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.

Put in a Good Word

How’s your tongue? Do you do good to those around you with your words? Or are you one of those who destroy people with what comes out of you? I came across a fresh verse that demonstrates how good speech has very positive impact, so let me bring your attention to this perennially important issue.

Your Tongue

Whether you are a spouse, parent, friend, mentor, associate or supporter, your words have tremendous power, even if you don’t think so. Your words have power over you and they have power to impact those around you.

What you say can bring encouragement and motivation to people or it can de-motivate and discourage. Some people have found enormous strength from a few short words, while others have been crushed and their lives devastated from the power of one short sentence.

The Power of the Tongue

Stories abound about those impacted by people’s words. One woman was convinced she was ‘fat and ugly’ because that is what her aunt had spat at her in an angry outburst many years earlier. A man pressed on through extremely difficult studies, riding on his mentor’s assurance that he would make a wonderful professor. An overweight young man became a top track and field competitor because his school sport instructor told him he had the makings of a star.

What these stories reveal from life experience is that words can build us up or tear us down, making mockery of the age-old rhyme, “Sticks and stones my break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”

Bible Truth

Compelling as human experience may be in supporting a notion our truth comes from God’s Word, the Bible. Some things that make senses from a human perspective prove to be delusions, like the idea that evil people prosper and succeed. On planet earth that may be the case at times, but life extends beyond our earthly existence. For millennia to come evil people will have plenty of opportunity to regret their deeds, in the torments of hell. That’s what the Bible reveals, which may not be clearly evident on earth.

So, I need to see that the Bible endorses the power of the tongue, before I can be overly confident that it is important. And the Bible has much to say about the tongue and its power to do us good and ill.

Bible Verses

“A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul.” Proverbs 18:7

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21

“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” James 3:6

“But I say to you, That every idle word that men speak, they will give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36,37

“It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.” John 6:63

“For the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

“Being born again, not from corruptible seed, but from incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever.” 1Peter 1:23

“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power……” Hebrews 1:3a

A Biblical Example

I was delighted to see in reading the account of Daniel’s life in the Bible, that he personally experienced the power of a spoken word. That’s the discovery that prompted me to share this topic with you.

Daniel was an amazing person, able to interpret dreams in his younger years and then receiving profound revelations from God in his older years. The Apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation, also received his most profound spiritual insights as an old man, in exile.

In his mid 80’s, Daniel saw an angelic being visit him. He collapsed in the sheer spiritual awesomeness of the experience. He was partially recovered by being touched by an angel. That bought him to his hands and knees. Yet Daniel felt no strength and struggled to breathe.

Then the angel spoke over Daniel, words of affirmation but also words that commanded strength into him. Those words made all the difference to Daniel.

“For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me. Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be to you, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken to me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for you have strengthened me.” Daniel 10:17-19

Daniel’s Source of Strength

In the midst of amazing spiritual experience, with a visitation of angels are the revealing of future events, Daniel was just about wiped out. But he received strength. He did not get his strength from a sports drink, or an energy bar. He did not take food or drink at all. He did not get it from a medicinal process or a postural or therapeutic process. Daniel’s new strength came from words.

The angel spoke over Daniel “Be Strong. Yes. Be Strong”. Those words commanded strength into Daniel’s failing physical frame. Just as the words of Christ “uphold all things”, Daniel was held together by the words from the angel.

Your Words Have Life

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue”, so speak life into your family and friends. Aim to speak words that motivate, encourage, build people up, commend them, boost their right behaviour and bring life to all they do. Aim to avoid all words that pull down, offend, mock, de-motivate, find fault and otherwise do harm to people.

It would be wonderful if you could speak like that angel visiting Daniel, with such authority and such positive effect that those about to collapse can stand to their feet and carry on. Let’s make that your assignment for this week. Let’s each speak five specific positive messages into those around us.