Having considered the significant place of authority in Jesus’ ministry (Part 1) and in the early church (Part 2), we come to the question of how this should impact our current experience of power in the church. Here are four questions the New Testament compels us to ask.
1. Do we believe that Jesus has all authority?
The relationship between faith and power in the Bible is undeniable. Paul consistently talks about the power of the gospel toward those who believe in him (Ephesians 1:19-21, Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:18). To those who find Jesus to be scandalous or ridiculous, the news of his death and resurrection changes nothing. But to those who receive it to be true, this gospel is the very power of God that gives them eternal life, transfers them from Satan’s domain to Christ’s, and gives them the right to become God’s children.
How often does this power go unexperienced for us in the church, who–in name at least–are believers? How often do we become like Jesus’ childhood neighbors who were so familiar with Jesus that “he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58)?
To ask it another way, do we expect Jesus to display his power in our midst? Do we look first to him or do we look to the doctor, the wealthy person, the politically connected one, the professor, or the expert? If we could dissect the anticipation of our hearts, what would it say about who or what we truly believe has the authority?
2. Do we pray believing that Jesus has all authority?
When the early church prayed, they cried out to the Sovereign Lord, the Creator of all by whose predestined plan Herod and Pilate put Jesus to death. Their prayers were shot through with a sense of the absolute, unrivaled authority of God. “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31).
Does this describe our prayers? Is our spiritual vision filled with the supremacy and reign of our Creator God? Does the position of Jesus as seated “in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21) inform how we pray? Do we pray out of a conviction that nothing is impossible for God while submitting our petitions to his purposes? Do our prayers center on his glory, whether that be displayed through the miraculous or through our perseverance through trials?
3. Do we live believing that Jesus has all authority?
When we pray, as Jesus taught us, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10), is the starting point for that prayer ourselves? Before we worry about the display of Jesus’ authority over disease or politics or antagonists to the faith, do we submit to Jesus’ authority over our sinful hearts? Is he Lord over our public life and our private life, our work life and family life, our time, money, and sexuality? Does our belief in his declaration, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” manifest in our response “to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20)?
4. Do we proclaim the gospel believing that Jesus has all authority?
This is not only a question for preachers. This is for all believers who proclaim “Jesus is Lord,” whether in a pulpit, at a breakfast table, a coffee shop, or on the job site. Do we, like the first heralds, talk not only about God’s resurrection power but preach the gospel with power? Like Paul, do we bypass cleverness and eloquence for preaching “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”? Do we present Christ in such a way “so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)?
Speaking gospel truth is not confined to evangelism. Whether in the public square or against our own unbelief, do we seek to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5)? Recognizing that there may be times to dialogue about the faith, are we also willing to rebuke that which is anti-Christ?
There is much work that needs to be done individually and corporately if the church is to display the power of God that characterized the ministry of Jesus and the early church. As we take the questions above seriously, may God display more and more of his authority through new birth for the spiritually dead, transformation of his people into Jesus’ likeness, endurance with joy through afflictions, and healing of bodies, emotions, and relationships.