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Authority and Power

The ekklesia had an inauspicious beginning: They were hiding in the upper room. True, they were praying, but I bet there was no small measure of fear in their group. Luke doesn’t mention their fear, but I think we can assume it was there. A conspiracy against this band of disciples reached the highest positions of power in Jerusalem. An informant had been bought. Jesus, the most popular man in Israel, had been convicted in a kangaroo court. He was murdered. Roman guards had been bribed. Surely this cabal would come for the 11 next. So they hid.

They had been given authority by Jesus to “Go and make disciples of all nations,” but they lacked the power to do it.

That all changed when the Holy Spirit came upon them. As the Spirit fell, the disciples immediately left their safe-room and boldly headed for the streets of Jerusalem. Three thousand people were converted by their witness.

Later, when the religious leadership of Jerusalem arrested Peter and John and threatened the church, the ekklesia returned to prayer. We read: “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31, NIV84) Again, God granted his church the power to follow his Commission.

In both episodes, the disciples had the authority to disciple nations, but lacked the power. Authority and power are different, but related, dynamics of the church. Authority (exousia) describes divine ruling power or governmental influence. Power (dunamis) describes divine ability, capacity, or means. The church needs to exercise them both.

Think of the difference this way. The power of the car is in the engine, but the authority that gives direction to that power resides in the steering wheel. As far as energy and noise, the engine has it. But the steering wheel silently determines where that power is directed. The car needs both to be of much value.

Jesus has given his church authority and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. We must step out in authority while praying for power to fulfill the task.

Let’s talk about it this Sunday!

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