The Source Of Apostolic Authority
By Martin Schmaltz, D.C.
Much is being said today about apostolic ministry and authority. In using this terminology, I believe we are speaking of the authority that Jesus first demonstrated which was then passed on to the apostles and the first century church. This authority was evidenced by powerful messages that were confirmed by miraculous signs and wonders. Currently there are some groups whose focus is on the manifestation of authority and the miraculous outcome. However, there appears to be a lack of understanding of the source, means of transmission and biblical usage of apostolic authority.
To begin with, we must look at the biblical basis of apostolic authority. An examination of the biblical definitions of the words power, authority and apostolic will establish a firm foundation for us to build upon.
In the New Testament we see two words that are translated as power, they are dunamis and exousia. It is significant to understand the meaning of each and its application to apostolic authority.
* Dunamis means: “strength, ability or power. It refers to an inherent power, a power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature.” (Thayer’s)
* Exousia, on the other hand: “denotes a freedom of action or right to act.” (Vine’s)
* Authority, according to Nelsons Illustrated Bible dictionary is: “the power or right to do something, particularly to give orders and see that they are followed. It means a persons right to do certain things. It emphasizes the legality and right more than physical strength.”
Putting this in perspective, dunamis or power, is the strength or ability to do something while exousia or authority, is the legal right to use the dunamis of another and expect results. This difference between power and authority is imperative to our understanding if we desire to minister with apostolic authority. Dunamis or power is something inherent (abiding within) by virtue or nature of an individual. Exousia or authority is from an external source, it is the legal right-to use another’s, i.e. Jesus Christ’s, dunamis.
A good illustration can be seen in a common scenario exhibited on our highways. A particular driver may be stopped for speeding by a five foot two, one hundred and ten pound police officer. This driver is taller, heavier and stronger and could easily over power the officer. However, the driver is respectful and holds his peace, because he is aware of who this officer represents. In examining this illustration it is apparent that the driver of the car may have a certain amount of power or dunamis that is greater than the power or dunamis of the police officer. However, the officer has more exousia or authority. They have the legal right to use the power or dunamis of the government they are representing, and this power is greater than that of the driver.
The application of this to apostolic authority is this: authority is not based on our ability or strength; it is based on using the strength or ability of another, specifically Jesus Christ. His power is to be used in the manner that He authorizes or prescribes. This is a liberating truth to comprehend: the power to operate in apostolic authority does not originate within me. The source of this miraculous ability is from Jesus Christ himself.
The next term to grasp in understanding apostolic authority is the word apostolic. This word is not found in scripture, but it is an adjective used to describe the type of authority that is desired. This term is used in reference to the type of ministry manifest by the apostles in the Book of Acts. An exploration of the scriptural words used in association with the apostles will give us great insight into their ability to operate with such authority. Two words that are significant are apostle and sent.
The main word translated apostle is apostolos. The following sources give a detailed definition of the meaning and function of an apostle:
* Vine’s says it is “one sent forth.”
* Thayer’s says it is “a delegate, messenger or one sent forth with orders.”
* Holman Bible Dictionary says it is “a person sent to accomplish a mission. An apostle represents the one sending and has authority to represent the sender in business, political or educational situations.”
* The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says “there is a difference between a messenger (aggelos) and an apostolos. The apostolos was more than a messenger, they were a delegate or representative of the one who sent them.”
* The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels states, “the aopstelleo is used to denote the sending of a person with a commission.” A commission is an authorization to act for, in behalf of or in place of another.
Included in the definitions above, is the concept of being sent or a sending. In regard to this, the Greek word for send or sent is apostelloo; “properly, to send off send away” (Thayer’s). Further, according to Thayer’s there are four components to this sending:
* First, they are ordered to go.
* Secondly, they are sent with a commission or something intended for another.
* Thirdly, the place of their sending is specific.
* Fourth, the completion or manifestation of the duty is proof of the sending.
These four components in the definition of apostelloo are evident in the delegation of authority Jesus Christ gives to believers. First, it is Jesus Christ who calls us to go. Secondly, we are sent with specific orders or purpose to achieve. Thirdly, the Lord specifies the area we are sent to or our specific ministry gifting. And fourthly, as we endeavor to be obedient and perform the task instructed, He confirms our words with the miraculous demonstration of His power. Therefore, to be apostolos, or an apostle, is to be sent as a special delegate or envoy, authorized to represent and carry out transactions for the one that is authorizing and sending. Those that are apostolos do not use their own dunamis or power. They are authorized or empowered to use the dunamis or power of the one sending them.
Therefore, apostolic authority rests on the principle of being authorized to use the power of the one who has sent us to conduct business for Him. Apostolic authority is not based on the individual’s inherent power or ability, therefore anyone can be sent. The weakest, the un-educated, those who are not part of the “in” crowd can all be sent with authority. Since it is delegated authority, the responsibility to produce is not with the one being sent. The only responsibility for the correct usage of apostolic authority is a submission to His will, using His power for His purpose.
Jesus Is Our Example
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; (Ephesians 2:20)
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. (Hebrews 3.1-2)
We are to build our understanding of apostolic authority on the apostles and prophets, anchoring ourselves into Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. If Jesus is the Apostle and we are to be anchored to Him, it is to Him we must look for our example of apostolic authority.
Jesus himself speaks of being sent. Hebrews says that as the Apostle, He “was faithful to him that appointed him” (Hebrews 3: 1). Thayer’s defines faithful as: “one who shows themselves faithful in the transaction of business, the execution of commands or the discharge of official duties.” Jesus was faithful to carry out the purpose of the one who sent Him. This faithfulness was evidenced in His statement in the Gospel of John: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth. 1 have finished the work which thou gayest me to do” (John 17:3-4).
As the Apostle, Jesus was sent with a specific commission, to a specific people and place and His coming and ministry revealed the purpose of his sending. Throughout His ministry, we find Him expressing often that the words He spoke and the works He performed were not His. In the following list of scriptures, Jesus emphatically states that He was doing the will of the one who sent Him.
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. (John 5.19)
For I came down. from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. (John 6:38)
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. (John 7:16)
Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as my Father hash taught me, I ,speak these things. (John 8:28)
For I have not spoken of myself but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. (John 12:49)
And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. (John 12:50)
For I have given unto them the words which thou gayest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send inc. (John 17.8)
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. (John 14:10)
Therefore, with Jesus Christ as our example, we are sent forth to operate in apostolic authority just as He was sent. We are to faithfully perform the will of the One who sends us, speaking the words and conducting the business as we have been instructed. Only then will we be able to expect His power to be revealed.
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
When we are baptized with the Holy Ghost, we are endued with a power that is not of this world. In the above text, The Amplified Bible says “until ye are clothed with power from on high.” In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised His disciples; “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you:” In both these text, power is the dunamis we defined_ earlier, the inherent ability to perform- the miraculous. With the indwelling of His Spirit, we are clothed with a power that does not come from us, but originates in the spirit realm.
Paul, writing to Timothy states: “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; ” (1 Timothy 1:12). This enabling is from the Greek endunamoo, which means: “to empower” (Strong’s). To the church at Ephesus, Paul instructed to: “be strong in the Lord, and the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). To be strong is also the Greek endunamoo, “to be empowered in the Lord and the power of his might.” As a born again believer, we are not to operate in our own ability, but we are to be clothed and empowered with the Lord’s power. It is this power that gives us the ability to operate in apostolic authority. We should then, by faith, use His power that we have been clothed and empowered with.
We Are Sent
“As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world”. (John 17:18)
“… as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. ” (John 20:21)
As the Apostle, Jesus understood what it meant to be sent. In the texts above, Jesus is sending or transferring the authorization to us, His disciples. Jesus states that as He has been sent into the world, He has sent us into the world. One of the keys to operating in apostolic authority is an understanding of who sends us.
Jesus stated in Matthew 28:18 “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” The Amplified Bible says: “All authority (all power of rule)” was given to Him. He followed up this statement in the next verse with a commissioning of His disciples. “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:” ASV Matthew 28:19. Jesus was applying the principle of apostolic sending. In Acts 1:8 after proclaiming “ye shall receive power,” the next point was how to use that power: “ye shall he my witnesses.” The purpose of receiving His Spirit and its empowering was that we would be sent forth to proclaim Him, using the authority to manifest Him to a lost world.
We have been empowered, authorized and sent as special messengers to conduct business in His name. What is that business? We are to make disciples. We are sent and authorized to use divine power. We have been endued with power from outside of us, which is now in us, but not of us. This power in us goes with us where we are sent, revealing itself as we exercise the authority, right, and privilege we have been given.
This article “The Source Of Apostolic Authority” written by Martin Schmaltz D.C. is excerpted from his book Apostolic Authority: Every Believers Privilege.