Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians by saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” He goes on to say, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know… the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.” In chapter 2, he again confirms that God has raised us up with Christ, and “seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” He tells us of the position of Christ and the position God’s given us. His prayer is that we would know the power of God as it relates to the position of Christ because we are seated in the heavenly places with Him.
With position, comes authority. Christ is the supreme authority, having “all things in subjection under His feet.” As we are positioned with Him, we receive a measure of authority from Him.
What is authority? Authority could be very simply defined as the power to do something; having authority means having the power to do something.
The source of our authority is God. It is from nothing within ourselves except the Word of God received through the Holy Spirit. Jesus was the perfect example for us. He did nothing of Himself but fully submitted Himself to the perfect will of our Father (John 5:19, 12:49). He showed us that authority begins with submission. Jesus’ ministry began with an act of submission (Matt. 3:13-15).
The purpose of our authority as believers is to 1) build up the body of Christ (2 Cor. 10:8, 13:10; Eph. 4:12), and 2) destroy the works of the devil (Matt. 10:1; 1 John 3:8). We see a reflection of this purpose for authority in our natural governments, which have been given authority to build up the nation (Prov. 14:34) and to punish evil (Rom. 13:4). Authority is not for our personal benefit but for the kingdom of God.
So how do you function in the authority God has given you?
1) Obey God. Jesus prayed, “Your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.” In heaven, our Father’s will is always done. If we are to remain seated in heavenly places, we must be continually pursuing the perfect will of God.
2) Use your gifts to serve the body of Christ (1 Peter 4:10). Our authority is directly related to our function as a member of the body of Christ – and our function is determined by our gifts. When you choose to function in the gifts God’s given you, being led by His Spirit, you will be able to walk in the authority God’s given you.
It’s important to recognize that we don’t all have the same authority because we don’t all have the same function (1 Cor. 12:17-20, 29; Rom. 12:4). As our gifts differ according to the measure of grace given us, so does our authority, as it too comes as a measure of grace (Rom. 12:6-8). And if by grace, it is not earned but received (as required for us to function in our gifts). All authority belongs to Jesus. We cannot take a measure of authority from Him, but only receive the measure of authority that He chooses to give us.
It is of utmost importance to note that godly authority must be exercised with godly character. When Paul wrote to Timothy to stir up the gift that was in him, he first reminded Timothy of his qualification based on his sincere faith and godly character (2 Tim. 1:5-6). As you walk in your gifts, having godly character and being led by the Holy Spirit, you will see the proper functioning of the authority God has given you in your life.
In 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, speaking of himself and others in leadership, Paul writes of the divine power of their weapons for the destruction of the works of darkness. In verse 6 he says, “…we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” Without changing the meaning, we could paraphrase it like this: “We are ready to destroy all the works of the devil, once your submission is complete.” Paul, and the other leaders there, had been given the authority to destroy the works of the devil in the Corinthian church, but their full authority could not be exercised, and the benefits of it could not been realized, without the submission of the church. They were ready to exercise their authority, but the church was not ready to submit to it. The full benefits and blessings of God-ordained authority are seen only when the exercising of that authority by those to whom God has delegated it, is met by the submission of those whom He has placed under it. If we would see godly authority for what it truly is, we would celebrate it as a gift to both those in authority and those subject to it. Do we not all as Christians submit to God’s authority, and for it receive His blessings? Why then, if God has so chosen to delegate authority to His children, should we not joyfully receive it also and experience the blessings therein? Did God not delegate authority to man from the beginning when He commanded Adam and Eve to subdue the Earth and rule over every other creature?
Later in that same chapter (2 Cor. 10), Paul makes an amazing statement. He said his hope was that as the Corinthians’ faith grew, it would result in his sphere of authority being enlarged, so as to preach the gospel in other regions. His authority would be enlarged through the increase in faith of those under his authority! Faith in what? Faith in God’s authority, manifested in their submission to the authority the Lord had given Paul to oversee them. And the result would be the further building up of the body of Christ. Paul was showing them, in this 10th chapter of his letter, that once they fully submitted to God’s authority, both direct and delegated, they would further see the works of the devil destroyed (v. 5-6) and the body of Christ built up (v. 15-16).
Acceptance of authority is a manifestation of faith – in both the exercise of it and submission to it. The centurion who came to Jesus (Matt. 8:5-13) confessed to be a man under authority who also walked in great authority. His submission to, and faith in, Jesus’ authority made a way for Jesus’ authority to be exercised in accordance with the Father’s will, resulting in the healing of his servant. The operation and resultant blessing of God’s delegated authority was facilitated by the submission (faith) of a man to that authority.
Do you want to experience a greater measure of God’s blessings in your life? Submission to authority is a key. You receive from God by faith; submission to authority is an act of faith, and faith is what pleases Him (Heb. 11:6).
The proper functioning of authority in the body of Christ is necessary for the work of the kingdom to be done. We rejoice to see the body of Christ built up and the works of the devil destroyed through the exercise of Christ’s authority. But most of all, we rejoice that our names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:19-20).