Nothing begs us to comprehend the difference between human effort and the way God works in the kingdom more than in our perception of authority. Humans establish authority by titles, and hierarchical flow charts. Jesus establishes authority on the power of someone’s character and the truth of what they are saying. It is possible for people to have institutional authority and have little or no spiritual authority. Likewise, someone may have absolutely no authority in earthly terms but carry great weight spiritually. Separating these two will help you know who carries the kind of authority that truly matters to God.
One of the important factor in this chapter is learning to recognize spiritual authority when it is near your life. Humans create authority through power by hierarchies or degrees that put people above others, able to tell them what to do. Spiritual authority, however, is found in the power of someone’s character, the depth of their love, and the truthfulness of their insight. Real authority never demands submission because it isn’t about power, but transformation. Conversely, just becomes someone has authority within a religious system doesn’t mean they have authority from God.
Can you describe some characteristics that help you discern false authority from real authority? Think through the life of Jesus who had no earthly authority, and yet the people recognized that he spoke as one having great authority. What accounted for the difference between him and the Pharisees? How has this played out in your own life?
Excerpt from Chapter 15:
A cursory view of history makes it clear that a hierarchy of human leadership does more to disfigure the church than it does to protect it. Perhaps the severest price we’ve paid for doing so is that we no longer see authority resting in Jesus but in the institutions we have created by our own hand—perhaps not so dissimilar from the idols crafted in ancient Israel to replace the God they could not see.
You can find the discussion board here and see the list of topics we’ve covered. You can start at Chapter 1 and work your way through, or just join us in Chapter 15.