Direction of Authority

Does authority come from above or below?

Most people agree that primary authority is derived from God and passed on to those to whom He has entrusted such authority. It is then delegated downward until someone refuses to grant authority their subordinates. In the truest sense, that is accurate. (Compare the previous post here:

Even Jesus received His authority from God the Father.

Mt 28:18 (NIV) Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

The definition of the Greek word that is here interpreted as “authority” is “power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases.” It refers to the “top” person who is able to make sovereign decisions. In the Bible, that means God the Father – who gave ultimate authority to Jesus.

Regardless of one’s understanding about God, the DIRECTION of absolute authority is from the top down. The owner of  the company has the authority to take the company in whatever direction he or she feels appropriate.

But there is another side to authority. Absolute authority refers to the “right” to make decisions within a person’s “domain.” But PRACTICALLY, it does not work that way. The employees of a company have the final decision of whether they comply with the decision of those who have “authority” over them in the workplace. If they disagree, they can walk away.

Absolute authority can be delegated down but practical authority must be EARNED from below. Jesus also understood this. When asked to intervene between two brothers who were arguing, Jesus told them that THEY (both brothers) would have give Him (Jesus) the authority to arbitrate before it would have any effect on them:

Lu 12:14 (NIV) Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
This has deep implications for HOW we exercise the authority that we may have been delegated:
  • In the human realm, how many people can have absolute authority?
  • Were those who followed Hitler’s genocide without any ability to resist?
  • What happens if a leader fails to recognize the practical or “bottom up” authority?
  • What are some of the ways that bottom up authority can be displayed in the workplace (or church setting)?
  • How does one go about “earning” authority from his or her subordinates?
  • How can a leader take advantage of this principle?
  • Or, if you disagree with this concept, your opinion is also welcome, please tell us why you disagree.


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About Ray

Ray Waldo is a retired pastor with a passion for sharing knowledge, understanding and (if possible), wisdom with everyone he meets. Prior to his retirement, Ray served as a local pastor and teacher to five different churches in two states. He also served as a short-term missionary, teacher, and crusade speaker to groups in Mexico, Kenya, Uganda & the Democratic Republic of Congo (while Congo was still in conflict). Ray is also a widely recognized teacher, writer and public speaker. He was the top-billed speaker to groups of over 10,000 people when he visited Africa. He is currently writing two books (online) that he expects to be published within the next two years.

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