Within the revival stream of Christianity there is much talk about power, and rightly so. Consider the fact that after three years of one-on-one discipleship by Jesus, Himself, He still refused to launch His disciples into their ministry. Instead, He instructed them to wait until they had received power. If those who were directly discipled by Jesus needed power, how much more do we?
But power is not the only force of heaven promised by God or needed by His church. Scripture also speaks much concerning another force called authority. Authority and power are not synonymous. They are two distinct, albeit closely-related, concepts. God equips His church with both. But to be fully utilized, they must be understood.
Authority and power are fundamental parts of the Kingdom of God. In fact, the concepts are inferred in the very word kingdom. Our English term kingdom is actually a compound word derived from the phrase “king’s dominion.” It implies a king’s royal right to rule. This concept of authority is foundational to an understanding of the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is the product of His authority. Backing God’s authority is His power. Whereas His power is His ability, His authority is His absolute right to exercise that power in the establishment of His will.
God not only exercises His authority and power, He delegates both to His church. Understanding these twin forces is crucial to our assignment as Christians. Although they work together, authority and power are distinct in at least four ways: their definition, their source, their purpose and their method of increase. In this article we will deal with the first, covering the other three in future installments.
Authority and power are different in their definitions
When we speak of the power of God given to men, we are speaking of ability: the enablement to do with God what we could not do without Him. It is supernatural capability to know, speak and do.
Authority, on the other hand, is authorization, the right to rule. It grants people legal permission to exercise their will in a given environment. Authority determines who is “in charge.” The root word of our English term authority is author. The implication is God, as creator, has the right to direct the narrative of His-story. When He delegates authority, He grants a man the right to direct the narrative within the area assigned to him.
The Greek terms most often translated power and authority in the New Testament are dunamis and exousia respectively. Dunamis emphasizes power while exousia, which is also translated power in a number of passages, emphasizes the right to use power as opposed to the power itself.
Power and authority can be readily illustrated by two elements of a policeman’s equipment. An officer’s gun gives him power. It provides the force to stop a criminal in his tracks. But he also has a badge; it represents his authority. It authorizes him to use the power in his holster.
Although the gun is limited to the bullets in the chamber, the officer’s badge carries an unseen element. It is backed by a higher authority and power. If resisted, the entire government with all of its vast power will come to the aid of that officer. It is for that very reason that police officers are required to go through intense training.
It is an awesome thing be empowered and authorized by God. But power is experienced and authority is submitted to. God delegates His resources to those who are experienced and submissive. This is the key to being empowered and authorized.
Rather than crying out for more power to release and authority to wield, maybe we should be crying out to be personally touched by His power and more deeply yielded to His authority. Only then are we qualified to wield them.