top of page

Effective Spiritual Authority

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to have more success in spiritual warfare than others? If Jesus gives the same authority to every believer, why do some seem to be more effective at healing the sick, casting out demons, and engaging in spiritual warfare?

Today I will show you how to truly walk in the authority of Christ.

There are two basic types of authority that we all deal with–both in the natural and spiritual realms: positional and relational.

Imagine that you’re driving down the road and an average person starts flashing his headlights at you. Would you pull over?

Of course not. But in the ridiculous event that you did, suppose the man got out of his car and approached you in a Hawaiian shirt and cut-off shorts. Would you give him your license and registration?

Suppose he said, “You’re under arrest! Come with me!” Would you go?

No way! Such a person has no positional authority.

Positional authority, as the name suggests, has to do with one’s position. A police officer has positional authority because he or she has been granted that position by someone with higher positional authority, like a police chief, who got his job from the mayor; and the list continues up the line until ultimately ending with God (Romans 13:1). It doesn’t matter if you have never met the person before; you had better listen to what he or she says. You may not like positional authority, but that’s why police officers carry nightsticks, Tasers, and guns!

Romans 13:2–4 – Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. (NIV)

Positional authority is always granted from the top down. Relational authority, on the other hand, comes from the bottom. It has to do with the authority that one person grants another in the context of relationship.

A great example is a mentor. Mentoring relationships that are based on positional authority often fail because it is not the right context for intimate questions and accountability. But mentoring relationships that have been sought out by the person desiring to be mentored are consistently more effective. Relational authority is built on trustworthy consistency over time.

Other examples of relational authority could include trusted friends, spouses, and spiritual leaders.

To reiterate, positional authority is granted by someone with higher authority–ultimately being traced to God. Relational authority, on the other hand, is granted to a person by someone who wants to be a follower.

This is very important: Positional authority only works until we surrender relational authority. Parents may have positional authority in the home, but if they grant their children too much leniency, the kids will start to rule the house! A husband may have positional authority from God, but if he bends to his wife’s every whim, he has granted her relational authority. Or suppose you are pulled over by a real police officer, and when he approaches your car, you realize that it’s a friend of yours who is a pushover and always agrees with everything you say. That person may have positional authority, but you could probably get away by jumping into a lighthearted conversation, making the friend laugh, changing the subject, and saying, “See you later!”

With enough time, relational authority trumps positional authority. On the other hand, relational authority can also be granted in an instant if the potential leader is convincing enough.

We grant relational authority every day to people who we don’t have to follow. We go where our coworker wants to eat for lunch, we do what our friend wants to do in the evening, and we even step out of the way of strangers who seem frustrated at the supermarket, letting them get their way. There would be no consequences from God for disagreeing with these people because He has not granted them positional authority; but for whatever reasons—good or bad—we go along with whatever they say. We grant them relational authority even though they aren’t officially authority figures.

Spiritual Application

By now, you should have a decent grasp on the concept of positional authority versus relational authority. Now it’s time to bring all this together.

According to Paul, Jesus Christ willingly gave up His positional authority and came to earth as an average person who gained influence through relational authority.

Philippians 2:5–8 – Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! (NIV)

That’s powerful to me! Jesus didn’t come to earth and command people to follow Him. Rather, He invited them. He was consistent and trustworthy. The crowds were drawn to Him. If they left, He didn’t burn down their houses or send His disciples out like thugs to beat them. When James and John wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan village for rejecting them, Jesus rebuked the young men (Luke 9:51-55). Jesus could have exerted His positional authority on earth, but He knew that relational authority was more powerful.

Nevertheless, while it is true that Jesus practiced relational authority in regard to mankind, He always expressed positional authority toward sin, sickness, unbelief, Satan, and demons.

Jesus also shared that positional authority with His disciples:

Matthew 10:1 – He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (NIV) Luke 10:19 – I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. (NIV) Matthew 28:18–19a – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… (NIV)

To echo the words of Paul that I quoted earlier from Philippians two, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” When it comes to people, an attitude of love and compassion requires that you try to earn relational authority with them. Don’t force your beliefs on people–rather, model those beliefs consistently and regularly invite people into the Truth you have received. But when it comes to the enemy, use the positional authority that Christ has given you, and don’t be afraid to command demons to leave and never return (Mark 9:25).

Many Christians think they don’t have this authority in Christ because they have never seen it in operation. Their problem is not that they don’t have positional authority. They do have it. The problem is that we so often give the enemy relational authority by surrendering ourselves to his desires, thus stepping out from under the covering of Christ.

Remember, you have the keys to grant relational authority to whomever you like, and relational authority trumps positional authority. Whenever you give in to the enemy’s desires, you surrender your spiritual position. Metaphorically speaking, suddenly you’re the parent whose kids are running the house. You’re the husband whose wife leads the family. You’re the pushover police officer whose friend just weaseled out of a ticket. You have positional authority over demons as long as you don’t choose to relationally surrender to the desires of those demons.

If you want to see greater victory over the enemy, then stop letting the enemy have victory over you. Jesus purchased your freedom. Take every thought captive. Guard your heart. trust in the sufficiency of Christ to keep you spiritually free. Maintain your positional authority over the enemy by refusing to grant him relational authority.

God bless,