Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Today we’ll look at the concept of authority from three different perspectives: that of a Centurion, Jesus, and us as followers of Christ.
The Centurion: A Man Under Authority
1 When He had completed all His discourse in the hearing of the people, He went to Capernaum. 2 And a centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. 3When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they earnestly implored Him, saying,“He is worthy for You to grant this to him; 5 for he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue.” 6 Now Jesus started on His way with them; and when He was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself further, for I am not worthy for You to come under my roof; 7 for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 9 Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled at him, and turned and said to the crowd that was following Him, “I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such great faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. (Luke 7:1-10)
“I want to point out four things about the Centurion’s understanding and use of authority from this passage. Hopefully, we’ll catch some insights into authority by looking at his words and actions.”
He Was a Man Under Authority
The Centurion was well aware that he did not have his current position of authority on the basis of his own choice. He was in this position because of the choice of officers above him whose power was derived from the Emperor himself.
He also understood that he did not act independently of his own free will. He, along with nine other Centurions, was under the direct authority of a Tribune. The Tribune was under the authority of the Legate, the commander of the Legion, who was selected by the Emperor.
The Centurion understood his place in the ranks and was prepared to do whatever he was ordered to do by his Tribune who awaited the orders of the Legate who awaited the orders of the Emperor.
●Authority is always something that is delegated to you by someone who has the right to do so.
He Was a Man Exercising Authority
The Centurion also knew that he was a man endued with authority. He was the direct commander of 100 men. He was also the owner of slaves.
He would command a solder or slave to go here or there and they would go. He would order others to come to him and they would come. He knew that his word was the law and that his soldiers and slaves would obey or risk losing their lives.
He also knew there was a limit and boundary to his authority. He couldn’t tell his Tribune what to do. His authority was over the one hundred in his command and did not extend beyond that.
●Authority has boundaries.
He Recognized Authority
The Centurion heard about Jesus and the things that He was doing. He realized that Jesus could not do the things He was doing unless He was under the authority of God. What was
really interesting is that the Centurion understood that Jesus wouldn't have to come to his home to heal his servant. All He had to do was command it to be so and it would happen.
Jesus commended the man for his faith. The Bible says Jesus marveled at the understanding of the Centurion. He told the crowd that He had not even seen this great of faith in Israel.
●Authority can be seen and recognized
He Submitted to Jesus’ Authority
It is rather amazing that the Centurion would seek out Jesus. The Romans were not known for their kindness to the people of Israel. Many resented the fact of having to live in Israel and deal with the constant uprising and rebellions of the Jews.
This Centurion was different. He was obviously a believer in the One True God since he financed the building of their synagogue. The Jewish leaders that came to Jesus begged Jesus to heal the man’s servant because he was worthy.
The Centurion was wise and understood that Jesus was under a greater authority than he was.He would not use his position of power or his good works as a basis for his servant’s healing.He sent friends to tell Jesus not to come to his house because He was unworthy to have Him enter his house.His humility, coupled with his faith in Christ’s authority, resulted in his slave being healed.
●Authority must be humbly submitted to.
Now let’s move on to our second example of authority from the life of Jesus.
Jesus: Totally Submitted to God
Some people struggle with the idea that Jesus submitted Himself to the Father. They think that this submission in some way made Jesus less than the Father. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
We learn in Scripture that the Godhead, a fancy name for the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, had a plan to save mankind from their sin. This plan was for Jesus to come to earth as a man and walk in sinless obedience to God.Jesus was to win back the right of man to rule over the earth that Adam lost when he chose to rebel against God. Sin entered the world through Adam resulting in the death and destruction of the human race.
Jesus came as a second Adam to redeem mankind from the curse and free them to walk in newness of life before God. Adam brought death. Jesus would bring life.I want to read a series of Scriptures that show that Jesus was in total submission to the Father.He did not come here on His own authority but was sent by the Father.
19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for what ever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. (John 5:19-20)
30 “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just,because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:30)
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 6:38)
28 So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He,and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.29 And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:28-29)
49 For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.” (John 12:49-50)
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
From these verses we learn:
●Jesus was sent from heaven by the Father
●Jesus willingly submitted to the Father’s authority
●Jesus emptied Himself and took on the form of a bond-servant
●Jesus never did anything on His own initiative
●Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing
●Jesus only said what the Father was saying
●Jesus humbled Himself by becoming obedient to God even to His death on the cross
The passage we just read in Philippians chapter two tells us that we are to have the same attitude as Christ. We are to consider ourselves to be bond-servants and humble ourselves to be obedient to the guidance of the Lord even to the point of death.
Jesus dealt with the disciples more than once on the idea of authority and way it would be exercised in the Kingdom of God. Take this story for example.
Jesus Is with His disciples in the upper room. He wants to celebrate the Passover meal with them. He knows He will soon be betrayed by Judas and begin the events that will lead to His death by crucifixion. It’s in this setting that the twelve argue over who is going to be the greatest.
25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ 26 But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. 27 For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:25-27)
On another occasion Jesus had this conversation with the disciples:
41 Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John. 42 Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your
servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45)
Jesus is our example of what it means to be a person under His authority. Here a few points to follow:
●We must have the same attitude of Jesus
●We must become servants rather than seeking to rule over people
●We must exercise the authority we have for the benefit of others.
As you can see, the type of authority Jesus gives us is never used to control people or exalt ourselves over people. It’s given to serve others and see them become all they can be in Christ.Just as Jesus came and served us, we are to serve others.
True God-given authority is designed to build up and encourage the body of Christ. Authority is at its best when it flows from a servant’s heart.