Did He Exceed His Authority?

Did he exceed his authority?

What is authority?

The word “authority” has many meanings in today’s language. Here are some of the definitions that I found on the web:

  • the power or right to give orders or make decisions; “he has the authority to issue warrants”; “deputies are given authorization to make arrests …
  • (usually plural) persons who exercise (administrative) control over others; “the authorities have issued a curfew”
  • an expert whose views are taken as definitive; “he is an authority on corporate law”
  • official permission or approval; “authority for the program was renewed several times”
(All the previous definitions are from the wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn)
  • The power to enforce rules or give orders; Persons in command; specifically, government; A person accepted as a source of reliable information … en.wiktionary.org/wiki/authority

“The power to … give orders.” That is what many people find most despicable about authority. It is also where we often feel that someone “exceeded” their authority. There are many small people who try to exercise their “authority” over the wrong people. Here is a quote that I read recently which puts that facet of the definition into perspective…

No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets. – Edward Abbey

Although the humorous  jab about electromechanical gadgets doesn’t mean much in our present discussion, the other parts are applicable. Young people from the ’60s (perhaps much earlier) till now have felt that it is their duty to resist “authority” – both the function and those who represent it – in order to “reset” the authority structure.

The confusion of contemporary meanings of authority has fueled the flame of rebellion in our society. But in the Bible, authority is clearly defined. Here are some notes from my recent study on Biblical authority:

OLD TESTAMENT: I only found two references in the KJV for “authority.”

  • In Esther 9:29 (NIV), “So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm ….” The Hebrew word is found at Strong’s number <08633> and refers to power and strength. It is the kind of authority that people sometimes call “tyranny” and often leads to rebellion and bloodshed. This usage only refers to the method used by the Queen –  which may or may not be according to God’s plan for the use of authority.
  • In  Proverbs 29:2 the Hebrew word is found at Strong’s <07235> and actually means “majority” rather than authority. From the NIV reading, “When the righteous thrive [are in authority or majority], the people rejoice.” This is a true proverb and SHOULD still be appropriate but it still does not tell us anything about God’s plan for the use of authority. So, this is not really pertinent to our  discussion either.

The NIV translates several Hebrew words as “authority.” Perhaps the best would be in Da 4:31 “King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you.” The Hebrew word is Strong’s <04437> and is defined as royalty, reign, kingdom, kingship or kingly authority. This verse  tells us something about authority in that God has the right to remove anyone’s “authority” if their actions are not to His  liking. God said in Da 7:14 that Nebuchadnezzar had been given that authority (same Hebrew word) and since he was no longer using it appropriately, it would be taken away.

Although God’s plan for authority (and everything else) was no doubt established long before the creation of the earth, in my study, I did not find any definitive answers as to the “what and how” of authority in the Old Testament. I suspect that the reason is that the church of the Old Testament lived by the law of tablets of stone, they were not expected to understand – just obey. However, in the New Testament era, the law is written on our hearts (Heb 10:16) and it is imperative that we understand or we will fail to meet God’s requirements (2Co 3:3). So, I moved to the New Testament where I did find an understanding of authority.

Next installment: The Source of Authority

This entry was posted in Ethics, Profound Issues and tagged , , , by Ray. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

Leave a Reply