|Observing the Text!|
In Scripture, there is power in the words and the works of Jesus. Typically, the Westerner spends more times musing over the words without balancing out doing the works of Jesus. When Jesus sent out his disciples to minister (Luke 9.1), he gave them power and authority over demons and to cure diseases. These are two important words in Kingdom theology. Let’s take a closer look:
The root word from which power (dunamis) comes can be defined as to have capacity. It can mean to have the ability to carry out something; to bring something, or to conclude something. It can denote spontaneity. In the classical period of the Greek language, dunamis meant the ability to achieve in the area of physical, military, or political power.
Dunamis is used to translate two Hebrew words in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX). The Hebrew words generally mean military power or force. The overwhelming proof of the power of God in the Old Testament was the miraculous deliverance of Israel at the Sea of Reeds (Ex 15.6, Deut. 3.24; 9.26-29). The most comprehensive demonstration of the power of God certainly is demonstrated in the creation of the world (Gen. 1-2). Jeremiah describes this awesome power to create in Jeremiah 27.5. He says the same essential thing in a prayer that is recorded in Jeremiah 32.17. Micah talked about the power of God working in him (Micah 3.8). In this passage, the Hebrew Poetry (parallelism) suggests that to be filled with power is to have the presence of the Holy Spirit. Micah is not saying that he is filled with power and the Holy Spirit but rather he is filled with the Spirit which is the same thing as being filled with the power of God.
|Interpreting the Text!|
Synoptic Gospels and Acts
In the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, dunamis signifies the power of God. Three ways the word is used are: First, the power of God (Mark 14.62; Luke 1.49, Almighty, ISV). Second, in Mark 13.25 the heavenly bodies (power of the heavenlies) are said to have been shaken. Third, dunamis is used to describe the works of Jesus. The works of Jesus are called mighty works (miracles Matt. 11.20 ISV). Here is the good news. The servants of Jesus have the same power of the Spirit. It is given to us to perform the mighty acts of the Kingdom of God. The Spirit of God brings the power of Jesus to the Church. In Acts 1.8 the Church is promised power. In Acts 2.4 the promise was fulfilled. The rest of Acts demonstrates the powerful works of the Spirit through the disciples. When the Spirit comes to us at conversion we, too, are given the same power to do the works of Jesus.When the Spirit comes to us at conversion we, too, are given the same power to do the works of… Click To Tweet
The Gospel of John
John’s Gospel does not use the noun dunamis. However, the verb form of the word does appear in 5.19) where Jesus told the Jews that he was unable (powerless) to do anything except what he saw the Father doing. In Revelation, God is praised for his power (Rev. 4.11; 7.12, 19.1).
The Writings of Paul
Paul deposits a great emphasis on the present experience of the power of God. The central proof of God’s power in Paul is the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the source of the power of God in the Church (1 Cor. 1.24). The readers of Philippians are told that Jesus continually provides power for his own (Phil. 4.13). This verse could be translated, “I can continually do all things everywhere I go in Jesus who is continually empowering me.” Believers live in the power of God (2 Cor. 6.7;13.3; Eph. 1.19). The power of God comes in words and works according to 1 Corinthians 2.4-5. It is the Holy Spirit’s power which works signs and wonders which are the works of the Kingdom of God in this present evil age (Rom. 15.19; Gal. 3.5).
The word in Greek for authority is exousia. It can be defined as unrestrained right or freedom of action. The verbal form of the word means to exercise one’s right. The right of a king to rule is because of his authority (exousia). The word can also mean the authorization of an officer or a messenger to carry out a specific task. Exousia is used only of people, never used of things.
To understand the New Testament use of the word we are indebted to the Old Testament book of Daniel. God delegates authority to world rulers. God installs and removes kings (Dan. 2.21; 4.31). In Daniel, we discover that the authority invested in the “son of man” is endowed by God. This authority would be given to the true Israel, the church (Dan. 7.14) is the absolute power of the king to govern the people of God. In Rabbinical literature the word means ruling power.
The Hebrew word (rasuit), not found in the Old Testament but among the writings of the Rabbis, means an authoritative power of action like the power of attorney who is given the power of an ambassador. The judicial sense of rasuit designates the right to marry, teach, or inherit. Finally, the word is used to denote freedom of action. The New Testament uses the word exousia frequently, most frequently in Revelation. In secular usage, it meant the power to give orders (Matthew 8.9, the centurion).
Power and Authority and Believers
Luke’s version of the sending of the disciples is a key passage to understand how authority and power apply to us. Power (dunimas) has its foundation in the idea of being anointed, while authority (exousia) has its foundation in the concept of being sent out.
Jesus expelled demons by his authority. He deprived Satan and his demonic host of their power, that is their ability to do evil, thus destroying the works of Satan by snatching men from his rule. Jesus passed the same authority to his disciples (Matt. 10.1; Mark 3.15; 6.7; Luke 10.19). John’s Gospel tells us that everyone who receives Jesus receives from Jesus the power (exousia) to become his child (John 1.12). Three words are important to this verse. First, give. God gives to those who believe the right to become his child. Second, the right. This is our word exousia. John is not speaking of power as some ability to do a certain task but to gain status. Jesus gives those who believe the full authority to become. He gives us the power to change status. Finally, children. Those who believe become children. John uses a term that draws attention to the community or family. As a part of the family, we become partakers of the divine nature of the Father (2 Peter 1.4). When we believe, we are given authority (the right) to change our status from children of Satan to children of God.
Luke teaches us through the words of Jesus that we have been given authority (exousia), which is the right to use God’s power (the ability to accomplish a task) to tread on serpents and scorpions. Think of it this way. A police officer who directs traffic does not have the power to stop a car because it is much bigger and more powerful than he or she is. However, a police officer does have the authority to stop a car by merely raising his hand. The government has delegated his authority to him.
The centurion of Matthew 8.5-13 demonstrates this very fact. He knew what authority was. He had been delegated his authority by his superior. Those under him had to follow his command. His authority to command was granted because he was also under the authority of his senior officer and finally Caesar himself. Ultimate authority came from Caesar, but the centurion issued the orders. This was a one-time gift of authority to the centurion. He did not have to run to Caesar each time he needed to give an order to his followers. The same idea is true for believers. God has passed on his authority to us through Jesus who sent the Holy Spirit to continue his ministry through us. We have been empowered (Acts 1.8) to do his work. We have the responsibility to exercise the power and authority he has given us.On authority: a police officer does have the authority to stop a car by merely raising his hand. Click To Tweet
|Living into the Text!|
It is always important to apply what you have learned. Pause at this point and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to meditate on and put into practice some or all of the following.
- In what ways have you used the authority that God has given you to do his works and talk his words? What help do you need?
- If you could do one work of Jesus in the next week, what would it be? How do you know that you have authority to do that work? How do you call the power of God into action so the work can be accomplished?
- Why is the Old Testament and Septuagint important to us in the interpreting of the New Testament? What can you do to be better prepared to understand these resources?
The articles below come from various Bible Dictionaries and other sources. The posting of these brief articles are to introduce some readers to the vast amount of information that is provided to enhance your reading of the text of the Bible with a hope that it will lead to a better understanding of the text and will lead the reader to an improved praxis in his or her community of faith and personal life. You might read the articles offline in a number of different Bible Dictionaries. If you do not own a Bible Dictionary, I would recommend New Bible Dictionary 3rd Edition. If you like lots of color pictures, try Revell Bible Dictionary. Revell Bible Dictionary is no longer in print but is available from Amazon. One of these should suit your personal needs.