The Right to Speak

Your personal authority is directly related to your “right to speak”. So, while this may be something you have never thought about, it is a topic with profound significance. This subject illuminates God’s authority and informs your own actions. I urge you to take note of this discussion and to reflect on it, as it may prove valuable in encouraging your own words and actions.


We understand that certain courts and authorities have power only within limited jurisdiction. The jurisdiction of the court is that scope or range of issues over which the court has the right to make a judgement. A traffic court, for instance, cannot make rulings relevant to the family, while the Family Court will have that jurisdiction.

Similarly certain officials will have jurisdiction, or the right to operate with authority, in one place but not in another. A state policeman cannot act as a policeman in a different country or state. A tax official cannot function as a traffic cop, nor can a customs officer approve building permits.

Each official, office, court and government has its own “jurisdiction”. It cannot legally operate in other jurisdictions. It is empowered within one area, but limited from asserting its authority in other areas.

Jurisdiction for Logophiles

Take a look at the word “jurisdiction” and you will see the convergence of two powerful thoughts. Juris – comes from the Latin word ‘ius’, which means ‘law’ or legal matters. So we have the juris concept of law in such words as “jurisprudence” and “jury”.

Diction – means “to speak”. It refers to speech, words and commands.

Jurisdiction, then, refers to words that have legal authority. In practice that involves “The authority to apply the law.” But note that the authority is linked in the morphology of the word jurisdiction to the concept of words and speech.

Jurisdiction means “the right to speak”, “speaking words of authority”, “speaking with legal privilege”, and “making law through the spoken word”. So ‘jurisdiction’ is at the heart of my topic, The Right to Speak.

The Sphere of Speech

One way to understand the jurisdiction of a person, court or authority is to check the sphere over which that entity can speak. The sphere of speech measures the scope of the authority. When a person cannot speak with power into a situation then it is outside their jurisdiction. When a person speaks and there are consequences from those words, in outcome or moral accountability, then the person has jurisdiction in that area.

On the Royal Navy’s ship, HMS Bounty, on April 28, 1789, Masters Mate Fletcher Christian led twelve other crew members in a mutiny against the captain, Lieutenant William Bligh (who had sailed under Captain Cook). The orders given by the captain were the words which had jurisdiction. The mutineers ignored the demands of their appointed leader and took over the ship.

While Bligh’s words were ineffective in practical terms, in that they were disobeyed, yet they remain the words which held jurisdiction. Bligh had the “right to speak” over his crew. When some of the men rebelled they carried the moral and legal consequence of their actions. They did not have the right to speak.

God’s Right To Speak

God’s jurisdiction can easily be comprehended by simply looking at the sheer scope in which His words have influence. The very first reference to God’s speech is found in the third verse of the whole Bible.

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” Genesis 1:3

That short verse may easily be skipped over by a casual reader but consider the legal significance of what it says. God spoke and a miracle took place. That attests to God’s awesome power. But it also attests to the sheer scope and dimension of God’s authority.

God’s scope of authority spans as far as light travels. If you can find some place in which light cannot shine then you may have found a place where God has no jurisdiction. God said “Let there be light” and His words held sway over the entire realm in which He has the right to speak. So, from here to the furthest galaxies in every direction, God rules. God’s words have authority over you and everything around you, since God’s words clearly have evident power in the realm in which you live.

Your Ability to Speak

To help you catch something of the significance of this, take a moment to test out your own ability to speak. Just say out loud, “Let there be dark!” Now see what happens. Your words have no effect at all. That’s because you do not have jurisdiction over light in the same way that God does.

God’s authority is radically beyond your authority. God can speak things into existence and there is nothing you can do about it. God clearly has much greater jurisdiction than you do. And, as noted earlier, God has jurisdiction over the entire realm in which you live.

Now, while you cannot command dark, there are some things you can command. Whatever those things are they represent the scope of your jurisdiction. Your personal right to speak is an important indicator of your personal authority at this stage of your life.

Changing Jurisdiction

Our personal jurisdiction changes throughout our life. As people are promoted in their workplace they are given an increased area over which they have the right to speak. We can be given temporary jurisdiction over a situation. Parents have the right to speak on behalf of their dependent children, but they lose that right as the children grow into adulthood and are expected to speak for themselves.

That is a hopeful fact. Whatever the limitations may be to your jurisdiction right now you have the potential to expand your jurisdiction and expand the realm over which you have the right to speak.

I hope all this has whetted your interest in this topic. This is not a dry academic or esoteric notion, but a very practical issue that impacts who and what you are.

Some Further Considerations

I have taught on this topic for years and there are several key issues which spring from it. I will probably get around to elaborating on some of them in the future, but for now let me headline a few things for you to ponder.

God endorsed Christ’s right to speak and then Christ instructed Christians to “Go and preach”. So Christians have divine right to speak the gospel to the nations.

Some of the people you have listened to have not had the right to speak into your life. So why did you listen to them and why do you fear their words?

Some people you have ignored had God’s authority to speak into your life, such as your parents. Your rejection of their words over you makes you an immoral person living in the consequences of rebellion. You may have some tidying up to do.

Words are so important that God will hold us accountable for every idle word we speak. Hmmmm.

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