One of the great causes of conflict in the Body of Christ is the failure to note the radical difference between the authority of Jesus and the authority of the world. The world embraces an authority grounded in the law and its enforcement. It comes from the Latin word, Imperium. It was the nature of the authority used by the Crusaders to sack the Middle East, and by the Moslem forces which eliminated the Christians from north Africa.
Jesus explicitly pointed out to His disciples that His authority different. He said, “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them but it shall not be so among you. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you, must be slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.” Mk10:42-45
The nature of the authority of Jesus may be seen in the authority that He used, and which He gave to the disciples when He sent them out as apostles. He gave them authority and sent them to, “Proclaim the Kingdom of God, to heal the sick, and to cast out demons.” When He met them at the mountain after His resurrection, He cited His authority and sent them out to make disciples and teach. When He appeared to them on the first day where they were hidden, He authorized them to receive Holy Spirit and remit Sin.
In none of that authorization did He exercise any enforcement of His way of life. Instead, He invited them to enter the Kingdom of God, which is at hand, and to meet the King. To know the King is eternal life. When we are authorized to proclaim the Kingdom we are to let people know that they too might know Him so they might be set free, not subjugated in bondage.
When He cast out demons, He exercised authority over the demon, but not the person whom He set free. When the disciples returned from their mission He made it clear that He had given them authority over serpents and scorpions and all the power of the enemy, but not over humans. Lk 10:17-20
When He healed, He exercised the authority to set people free from bondage to disease. When He sent the disciples out He gave them authority to do the same. He authorized His followers to set people free and never to bind them, or force them into conformity.
When He sent them to teach, it was to teach what He had taught. He taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. He knew Scripture but He also taught, not as one who quoted Moses all of the time, but as one who added illustrations which brought light from His own experience of the Kingdom He proclaimed. He called us to know the Kingdom of God, and to invite others to enter in, not threaten any person with exclusion.
When He made disciples, He called them to follow Him so that He might make them something they were not when He called them. He called them to follow Him so He might enable them to fulfill the purpose for which God had created them. He set them free from bondage to groping for meaning and purpose in a world that is not able to tell them why they are here. He did not say, “Go fish for men,” but, “ I will make you fishers of men.”
When He sends us to make disciples, He sends us not to bring them into some bondage to something we believe; but to meet Him and find in Him the wholeness of life in the context of the community of His love. It is not a matter of believing doctrine and discipline written by someone else. It is a matter of knowing Jesus, risen from the dead and present with His people to enable them to become all He intends them to be.
When He forgave Sin, He set people free from the bondage to guilt and shame that besets much of the human race. The authority He gives us is to do all that He has done for us as well as for others. He has given us the ministry of letting humans off the hook, rather than hooking them with guilt. Anyone who uses guilt as a motivation in the Christian community is exercising the authority of the world, not the authority of Jesus.
He has given us the authority to share the life that He has given for us and to us. He has not given us the authority to judge one another. All of the authority He has given is compatible with Forgiveness. It is in His love and the forgiving nature of that love that we find the meaning and nature of Christian authority.
We do not seek so much to change people as to bring them into the love and presence of the one who is able to recreate them and make them new. It is not for us to order them about, but to allow Jesus to reach out to them through us to make them His own.
WE CAN DO WHAT WE ARE
If we are going to wield the authority of Jesus, we would do well to know what it is and where it comes from. The Greek word for authority is exousia. It is two words, ex - which means out of, and ousia - which means substance. In short, it means that I can do what I am.
John tells us that as many as receive Him, He gives the authority to become a child of God. (Jn 1:12) The way in which He does that appears later in the Gospel when He tells Nicodemus, “You must be born again by water and the Holy Spirit. That which is born of the flesh is flesh (and can do flesh), and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (and can do spirit.).
Paul points out in Romans that we are baptized into the death of Christ. We are buried with Him in a death like His and raised up in a resurrection like His. We become a new creation, authorized by Jesus, and empowered by Holy Spirit.
In the fourth century, the church began to trade the authority of Christ for the authority of the emperor of Rome, and they began to trade the power of Holy Spirit for the power of the army that kept the peace of Rome, and we began to become confused over the nature of authority. We began to put people under people who were to have authority over them, and call it the authority of Jesus. It is this confusion that we need to correct. We are to take back the authority of Jesus, not to bind and coerce, but to set people free to obey His will and walk in the Kingdom of our God.