The Believer's Authority and Victory!
By Raymond D. Sopp
2 Timothy 4:3: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires."
Oh how we love to sit under teaching that teach us about our authority and victory in Christ! We'll travel for miles, fill stadiums and churches to the max. We'll buy multiple tapes and books just to get our hands on this authority (power) and victory. How seductive it is to hear that we can have anything we desire and move mountains with just a mustard seed of faith. Victory over our circumstances, authority over our lives, all so we can custom design our lives into our OWN desired image. However, if we were to closely examine the Holy Scriptures, we would begin to see this teaching to be inconsistent with both God's Word, and the lives of God's faithful who are depicted in the Bible.
My purpose with this commentary is not to completely denounce the teaching on authority and victory, but to try to bring a proper perspective to it. Therefore, unlike some of the "Super-Apostles" of our day, I'll try to balance this teaching with a smidgen of stark reality. The one thing we all must be careful of is not to fall into the trap of putting on our rose-colored glasses and refusing to ENDURE sound doctrine just because it is not what we want to hear. We must be very careful not to allow the cares of this world and the desire for other things, to obscure the truth.
Endure -- what an interesting word the Apostle Paul chose to use in association with the phrase "sound doctrine." When I looked up this word in the Greek Lexicon, the word "endure" was in the middle voice. The middle voice implies an action taken by you in order to secure a desired outcome upon yourself. Therefore, when Paul said, "endure sound doctrine," Paul implied that we must act upon ourselves in such a way as to cause ourselves to bear up with sound doctrine. In other words, we must act upon ourselves so we will not turn away from sound doctrine simply because it is hard for us to embrace. We must be willing to put aside that which we WANT to hear for that which we NEED to hear, i.e., sound doctrine. Paul, realizing this would be no easy thing for us to do, chose the word "endure", which demands much from us individually.
In the beginning, as I studied God's Word, the hardest thing for me to do was to lay aside my agenda in exchange for God's -- to desire God's will more than my own. Matthew 16:24- 26: "Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.'" Therefore, all of us must be determined in our hearts not to interpret Scripture through the eyes of our desire (flesh), but through the eyes of God's Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14: "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." From this verse of Scripture can we not come to the conclusion that the ways of the natural man are abhorrent to God, and God's ways are abhorrent to the natural man? Therefore, we need to pray every day that we will rightly divide His Word, i.e., pray for God to help us ENDURE sound doctrine, understanding that our mind, the way we thought and reasoned up to the time of our "born-again" experience, was HOSTILE to God's sound doctrine.
Keeping all this in mind, let us take another look at our authority in Christ. Did you not immediately love this word authority? Before you were saved, what did this word mean to you? In other words, when you were a natural man/woman and you heard this word "authority", what kind of thoughts were conjured up in your mind? Most likely your thoughts went right along with a definition I found in the Britannica-Webster dictionary: "The right to give commands." Can you not just close your eyes and imagine the power coursing through every ounce for your being? Slaying and casting out demons on your right and on your left, healing the sick, raising the dead, commanding prosperity to come to you, and rebuking poverty. I could go on, but I'm sure you get my point.
Not only is that what we see today in the church here in the USA, but we also see it propagated throughout churches all over the world. Christians congregate by the tens of thousands to hear how they can get their every desire fulfilled. Their ears "itch" to hear more as they rush in to gain this power, this authority. They are willing to do, or give, whatever it takes to receive this power. Just as Simon did in Acts 8:17-19, "Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'" Simon was just "itching" for this power, this authority!
However, Simon did not get the response from Peter he hoped for. As a matter fact, Peter's answer was rather rude. Acts 8:20-23: "But Peter said to him, ‘May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that if possible, the INTENTION of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.'"
What was that -- his heart was not right before God? Full of wickedness? But all he wanted was the power to give whosoever the Holy Spirit. What could be wrong with that? The Holy Spirit is a good thing, right? Healing and miracles are good things, right? The more people with the Holy Spirit the better, right? Or could it have been he wanted this power -- this authority -- so he could do with it whatever he wished? You may say, "But Simon wanted to use the authority so he could profit by the Holy Spirit -- that is NOT me!" Well, now would be a good time to ask yourself a very serious question. When you sought to obtain this authority, was it so you may receive this power to fulfill your wants, your desires, and your prosperity? If so, how does that really differ from Simon's motivations?
Let's take a look at what Jesus had to say about people using their authority with the wrong motive. Matthew 7:22-23: "Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you.'" This is where we begin to understand what the right motivation should be. As you can see, everything these people were doing appeared to be righteous and good, even saying, "Lord, Lord", but evidently there was literally a FATAL flaw in the exercising of their authority.
Remember, they did have authority and power; they were casting out demons and healing the sick. So what was this fatal flaw? We have in this Scripture two very important clues. First is the context that this portion of Scripture was placed in. The context, both before and after, pertain to obedience, i.e., the opposite of lawlessness -- the opposite of fruitlessness. The second clue we have is Jesus' statement, "I never knew you."
You may ask, "What role does obedience play in the use of the power and authority given to the believer?" It has everything to do with it! Remember, power and authority was displayed in the verse above, but obviously that was not the mark of a believer. The mark of a believer is found in John 14:23-24, "Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.'" What an awesome statement! Jesus thought it so important that He added emphasis to it by saying, ". . . and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me." Yes, this came directly from God the Father, so do not even try to debate this point!
Why did Jesus place such importance on obedience? Because, the mark that God looks for in a believer is a heart-felt willingness to lay aside his/her life, "crucifying" personal desires for God's. John 14:30-31: "I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go from here." Jesus had both the power and authority to avoid His cross, but CHOSE to lay His desire aside for God's. Matthew 26:52-54: "Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled (God's desire)?'"
Therefore, we must come to the conclusion that the only power and authority God recognizes is the power and authority which are placed in the confinement of His will. This brings me back to another definition of authority I found in the same dictionary, ". . . to carry out or enforce the commands of another." This is the definition we as Christians must cling to.
Matthew 8:8-9: "But the centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I, too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!' and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!' and he does it.'" The word I want you to focus on in this Scripture is the word "under." To be "under" authority is having an authority under the authority of another. In other words, this authority which is given to us is to be used exclusively to fulfill the desires of the person from whom the authority originates. Which, in our case, is God Himself.
The following are some questions we can ask ourselves to see if we are operating UNDER God's authority or our own. Do we start every day in prayer, asking God to lead us into His perfect will? Jesus said in John 5:19, "Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.'" Jesus knew that His authority was only to be exercised in the confinement of God's will; therefore, He prayerfully and diligently sought His Father's will in everything. That's what the Bible means when it says the Father and the Son are one.
This brings me to our second clue, "I never knew you." Could it be that they never really knew God, because they sought Him with the wrong motive -- to have their own desires fulfilled? They never really sought God; they sought only the gift. And since they never really knew God, then Jesus also claimed not to know them.
Are you willing to close your prayer, your request, your exercise of power and authority with the words, ". . . nevertheless Your will be done?" Luke 22:41-44: "And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, ‘Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.' Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground." Jesus choosing to resist using His power and authority to fulfill His own desire to escape His cross, sweated blood in order to say no to self, and yes to God. Hebrews 5:8: "Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." Jesus, endured sound doctrine!
Are you angry at, disappointed with, or quarreling with God right now because your wishes and/or desires are not being fulfilled? If you are, this is the clearest indication of all that you're trying to exercise your power and authority for your own pleasures and/or desires, and therefore, you have a wrong heart and motive. James 4:1-3: "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures."
Now, let us define the word "victory". Luke 16:19-25: "Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now it came about that the poor man died and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue; for I am in agony in this flame.' But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.'"
If you were to come upon this situation today, would you not be tempted to look upon the one that is living in ease as having victory and the one who is poor and sick as the one who NEEDED victory? However, the above story clearly indicates that Lazarus was the one who had victory all along. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you must be poor to have victory; I'm saying victory cannot be defined by outward appearances. Victory in Christ has nothing to do with your portion in this life.
In conclusion, using your power and authority outside the confinement of God's will -- even if it appears on the surface to be good -- is in reality rebellion; and rebellion is the same as witchcraft. 1 Samuel 15:22-23: "And Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination (witchcraft), and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.'"
As far as defining victory in Christ, I could not define it more beautifully than King David did in Psalm 17:14-15, ". . . From men of the world, whose portion is in this life; and whose belly Thou dost fill with Thy treasure; they are satisfied with children, and leave their abundance to their babes. As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Thy likeness when I awake." Do you, as with King David, define victory in your heart as standing before God in righteousness and being in God's likeness when you awake? If so, you already have your VICTORY! 1 John 3:2: "Beloved, NOW we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is."
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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