Power, Control, and Authority: Their Use and Abuse
Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
Power, control, and authority are at the very foundation of the abuser’s mentality, and this fact makes perfect, though diabolical, sense. Power and control are in some ways the very essence of sin. Or, as we should specify, power, control and authority gone wrong are involved in the root of sin. As we see in the Scriptures just quoted, in themselves, power and authority and the control that accompanies them are not evil. The Lord Jesus Christ has been given all authority in the universe, and He possesses infinite power to enforce that authority. Talk about control! We pray that His kingdom would come and thus we pray that His power and authority would rule in all the universe. In the right hands and exercised in the right way, power and authority and control are wonderful!
God ultimately is the only One in all creation who possesses power and authority in His very being. He is the origin and fountainhead of all power and of all authority we see around us. Jesus, you remember, reminded Pilate that the only reason he had authority over Jesus was because it had been granted to Pilate by the Father. Civil government bears the sword, but only because God has granted power and authority to government for the restraint and punishment of evildoers. No human being, simply by virtue of who they are, possesses even a smidgin of power or authority.
The relationship of power and authority is very interesting. Think about it. Authority is the authorization to command. Jesus commended the Centurion’s great faith because this man recognized Christ’s authority to command the creation and its creatures, just as the Centurion had authority to command his own soldiers. But authority without power is ineffectual. The Centurion could command, but unless some kind of power stood behind his orders, his word would accomplish nothing. In his case, his authority was backed up by the power of Rome. People obeyed his authority because if they didn’t, all of the power of Caesar’s army could come against them.
Similarly, power exercised without authority is meaningless. Let’s say that someone just decided that they would be a Roman Centurion, and they started ordering people around. Any power they might exercise would be evil because it is not authorized. That is why you will get thrown into jail if you paint your own car up like a police cruiser, strap on a gun, and go out and start pulling people over. You might even be able to slap the cuffs on them, but it is a meaningless and illegal exercise of power. Why? Because it is not accompanied by authority.
Satan has power. He is not omnipotent, but he does have power as evidenced in the early chapters of the book of Job. But Satan does not have authority over the people of God. In some sense you could argue that, because all that he does is evil, he has no authority at all to exercise his power. No one has authority to use power for evil, and that is exactly what Satan does every time he does anything.
Which brings us back to this matter of the use and abuse of power and authority. There are people in this world who have been granted authority over us. God has given them that authority. And their authority is backed by the power of God. So (Romans 13) if anyone opposes the civil authorities, they necessarily oppose God as well. When institutions or people have been granted authority by God and are authorized by Him to exercise that authority with power to ensure obedience, they are doing good. This is the proper and right use of power and authority.
Abusers, however, abuse power and authority to achieve control over others to which they have no right. God never grants His authority for the purpose of authorizing evil. He never lends His power for the working of evil. And this is why abuse victims have the right to disobey their abuser. In a real sense, they are not disobeying! Think about it. In order to be guilty of “dis-obeying,” there necessarily must be a valid obligation to “obey” in the first place. Apart from that obligation to obey, dis-obedience is really impossible.
I discuss all of these intricacies for the purpose of helping victims of abuse to understand that they have no obligation to yield themselves to abuse. I say this, realizing that escaping abuse is often no easy thing, and I am not implying that it is. But when the way of escape opens up, abuse victims should feel absolutely free to run through that open door and not give another thought to the notion that they are disobeying God in doing so. Where there is no true authority and power, there is no right to control and there is no obligation to submit to that which the abuser does not possess.