THERE are few subjects relating to the Christian life concerning which there is so little exact knowledge as that of the Authority of the believer. This is not because such authority is the property only of a few elect souls. On the contrary, it is the possession of every true child of God. It is one of the "all things received in Christ. Its reception dates from the soul's contact with Calvary.
Probably because of the extreme importance of a correct under standing of its privileges and responsibilities, and because of the power which they confer on a militant believer, the enemy has specially sought to hold back this knowledge from God's people. He has been successful through the employment of the "blinding" tactics which he has found effective in the case of the "lost" and of those who "believe not" (2 Corinthians 4: 3, 4). For it is strangely true that, although its principles are set forth in a definite way to this epistle to the Ephesians there is very little grasp of them by the majority of even spiritual believers.
That there is such authority is recognized, but it is confounded with other aspects of the life of faith, and thereby loses its distinctive value and power. Every doctrine of Scripture, while correlated closely with others of the same class, has features peculiar to itself. Only as these are clearly understood, and held in their right relationship, can there be the fullest benefit from their reception. The constitution and laws of the spiritual world are perfectly orderly and logical, and must be adhered to and carefully obeyed if the desired and promised results are to be gained.
In making this statement it is not intended to suggest that a logical and intelligent mind can of itself grasp spiritual values, or gain possession of spiritual blessings. Were that possible, the deepest phases of the Christian life would be the possession of the most intellectual. Whereas, it is very definitely asserted by the Spirit of God that, in the apprehension of divine truth, "the wisdom of the wise" is destroyed, and "the understanding of the prudent" brought to naught. Thank God, there is an inner spiritual understanding, conferred through the enlightenment of that same Spirit, which enables' "the foolish things of the world to confound the wise"-this principle being established by God "that no flesh should glory in his presence."
Wrong ConceptionsThe Authority of the Believer is by some confounded with the fulness of the Spirit. It is taught that the coming of the gracious Spirit of God into the soul in His divine fulness gives authority. But ' the believer's authority exists before he seeks or realizes in any special way the Spirit's presence. It is certainly true that the fulness of the Spirit empowers and enlightens the believer. By this alone he is enabled to exercise authority. But the fulness is not the source of the authority, but something apart from it.
Nor can authority be regarded as some special gift conferred, whereby the recipient is endued with power, by virtue of which he performs mighty acts, such as the casting out of evil spirits. Discernment of spirits and miraculous powers are mentioned among the charismata of the Holy Spirit, but they differ from authority.
By others, the Authority of the Believer is looked upon as nothing more than prevailing prayer. We have heard men on their knees, when under a special urge, giving thanks to God for the gift of prayer conferred at the time. But, later, there has been no result seen from the agony or enthusiasm of intercession through which they have passed. Personal blessing has resulted from the intense seeking of God's face, but a specific answer to their supplications has not been manifest.
What Authority IsLet us, first of all, define the difference between "authority" and "power." In the New Testament the translators have not been uniform in the rendering of many words, and these two words have suffered among others. One notable instance is in Luke 10: 19 where "power" is twice used although there is a different Greek word in each instance. To have translated the first of these by the English word "authority" would have given a clearer idea of the meaning of the passage. Perhaps our good old English tongue is at times to blame in not providing sufficient synonyms to meet the demands of the original. But a little more uniformity in rendering the same word from the original by the same English equivalent (a thing usually, though not always, possible) would have given greater clearness of understanding although in places it might not have been so euphonious.
One stands at the crossing of two great thoroughfares. Crowds of people are surging by; multitudes of high-powered vehicles rush along. Suddenly, a man in uniform raises a hand. Instantly, the tide of traffic ceases. He beckons to the waiting hosts on the cross street, and they .flow across in an irresistible wave. What is the explanation? The traffic officer has very little "power." His most strenuous efforts could. not avail to hold back one of those swiftly-passing cars. But he has something far better. He is invested with the "authority" of the corporation whose servant he is. The moving crowds recognize this authority and obey it.
Authority, then, is delegated power. Its value depends upon the force behind the user. There is a story told of the late Right Honorable W. E. Gladstone, Prime Minister of Great Britain. On one occasion, he brought in to Queen Victoria, an important measure for her signature, in order that it might become law. The Queen objected to it, and, after some discussion, refused to sign. The Minister of the Crown was unusually urgent: "Your Majesty," he said, respectfully but firmly, "you must sign this Bill." She turned on him haughtily: "Sir, I am the Queen of England." Unmoved, the Statesman answered quietly: "Your Majesty, I am the people of England." After a little thought, she accepted the situation, and affixed her signature to the document.
This story may be apocryphal, but it illustrates the question of authority when two opposing powers are in conflict. The Believer, who is fully conscious of divine Power behind him, and of his own authority thereby, can face the enemy without fear or hesitation. Those who confront him bear the specific names of power and authority: "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities (archas, the first or preeminent ones), against powers (exousias, the authorities)." But, behind the "authority" possessed by the believer, there is a "Power" infinitely greater than that which backs his enemies, and which they are compelled to recognize.