In this letter I want to look at some of the various words used to describe authority or the attributes of authority. There is not necessarily anything spiritual in regard to these various words, but by defining them we can draw some spiritual conclusions to our own understanding of what authority might be. Remember, we live in cultures and societies that are influenced by the curse of the fall of man and authority has been twisted and diminished to an understanding of control and manipulation. Authority is not about control or manipulation. True authority brings life and the release of life to others. It is neither a function of nor a character of getting from others, but rather that of giving increase and life to others.
The first word I want to mention in regard to authority is the Greek word dunastes (GSRN # 1413). This word simply describes a ruler or an officer, as the acting officer in a given administration. This word is neither good nor bad. The understanding is in the heart of the user or the receiver. There is a difference between what God defines as authority and what we often think. This word is used to describe the Ethiopian eunuch that encountered Phillip in the book of Acts.
Acts 8:27 So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship…
An acting official could function in authority that is life giving or they could grasp for power and seek to control or manipulate in their position of responsibility. There is an authority of appointed position. It is a place of responsibility and should be fulfilled for the wellbeing of others.
Another word for authority is the Greek word huperoche (GSRN # 5247). Again, this word is neither good nor bad. It is a place of responsibility and should be fulfilled for the good of others. This word means to have prominence, superiority in rank or character and it comes from a word that means to hold oneself above, to excel, or have superiority. This is simply a word that defines various levels of authority.
1 Timothy 2:1,2 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
This word is used to describe kings, presidents, governors, mayors, etc. This is simply a word describing various held positions of responsibility and thus these carry various levels of authority for the sake of those they administer to and for.
The next word to define is the Greek word authenteo (GSRN # 831). Paul used this word when dealing with an issue of husbands and wives.
1 Timothy 2:12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
Paul was giving instructions in regard to a wife speaking as her own self. This word means to act of oneself or to dominate. Paul’s instructions here were not words to silence women. The word silence here means a stillness an act of being at peace or being peaceable. They were instructions towards a husband and wife relationship. Paul was saying, don’t let a woman (wife) speak as an independent self or to dominate as a person not in relationship. There is an order of relationship in that of the wife and her husband. This has nothing to do with preaching and teaching. This is specifically implying a husband and wife relationship. In the New Covenant no one is to act of oneself or to dominate!
Everything in life is an issue of authority! The enemy will always try to get us to look at delegated authority as unto the flesh. It is only when we submit to the delegated authority as a spiritual God given authority that God can bring the true blessing of authority. We do not just submit to flesh. We submit to the life of the Spirit by submitting to those in the flesh. We must to submit to the lowest authority as though it is the source in order to put a demand upon the source of authority. The source is the HIGHEST AUTHORITY and not the delegation of that source. If you submit to an employer as being the lord you get the employer and all of his or her shortcoming. If you submit to your employer as UNTO THE LORD you receive the Lord’s intervention in all of your employer’s shortcomings. The issues at work are faith and not one’s of obligation. Faith will open the door for God to bring needed changes in authority. When we submit unto things in the flesh we get the flesh. We cannot submit with an attitude that says, “he or she is only human”. If we do this we will get flesh as our lord. This is true towards our relationships with spiritual leaders as well as for secular ones.
Control and manipulation is witchcraft and is not true authority. Lording is illegal and illegitimate as well as to manipulate or subvert authority. This is true at any level of authority. We want to open the door for God to change authority, as He needs to change them, not us.
Another word for authority is the Greek word epitage (GSRN # 2003). This word means, an injunction or decree, by implication “authoritativeness“. It is again a relational word as the preface epi means, to arrange upon or order in the context of being relationally connected to speak with authority. This word is in itself neither good nor bad, but is made good or bad in the mouth of the one who speaks.
Titus 2:15 Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
Paul told both Titus and Timothy to teach good doctrine (a way of life). They were to speak as ones with authority.
Authority carries a power of authority. It is not just a theoretical idea or position. Those in authority carry a power of authority. A word describing the power of authority is the Greek word dunatos (GSRN # 1415). If someone truly has authority there is a power of truth in their substance and their words. This word is used to illustrate a true witness verses a false one. This word is defined as being powerful, or capable and is derived from a word meaning, to be able or possible.
Acts 25:5 “Therefore,” he said, “let those who have authority among you go down with me and accuse this man, to see if there is any fault in him.”
In this text Paul was being charged and he was pointing out that they could not just accuse, they had to have a valid accusation. They had to have the power of authority to make the accusation.
There is also the Greek word kuriotes (GSRN # 2963). This word describes government and dominion. Again, this word is neither good nor bad. It is describing the responsibility of being sent to others for the sake of bringing life on their behalf. This is true for both the secular and the spiritual. When someone is sent to someone else as an authority in their lives they are given kuriotes, a mastery as one who has been given supreme authority in a specific area of life for the sake of another. .
2 Peter 2:10 …and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries…
Jude 1:8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries…
In both of these Scripture contexts, the dignitaries are sent authorities to those who speak evil of them. God sends authority into our lives for our blessing, not to hinder who we are. We must recognize and receive those that God sends to us with a mastery for our sakes.
Now I want to define a word used for authority that is probably our most common understanding of authority in the cultures and societies of the world. This is not the most common word used for authority in the Scripture, but it is the most common understanding of authority by unregenerate men. This is the Greek word katexousiazo (GSRN # 2715). This is probably our most common understanding, but it is not godly. This word means to have full privilege over someone else and it comes from varied relations with which it is joined. It literally means to control. It is to have privilege over someone else’s life by means of control over them, one above the other, to control. This is a Gentile (not in covenant) authority. It is illegitimate in the kingdom of heaven. We must not operate with this kind of authority in our roles of responsibility in life. There is greatness in serving others, but not in lording over them.
Matthew 20:20-28 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.”
So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
This authority describes the most common concept of authority by those who are not in covenant with God. It is an authority that seeks to use their position of responsibility to lord over others. It even leads to crossing the boundaries of responsibility for the sake of power and control. Jesus said that this is not the kind of authority those in the kingdom of heaven are to facilitate. We are not to act like people who are not in covenant. God put the Spirit of His covenant within our hearts as believers and He is writing on our hearts and minds so that we can fulfill His covenant.
Godly authority serves and releases while un-covenanted authority lords and controls. Power can control, but authority facilitates and releases. It doesn’t bring control. It brings freedom. Authority does not mean having control over someone else. It means living within the boundaries of a God-given responsibility in order to bring life to those within your sphere of influence. A husband has authority over his wife, but that authority is meant to release his wife and facilitates her to become all that she is meant to be. A husband who controls isn’t functioning in true authority.
How many times do we think that the term authority means to have control over someone else’s life? We are not to operate in this kind of authority. This is Gentile authority. It is non-covenantal authority.
True authority submits to other authority. It then becomes authority through release. Authority to lead and authority to help are both authorities. They must submit one to another. There is an authority to lead and an authority for others to follow. Authority in the kingdom is never given to operate in control. We don’t even have authority to control devils. We have the authority of life to cast them out because we have the authority to give life to men. A spirit of fear is afraid. We don’t need to control it with fear. We need to eradicate it by the power of perfect love.
In the mid 1980s I had a vision. I was standing in my city were there is often a gathering of young people. Above me I could see a principality and he had three large chains extending from the ground to three sides of his body. The chains were each stretched tightly as the principality stretched them to his place of standing in the air. He was shouting out belligerently. He declared, “There is no God!” “There are no absolutes!” Then I heard someone say, “Pull him down”, and some began to focus on him and try to pull him from his place of standing. Then I heard God say. “I don’t want him down. I want him out of here!” I turned with my side to the principality and I lifted my hands and began to worship God. I saw thousands of young people stand with me and they raised their hands in worship to God just as I was. Jesus began to come down in bodily form in the midst of the people. As He did, I could hear the breaking of the chains holding the principality. The presence of Jesus was dispossessing the ability for the principality to be held to the ground. God was revealing to me that the way to destroy the power of the enemy was to fill the place of its standing with an expression of the body of Christ. It was not about controlling the enemy. It was about dispossessing him with the presence of Christ.
Now I have come to God’s understanding of authority. The most common word for authority in the Scripture is the Greek word exousia (GSRN # 1849). This is a word that implies that something is what it really is. When Jesus spoke He did so as one having this kind of authority. This word means to have a privilege, force, competence, capacity, freedom, or mastery – a delegated influence. It is derived from a word that means it is right, through the idea of being out in public. It is a visible manifestation that influences the public with a tangible force that works in a complete capacity, competency, and freedom of that tangible force.
This word simply means that we are who we are. If we say we are a leader then the evidence is seen in followers. This authority would define the fact that the leaves of the tree are green in the summer. The fire is hot. The snow is cold. It is what it is. If something is green, it is green. It is what it is. If it is green, it is green. It has an exousia. If something is hot it is hot. It carries the full force of heat. If something is cold it is cold, it caries the influence of cold.
I will discuss the God-given authority of exousia in my next blog. For now, contemplate the words for authority. Remember, what makes something good or bad is in the heart of the one who possesses it. You are who you are and you don’t need to lord who you are over anyone else’s life. We must function in the exousia of who we are, but we must never exercise katexousiazo over anyone.
Food For Thought,
Ted J. Hanson