Do We Have Spiritual Authority?

With a five-year-old in the house, we have lots of discussions of authority! Usually discussions center around something I can do that she can’t, and usually the answer is “because I’m the Mom”! The truth is, we all would like a little more authority to make decisions, give orders, and keep other people in line with those decisions. When it comes to the spiritual realm, however, we often question our authority. Do we really have any spiritual authority?

The answer to this question comes in the illustration that I posted with my first blog post on spiritual warfare. We do have spiritual authority, but it is solely through Christ. It is true that in the spiritual realm, the realm of humans is below that of spiritual beings, but as Christians we died and were raised with Christ and are now seated at this right hand (Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 3:1). This gives us what is called “delegated authority”. This means that Christ is the “real” authority, but He gives us authority to act in His name. This is similar to that of a police officer. Individual police officers do not have inherent authority within themselves, but they have authority as a result of their connection with the police department. Just as a police officer may give orders and enforce obedience, we can give orders and enforce obedience in the name of Christ.

However, this does not mean we have “all” authority. In the example of a police officer, an individual officer must receive permission before exercising authority. If someone wants to search your house, they have to get special permission and show you a piece of paper with that permission. In child custody cases, a police officer cannot take a child away from one parent and give it to the other. Instead, they must have written authority. So it is with us. Our authority is based in Christ, and we can do nothing without His permission. That means in spiritual warfare, the most important thing is that we are in tune with Christ and only exercising our authority as He has directed us to do. Otherwise we will end up like the seven sons of Sceva, mentioned in Acts 19:13-16, who tried to use Christ’s authority to cast out a demon without really being connected to Christ. Acts 19:16 says, “Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” We need to be careful that we are always connected to Christ and being sensitive to His leading when it comes to spiritual warfare.

When we do have authority from Christ, there are three things that we are able to do. First, we can bind a demon, which is basically telling it to be quiet (Mark 1:25, Luke 4:35, 41). The second is loosing, which is revoking permission. We talked about permission last time and how to revoke permission, which happens in large part through confession and repentance of sin (Ephesians 4:26-27; 1 John 1:9). The third is evicting. Once permission has been removed, we have the right to tell a demon to leave (Luke 9:1; Mark 16:17).

Many people question our spiritual authority in light of verses like Jude 1:9, which says, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” If an archangel didn’t dare dispute the devil, what right do we have? There are two important points we can take from this verse that guide our thinking on spiritual authority. First, we have the example of Michael using Christ’s authority rather than his own. If you read the context of this passage, Jude is talking about people who trust in dreams and scoff at spiritual things they do not understand. They are people who are ignoring Christ’s preeminence, and putting their own spiritual understanding first. Rather than doing that, as we talked about above, we need to remember that we only have authority in Christ. This is what Michael recognized and acted on. Christ was a higher authority, so he said “the Lord rebuke you.” Second, we should also remember that, because of our position with Christ, we have greater spiritual authority than that of the angels. Even Michael, as the archangel, does not have the authority that comes with being seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 2-3).

So, to summarize, we have authority through Christ to tell demons to be quiet, to cancel permission through confession and repentance, and to command them to leave. However, our authority is not on our own, it is through Christ. We have delegated authority, not “all” authority, so we must stay close to Christ in order to know what He is giving us the authority to do in the spiritual world. Michael the archangel gives us an example of looking to Christ’s authority in times of spiritual battle. We are privileged to have spiritual authority, and we must remain with Christ in order to use that authority in a way that is pleasing to Him.