Have you ever considered the difference between power and authority?
It is possible for a person to have power but no authority, but typically a person who has authority also has power.
We see in this section of scripture a discussion of this matter and the importance of recognising the power AND the authority of God in our lives.
Here we see a centurion call upon Jesus to heal a slave who was dear to him. The centurion sent some of the elders of the Jews to Jesus to make this request.
It is evident that this centurion was a man of considerable power and authority. He was able to send elders of Israel to Jesus to make his request. In addition he had built the synagogue for the people, and so he was a man of considerable influence as well.
There are many forms of power, and that is a study in its own right. There is power derived from a person’s position, there is referred power when a person has the ear of another more powerful person. There is the power of influence and so on.
From what we can understand here, this centurion certainly had the power that came with his position as a centurion, but he also had the power of influence, for the elders appeared to have willingly gone to Jesus on his behalf.
But sometimes power is not enough to do as you may wish unless you have the authority to carry out your actions.
There are many situations where people may have the power to act but are restrained because they do not have the authority to act. War-time is a good example. A platoon or regiment of soldiers may have the power to unleash tremendous displays of force, but without the authority to proceed they must wait until directed by their superiors.
Recognising the Authority of God
However what we see in this scripture is that this centurion, despite the power that he had was also a humble man. He recognised that Jesus not only had the power of God, but also the authority of God to exercise that power.
This centurion understood the difference between power and authority and he also understood the spiritual nature of the work Jesus was doing.
This is the reason why the centurion did not come to Jesus himself but sent the elders. He knew that it was not necessary for Jesus to come to the slave physically to touch and heal the slave, but that Jesus only had to say the word and the slave would be healed. The centurion understood that God is able to do anything and it was not necessary for Jesus to be present in the flesh to do this work.
In saying these things it is clear he recognised the authority of God in Jesus and thus a miraculous healing from a distance was not out of the question. He believed God could do this if Jesus only said the word.
How does this help us?
God will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask the Lord for it. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us power. This was shown in Acts 1:8 saying, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.”
More importantly, the Holy Spirit does the work of transformation in us so that we can become the children of God. John 1:12 says, “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” And as for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit it is written, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
There are some who would love to have this miracle working power and be able to heal people miraculously. I have heard some people try to “claim” the promises and power of God. But they cannot do this because God has not given them the authority. The key to miracle working power and using the promises of God is not in having the power, it is in having the authority.
I believe, and this is just my opinion, that Jesus has not given these broad miracle working powers AND the authority to people because man cannot be trusted. Jesus said that he would support and confirm the message of the truth with signs and miracles. (Mark 16:15-20) The reason these signs do not operate is because people are seeking them for the wrong reason. It is not the signs that are important, it is the message of the truth. If anyone wants the signs Jesus promised they first must seek the truth. Then Jesus may grant both the power and authority to carry out such miraculous works to confirm the message of the truth.
Jesus had the authority to do the works he did for it was given to him by the Father.
We too have not been left without some power and authority. Authority has been given to the church for the benefit of the people and the church. For example, we have the authority to heal through anointing with oil by the elders of the church as described in James 5:14-15 which says, “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up.” We have the authority to pray and operate various forms of ministry in the church. We have the authority to baptise and lay hands on people to receive the Holy Spirit so that they can enter the kingdom of God.
Finally, it is not important that we do not have the authority to do miraculous works. It is more important that we become the children of God. Jesus showed this saying, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” (Matthew 7:22-23) As Jesus taught, our number one priority is to, “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)
(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Spanish Browne)
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