SPECIAL TOPIC: AUTHORITY (exousia)
I. Luke's Use – It is interesting to observe Luke's use of exousia (authority, power, or legal right).
1. In Luke 4:6 Satan claims to be able to give Jesus authority.
2. In Luke 4:32,36 the Jewish people were amazed at how Jesus taught, using His personal authority.
3. In Luke 9:1 He gave His power and authority to His Apostles.
4. In Luke 10:19 He gave His authority to the seventy missionaries.
5. In Luke 20:2,8 the central question of Jesus' authority is asked.
6. In Luke 22:53 evil has been allowed authority to condemn and kill Jesus.
Although not in Luke, Matthew's introduction to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18), "all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth," is a marvelous statement of Jesus' authority.
Jesus asserted He had authority because of
1. God's spoken words to Him at His
a. baptism (Luke 3:21-22)
b. transfiguration (Luke 9:35)
2. OT fulfilled prophecy
a. tribe of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:10)
b. family of Jesse (cf. 2 Samuel 7)
c. born in Bethlehem (cf. Micah 5:2)
d. born during the fourth empire (Rome) of Daniel 2
e. helped the poor, blind, needy (Isaiah)
3. His exorcisms revealed His power and authority over Satan and his kingdom.
4. His resuscitations of the dead showed His power over physical life and death.
5. His miracles all reveal His power and authority over the temporal, spacial, and physical.
d. mind readings
e. catching fish
II. Paul's use of "authority" related to Christian women
The issue of authority is also discussed in 1 Corinthians 11 in connection to a woman's head covering. The following ar from my notes there.
1 Cor. 11:10 "Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol
of authority on her head" The use of authority in 1 Corinthians can be
understood in several ways. The key issue (in this context) is what "authority"
First, it should be noted that exousia is often related to dunamis (power). Otto Betz has an interesting article on exousia in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 2, pp. 606-611. Here are five examples.
"It is characteristic for the NT that exousia and dunamis are both related to the work of Christ, the consequent new ordering of cosmic power-structures and the empowering of believers" (p. 609).
"The exousia of believers. The authority of a Christian believer is founded on the rule of Christ and on the disarming of all powers. It implies both freedom and service" (p. 611).
"He is free to do anything (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23 exestin); this assertion, which was made initially by the sectarian enthusiasts at Corinth, was taken up by Paul who acknowledged it to be correct" (p. 611).
"In practice, however, this theoretically unrestricted freedom is governed by consideration of what is helpful to other individual Christians and the congregation as a whole in view of the fact that complete redemption is still to come (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23)" (p. 611).
"‘All things are lawful [exestin] for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful [exestin],’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor" (1 Cor. 10:23ff). The quotation within these quotations are probably the slogans of the libertines at Corinth. Paul counters them by admitting their truth, but by showing that it is not the whole truth" (p. 611).
Paul uses these two terms often in his letters to the church at Corinth.
1. exousia, 1 Cor. 7:37; 9:4,5,6,12 (twice),18; 11:10; 2 Cor. 13:10
2. dunamis, 1 Cor. 1:18; 2:4,5; 4:19,20; 5:4; 15:24,43; 2 Cor. 4:7; 6:7; 8:3 (twice); 12:9; 13:4 (twice)
Rights and power were major issues for both the legalists and the libertines. Paul tries to walk a fine line between both extremes. In this context Christian women are encouraged to accept the God-given order of creation (i.e., Christ-man-woman) for the purpose of the furtherance of the Kingdom. Paul asserts the original mutuality (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 2:18) in verses 1 Cor. 11:11-12. It is theologically dangerous to
1. isolate one verse in this context
2. apply a rigid systematic denominational grid on the issue of the relationship of men and women/husbands and wives of the first century to every culture in every century
3. to miss Paul’s balance between Christian freedom and Christian corporate covenant responsibility
Where did Christian women get the freedom to participate as a leader in gathered (i.e., house-church) worship? Surely not from the synagogue. Was it a cultural trend from first century Roman society? This is surely possible and in my opinion helps explain many aspects of this chapter. However, it is also possible that the power of the gospel, the restoration of the original "image of God" lost in the Fall, is the source. There is a shocking new equality in all areas of human life and society. But this equality can be turned into a license for personal abuse. This inappropriate extension is what Paul is addressing.
F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, has really helped me think through many of the controversial issues related to the church traditions of modern western Christianity. As an exegete I had always thought that women’s covering was meant to show God’s giftedness (or the co-equality of Gen. 1:26,27), not her husband’s authority. However, I could not find this interpretation among the biblical resources that I use, therefore, I was reluctant to put it in the commentaries or preach/teach it. I still remember the excitement and freedom I felt when F. F. Bruce thought the same thing (see Answers to Questions, p. 95). I think all believers are called, full-time, gifted ministers of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:11-12)!
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