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.

Commands

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.

Government of God via the Conscience

This is the third instalment in a discussion on the Government of God, reflecting Paul’s description of God’s authority hierarchy in 1Corinthians 11:3.

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Apostle Paul, 1Corinthians 11:3

We have already noted that God is actively involved in human experience by His personal intervention and by His prescribed authority structures. God’s government is centred in 2 key locations, the throne and the home. It is both divine and domestic.

Direct Government

God’s Government over human experience is remarkably direct. Rather than having to work through a convoluted infrastructure of multi-layered levels of authority, people are subject to immediate accountability before God.

God exercises this government by His personal claim over the hearts and lives of each individual. Each person has a personal account with God and either qualifies for God’s blessings and graces, or for God’s judgements.

God’s Word, the Bible, is given by God to guide the actions of men and to lead them into a blessed relationship with God. Parents are to teach godly morality to their children, instructing the heart of the child and disciplining the actions of the child, so the child obeys God and glorifies Him through their whole life.

Human Conscience

A primary personal mechanism which God uses to exercise His government over the individual is the human conscience. Our conscience alerts us to our actions and attitudes which are not pleasing to God.

Humans are expected to understand truth and to come to their own convictions about that truth. As sovereign entities answerable directly to God it is an immoral action to demand that a person violate their conscience. This is the reason why the right to object to an imposition, based on conscience, is enshrined in the law of many countries. The right to engage in ‘conscientious objection’ is acknowledgement of the divine significance of the human conscience.

For example, a person may believe that it is evil to kill another, even in warfare. When their civil government calls on them to take up arms they may object that they could not pull the trigger as that would bring them under God’s divine judgement. In such cases, once the person has been able to prove the vitality of their conscience, they will be assigned non-combat duties.

Divinity of Human Conscience

Human conscience is not respected because of its human value, but because of its divine merit. The issue in a case of conscientious objection is not how well the person will sleep at night. That is simply a human consideration, like “do you like this or not?” If a person’s conscience will simply make them feel uncomfortable then that is just human self-indulgence.

Human conscience has its greatest validity when it brings a person into conflict or relationship with God. When conscience causes a person to experience a breach of fellowship with God, then the government of God is relevant to the issue.

If a person is ordered to lie, steal, cheat, kill or commit sexual sin then the person’s moral conscience before God is threatened. They cannot do those things in all good conscience because they will experience moral guilt which will separate them from a moral and holy God.

The Conscious Human

I heard some people discussing their conscience recently. A lady said that she could not endure a certain process being followed because her conscience would not sit right with it. The other person said, “Yes, isn’t conscience a miserable thing?” They were both recognising that they were restrained and motivated by their personal conscience. Others might have happily allowed an injustice to be perpetrated but these two people could not sit by and allow that to happen.

Sadly not all humans are conscious of their conscience. It is possible to abuse the conscience, and even to so abuse it as to stop it from speaking up about moral issues. Some people act as if their conscience did not exist. This is most likely because they or others have violated their conscience and it has become seared, or calloused, so that it is no longer tender and sensitive to godly morality.

“Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” 1Timothy 4:2

The Inaccurate Conscience

Conscience is a powerful tool in the government of God. God is able to direct and restrain people through their conscience. Since people are directly accountable to God it is important that their conscience is alive and tender.

However it is possible for our conscience to be inaccurate. We may have be given social or religious programming which makes us feel guilty about things which are not an offence to God. This is where parents, religion and the culture are accountable before God for their abuses of the conscience of others.

God is supreme, including supreme over our conscience. This is why the Apostle John says that even if our conscience accuses us we may not be guilty. He points out that God is greater than our conscience.

“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” 1Jo 3:20

This is an important point, because evolutionists and sociologists suggest that religion evolved as a response to the human need for such things. However John points out that God’s primal existence is supreme over the inner motivations of man, including man’s conscience

The Violated Conscience

One of the important processes in assisting people is to show them how to resolve their violated conscience. Sometimes this involves showing them that the things over which they feel guilty are of no moral weight before God’s throne. If God is not condemning them then it is a tragedy that they should live as if condemned.

Families, cultures, governments and religions impose protocols and expectations on people outside of God’s moral requirements. Failure to meet these expectations can effectively separate people from God because their conscience condemns them, even though God does not.

Where people have been out of order and violated God’s moral requirements it is our privilege to bring them into God’s presence to repent of their sins, putting their trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for absolution of their sins. In that process we restore the primal relationship, that of God and His created child.

The Gospel is therefore part of the Government of God, because it is able to restore people to a right standing before God. No civil, religious or domestic process can do this, just the prescribed application of the Gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ.

Government of God Expanded

God’s government over the lives of men is a key truth which will help us navigate through the confusion and competing claims for the hearts and minds of men. Yet that government is not readily understood and so I continue here a ramble through some of the elements of that government.

God is in Control

Deists think of God as a dispassionate and disengaged deity who initiated life but will not interfere with human existence. I am a theist. I believe that God is, as the Bible teaches, actively engaged in the issues of each of our lives.

The Bible reveals that God is in control of all that impacts us and has the power to totally transform or destroy our lives. He responds to our hearts and our prayers, giving us what is appropriate based on our walk with Him.

God is not only in control in the form of an external and interested personality able to impact our lives, but He is also in control via His prescribed order, which He has designed and instigated because it is the functionally effective form of government.

So, both by His sovereign power to intervene and by His prescribed order for mankind we have what I refer to as the Government of God.

Divine Hierarchy

Part of God’s prescription for human government is the hierarchical authority structure He prescribed for our good. God has set in place an order of governmental authority in the form of hierarchical authorities who exercise authority by being under the authority above them.

This divine hierarchy is explained by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth. In 1Corinthians 11:3 Paul points out that God is the ultimate authority figure, with Christ under Him. Man is under Christ and the wife is under the authority of her husband.

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Apostle Paul, 1Corinthians 11:3

Insights from God’s Hierarchy

This hierarchy reveals that God endorses and prescribes structural authority. People are not to be a law unto themselves but are to be under authority. But the authority over them is also to be under authority.

The only ultimate source of authority is God. Despotic leaders, corrupt administrators and evil parents are out of step with God’s authority structure, since they are not acting according to the will of God. Those expressions of government, global or domestic, are outside of or in violation of the Government of God, because they have refused to come under God’s authority.

God’s government of mankind not only has God as the supreme authority but it also has the home as the prime component. Every individual home is a direct expression of the government of God. The hierarchy in 1Corinthians 11:3 does not mention any form of civil government, but it leaps straight from heaven to the home. God’s concern for the government of human life is a combination of the divine and the domestic.

Two Important Thrones of Government

A person who wishes to exercise government over the affairs of this world has two important arenas in which to operate. There are two thrones of authority magnified in God’s authority hierarchy (1Corinthians 11:3).

God’s throne in Heaven is the ultimate place of authority. Anyone who wishes to exercise any role within human government must bow the knee to God and Jesus Christ. All other authority springs from them. Anyone who wishes to exercise authority independent of God and Christ must engage in borrowed authority or exercise illegitimate authority over people.

The dinner table is the place of that other throne. The domestic home, under the headship of the father in the family, is the other central place of authority. Anyone who wishes to exercise authority over the affairs of men must be sure to find their place in the domestic home, either in submission or through appropriate carriage of their responsibility.

That is not to say that every husband can rule his home as he chooses. That man only has authority in his home because he is under God’s authority.

A man who will not exercise godly authority in his home, being personally under God’s rule, is disqualified from leadership. He has rejected the government of God. A woman who refuses the authority of her husband is disqualified from leadership. She has rejected the government of God.

Civil Government

The absence of reference to civil government in God’s authority hierarchy is not a mistake. Civil government is a servant to God and man. When civil government interposes itself over the lives of people, without full divine authority to do so, it is evil government.

Civil government is described as government which rewards the good and punishes evil people. When civil government functions as an expression of God’s father heart toward humanity and God’s holiness upheld by man, then it is good government and part of the government of God.

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or to governors, as to them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” The Apostle Peter 1Peter 2:13,14

Civil government is also a servant to the man as he leads him family. Good civil government will support the authority of the father in each family, as the head of his home. It will support that man and provide the resources which God the Father would give to His children to empower them to build strong families.

Kings or Consensus?

Civil government can be exercised by monarchs on a throne or elected representatives in a council, or by village elders and other expressions of administration. When that civil government (no matter how it is structured) functions in support of God’s throne and the domestic family it is a good government, whether it comes from the king and his minions or by social structures with elected officials.

Much discussion is made regarding the relative merits or evils of monarchs, dictators, village elders or democratically elected governments. If the Government of God is in place then the distinctions betweens there structural systems becomes less significant.

Ruling the Human Heart

Note that God’s authority is not expressed in the form of instant judgement. Lightning does not strike every blasphemer on the spot. Adulterers, thieves, liars and murderers are not immediately condemned by God.

Human government often seems much more responsive in dealing with evil than God appears to be. This is because God has assigned humanity the task of administering this expression of His government. It is also because God speaks into human lives via the human conscience.

Conscience

Human conscience is an expression of God’s government over the individual. Our heart condemns or approves our actions and thoughts. And so this will be an area of investigation in a follow up posting on the Government of God.

Where Manhood Stands Tallest

Where do you find manhood most visible and evident? If you were looking for manhood among the men of your city in which forum would you be most likely to find it?

My manhood journey began with the understanding that I had abdicated my headship as the husband within my marriage. So is marriage the place where manhood is to be identified?

Others recognise that their father displays real manhood, ruling his household with authority and setting up the next generation for authority and success in the following generation. So, is the family the forum in which manhood stands tallest?

What about those men who are giants of industry, outstanding political leaders, commanders of men, men of supreme personal talent and ability and so on? There are several places where outstanding men might stand out. Which of those places is the one where manhood is at its most potent?

Job’s Example

Job exemplified the self-sacrificing character of real manhood in his dealings with men. He was a political leader (he had a seat at the gate of the city – where the civic leaders exercised their leadership). He was totally selfless in his care for the needy, such as the disabled, widowed and helpless. He had a large family that honoured him. He had vast wealth and enterprise. See Job 29:7-17.

Yet Job was called into another forum to have his manhood tested. That forum was God’s presence. God called him to account for himself. Job did not achieve his greatest manhood until he accepted that call, which took him two attempts. See Job 38:3 and 40:7.

The Throne Room

Truest manhood has always been found in men who will do business with God. Men who hid from God’s presence lost their manhood, like Adam hiding after breaking God’s command. But men who were willing to run into God’s presence were those who God favoured the most readily.

King David was guilty of adultery and murder and he tried to hide his sin at first. Then the prophet came and convicted him. At that moment David did not go to Bathsheba’s family for reconciliation. Nor did he try to put things right with the family of her dead husband or with the people of Israel. Instead he ran into God’s presence and declared, “I have sinned against You!”

Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight: that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge.” Psalm 51:4

Men who will enter the throne room, obedient to God’s earthly requirements for their lives, but also willing to do business with God, stand out as the real men of history.

Face to Face With God

Abraham, Moses, Joshua and Paul did business face to face with God. They were statesmen and commanders of men. They and others like them found the true forum for real manhood.

Your own manhood will not become what it is supposed to be until and unless you do business with God, face to face in the throne-room.

The Other Throne

The first throne where manhood is to be found is actually the heart of man. A real man does not have himself on the throne of his life. His heart is committed to God and he will do what God wants him to do. He will live his life sacrificially on behalf of others. He will be a defender and a rewarder, not a self-indulger.

Job had such a heart, as seen in his life of sacrificial benefit to others who needed assistance. His life was not his own, but was spent in blessing others, loving his neighbour and giving himself sacrificially.

Any man who lives life as if it is his own property for him to use as makes him happy is not a man at all.

Real men have done business at two thrones. They have the Lord God on the throne of their own heart, as the Lord of their life. Consequently they live their life sacrificially for others. They have also been into the throne room of God’s presence and invited God to do business with them, as they do business with Him.

Look in the Right Place

Don’t go looking for real men in the fitness centre. Don’t go to the discos looking for real men. Don’t even be impressed with the way their wife and children seem to give due respect to them.

Don’t look for the list of the richest men or winners of the “man of the year” award.

It is hard to see the heart of a man or to know if he has been into God’s presence or not. But the way a man lives his life for others, responds to God’s claim on his life and does business with God are the surest indicators of whether the man is a Real Man or not.

Unseen Authority

I have often struggled to comprehend authority that is not explicitly displayed. And so I have a problem truly understanding the operational authority in a situation if it is unseen. Yet in our lives much of the most important authority we will employ or be subject to is unseen.

I discuss this reality in helping husbands work through issues with their wife. In my recent trip to Europe I applied it for the first time to assist a young mother work through issues with her children.

Let me explain what unseen authority is in practice and how you can tap into it.

Enforced Authority

When we see authority enforced we tend to think of it as having bearing in a situation. If a sign says, “Do not walk on the Grass” and yet everyone does walk on the grass we see that the authority behind the sign is effectively non-existent.

When we see a security guard checking everyone and causing people to be detained and blocked from entry then we think of the authority as being effective.

This is what I mean when I say that we tend to respect authority when it is explicitly displayed. When we do not see an explicit display we tend to think of the authority as being of a lesser quality.

Unseen Authority is Real

While some forms of authority appear to be ineffective they can still be very real. Their reality may become apparent at some later time when recourse is finally applied. This is the case with God’s judgement of man’s sins. Many sinful people live all their life without any apparent recourse or judgement for their actions. But on the day of God’s judgement there will be a very evident display of the power and relevance of His authority.

But unseen authority is also real in other ways as well. Consider the authority which a patriarch has in passing down a family blessing to his children. In the case of Isaac, son of Abraham, the man was old and blind when it came time to pass the blessing. Isaac was of no economic value, having past his usefulness. He was able to be fooled by his wife and son.

Yet this useless old man had unseen authority. There were many things that Isaac could not do. He certainly could not have physically thrown his weight around and given us an explicit display of his authority, but he carried authority none-the-less.

The Unseen Transfer

When Isaac put his hands onto Jacob’s head he transferred the most potent family blessing in human history. Yet it was not charged with Hollywood effects or tinctured with electronic thrills.

The authority that flowed through Isaac was unseen and the transfer that came to Jacob was also unseen. And in just the same way there is an authority which we can employ that is just as invisible, but also just so powerfully effective.

Headship is Unseen Authority

What the Bible calls headship is actually invisible authority at work. It may or may not be seen in some explicit display, but it is equally as real either way. The problem that many people have in coming to terms with this unseen authority is that it is ‘unseen’ and they tend to think that authority must be demonstrated to be real. I hope I have at least opened your perspective a little on that score.

When the Bible teaches that parents have authority over the children and that the husband is the head of the wife these expressions of God’s authority (the government of God) are profoundly real, even if they are impossible to see with the naked eye.

The headship that God assigns is so powerful that it remains in force even when those who should be under that headship are in rebellion.

Did you get that? Headship and authority from God is so real and enduring that not only does it not have to be visible but it can even appear to be contradicted.

The Persistent Unseen Authority

For example, consider a man whose wife has chosen to leave him and live in a separate dwelling. As far as the visible expression of his authority over his wife is concerned it is nonexistent. So what is the reality?

Let us assume, for the purpose of this example, that the husband goes to God in prayer and tells God that the wife is no longer under the husband’s authority. The wife believes that to be true and so does the husband. But what does God say?

Imagine God calling the angels over with the record books to check the matter out. In God’s files what is the record of the authority over the wife? 1Corinthians 11:3 says that the wife is under the husband’s headship. Now the wife has decided to leave the husband. Did the wife’s action change God’s reality? That might best be answered by considering the question, “Is the authority assignment in God’s hands or man’s?”

The Government of God is determined by God and all the authority He assigns is as He assigns it. Mankind is not given the ability or authority to mess with God’s turf. So the authority given to the husband is persistent unseen authority. It persists even in the face of the wife’s rebellion against it. It is not authority based on explicit display, but on God’s supremacy.

Applying the Unseen Authority

In further posts I plan to elaborate on how I apply the truth about unseen authority into the circumstances of the marriage and parenting. Suffice it to say here that once we understand the persistent quality of God’s assigned authority we are better equipped to use that authority, at least before God’s throne, even if the people who should be under that authority have rejected it.