At the end of the Sermon on the Mount there is an interesting verse that compares Jesus with some of that day’s strongest legalists — the scribes. Matthew says that the people were astonished at Jesus (the Greek word for “astonished” has a connotation of fear, too).
They were so impressed because “he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”1
The scribes — along with the legalist that is alive and well in all of us — thought that by preaching the Word, that the authority that the Word has in itself would be transferred to them. But the people listening were not fooled. The people who listened to the scribes on that day had a profound respect for the Word, but they were aware of the lack of authority in the scribes.
Sadly enough, it seems that those people had become accustomed to listening to sermons preached by teachers that did not have authority. So when the day came that One preached the Word with authority, they were astonished; in fact it kinda scared them a bit.
The legalist in us hopes to obtain authority from merely preaching the Word, or perhaps from a diploma or a position. However, real ministry comes when the authoritative Word of God is shared by a man or woman of God with authority. In these cases, it might even scare the listeners a bit.
So, where does this true personal authority come from? It does not come from positions nor offices. I believe in modern day prophets and apostles, but people are not fooled when someone uses these titles but preaches without authority.
Neither does it come from merely preaching the Word. The Word is powerful. But without the Spirit, it is lethally powerful.2 It demands total fulfillment of the Law of God3 (an impossibility to the degree that is demanded by the Word). The Spirit, on the other hand, does not use the Word to make demands, but rather to reveal the heart of God.4
Spiritual authority comes from a lifestyle. When He was talking with His disciples about having spiritual authority to cast out a certain brand of demon, Jesus told them that they needed to fast and pray.5
But Jesus did not start a fast at that moment, nor do we read that He had a prayer meeting before casting out that demon. Fasting and prayer were a vital part of His lifestyle and as a result He was prepared for that moment. Many of us fast and pray for a specific request. But a lifestyle of fasting and prayer will give us spiritual authority in season and out of season.
The people that listen to us minister — whether they are Christians or pre- Christians — are looking for a river of living water.6 They are thirsty and want to drink. They will drink any water that is given to them, no matter what the source.
However, if we have flowing out of our innermost being living waters and we give it to them, they will never be thirsty again.7 And if those living waters are a river, not just a glass or a jug, but a continuous flow, they will want it.
Walk in the Spirit.8 Get under the tap. Maintain a lifestyle of prayer and fasting. Give them the living water.
1- Matthew 7:28, 29 2- 2 Corinthians 3:6 3- James 2:10, 11 4- Galatians 3:24; 2 Corinthians 3:65- Matthew 17:21 6- John 7:38 7- John 4:14; 6:35 8- Galatians 5:16