The last discussion dealt with the word authority in the Great Commission. It is important to understand what this word means in the Bible (the Bible being the best commentary on the Bible).
This Greek word for authority is used 103 times in the New Testament. It is translated either as authority, authorities, powers, power, right, jurisdiction, or liberty. The following study of the New Testament passages will help the reader to understand the usage of authority as it applies to the Great Commission and the Ministry Manifesto (New Testament).
God Gives Authority to Governments
God gives limited authority for the government of the world, though He is using them to accomplish His will. All authority is given by God and He retains all authority. Government by man was given by God when Noah exited the ark with the institution of the death penalty in Genesis 9:5-6. And taking this concept farther, with the phrase be subject in Romans 13:1 and Titus 3:1 (hupotássō), a military term for the arrangement of troops under the field general, thus showing the delegation of authority of the government; citizens are subject to the authority of a government in all matters that are lawful, not to unlawful matters. A careful study of the following passages will be helpful to grasp this delegation of authority from God to man:
So they (chief priests and the scribes, Luke 20:19) watched Him (Jesus), and sent spies who pretend to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and authority of the governor. But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent. (Luke 20:20, 26, emphasis added)
Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11-12, emphasis added)
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (Romans 13:1-4, emphasis added)
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work. (Titus 3:1, emphasis added)
Then Pilate said to Him (Jesus), “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release you?”
Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10-11, emphasis added)
Governments and Religious Institutions have Authority Structures
Saul the persecutor was given his authority from the religious governing leadership. Authority can be delegated and given as any institution has legislated within its form of government. This is seen in the authority given to Saul before his conversion from the religious leaders in Jerusalem who had legal authority over religious matters as long as they cooperated with the Roman government.
Then Ananius answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man (Saul) how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Your name.” (Acts 9:13-14)
This I (Paul) also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them….While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests. (Acts 26:10, 12)
When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belong to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. (Luke 23:6-7)