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This is one of mine.
What is the difference between power and authority?
A while back I was called upon by my brother to do some work with his back-hoe. As I sat and operated this machine, it occurred to me that this was a prime object lesson on power and authority. By means of the machine, I was the most powerful man on the job. The thing that struck me was that of all, I had the least authority. By means of the machine, I had many times more power to move things than all the men I worked for put together. Where was the authority?
First the authority lay in my brother who as owner had complete 'say so' over what was done with the machine and by whom. When the men came and asked my brother to use this authority on their behalf, he came to me and 'authorized' me to use his machine. My charge was to do as these men bid that their purpose be accomplished, their purpose being the removal of a basement wall so they could replace it. This set me to thinking of ministers in the Kingdom of God.
Ministers are authorized by God to have command over certain elements of God's 'machinery.' God authorizes some to deliver His Word, some to speak the intents and inner thoughts of a persons heart, some to understand and teach the deep mysteries of His creation and much, much more up to and including the power over the elements and death itself. A minister is not limited to just one of these gifts by any means. These ministers, like me in the above situation, have been or will be given great power over the natural elements and spirit world, but when it comes to the exercise of authority, they are at the bottom of the list. Consider:
25: But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.
26: But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27: And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Jesus who had infinitely more power than anyone in history came to serve and not only to serve but to serve ALL! If you need anything, you go to Him. Jesus never exercised authority over anyone but by the exercise of the authority God gave Him over the 'machinery' of God's Kingdom, He served all that would come to Him in genuine need.
When I was operating this back-hoe I had to take instructions from the laborers assistant, or indeed the man on the job with the least authority. How can this be when in the next instant I was instructing the boss, the man with the most authority? The key is that even though there was an underlying power structure, a ladder of authority, the relative position and information and viewpoint placed different people in a 'better' position to be the authority for a given task. All, in the end, were my instructors as well as being submitted to me. Consider:
21: Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (KJV)
5: Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. (KJV)
My authority was not over these men but over that which my brother had committed to me. By the exercise of this power I became indispensable to these men. This gets deep!
Whom did I have to please? Should these men have been displeased with me and my brother upon hearing the circumstances, have thought my actions honorable, I would have been in the clear. Let's say the reason these men were upset with me was that they wanted me to do things with the machine that I know would have broken it? My brother would have then been rather pleased with me in that I had angered these men but had only done so to preserve his interest. In like manner, when a minister must anger the children of God that the purpose of God be served, they are in the clear. Should these men have usurped my authority and thrown me out of the machine, I would have been covered. What if these men came to my brother and told him that I wouldn't do what they told me to do and it was not endangering his interest? He would then be angry at me because I had not fulfilled the change given me to use these resources he had delivered to me for the service of these men. Pastors and ministers have the same responsibilities.
There is much that would have displeased my brother. I could have used the machine to make money and keep it for myself. I could have used the machine to force my will upon the men. I could have neglected the machinery and the purpose he had assigned me. All of these situations apply to the ministry to the saints.
How does this relate to the way in which the Kingdom of God operates? Imagine if you will, the above situation with one difference. Let's say that the back-hoe, belonged to my brother and the men were working for him and that the property was also his. All would then answer to him. This is the way God has authority set up in His Kingdom. He has appointed each in His Kingdom a job to do and a task to accomplish. While God has given gifts to some that give them greater power, the authority rest in Him and it is Him that all must please. Take the scenario above, cannot any go to my brother and complain about the behavior of the other? Cannot the one with the least power go to my brother and complain that those 'above' him are doing things contrary to his interest? Is this the set up God uses? Consider:
3: But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. (KJV)
The head of every man is Christ.
Pastors and ministers are not given authority over anyone but are given gifts that they are then responsible to use on the behalf of God's servants to further the purpose of God. It is they that will be called into account when God hears from the 'flock' that they had needs that were not fulfilled. What about this passage then?
17: Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (KJV)
When all was said and done, it was I that had the ultimalte decision as to what was done and what was not cone with my brothers machine. Consider also that although I was to serve these men, had they stood in my way and presented me with constant trouble, it would have been 'unprofitable' for them!
Those whom God has given the power of His Word, while more powerful, are indeed those with the least authority: Servants of all!