Power- the ability to do something. Gangs have power, power of force or coercion. Gangs have power to take things from you but not the authority to do it.
Authority- the right to do something. By-Law officers have authority, authority to issue tickets, but not the power to enforce the payment of those tickets.
In Jesus’ day the religious leaders had power but they lacked authority because most of what they did and taught rested not on the Word of God but their traditions (Mk 7:7).
When Jesus spoke as God’s Son and from His Word everyone was amazed at the authority by which He did so. That authority had a positive effect. For example when Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount it says:
28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Mt 7:28–29)
Likewise in Mark when Jesus had begun His ministry it says:
22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mk 1:22)
In Acts when the authoritative Word went forth the Church grew (e.g. Acts 6:7 and others in Acts). Carried forth by the Spirit it also had power.
We should take courage from this thread in Scripture. Politicians, media, interest groups, squeaky wheels in our community, spiritual opponents all often wield great power yet want authority. Yet Christ has given authority (His Great Commission) and power (His Word & Spirit) to His Church. As ambassadors of Christ’s Church Christians can use the “living and active” (Heb 4:12) Word of God to great effect. When we teach its truths, cite it, quote it, counsel from it, write it, share it—because our culture speaks from power but not authority—people will be astonished by the authority by which we speak.
So as the world seeks to coerce believers into silence from speaking the truth, let us remember that as we trust God’s Word we will speak with power and authority, which will bear much fruit.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.