New Testament Limits Of Authority And Hierarchical Power -- By: Del Birkey

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 015:3 (Summer 2001)
Article: New Testament Limits Of Authority And Hierarchical Power
Author: Del Birkey

New Testament Limits Of Authority And Hierarchical Power

We Should Not Try To Apply Modern Sociological Terms To Ministries In The New Testament Church.

Del Birkey

Del Birkey is a graduate of Columbia International University, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he holds the D.Min. from Bethany Theological Seminary. His pastoral and teaching ministry includes intentional church renewal through the house church model; he is the author of The House Church: A Model for Renewing the Church (Herald, 1988).

Editor’s note: The author has described this final study in his three-part series as “the most consequential but telling issue of authority.” Parts I and II were published previously in the Winter 2000 and Spring 2001 issues.

There are six evident restrictions on authority that Christ the Head authorized and that apostolic missionaries set in motion in the New Testament house churches. These biblical boundaries of authority (exousia) unveil the extent to which complementarians practice masculine domination among God’s people.

Christ’s Absolute Authority

First, the only authority to which every believer must submit is the absolute authority of Jesus the Lord. There is no other name of authority, and he has no intermediaries. Jesus the Lord possesses “all authority” (Matt. 28:18). Exousia carries the idea of power based on right, whereas dynamis suggests “being able” in virtue of an ability. “According to the Gospels, in Jesus exousia and dynamis converge.”1 He taught “as one having authority,” which extended over all the powers of the enemy in executing judgment and casting into hell. He forgave sins with his power, and cast out demons and healed.

Believers are given authority to become children of God (John 1:12) and have access “in Jesus’ name” to Christ’s high priestly authority (cf. Hebrews). In spite of that, whatever contrived “freedom” believers may boast of having (“this exousia of yours,” 1 Cor 8:9; 6:12), in Paul’s biting wordplay he reprimands authority-rights boasters that their worst self-deception is in their own enslavement to exousia itself.2 Here, then, is a piercing apostolic warning to every believer hankering for personal authority.

Notice that Christ’s authority is never attached to his masculinity. “The fact that Jesus was male, the fact that he was a Jew . . . all these are secondar...

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