What would you do with unlimited authority? It is not dissimilar to the “What would you do with three wishes?” question. The common answers on the latter lean toward personal benefit — a million dollars, a perfect body, a new house, or some form of celebrity status. But we know the better and nobler answers would be less consumptive and self-serving: world peace, better circumstance or health of others, and an end to poverty.
Back to the authority question. Hopefully, if you had “all authority” at your disposal, you would leverage it for the good of others. That is what Jesus did with His.
Jesus, after His resurrection, claimed to have seized all authority (Matthew 28:18). So what did He do with it? He told His disciples to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19–20).
I find it interesting that the authority was His to do with as He pleased, and what pleased Him was to benefit two groups of people. He used it to empower people to build other people. It was the ultimate “for the benefit of others” activity. Everyone wins with this use of Jesus’ authority.
Those of us who are already His disciples find unusual empowerment from God when we are following through on this command of Christ. When we are helping others become who God intended them to be, we find ourselves uniquely equipped to do what we might otherwise feel inadequate for. It was never Jesus’ intent to leverage His authority for our personal pleasure — to have or do whatever we might want to have or do. It was His explicit intent to use His authority to help us help others.
People lacking power in their own lives lack it primarily because they have tried to use whatever power they might have for personal benefit. That is not only a small purpose; it is an authority-draining endeavor. On the other hand, when we help others overcome, we find ourselves better overcomers. The Latin term for this is ex opere operato, which means “out of the doing, it is done.” The process of helping others heal leads to our own healing. The exercise of helping others gives us the ultimate help that we need.
And, of course, the other beneficiaries of Jesus’ authority are those who are being discipled. If they are pursuing Him, He makes life much better for them. He enables them to overcome addictions, heal relationships, discover purpose, live out calling, live joyfully, experience freedom and ultimately pass it all on to another generation.
If this is what Jesus wanted to do with His authority, it should be what we do with the authority that has been granted to us. He gave a foretaste of this right after His resurrection (John 20:19–23) when He appeared in the Upper Room with His disciples. He spoke peace to them, breathed onto them or into them, conveyed the Holy Spirit (all exercises stemming from His authority) and then told them that they could exert this authority by forgiving people of their sin. This passage gives us pause because verse 23 sounds like an uncomfortable transfer of authority to us. But it is really a precursor to the Great Commission. Jesus takes His authority and passes it on to His faithful followers to make other faithful followers.
Think of your investment in others as the best investment in yourself. Live your life helping others live theirs fully and you will find yourself living a pretty full life. Help others discover the holiness of the Lord, and you will discover the holiness of the Lord in your life.
Don’t think of discipleship as an exhausting exercise that is extraneous to your own calling. It is your calling. It doesn’t matter what your spiritual gifts are. This commission was for all of the gifted. It doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, pastor or lay, rich or poor, young or old, black or white, highly skilled or bereft of skill; this is for you.
And, if you are discipling others, you will find a strange energy for all of the work you feel called to do. You will discover wholeness and have the satisfaction that you are helping others discover wholeness themselves.
BISHOP MATTHEW THOMAS has been an active part of the Free Methodist Church since 1979. His ministry roles have included serving as a pastor, church planter, missionary and superintendent.0