Authority and Speech

The link between authority and the right to speak is clearly stated for us in the Roman centurion’s encounter with Jesus (Matthew 8:6-13). In that encounter the centurion asked Jesus to heal his sick servant. Jesus immediately offered to go with the centurion to effect the healing.

The centurion’s responded by telling Jesus that all He had to do was speak the word: “speak the word only, and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8:8).

The centurion had great faith in Jesus’ ability to speak healing, rather than minister it by physical process, such as putting his hands on the sick person. The reason for this expectation is then given by the centurion, in a speech about authority and words.

“For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.” Matthew 8:9

Under Authority

The centurion was a man “under authority”. This means he was in an authority hierarchy. People with greater authority than him (his commanding officers) conferred authority upon him. That enabled him, as a centurion, to have people “under” him. Those under him included soldiers and his servant.

Authority is not negotiated, but delegated. Authority is not given to us by those under us, but by those we are under.

Some people have strange ideas about authority. I have heard people explain that husbands only have authority when their wives willingly submit to them. This misguided idea probably represents a broader western misunderstanding of authority. In light of our highly autonomous and democratic society we do not properly understand the reality of authority. Authority is conferred. It is not a gift from our subordinates.

Husbands have authority from God. If the wife refuses to acknowledge it then the man does not lose his authority. God still holds the wife accountable for her rebellion against God’s will. She has not dissolved the authority, because it is outside her power. If the husband gives it up, he is held accountable by God for his rebellion against God’s will.


The centurion was under authority and so he was able to give commands. When he spoke the word that word was obeyed by those who were his subordinates. His soldiers came and went at his command and his servant did what he instructed.

The giving of commands was directly linked to authority. The centurion’s sentence included reference to his place in an authority hierarchy, and his ability to speak instructions which are obeyed.

Authority confers the ‘right to speak’ upon those who have it.

If a stranger arrived and tried to command the soldiers or the servant there would be no compliance. The soldiers and servant obeyed the centurion because of his rank, not because of his tone of voice, good looks, or winsome ways.

Faith in Christ

The centurion’s speech confirmed he was convinced Jesus was the Christ and had authority from God. The centurion did not believe that Christ was relying on some supernatural ability which was picked up accidentally, or owned by some fluke of nature. He believed that Jesus had His power because He was appointed by God, under God’s authority.

Therefore the centurion was confident that Jesus had the authority to speak to sickness and demonic work. Being in a place of authority gave Christ the right to speak and have His words obeyed, even by nature.

Jesus was amazed at this high level of faith, and He told the audience that this was remarkable. He then sent the centurion on his way, with the word of healing. The servant was healed that very hour.

Power Words

Do you have the ability to speak power words? Or are you ignored?

The way to give your words more power is to be under greater authority. The higher the authority you are under and the greater the delegated authority given you, the more power your words have. If your words are falling to the floor and are impotent, then your place under divine authority needs to be upgraded.

Moses went to Egypt’s Pharaoh with the power words, “Let my people go!” There was a tussle over the words and some protracted opposition and negotiation, but Moses’ words prevailed. They were power words.

Speaking in Faith

I recall a humorous testimony Virgil Johnson gave of his conversion. As he headed out to a night of indulgence his mother challenged him that she knew his plans and would pray to stop them. He denied her accusations, but she persisted that if he tried to drive his car across the bridge to the bad part of town he would not be able to make it. She would pray that his car not be able to get across.

He denied her accusations and dismissed her claims, then drove straight toward the bridge. As soon as his car pulled onto the bridge it broke down. Despite all his attempts to get it started he finally had to give up and get the car towed home.

When he walked back inside his mother told him she knew exactly what had happened, because she had prayed. She then grabbed him, and sat on him, while she and her sister prayed for him until he was gloriously saved.

Virgil’s mother spoke words of faith. She did so in the authority of her God. She did so as a spirit-filled child of God, moving in faith. She claimed a level of authority in her words, directly from God. And God honoured her words.

You don’t have to be a President to speak words of power. Being under God’s authority is greater than being under human leaders and constitutions.

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