During the past two weeks I have been thinking about the difference between power and authority: first, as it relates to Jesus' ministry, and second, as it relates to our own.
To put it simply, power is the "ability" to do something. Power comes in many forms. Power itself is not evil, but it can be used in evil ways. For example, Adolf Hitler following Friedrich Nietzsche emphasized the "will to power". In a sense, it is a "survival of the fittest", or a "might makes right" mentality. Lord Acton is famously quoted as saying, "power corrupts ... and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Power has a tendency to go to our heads, as sinful human beings.
However, authority is different. Authority is the "right" to do something. Authority requires power (ability) but authority also carries with it a stamp of approval. Authority is the right to do what we have been empowered to do.
For Jesus, authority was so much more important than power. We see this demonstrated in the story where Jesus is sleeping, and the disciples are battling a sudden, deadly storm on the Sea of Galilee. As one commentator says this storm was not just any storm; the powers of evil that were behind it.
So in other words, it was a spiritual attack!
Yet even though Satan had the "power" (ability) to control the wind and the waves, only Jesus had authority over them. So when Jesus speaks the wind and the waves listen because He has authority to tell them what to do. (Matthew 8:23-27; especially verse 26)
In the same sense, in Matthew 10:1 Jesus gives His disciples "authority" to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Not only did Jesus give them power, but He also gave them authority. And authority is more important. When power meets power, the most powerful wins. But when authority encounters power; authority wins because God gets involved as we speak and act with His authority.
One other thing we must keep in mind is that "authority" also requires appropriate or "right" action. If we have the "right" to act on God's behalf, then we must also act "rightly". If we don't, then we lose our authority. For example, if we were to attempt to use God's authority to crush another human being either physically, emotionally, or spiritually, then we lose our authority because we do not act in line with God's will.
I know this gets to be pretty deep stuff, and I also know that I have only begun to scratch the surface of what is here, so I would be interested to hear your own thoughts on the matter as we journey together along the way ....