Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Did God Mean, When He Said...? (Understanding Spiritual Authority)


Do you read a Scripture passage and wonder, “What just happened?” It happens to me a lot, and it is the number one reason my Bible time is often extended. Countless times, one scripture reading leads to questions, which leads to rabbit trails, which leads to more questions and the cycle never ends. Last week’s post, What’s Wrong with Organized Religion, someone made a comment regarding 1 Samuel 15, and challenged me to read it again. I took up the challenge, even though I am very familiar with the passage.

I read the scripture as though it was the first time and I questioned something I hadn’t noticed on previous readings. God rejected Saul as king, but Saul retains his kingdom until his death, which is almost two decades later. If Saul is still king, then what happened? Is God proven to be unable to remove him from being king or was it something deeper?

I believe Saul’s spiritual authority was removed. He was no longer aligned with heavenly authority but his choice for rebellion established his allegiance with the power and authority of the prince of this world, which we know is really no authority (Matthew 28:18 and Romans 13:1).

It’s similar to the effect of eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The punishment was death, however Adam and Eve didn’t immediately die, so it must have indicated another kind of death – a spiritual death. Likewise, the consequence for Saul’s disobedience was loss of spiritual authority.

In this way, Daniel 2:21 makes sense, “he deposes kings and raises up others.”  One of the mysteries I struggle to understand is how leaders such as Stalin, Hitler or Bin Laden could be in power if I believe God is the one who established them, and if they are in power, how could anyone be expected to submit to their authority? But if I understand it in light of spiritual authority, then I know leaders that are not under the authority given by God, actually do not have any authority.

The same principle is at work in the New Testament with the example by the Sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-16), they were not under the authority of Jesus Christ, therefore they could not exorcise evil spirits with authority and they in turn were beaten up themselves.

The kingdom of heaven operates differently; spiritual authority cannot be seized or taken, it can only be given. Jesus said to his disciples, freely you have received, freely give (Matthew 10:8), and all authority has been given to Jesus, which he infers to his disciples in the commission to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all the commands (Matthew 28:18-20). The only way we can fulfill the commission is by authority, which Jesus gives to those who believe in him and submit their lives to him.

There is more to uncover and learn about the theme of spiritual authority - I’ve just begun on this subject. Do you have anything to add? Do you agree? Disagree? I’m interested in your thoughts and opinions, so please share in the comments.

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