understanding, but out of emotion. He or she reacts on the feelings their experiences give them. Clearly you cannot give responsibility of making decisions to a child. We live in a world hostile to God’s Kingdom, and consequently many circumstances we are confronted with do not feel good. Emotionally, you want to run away, or try and avoid confrontation through compromise. But because God is pure in His dealings, He will not tolerate compromise, deceit, and falsehood. We cannot respond to things with child-like emotions, and try and escape whatever doesn’t feel good. This is not what God has called us to. We have a responsibility to deal with life as sons.
Sons do not react emotionally, and do not work by their feelings, but with the Word. Sons have gone through childhood, and now they can confront evil with God’s Word. Sons are not afraid of difficulty and confrontation. Sons are led by the Spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom 8:14).
First, the sons take authority over themselves. Then they learn how to overcome the evil one with the Word. It is God’s authoritative Word that stands against Satan’s word of rebellion. The sons follow the Son and speak like the Son, using the Word as their source of authority: “… it is written…”
Three levels of Authority:
A babe The first level of discipline: learning to deal with your personal life
Sonship The second level: overcoming Satan and taking possession of his territory
Fathership The third level: reigning over God’s families to rule and direct God’s Kingdom on earth
Clearly one cannot rule or have authority in God’s family until he can rule himself and his own family.
Summary taken out of my book on Apostolic Reformation, back to the Biblical Blueprint.
May God richly bless you as you grow in these levels of authority.