Receiving and Using Jesus’s Power and Authority
(Note, [there wasn’t room for this note in the local paper]: I feel so inadequate to write on this topic, because there are many distortions and misuses of scripture’s teachings about truths like the authority of believers and healing. But the temptation often is, when a teaching is distorted or misused, to avoid this teaching altogether, and that is wrong. Just because people sometimes counterfeit twenty-dollar bills I have not sworn off of them. In the same way we must teach what Jesus teaches us about authority and healing, even though these teachings are frequently distorted.)
I ended last week’s column this way: “When we become adopted children of God through faith in His Son…then I believe Jesus gives us as a community some of his own authority and power.” I continued, “Next week…I shall continue to discuss (from scripture) the kinds of authority which I believe Jesus has given to his people.”
So this week, let’s dive again into the Bible in an unexpected place, Genesis 41:42. There, Pharaoh puts a signet ring on the finger of a Hebrew slave named Joseph. Two verses later we find Pharaoh explaining his action: the signet ring he has given Joseph has conferred his own power and authority on him. He says, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift a hand or foot in all Egypt.”
Pharaoh has all the power in Egypt. Joseph, a Hebrew slave recently released from jail, has no power. But just because Pharaoh has all the power in Egypt he can assign his power to whomever he pleases. Pharaoh is also the supreme authority in Egypt. Joseph has no authority, but just because Pharaoh has all authority, he can delegate his authority to whomever he pleases, in this case, Joseph. So it is with God and us.
In the universe God has all power and all authority. At Matthew 28:18 Jesus says to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” (Christians believe God the Father shares all his power and authority with Jesus His eternal Son.) But among Christians the more controversial question is, “Has Jesus delegated or shared his authority and power with his followers?”
In Luke 9:1 we read this about Jesus: “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases.”
In the next chapter of Luke we read he gave similar power to seventy-two disciples. Luke 10:17-20 says: “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”
In Acts 3:6, after the ascension of Jesus, Peter is in Jerusalem and encounters a lame beggar who asks him for money. Peter replies, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” Peter is obviously still using the authority Jesus gave him. Notice also that Peter humbly heals the man “in the name of Jesus,” and definitely not in his own authority or power!
To summarize, Jesus gave his followers power not only to proclaim the good news but also to heal the sick and to cast out demons. But were they always able to successfully use this authority? The answer from scripture is no. In Mark 9:17-29 we read of a boy who was possessed by a spirit which made him mute and whose father came to Jesus asking that his son be healed. When Jesus asked the father if he believed Jesus could heal his son, the father answered, “I believe, help my unbelief.” Then Jesus cast out the demon and healed the boy. Subsequently the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, why could we not cast it out?” Jesus replies “This kind comes out only by prayer.” (Some manuscripts in Matthew add “and fasting.”)
So I believe scripture teaches that Jesus has given his church certain authority (for example to heal in his name) but that does not mean that the church always exercises this authority with visible effectiveness. Why not? Based on Jesus’s words, perhaps one reason is that the Bible teaches that activities that are deeply bathed in sustained prayer are often more effective. Beyond that in Matthew 13:58 we read that in his home town of Nazareth, Jesus “did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” To me this means that in a culture, or an environment, (or a church!) in which there is a lot of doubt and skepticism, miraculous healing is hard to achieve.
Yet Jesus gives his church this authority. I believe we should seek to learn about, and try our best to tap into and prayerfully, imperfectly, and humbly use, the divine power and authority Jesus has given to us. To me this is part of what it means to “keep seeking first the kingdom of God.”
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at This column first appeared in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News. .