“All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!”
– Luke 4:36, NIV
When Jesus finished His first sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth, the people in the synagogue were filled with rage (Luke 4:28-30). They cast Jesus out of the city and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built. Their intent was to throw Him down from the cliff, but He passed through their midst and went His way.
Then Jesus came down to Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. He taught them with authority on the Sabbath in the synagogue. There was a man in the synagogue that was possessed by the unclean spirit of a demon. He cried out against Jesus whereupon Jesus rebuked the demon and cast him out. The people were amazed. The people in the synagogue wondered and discussed with what authority and power He commanded the unclean spirits to obey. As far as we know, Jesus did not enter into the discussion of the people about his authority and power.
Authority (exousia) and power (dunamis) are related key words. It is possible to have authority without power and power without authority. However, authority and power are commonly are used with overlapping meaning. The focus of authority is on the right to act, while the focus of power is on the ability to act. The word authority frequently has the connotation of ability to act as well as the right to act. Thus, authority is a more comprehensive word than power. Although power is a narrower term, it sometimes is assumed that when one has the power to act, one has the authorization to act as well.
Source of Authority and Power
The people in the synagogue wondered what the source of Christ’s authority and power was. By coupling authority and power, the people cover both the right to act and the power to act.
Jesus had abundant authority. In Luke 5:24, Jesus claimed to have authority “to forgive sins.” After His resurrection, Jesus said (Matthew 28:18): “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Because He had authority, He could deliver the Great Commission. The source of His authority was God, the Father.
In the case of Jesus, He had not only the authority to act, but the power to act as well. In a sense the power to act was an expression of His authority to act. In addition the role of the Holy Spirit must be considered. Earlier, when Jesus spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth, He applied Isaiah 61:1 to Himself. He declared (Luke 4:18), “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” From this passage, we can see that Jesus regarded the Holy Spirit as the source of His power in ministry. In Luke 4:14, we are told that Jesus “returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.”
Our Triune God
Because God is Triune, it is difficult at times to distinguish finely between the powers and functions of the members of the Trinity. For example, the question arises, “Did Jesus as the Son of God do mighty works with His own power or was He dependent upon the Holy Spirit?” We know that His human nature was empowered by the Spirit. With regard to His divine nature, many scholars agree that in becoming the Incarnate Christ, Jesus voluntarily limited to some extent the use of His divine power. We cannot say that this limitation was total, but we do know that He relied heavily upon the Holy Spirit.
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Hawthorne, Gerald. The Presence and the Power. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1991.
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Owen, John. The Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1954.
Swete, H. B. The Holy Spirit n the New Testament. London: Macmillan and Company, 1910.
Walvoord, John F. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago: Moody Press, 1969.
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