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The Scriptorium

The Use of Authority

We all have it. 2 Corinthians 10.7-9

2 Corinthians 10 (3)

Pray Psalm 71.23, 24.
My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You,
And my soul, which You have redeemed.
My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long;
For they are confounded,
For they are brought to shame
Who seek my hurt.

Sing Psalm 71.23, 24.
Solid Rock: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less)
My lips with joy and praises ring; to You, Redeemer, praise I bring!
I praise Your goodness all day long; LORD, humble all who do me wrong.
Refrain v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; command Your Word to rescue me;
my Rock and Fortress ever be!

Read 2 Corinthians 10.1-9; meditate on verses 7-9.

1. Where authority is concerned, on what must we not look?

2. Why did Paul have authority? To what end?

Paul’s authority had been challenged by false apostles who depended more on outward show than inward grace. And the Corinthians had bought it. They had allowed the false teachers to divide the church, and when that happened all manner of “outward appearances” began to matter most.

Paul addressed those in 1 Corinthians, but for his ministry to realize its full potential with the Corinthians, he had to make sure they were focused where he was—not on outward appearance but on inward grace and its fruits. Paul acknowledged that he was as much a Christian as any of the Corinthians (v. 7). But, unlike them, he wasn’t focused on anything but the grace of God working for their obedience. Paul’s authority operated on a variety of levels. He had authority as an apostle, as a minister of the Word, and as the one used by God to bring the Corinthians to faith in Jesus. He never used that authority for any self-serving reasons, but only that the churches might be built-up in the Lord (v. 8). All proper use of authority is for edifying God’s people, not for advancing one’s agenda or status.

So his letters—“weighty and powerful” as they were (v. 10)—were not intended to bring the Corinthians down but to build them up (vv. 8, 9). They should receive this second epistle as they did the first and act on its instruction accordingly. By so doing, when their obedience was fulfilled, they would know the power of grace to transform them into the likeness of Christ, so that true joy would become their constant companion and abundant thanks and praise would rise to God for the grace shown in their obedience.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Paul had authority and wrote and spoke with authority. Rightly so.

But Paul is not the only one in Kingdom work who has authority.

Each one of us has some authority over someone else, somewhere in our Personal Mission Field, and each opportunity is to be used for the other’s edification, not their destruction—husbands over wives, parents over children, employers over employees, elders over their sheep, deacons over their sheep, pastors over the elders and deacons, Sunday School teachers over their pupils, school teachers over their students, drivers over their cars, caregivers over the weak and aged, humans over pets, buyers over customer care, government workers over their constituents (although it should really be the other way around), librarians over book-seekers, and so on and so forth—this merely scratches the surface.

As believers, every position of authority that comes our way, should only be used for the edification of others. Period. Paul clarifies this at the end of this second letter: “Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction” (2 Cor. 13.10).

Love is not puffed up, nor does it behave rudely (1 Cor. 13.4, 5).
“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor. 8.1).

Boaz, with all his elderly clout, could have bulldozed his way into Ruth’s life, but he chose to use his wealth and authority for good, and not for destruction. He politely and correctly followed all the rules and sat down with the elders and hashed it out for Ruth’s and the town’s edification. Ours too, for that matter, as Jesus descended through his new family (Matt. 1.5). Well done, Boaz. (Ruth 3.12-4.13)

And then there is Joseph—hated and abused by his brothers—who edified them when he could just as easily and deservedly destroyed them. “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50.20). The wicked brothers were edified, and again, we too were blessed, because Jesus descended through them as well (Matt. 1.2).

“Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…” (Ps. 127.1).

God’s Church must be built His way, for His glory, through edification and not by destructive authoritarianism—which let’s admit—has been rampant throughout Christendom past, present, and will continue into the future—unless we stop the pattern.

Paul wrote that we need to set our worldly ways aside “and grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share” and then that “causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4.15, 16). Authorities in edification!

For reflection
1. What edifies you? What makes you want to grow and serve others?

2. What are some ways you are working to edify the people in your Personal Mission Field?

3. What is your role in helping your church “grow up” into Christ in all things (Eph. 4.16)?

Paul ascribes his gift to God and points out that it was given for the common good. His work of answering arguments, detecting what is unsound and laying the proper foundation is all intended for the upbuilding of the community. But if anybody is hostile and wants to do battle with him, he also has the power to answer arguments and will use it as and when it is appropriate to do so. John Chrysostom (344-407), Homilies on the Epistles of Paul to the Corinthians 22.1

Pray Psalm 71.14-18.
Pray that God will grant you power today to live as His witness and to make the most of every opportunity to share Jesus and build others up in Him.

Sing Psalm 71.14-18.
Solid Rock: My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less)
But as for me my voice I raise to sing in hope and constant praise!
With saving grace my voice will swell Your never-ending grace to tell.
Refrain v. 3
A Rock of habitation be; command Your Word to rescue me;
my Rock and Fortress ever be!

O LORD, I praise Your righteousness Who me from youth have taught and blessed.
Forsake me not when I am old, ‘til I Your mercies all have told!
Refrain v. 3

T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth was in need of revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today is in need of revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalteravailable by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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