What is the difference between power and authority?
“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases” (Luke 9:1). In this verse we discover Jesus gives His disciples both power and authority to heal the sick. What is the difference between power and authority?
The word “power” is translated from the Greek word dunamis. To get an idea of the meaning of this word, we need to imagine the most powerful forces on earth. Our English word “dynamite” is derived from this potent word. Electric power, nuclear power, and massive explosions all express the sense of this word.
Dunamis power is the type of power that flowed from Jesus when the woman with the issue of blood touched Him. The power was a literal substance that went out of Jesus into the body of the women and healed her. Jesus actually felt an explosion of dunamis power leave His body in response to her faith.
The word “authority” is from the Greek word exousia. This second word is actually a term used in a courtroom to describe legal rights. A policeman has the authority to give a ticket to a speeder. A judge has the authority to send a criminal to prison. The President has the authority to wage war on another country.
Jesus claimed absolute authority when He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus was given the legal right to use any of God’s infinite resources in His battle with the devil. In turn, He fully authorized His disciples to walk in the same authority. The authority of Jesus was birthed in His relationship with His Father, and the authority of the disciples originated in their relationship with Jesus. Authority always comes from relationship.
Both power and authority are important. Owning a gun can give you the power to kill, but just possessing a gun does not necessarily give you the authority to use the gun. A policeman is given special permission to use his gun; in other words, he has both the power (the ability) and the authority (the legal right) to protect the innocent.
In my seventh grade science class, I studied two different types of energy. Potential energy is stored energy. A rock sitting on top of a cliff is full of potential energy. But when the rock is pushed off the edge of the cliff, the potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy, the energy of movement. Exousia is like potential energy; it gives Jesus the potential right to heal. Dunamis power is like kinetic energy; it gives Jesus the ability to heal.
Jesus gave the disciples both the power (dunamis power) and the authority (exousia power) to heal people. God has given you both the ability to defeat Satan and the legal right to make your power hold.
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