Monday, May 12, 2008

Authority for Mission

Matthew 10 records the call of Jesus' 12 disciples. Matthew explains that Jesus empowered them for service. The New King James Version (NKJV) says, "He gave them power." This translation might lead one to picture Jesus bestowing special "powers" on His disciples, like superheros, before sending them out to minister. We gain a clearer picture from the translation "He gave them authority" (ESV, NASB, NIV). The word is not dunamis (power, might, strength, force, capability), but exousia (state of control, potential or resource to command, control or govern). Jesus gives them the right, as His representatives, to cast out unclean spirits and heal every disease and every affliction. It is not an ability they have within themselves, but an authority that is granted to them as Jesus' personal ambassadors.
Because Jesus is the Son of God, sent from the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit, He has the right to command the universe. Jesus grants His apostles a measure of this authority for carrying out their mission. They are to do the very works that Jesus has been doing (casting out demons, healing the sick, and proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven). Matthew draws attention to the similarity between Jesus' ministry and that of His 12 disciples by using parallel wording to describe the activities of both Jesus and the apostles: "healing every disease and every affliction" (9:35, of Jesus); "to heal every disease and every affliction" (10:1, of the apostles).
Their identification with Jesus, which is the source of their authority, is so strong that Jesus says, "Whoever receives you receives Me, and whoever receives me receives Him who sent Me" (Matt. 10:40).
We must recognize the unique place the apostles have in the plan of redemption. They had a revelatory ministry that is unmatched by later ministers of the gospel. Their close association with Jesus as His commissioned representatives gives us confidence in their writings, as does the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
In a similar though not identical way Jesus sends us on mission with His authority. Notice the impetus of the great commission, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me" (Matt. 28:18). When we minister "in the name of Jesus," this means (in part) that we are meeting the so-called "gods" of this world with the authority of Jesus Christ, in order to vanquish them with the Truth and advance the kingdom of Christ. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. An behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20).


Jamie Fugate said...

Josh, thank you for that post, it is empowering to be reminded that we are soldiers of Christ marching under His banner with His authority. But I was wondering if you could discuss how that authority is played out in day to day life and ministry.

Joshua Owen said...

As you go about your daily life, recognize that you are necessarily in a conflict with evil. Your commission is to assault evil with the gospel, thus making disciples of Jesus out of disciples of the flesh, the world and the devil. You will meet with much resistance, which at the root is all demonic. Yet, be not afraid, for Christ has authorized you for this task.

Are you hesitant to speak to a family member about Christ because you have no persuasive power over this person? Then don't speak to them in your authority. You aren't sending yourself! You were sent by Christ. So speak to your family of Christ in the authority of one sent by Christ.

There are so many situations in life that I doubt I could apply this for everyone in a specific context. Anyone serious about making disciples needs to meditate on the authority given to them, as well as their God-given situation.

I believe demons are real, personal beings. I believe God is sovereign over all of them. I believe Christ still works through his church to liberate people from the demonic.

I believe God still chooses to heal some through the prayers of his people.

Whatever you encounter, meet it in the authority of one sent by Christ.