Exercising Authority

Authority in Christ is a scriptural concept and here we will look at an aspect of how to exercise it in our lives. Consider the following exclamations, “I can’t believe it!” or, “Unbelievable.” At some point in time most of us have uttered one of these expressions or something similar. Our utterance may be connected to terrible unexpected news, like the sudden demise of someone we knew or it may be great news that a couple has just become engaged or the wife is pregnant and expecting. It could also be that someone who was hardened against the gospel has now become a Christian.

Whatever the case, the expression generally conveys shock, a sense of something that doesn’t seem quite real, making it hard to believe or implausible. Yet even if something is implausible it is not impossible. I am confident that over time all of us have changed our beliefs about something. Here we are going to look at that process and how it relates to exercising our authority in Christ.

A term that describes our ability or capacity to believe something is ‘plausibility structure.’ A simple definition comes from philosopher J. P. Moreland, “A person’s plausibility structure is the set of ideas the person either is or is not willing to entertain as possibly true.”[1] I will expand a bit. We all hold ideas in our mind about what is and is not possible. They help shape our worldview, the lens through which we view and interpret reality. What is believable or plausible is not determined by reality but by how we view reality, including the spiritual realm.

We can move beyond definitions and apply this idea to our prayer lives regarding the efficacy of our prayers. Our beliefs about prayer are firmly tied to our plausibility structures and our worldview – both of which we can change. A good starting point is reflecting on whether we believe our prayers make a difference. If we do believe our prayers are making a difference and we are seeing results, great. If not then let’s hold our plausibility structure in this area up to the light of scripture and examine it. To do so we will look at an aspect of what scripture has to teach about authority, more specifically spiritual authority, so that where needed we can shift our views to align them with scripture. To explore how we exercise authority we will look at relational versus positional authority.

There has been much teaching in recent decades on our position in Christ and our relationship with Him. What I have never heard discussed is the difference between positional authority and relational authority. We all have a measure of positional authority by virtue of our relationship with Jesus. However, more importantly we need to develop relational authority. This idea developed in me over time through my leadership work in various roles. Yes, it is scriptural, and we will get to that. Over the years, many times I said to my staff and colleagues, “If all we have is positional authority, we don’t have any. We need relational authority.” I will explain. When I had a position of authority at work, I could direct my staff to engage in specific tasks within their scope of work as outlined in their job description. However, my positional authority didn’t determine how they did the work or the attitude they held. They could have done it begrudgingly and resented me all the while. So yes, I did have positional authority. However, what had much greater influence on how they did their work was the relationship I had with them. This didn’t mean we had to be friends. It did mean developing a relationship where I was available to provide support, develop mutual respect and create an atmosphere conducive to them doing their job well. My positional authority gave me the responsibility to create relational authority so that work was done well.

Now we apply this to our authority in Christ in prayer. We can place demands on the Lord, but Paul told us in Galatians that what counts is ‘faith working through love,’ (Galatians 5:6), which implies a relationship. Paul’s statement is relational not positional. If I want to see greater results in prayer then I need to cultivate a deeper relationship with the one to whom I am praying!

Jesus presented it this way,

7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:7–8 (NKJV)

14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:14–15 (NKJV)

Coming back to plausibility structures and our worldview – do we see ourselves as Jesus’ friends? Have we cultivated that relationship so that we can have confidence in our authority in Christ? Are our prayers in line with His word? My desire is that we would come before the throne of grace and see our city and communities changed. We can do that if are His friends and see ourselves that way. John said it like this.

14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:14–15 (NKJV)

If we are in this place great! If not let us come back to some other things Jesus told us.

29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” Matthew 9:29 (NKJV)

Jesus said we would receive based on our faith. If we struggle with our faith, if our plausibility structure doesn’t include answers to prayer then let’s join in with the prayers of a desperate father.

23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:23–24 (NKJV)

Jesus, may our unbelief be transformed to faith! May we live in relational circles and communities seeing Your kingdom come and Your will done!

[1] Moreland, J.P.. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (p. 56). The Navigators. Kindle Edition.

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I have been walking with Jesus since 1985. I am currently retired from my career in the helping professions but still focused on ministering to others. I completed a Doctorate of Philosophy in Apologetics in September 2020.

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