If you read the Bible, you will find out there was a big difference between the authority that Jesus operated in, and the authority that the religious leaders of Jesus’s day operated in. For they lacked authority, but of Jesus, it was said,
“… he taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Mark 1:22)
How did Jesus exercise his authority? Well, it was pretty powerful, wasn’t it? Evidences for Jesus’s authority included giving sight to the blind, healing those who were crippled, opening deaf ears, enabling the mute to speak, healing leprosy, casting out demons, multiplying food, walking on the water, calming the sea, and even raising the dead!
In response to his miraculous works, Jesus said the following:
“Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” (John 14:11)
In other words, the miracles that Jesus did should naturally cause us to believe in Jesus. However, it is not true with many people. Many people in Jesus’s day saw the works, but still did not believe. In the end, they actually put Jesus on a cross! Why so? The Bible says it was because of envy (see Matthew 27:18). This envy caused these religious leaders to become blind to the truth. Jesus was, and actually is, the Messiah!
It is not always easy operating in genuine spiritual authority like Jesus did. For example, it is written of a man named Stephen,
“Stephen, full of faith and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8)
Yes, Stephen was powerful, indeed. But he, too, was martyred for his faith, for the same reason, just like Jesus was!
You might think these are isolated cases, but they are not. As a result of casting out a single demon out of a girl, Paul and Silas were condemned by the religious leaders of the city, unjustly sentenced by the judges, beaten with rods, and imprisoned with their feet in stocks (see Acts 16:16-24).
If you want to operate in genuine spiritual authority, would you like to be martyred like Jesus was, or like Stephen was? Would you like to be condemned by an entire city, beaten with rods, and thrown into jail? The answer to these questions is probably, “No.” However, there are more important things in life to consider, than whether or not I’m going to be martyred or persecuted.
Every single person in hell would only wish that they had chosen martyrdom, instead of selfishness, during their time on earth. Serving the Lord Jesus Christ must be your top priority. Stephen, Paul, and others, had their priorities straight, and are enjoying their just rewards for that.
And so at the onset, we need to understand that if we want to be able to operate in genuine spiritual authority —authority that is powerful, like Jesus and Stephen operated in— then we need to be willing to obey God at all costs. At all “costs” could indeed include martyrdom. It certainly did for most of the apostles. And millions of others have suffered this same fate. On the other hand, not everyone who lives for God suffers martyrdom. And so we leave this decision in God’s capable hands.
Now that we have our priorities straight, we need to understand why Stephen and many other disciples were able to consistently walk in spiritual authority, by which genuine signs and wonders were performed among the people. Today, there is much talk about these signs and wonders, and there is indeed something called “lying” signs and wonders, which the Bible talks about as occurring in the “last days”.
“Then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will kill with the breath of his mouth, and destroy by the manifestation of his coming; even he whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deception of wickedness for those who are being lost, because they didn’t receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10)
It so happens that among many Christians, they are very concerned about these “lying” (or “false”) signs and wonders, and tend to think that anyone who does not share their theological views, but who says that God is doing signs and wonders in their midst, is, well, deceived.
Are false or lying signs and wonders at work in the church? Before we even attempt to answer this question, we need to deal with the “problem” of the Galatians. These people were genuine Christians, all right, but some of their theology was “mixed up”. The apostle Paul rebuked them because of this (in Galatians 3:1-4), and yet at the very same time as Paul was rebuking them —and, in fact, in the very next verse— he appealed to them on the basis of genuine miracles that were occurring in their very midst, which God (not Satan) was performing!
“He therefore who supplies the Spirit to you, and does miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:5)
Yes, this was Paul’s argument. Paul was saying to them, “You know, God does miracles among you. Do you know why?” This was his argument for getting them to “think harder” about their own erroneous beliefs.
So at the outset, we know for sure that God will indeed perform miracles in the midst of people who are not perfect in their understanding of the Scriptures. This, I say, should be reason enough to stop condemning Christians whom you do not see “eye to eye” with, in terms of their theological understanding of the Scriptures. Yes, friend, it is possible to be wrong, and still have God perform miracles in your midst! But is this an ideal scenario, or one which we should seek to embrace? Not really! Paul didn’t like it. Paul wanted to correct it. He did not want to correct the miracles (God did them; we should not want to correct God). He did, however, want to correct the “bad theology.”
To have good theology is a great idea, for it will prevent you (and I) from slipping in our faith and sliding down a hill that we really do not want to slide down. That slippery slope is slippery! Please do not slide down it. What may happen is that if you continue to embrace “false theology,” you will grieve God. God’s patience may (and I think will) begin to “wear thin,” because you are not listening. Your lamp (your power, your authority), will begin to get diminished. Before long, you will find yourself in complete darkness! This is the basis for which Jesus said to the church at Ephesus,
“Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I am coming to you swiftly, and will move your lamp stand out of its place, unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5)
In the end, the Ephesians failed to repent, and their lamp stand (their congregation and their ability to make a significant difference in this world) was entirely “snuffed out”. You cannot say they were not warned. For what did the apostle Paul tell the Ephesian congregation years earlier? He said to them,
“Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28-30)
These “vicious wolves” did enter in. And as Paul indicated, they did not spare the flock, but perverse things were taught, and disciples were drawn away. Think about that. The warnings were all there at the beginning. But they failed to act on them. Today, many believers and many leaders in many churches are failing to act on the clear warnings that are being provided to them by God. What will be the end? I pray they may “wake up” before it is too late.
While it is true that many churches err in many doctrines, the lying signs and wonders that will occur at the hands of the lawless one (mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10 earlier) do fit into a rather “unique” category, inasmuch as it says,
“and with all deception of wickedness for those who are being lost, because they didn’t receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10)
In other words, these lying signs and wonders appeal to the unsaved — they do not appeal to the saved, meaning those who genuinely love Jesus Christ. So before putting your brother or sister in Christ who is at the church down the road on the same level as the “lawless one,” ask yourselves whether they genuinely love Christ or not. Do you see clear evidence that they love Christ? First and foremost, do they preach the actual gospel of repentance? Meaning, do they preach that a person needs to repent and believe that Jesus died on a cross for their sins, in order to be saved? And do they preach that salvation is offered by God as a free gift, based on faith alone, so that no one should boast?
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Well, if your brother or sister down the road agrees with this, and actively preaches and teaches it, then I think you should be very careful about not labelling your brother or sister as embracing false “signs and wonders” — just because God does not do them in your own midst.
And so we see this tension, that not everything is perfect in the church, and that God might actually be more gracious than you think, in terms of how he metes out “signs and wonders.” Nevertheless, we are to reject all signs and wonders that lead people away from the truth. For that is the basis of lying signs and wonders, they cause people to “not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (see 2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Now that I’ve covered that one thoroughly, it’s time to move on to something else, meaning correcting poor theology, so that greater power still can be exercised (and maintained) in the church.
We don’t want our candlesticks (our congregation, and our ability to make a difference in this world) to be “snuffed out”, but rather to be able to increase, and grow, in both the knowledge of God, and in his mighty works, so that more people might be drawn to the Lord, so they might be saved. This is what it’s all about, and it gets even deeper still, since God has called us each to enter into, and experience, a truly loving relationship with him.
That sounds good, doesn’t it?
Now, let’s move on to part two of this series, “Operating in Genuine Spiritual Authority, Part 2.”
*The printable tract is provided as a PDF document that you can easily print on any letter-sized paper. Print the page (on both sides). If your printer cannot print both sides, simply print on one side, then feed the paper back in, and print on the other. Then, simply fold the page three times in half. This tract is small (2.75″ x 4.25″ — a bit larger than a business card) and convenient for responsible free distribution.