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THE SOURCE OF AUTHORITY

by Dennis Allen

(Part 2)

In Matthew 21 the cursing of the fig tree brings up the question of Jesus’ source of authority . The chief priests and elders asked Him. “By what authority do you do these things? And who gave you this authority?” This is a good question for all who act with authority to face up to. If we are exercising authority Christ did not give us, then we are out of place and are running without His blessing. Actually what they are implying is you don’t have any authority because authority rests with us and we didn’t give it to you. It’s common for the greatest abusers of power to assert it with the most vigor. God’s judgment is upon those who grasp His authority with carnal hands or hold on to it by their own deceit or scheming.

Human authority is often built upon position conferred because of political scheming. This is not God’s way at all. If we try to give spiritual authority to a person for political reasons or for fear he might otherwise jump the traces we are not following the Lord’s way. If we think we can grant it because of degree, or wealth or status, again we have departed from the Lord’s way. Jesus said, “You know the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you: but whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant, even as the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mat. 20:25-28). This is the Lord’s path to authority–service based on love.

Spiritual authority comes not by position conferred or by lording it over others but by humbly serving. The one who humbles himself will be exalted. Those who grasp for authority should not be given authority in the Lord’s house. The more the spirit of the Gentiles dominates a person, the less God can use him. We need to sit at the feet of the Lord Jesus, drink His cup, receive His baptism. Unless we are subject to Christ’s authority, we cannot exercise authority.

When Paul was kicking against the goads he was kicking against God’s authority. We need to search our hearts to know on what basic principle our lives are lived. If we are like Saul before his conversion, it is rebellion.

When Ananias came to Saul he found him a changed, now submissive man. For on the Damascus road Saul had already met God’s authority and submitted to it. He had acknowledged Jesus as Lord, so he was not obeying Ananias but God’s authority vested in him. In Jesus’ final commission to His disciples He said, “All authority has been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matt. 28:18, 19).

Brother Andrew helped me to a new understanding of this statement. There is a difference in power and authority. On a busy city street a policeman can raise his hand and even the big semis come to a stop. Aren’t they more powerful than he? Of course, but they still stop, for they know that the power and authority of the state is vested in that traffic policeman. The authority of the God of the universe has been given unto Christ, and He expects us to live in the light of that truth. It is easy for us to believe He has authority in heaven. There angels, principalities and powers are subject unto Him. It may not be so easy for us to believe it here on the earth, because it doesn’t look that way. We see all kinds of rebellion against Him, and the rebels seem to get away with it. Will we walk by faith or by sight? Jesus said, “Go ye.” We come up against a closed door and we say, “Lord, I can’t. They won’t let me in.”

The Difference Between AUTHORITY and POWER

Brother Andrew has been entering closed doors the past thirty years, because he believed Christ’s word, “Behold, I have set before thee a door opened.” Even though man had shut the door, he believed the Lord had authority to open the door and He did.

Dave Howard, Elizabeth Eliot’s brother, tells of one of his seminary students in Columbia, South America. Lupercio Taba was preaching in his little chapel when a man appeared at the window with a pistol in his hand. Pointing the pistol at him, he ordered him to stop preaching. Taba paid no attention to him and continued his message. Four shots were fired at him. One went right by his ear, another by the other ear. A third shot went under one arm, and a fourth under the other arm. The congregation dove under the benches and lay on the floor. Taba looked straight at the gunman and said, “I am preaching the gospel by the command of Jesus Christ, and I’m not stopping for you or any one else.” The astounded man dropped his gun and ran.

I believe there is much for us to learn in Jesus’ attitude toward authority. When He was here on this earth the Pharisees constantly challenged His authority and fought Him at every turn. But the self-assurance of the Lord Jesus is beautiful to behold. We are often affected by others opinions of us. If those around us discount us, we often begin to discount ourselves; but not He. He knew who He was and the authority he had been given, and He continued to exercise it in the face of the most intense opposition.

LIVING UNDER CHRIST’S AUTHORITY

In these last days it is crucial for us to live under the authority of Christ and to act upon the authority that has been given to us. One day man’s place on the earth will be restored to him because of his relation to the last Adam. But the redeemed will realize it is wholly of grace. They will cast their crowns before the throne and all the hosts of heaven will burst forth into praise: “Worthy is the Lamb that hath been slain to receive the power, and riches, and wisdom and might, and honor and glory and blessing.” (Rev.5:12).

Paul tells us, “When all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all.” We can hasten that day by recognizing and laying hold of the authority He has given us.

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33