How to Exercise Spiritual Authority
How to Exercise Spiritual Authority
I first met him when he came to speak at a student weekend while I was studying at Cambridge University. Although he was the guest speaker, he was very gracious and I sensed a deep humility.
When he spoke, he did so with real authority. His message was simple and focused on telling people about Jesus. A few years later he came to be the vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton.
This modest and deeply spiritual man not only led our church (and others) at a key moment in its growth, but also trained some of the most influential Christian leaders in the UK over the last 40 years. David Watson, David MacInnes, Sandy Millar and John Irvine were all curates to John Collins, a clergyman who has never sought prominence or platform, but who has invested his whole life in serving others.
His authority does not come from his position in life or from worldly power. Rather, his authority comes from his relationship with Jesus Christ. It is self-authenticating.
Today people are very wary of authority. Of course, it can be abused. However, godly, spiritual authority is a source of great blessing.
Voice of authorityPsalm 29:1-11
There is a huge spiritual hunger and need in our society. People are searching for spiritual knowledge and experience. This psalm points us towards ‘the voice of the Lord’ (v.3). David describes the awesome power, majesty and authority of God’s voice (vv.4–5a,7–9a).
Today, the supreme way we hear the voice of the Lord is through the words of the Bible. The word of God is authoritative, powerful and majestic: ‘We fall to our knees – we call out, “Glory!”’ (v.9, MSG). Being on our knees is an appropriate way to listen to the voice of the Lord. I love to start each day on my knees, reading the Bible, trying to hear God’s voice – asking, ‘Lord, what are you saying to me today?’
David starts by saying, ‘Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength’ (v.1). All authority, power and strength belong to God. However, he does not keep it all to himself. As you listen to his voice he shares with you his authority, power and strength. David ends with, ‘The Lord gives strength to his people’ and ‘blesses his people with peace’ (v.11).
These are two things that we desperately need as we face the battles of life (internal and external). We need God’s ‘strength’ and his ‘peace’.
Lord, thank you that you share with us your authority, power and strength. Please strengthen me for the battles of today and give me peace in the midst of the storms of life.
God-given authorityMark 11:27-12:12
Jesus spoke and acted with God-given authority. He listened to the voice of the Lord and spoke the very words of God. This is the key. If you want to speak with authority, spend time with God, listening to his voice.
It was perfectly obvious to everyone that Jesus had authority. The only question his opponents asked was where that authority came from (11:28). Jesus responded with a brilliant question about John the Baptist.
He asked them whether John’s authority was from God (‘heaven’) or of ‘human origin’ (v.30). They could not answer the question because they did not want to admit it came from God (as they had not believed him) (v.31). Nor did they want to say that it came from human origin because the people recognised that John was a true prophet (v.32).
I once heard a preacher, who believed that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ended with the apostolic age, being asked the question, ‘Is the Pentecostal movement a move of God?’ It provoked a similar response to the one in today’s passage – he could not answer the question.
To say that ‘it came from God’ would mean recognising the outpouring of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit in our contemporary world. To deny that it came from God would be to deny the experience of over 600 million Christians around the world who have experienced God’s power through the Pentecostal movement.
Because Jesus’ interrogators refuse to answer his question about John the Baptist, Jesus refuses to answer their question about his authority. ‘Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things”’ (v.33b).
Jesus then tells a parable, which is intended to reveal the source of his authority. His opponents certainly recognise Jesus’ aim, for Mark tells us that they ‘looked for a way to arrest [Jesus] because they knew he had spoken the parable against them’ (12:12).
Jesus’ parable is about a man who ‘planted a vineyard… put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower’ (v.1). The parable is based on Isaiah 5:1–7 in which God is the owner and his people (particularly the leaders) are the vineyard. In Jesus’ parable, the servants who are sent and killed are God’s prophets, including John the Baptist. Jesus then introduces himself into his own parable: God ‘had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, “They will respect my son.”’ (Mark 12:6).
Jesus shows he has a unique authority because he is the unique Son of God. There is a very clear distinction made between the unique beloved son and heir and the different servants who are sent first. Yet, with amazing foresight, Jesus declares that he, the unique Son of God, will be killed (vv.7–8).
He then explains that the leadership of God’s people will be transferred to a new leadership (the early leaders of the church) with Jesus as their cornerstone: ‘The stone the builders rejected [that] has become the cornerstone’ (v.10; see also Psalm 118:22).
The unique Son of God has unique authority as the unique cornerstone of God’s people. Listen to him and you too will speak with the authority that derives from his authority.
Lord, thank you that you are the unique Son of God who spoke with the authority of God himself. Help me to walk in a close relationship with you, hear your voice and speak your words with authority.
Authority of JesusLeviticus 9:1-10:20
It is an awesome thing to enter into the presence of God – ‘The Glory of God appeared to all the people. Fire blazed out from God... When all the people saw it happen they cheered loudly and then fell down, bowing in reverence’ (9:23–24, MSG).
The example of Nadab and Abihu (10:1–2) shows that access to God’s presence should never be taken for granted. People today often want a relationship with God on their own terms and in their own way. However, it is only because of Jesus that you can enter God’s presence with confidence and without fear.
Access to the presence of God was made possible, in the Old Testament, through the complex sacrificial system. The high priest had to offer sacrifices for himself and the people (9:7–8). Because the high priest was a human being and, like us, was weak and sinful, he had to go on offering sacrifices for his own sin as well as the sins of the people.
Jesus has a unique authority. He is the sinless high priest. As the writer of Hebrews puts it: ‘Such a high priest truly meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself’ (Hebrews 7:26–27).
As a result, through Jesus you have access to the holy presence of God: ‘Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water’ (10:19–22).
You can come into the presence of God today and hear the voice of the Lord, receive his strength and peace, and speak with the authority that comes from having heard the voice of God.
Lord, thank you that I now have access to the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus. Today I want to draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith to hear the voice of the Lord, receive his strength and peace, and speak with the authority that comes from having heard the voice of God.
‘The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.’
That’s what I need each day: ‘strength’ and ‘peace’. Peace in a busy world and strength to carry out all that I need to do today.
Verse of the Day
‘God makes his people strong.
God gives his people peace’ (Psalm 29:11).