The nature of spiritual authority


Spiritual authority is the power that is released in fellowship with Him who is the Head, Jesus Christ.

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28.18-20).

Jesus is the One who is given all authority in heaven and on earth. This makes the foundation of the Great Commission. Go therefore, Jesus says. All spiritual ministry shall be dependent on His authority. This power is available because He is with us always, even to the end of the age.

When Jesus sent out his disciples, they ministered in this authority.

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and disease (Matthew 10.1).

The disciples who had been together with Jesus received delegated authority over unclean spirits and diseases. Exorcism of demons and healing of the sick demonstrated the authority of Jesus.

Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him” (Mark 1.27).

The teaching of Jesus was radically different compared to the teaching of the scribes, He taught with authority.

And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Matthew 7.28-29).


People often recognize it when somebody speaks with divine authority. This is God revealing Himself. His authority and kingdom become visible. But all people will not be able to recognize the authority of God. Even Jesus was rejected by men.

I have come in my Fathers name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? (John 5.43-44)

The Pharisees and scribes were more concerned about positions and human honor than about knowing God. The more focused we are on positions and human authority, the less we are able to recognize real divine authority. Jesus was the man most filled with power and authority through all ages, nevertheless He was rejected by people who managed the religious positions of power and influence.


Divine authority is a result of fellowship with Him who is given all authority in heaven and on earth. When we are influenced by Him and He is revealing Himself through us, our words will have striking power in the spirit world. The enemies of the Lord bow their knees when He is revealed. Those who know Him will recognize Jesus in us when He speaks through us. To receive spiritual authority we must let Jesus be our Lord and let Him have influence through our life. Spiritual leadership shall be based on the authority that comes from Him.

Divine authority is not equal to human influence and visible power. Divine authority is influence on the spiritual realm, which is invisible to the human eye. The fruit of this authority will become visible when people are saved, healed and delivered from the captivity of Satan, but the authority itself may only be seen by the eyes of the heart. Paul prays that the Father may grant the Ephesians a spirit of wisdom and revelation which will give light to their spiritual eyes.

By having the eyes of your hearts flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance to the saints (His set-apart ones) (Ephesians 1.18, Amplified Bible). 

The Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of wisdom and revelation, makes it possible to know Him, and we will recognize Jesus in people through whom He reveals himself.


In the beginning Saul was a king chosen and anointed by God, but he ended up as a manipulating, controlling king who was motivated by fear. Saul put more trust in his own strength than in the Lord. He rejected spiritual authority and embraced the controlling power of human authority. He had power and influence, but the Lord did not rule through him. Saul was disobedient to the Lord and tried to compensate for his rebellious attitude with sacrifice.

So Samuel said: Has the LORD great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king (1 Samuel 15.22-23).

Obedience is of vital importance to divine authority. No offering can replace our personal relationship with the Lord. The prophet Samuel compares rebellion to witchcraft and stubbornness to iniquity and idolatry, because these sins have a common root. They are motivated by the desire to control our circumstances independent of the Lord.

David was different. He knew the Lord for many years before he was made a king. He was called by God and anointed by the prophet a long time before he was given visible influence in Israel. He learned to know the Lord and live close to Him. David worked as a shepherd while he was worshipping the Lord, and he prepared himself for his future ministry as the king of Israel and a shepherd for the people of God. He was totally dependent on the grace of the Lord. David knew his own limits and acknowledged that the Lord was his strength. He was a man with divine authority.

The first psalm of David declares the foundation of his life. He knew that he had to choose between two paths – following men or the Lord. He put his delight in following the Lord and he wanted to please Him rather than pleasing people. The life and ministry of king David was like a tree planted by the rivers of water. Whatever he did as a king prospered as long as he stuck to the Lord, and Israel was blessed with greatness and prosperity under the hand of God.

In Psalm 18 David writes about his relationship with the Lord.

I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies (Psalm 18.1-3).

The authority of king David was not based on human leader skills. He had no strength but the Lord. His life and ministry was founded on the Rock. He was safe in danger because he found shelter with the Lord who was his fortress. He was secure because the Lord was his deliverer. When life was difficult and the enemies were threatening his life, God was his strength. When arrows filled the air, the Lord was his shield. The truth that the Lord was the horn of his salvation tells us that all his power, honor and authority came from God. His life was covered in the fortress of the Lord. God surrounded him as a wall of protection.

David continues to write about how the Lord hears his prayers and reveals His wrath with shakings, consuming fire, thunder, arrows and lightning. The Lord himself comes down to earth and delivers him from all his enemies. This is spiritual authority. David reigns with the Lord who confirms his government and answers his prayers. The Lord reigns through the kingdom of David.

David knew that it was not his own strength that was carrying him. The Lord held him up and made him great.

You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great (Psalm 18.35).

The Lord ruled through him and the enemies feared the power and authority of the Lord that was visible in David.

As soon as they hear of me, they obey me; The foreigners submit to me (Psalm 18.44). 

The enemies of the Lord will obey us when He reveals His authority through us.

For we wrestle do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6.12).

The Lord wants do reveal His authority through us. The hosts of evil must bow their knees when Jesus is revealed in us. Satan does not fear us. He fears Christ in us. In our fellowship with the Lord there is released power and authority that binds Satan and stops his work.


Spiritual authority is a matter of fellowship with Him who is the Head of the body. He will reign. The Lord is the King.

Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion (Psalm 2.6).

Jesus is the King of the Kingdom. Spiritual leadership is about giving the King an opportunity to reign through us. We have no right to rule over people, but the Lord will reveal himself as the Lord of all. Just as David we must live humble before the Lord and let the Lord be great, as John the Baptist says:

He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3.30).

The most important thing is to know the Lord.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent (John 17.3).

More than anything else we should seek to know the Lord. Job was a righteous man that pleased God. But before the Lord was revealed to him, he did not know Him on a personal level.

I have heard about You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eyes see You (Job 42.5).


We may be saved and forgiven, chosen and called without knowing the Lord. God may have great plans for us, but we must Him before He can reveal himself through us. When the prophet Samuel was a young boy serving in the temple, he did not yet know the Lord.

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor was the word of the LORD yet revealed to him (1 Samuel 3.7).

But God revealed himself to Samuel who wanted to know Him better, and the word of the Lord was revealed to him. The Lord revealed his secrets and showed His covenant to Samuel.

The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant (Psalm 25.14).

Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets (Amos 3.7).

Samuel learned to know God and His kingdom. He knew that God was the king of Israel. He understood divine authority. He realized that that the people abandoned the Lord when they demanded a human king.

And the LORD said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should reign over them” (1 Samuel 8.7).


People have a tendency to seek human authority at the expense of divine authority. It may seem easier to relate to people than to God, because we do not always have our focus on the invisible. But God wants us to seek Him. When we have our focus on the Lord, we will also recognize His authority in people He has called and equipped for leadership.

Through human eyes we may seem weak and lacking authority, even though God speaks and works through us. Paul writes:

I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2.3-5).

People may leave us or despise us, even if we have divine authority. When Paul left the church in Ephesus he was highly esteemed and honored.

They all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship (Acts 20.37-38).

Paul had invested three years of his life together with these people and they had witnessed how God worked through him.

Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day through tears (Acts 20.31).

Nevertheless these same Christians turned away from Paul together with all the other churches in Asia.

This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes (2 Timothy 1.15).

When Paul was falsely accused in court nobody stood up for him.

At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them (2 Timothy 4.16).

Leaders must have their security in the Lord and not in the people they are called to lead. For the Lord is the One who confirms that He has called us and equipped us, people may always fail. We must be prepared for the possibility of people leaving us even if they have respected us deeply in the past. Moses had to live forty years in exile even though he was called and chosen by God. David had to take refuge in caves and flee from king Saul even though he was both called and anointed to be the king of Israel. Jesus was “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53.3) although He came as the incarnation of God.

Prospects were black for Paul when almost everybody left him. In the eyes of many Christians he was a false apostle, seduced and insignificant to the kingdom of God. But no other apostle has had such impact on history. The letters written by Paul have led millions of people to salvation, and the fruit of Paul’s ministry has been increasing with every new generation of Christians through almost 2000 years. Paul was able to keep the faith and preserve his calling because he served God and did not seek the favor of men.

For do I persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ (Galatians 1.10).


To live in divine authority, we must keep our focus on the Lord. People will change, but the Lord will always be the same. He will equip us, fill us with power and give us His authority. He is the King. He reigns. Leaders are called to make room for the reign of God. Leaders are more than anything else called to seek Him and see what He does. Jesus was totally dependent on seeking the Father to see what He did.

Then Jesus answered and said to them: “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel” (John 5.19-20).

Jesus had authority in fellowship with the Father. When Jesus was in touch with the Father, He could do the Father’s works. Jesus did nothing in His own power even though He was the Son of God. The ministry of Jesus on earth was as a man anointed by the Spirit of God. He was totally dependent on the Father’s guidance and power to exercise spiritual authority and do miracles. If Jesus was dependent on this relation with the Father, how should we be able to have a spiritual ministry without seeking an intimate relationship with the Lord?


Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a key to understand the difference between ministry in divine authority and human ministry. Ishmael is a symbol of human initiative, everything that comes from the fallen human nature and the worldly mind. Isaac is the promised son that is born on the initiative of God and by the Spirit of God. Ishmael represents bondage and legalism, Isaac represents grace and freedom.

But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now (Galatians 4.29).

The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and when we minister out of the flesh, we will not recognize what God does in the Spirit. If we are motivated by human initiative, motives of the flesh and pride, God will resist us. If we do not repent, we will be a stumbling block to the work of God through people who are led by His Spirit.

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (James 4.6).

If we humble ourselves and seek Him, He will give us grace. Spiritual ministry is the ministry of grace. Spiritual gifts are gifts of grace. These are for people who acknowledge their total dependence on the grace and guidance of the Lord. The Lord shall reveal himself and His will through us. People shall be changed by His grace. We must let Him transform us by the grace we receive when we see Jesus as He is.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror, the glory of he Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3.18).

He recreates our nature by His Spirit when we behold His glory.


The blessing of God is no evidence of a life in harmony with His perfect will or a ministry born by the Spirit. God blessed Ishmael, even though he represented the ministry of the law, condemnation and captivity. It is possible to have the blessings of God and still not live in our calling and the perfect will of God. The blessings of God come by grace, we can never deserve the favor of God. But the fruits of our life will show if we represent Isaac or Ishmael.

But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar – for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children – but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband” (Galatians 4.23-27).

Ishmael and Mount Sinai represent bondage, while Isaac and the New Jerusalem represent freedom. If we are spiritual leaders after the heart of God, this will become visible in the people we are called to lead. Do they live in bondage or freedom? Are they driven by legalism or the love of God? Do they know Him in their hearts or do they know Him solely by the hearing of the ear? Freedom and love are fruits of the ministry of the Spirit. Churches and Christians who are characterized by legalism and a heavy spirit are subdued by the ministry of Ishmael. When God is allowed to exercise His authority through us, people will not be controlled by human power of fear and manipulation. The reign of God through us will help people recognize the power and love of God. They will be set free from the curse of legalism and be guided to the presence of the Lord. They will find rest instead of hustle and bustle. There will be joy instead of depression and abundance in the place of poverty.


The spiritual poverty of our churches is to a high degree a fruit of the ministry of the letter and not of the Spirit. Even the New Testament will become law when it is taught and preached independent of the uttering of the Spirit. The Spirit of God will teach and preach through us, we are not called to merely repeat truths we have heard or read. The letter kills, while the Spirit gives life.

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to thing of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3.5-6).

This principle also applies to the words of the New Testament. The letter kills, when our words are not connected to the heart of God and the prophetic Spirit. All leaders are not prophets, but all leaders are called to be channels for the heart of God and the prophetic utterance of the Spirit to the church. All preaching and teaching is supposed to be born in the heart of God, not merely human efforts of delivering messages in harmony with Biblical theology.

God did not give us a book of recipes to enable us to cook the perfect life on our own initiative. He gave us living words to lead us to fellowship with a living God who will guide us and show us who He is. We are children of the promise, just like Isaac. We must live by the Spirit and not after the flesh. This is not merely a question of living according to all the truths of the Bible, but to live in fellowship with Him who is the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Sven Weum 2001