Using God-Given Spiritual Authority
After Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, his listeners sat in awe. Scripture says, “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29, NKJV). The Greek word for authority in this verse means “with mastery, power, liberty; as one in control.” Jesus’ listeners were saying, in essence, “This man knows what he’s talking about.”
The authority Jesus wielded shook up the entire religious system. Jewish leaders kept coming to him, demanding to know where he had obtained his authority. “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23). Jesus answered them point blank, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (Matthew 21:27). Our Lord knew he didn’t have to answer to anyone about where he got his spiritual authority.
Christ had this authority not only in the pulpit but also over satanic powers. When he entered a synagogue in Capernaum, he was accosted by a man possessed by a demonic spirit. The spirit cried out, “Let us alone! What have we to do with you, Jesus of Nazareth? Did you come to destroy us?” (Mark 1:24).
In this situation, Jesus knew this synagogue didn’t need a sermon or interpretation of the law. It needed a person with authority, someone who could chase the devil out of their midst and cleanse both the possessed man and the powerless church.
“But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’” (Mark 1:25). Once again, the people marveled, saying, “What is this?... For with authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him” (Mark 1:27).
If ever the church of Jesus Christ needed his power and authority, that time is now. In my opinion, Christians today possess very little spiritual authority, whether in the pulpit or pews. As a result, Satan regularly enters God’s house and spoils it uncontested.
The people of God were in a similar condition when Jesus began his ministry on earth. The church was full of disabled, depressed, demon-harassed people. Evil spirits blinded people’s eyes, closed their ears, withered their limbs and afflicted them with leprosy. These spirits even possessed children, casting them into water to try to drown them.
Today, the church is just as filled with hurting, devil-harassed people. Why? We have very little spiritual authority to challenge Satan’s onslaughts. Think of all the desperate parents today who sit silently in church, grieving over sons or daughters who have become addicts or alcoholics. What do these parents seek in a church? Do they want entertaining, fun, ten-minute sermonettes? No, they need someone with spiritual authority to bring them real hope.
Today, God is raising up a holy people who have spiritual authority.
Satan always contests those who pray and grieve over the condition of God’s house. He aims to keep things just the way they are. He tells God’s praying servants, “This isn’t your battle. Why take on this situation as your personal project? You ought to be praying for your own problems and needs. Go away, and worship God. Enjoy yourself.”
Those who possess spiritual authority won’t be intimidated. They know the backslidden church is God’s concern, and they refuse to stand by as the devil moves in. We dare not allow Satan to rob, deceive and steal from Christ’s body at will.
I say to every suffering parent that you must lay hold of spiritual authority yourself. Even if your child shuts you out, you still can attain power in your secret closet of prayer. You may protest, “I don’t possess the same authority as Jesus did to make Satan flee.” Jesus holds all authority, and he confers to his followers his authority to do his works. “And when he had called his twelve disciples to him, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease” (Matthew 10:1). “I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).
The apostle Peter was made of flesh and blood just like the rest of us, and he wielded spiritual authority over the devil. He commanded the lame man at the temple gate, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6), and the man was healed. The religious leaders of the day recognized this power in Peter, asking him, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” (Acts 4:7).
Nowhere does the Bible suggest that this same power isn’t meant for us today.
The hidden person of the heart fasts and prays.
Once, when the disciples were helpless against the enemy, Jesus told them that power over Satan came only by praying and fasting (see Mark 9:29). Why is this so? One reason may be that the Lord wants to work on our inner man as he equips us with authority. He wants our heart completely attuned to him.
Most of us equate power with something flashy and earthshaking. This doesn’t hold true with spiritual authority.
David was given great authority as the nation’s leader, yet he learned a great truth about authority through the Lord’s gentleness. He wrote, “Your right hand has held me up, your gentleness has made me great” (Psalm 18:35). He recognized that the Lord’s gentleness toward him had increased his realms of rulership. Think about what David was saying here. Consider the great mercy the Lord showed David during his lifetime. He had chosen David to be king when he was the lowliest of his brothers, then God protected David through all the attacks of Saul.
David was overwhelmed by how gentle and loving God was to him during this terrible period. He said, “The Lord has been so tender in dealing with me. How could I ever be hard on anyone who goes through what I endured? God’s grace toward me has enlarged my heart. Now I want to show tenderness to others: my friends, my children, everyone.”
You move in spiritual authority the moment you lose all fear of the devil.
David declared, “I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4). He was speaking of the kind of quiet, unperturbed spirit Peter described. David’s hidden man remained undisturbed in heart no matter what Satan threw at him. Why? He was fully at rest in God’s faithfulness to perform his word.
David was able to say, “I have had a revelation of my Father’s love and patience toward me. Therefore, I will accept no more lies from the devil. I know better than to listen to him anymore because the Lord has educated me. Let storms of trouble come. Let demons rage. Let enemies rise up on all sides. Let sickness and even death stare me in the face. My heart is at rest because I know all things are in my Father’s hands. He is working everything for good.”
By contrast, hand-wringing Christians have no authority. All they can think is “Why would God allow this to happen? What am I going to do?” Their lives are full of chaos, fear and murmuring because they have forfeited all of Christ’s resources. They’ve neglected to hide God’s Word in their hearts for times of crisis.
The only righteousness that frightens Satan away is the righteousness of faith. “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever” (Isaiah 32:17). You can’t stand against the devil simply by observing do’s and don’ts; those aren’t the essence of righteousness. Righteousness is believing what God says is true and living your life by it. It’s that simple.
You aren’t truly righteous until you believe in the absolute power of Jesus’ blood to cleanse your soul. Some people try witnessing for Christ intensely yet have never allowed themselves to feel forgiven. They are forever convinced God is mad at them.
Isaiah says that “the effect of righteousness (is) quietness and assurance forever.” In short, faith in God’s promise of forgiveness produces an unshakable confidence in us. We may still be sorely tempted, but we know Jesus is at work in us. Paul adds that God is faithful to make a way for us to bear up under all our temptations (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).
Beloved, spiritual authority is to walk in full assurance of the reliability of God’s Word. I do what it says, submitting to every command, and my faith in his Word puts my heart at rest. Satan can no longer stay in my presence; I need merely to say, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan,” and he will flee.
You don’t have to live under condemnation anymore. You have been forgiven. You are being trained and matured in God’s mercy and kindness, and you are learning to grow in your hidden man. Finally, you are trusting his Word to you in every crisis. That gives you all spiritual authority!