18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Our understanding of the word “Authority” would help steer this discussion in the right direction. The Wikipedia defines the word thus;
Authority is the legitimate power which one person or group possesses and practices over another.
Oxford dictionary (online) has these two definitions;
- The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
- A person or organization having political or administrative power and control.
From the above definitions, I would simply say that “Authority is not just the Position of power but the Right to exert power and Ability to show control of it.” The words you should take note of in this definition are; Position, Right, Ability and Power.
The truth is that the word Authority is often being misused; we don’t know what we really mean as it applies to us as Christians. No wonder authority is being abused and undermined. Before I go on, I would digress and give you allusions from one of the popular TV series of recent past – Game of Thrones (GoT).
From Season 1, Episode 5 “The Wolf and the Lion”. During the brief fight between The Mountain and The Hound (that is when The Mountain loses his temper at being defeated by Ser Loras). The King put an end to the fight when he stood up and pronounced “Stop this madness in the name of your King!” I have often wondered why the King didn’t just say: “I command you to stop this madness” – why give the command in the name of the position he holds?
In various episodes, we see/hear persons of authority carrying out a command, action or authorizing a will by the name they bear; which in effect holds the position, power and yes, the authority to act. There are copious examples from Lord Eddard Stark as Lord of Winterfell or as Hand of the King; or by Jon Snow as Commander of the Nights Watch; or by Daenerys Targaryen as Queen… I can go on with GoT, but the goal is not to discuss GoT, we wish to understand the concept- authority and how it is applied.
So, from the most recent stories in GoT, we delve into biblical stories of old that give us more insight to the use of name-calling as an effecter of authority.
The story about David and Goliath – 1 Samuel 17:45
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
David told Goliath, I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel. He obviously understands the authority that the name commands and expressly uses it.
What we have tried to establish is that authority resides in the position or status; it is very important to understand the capacity of that position or status, or else one might not be able to effect authority. Several presidents assume and leave office in most democratic settings, they hold certain level of power or clout after they leave office, but they only had authority when they were in office and were often addressed by the position they held.
At any point or time, we hold/act (or have held/acted) in a position of authority, do we actually show “Position, Right, Ability and Power”? Or are we drowned by the weight and responsibilities of the authority we hold?