9 And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. (Luke 9:1-2 NASV)
We read in the Gospels that Jesus gave His disciples authority and power. So what does it mean to have authority and power?
The simplest definition is that authority means a person has the right to do something, and power means they have the ability to do it.
Perhaps the best example of how this functions is seen in the role of police in our society. A policeman has the authority to make an arrest. It’s an authority that has been given to him by the government.
When he sees someone breaking the law, a police officer doesn’t have to phone the governor or premier to get permission to arrest the individual, he or she has the right or authority to do it.
And though only one person, an officer is empowered by tens of thousands of people, from individuals in the local police department, to other law enforcement agencies across the country, to the attorney General, the justice system, the prisons and if need be the military.
Alone a police officer is virtually powerless, but with the power of the government behind him he is an army.
Growing up, one of our family’s favorite programs was Andy of Mayberry. It’s an old black and white TV show from the sixties that tells the story of two policemen in the town of Mayberry. The chief of police is Andy, starring Andy Griffith, and his bumbling deputy is Barny acted by Don Knotts.
In one particular episode, Barney, the 125 pound, wanna-be sheriff spotted two farmers selling vegetables in the town of Mayberry. They violated Section 7b Article 4 of the town bylaws, that prohibited people from selling items from the side of the road within town limits.
When Barney told the two farmers to move on, the two burly men, towering over the diminutive deputy, sarcastically told the Mayberry deputy to shove off. Overwhelmed by his own fears, Barney ran off to cower in the police station. When Andy got wind of what happened, he talked Barney into taking on these guys one more time.
At first, Barney tried to worm his way out of the task, but finally he confronted these two bullies one more time. They again resorted to their intimidation tactics, but this time Barney had a revelation of his power and authority.
“Do you see this badge”, Barney says pointing to the symbol of his authority, “it says that I’m sworn to uphold the law. Now that’s what I mean to do and you fellows better respect it. You understand. It’s just as simple as that.”
“You’re both a lot bigger than I am,” the deputy added, “but this badge represents a lot of people who are a lot bigger than either one of you. Now are you going to get moving?”
Whipped, the two fellows shuffled off, not because Barney grew in size, but because for the first time Barney fully understood who he actually was.
But authority isn’t enough. You need power to back up that authority or it’s all an empty threat. Obviously, Christians can’t go to the police station for help when a demon refuses to budge.
So what is the source of our power? Like a police officer, believers are also armed.
After the pharisees accused Jesus casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, a higher ranking demon, Jesus said He cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves with power dislodging the demons and evil spirits.
28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28 NASV)
If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you have the power of God inside you. You are fully armed to deal with any situation.
But there may be a second factor at work. In a similar account found in Luke, Jesus said He cast out demons by the finger of God:
20 But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Luke 11:20 NASV)
Is this a reference to the Holy Spirit or something different?
We see the “finger of God,” cited in the context of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. While Moses was bringing down judgments upon Egypt to convince the Pharaoh to let the people go, two Egyptian magicians, using their secret arts, matched Moses step for step.
When Moses turned the water into blood, they turned water into blood. When Moses caused frogs to swamp the land, the magicians, much to the chagrin of the Pharaoh, made things worse by repeating the miracle.
But this high stakes challenge slammed to a dramatic stop, when Moses told Aaron to touch the ground and the swirling dust turned into a swarm of gnats. When the magicians couldn’t match this miracle, the two said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19).
The satanic forces that empowered them had been bound and they were incapable of duplicating any further miracles.
I wonder if the “finger of God” was a reference to Godly angels in Egypt who were working on behalf of Israel.
20 “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. (Exodus 23:10 NASV)
Psalms also records that before the Exodus, God had a band of angels invade Egypt, which I believe ham-strung satan’s ability to empower their servants.
He sent upon them His burning anger,
Fury and indignation and trouble,
A band of destroying angels. (Psalm 78:49 NASV)
As believers we not only have the Holy Spirit, but also angels of God neutralizing satanic powers.
Our ability to engage in spiritual battle grows to the extent we understand the power and authority Christ has given us.