What is the difference between authority and power? What do these terms mean in relationship to casting out demons? The following is an excerpt from Setting Captives Free where I outline the authority and power that believers have over evil spirits. In Christ, we don’t need to be afraid of demons!
When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach and minister, He specifically gave them power and authority over demons. Let’s read Luke 9:1 again: “Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons.” The terms authority and power are related, but they each carry a unique meaning and purpose. Let’s break down these two words, noting their differences and how they relate to casting out demons and setting captives free.
The word authority implies a legal right to perform a task. In other words, the disciples were authorized to cast out demons. When Jesus commissioned them to preach the Gospel, heal the sick, and cast out demons, He gave them the necessary authority to carry out these works. As an example, a police officer has been authorized by the government to enforce the law, and therefore can pull over a person who is speeding and issue them a ticket. If I were to see someone speeding, I could not legally try to pull them over because I have not been authorized to do so. In the same way that police officers are authorized to enforce the law, we as believers have been authorized to enforce the victory that was won in the finished work of Jesus over the powers of darkness.
After His death and resurrection, Jesus spoke the following words before ascending to Heaven: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). He then gave the disciples what is known as the Great Commission, sending them into the world to make disciples of all nations. Although all authority belongs to Jesus, He has delegated that authority to His followers who are to use it to advance His Kingdom. Our authority comes from being in Christ, the One who possesses all authority.
Our authority to cast out demons is also rooted in God’s Word. In other words, we have authority over evil spirits simply because God has said that we do. Consider again these verses:
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons. (Mark 16:17)
Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)
These passages declare the authority of the believer over evil spirits, giving us the right to command demons to come out of people. When we exercise this authority over demons, we must do so in the name of Jesus. Notice that the Mark 16:17 passage quoted above says, “In my name they will cast out demons” (emphasis added). Our authority is not of ourselves but in Him and from Him, who is the source of all authority. When we exercise authority over demons, it is important that we speak with absolute faith in the power of the Word of God and the name of Jesus.
Demons recognize the authority of God’s Word and the power of the name of Jesus. They know that they must obey the servants of the living God, even if they try to resist at times. We can be confident in our authority to cast out evil spirits and resist the devil. But along with authority, we must also walk in power.
While authority relates to the legal right to perform a task, power refers to the ability to perform it. As an illustration, suppose that you would like to have a tree removed from your yard. You call a tree removal company and they come to your house. A random person could not legally come into your yard and remove one of your trees; that would be trespassing. But the tree removal company can perform this task because you have authorized them to do so. Now suppose that the person from the tree removal company attempts to uproot the tree using only his bare hands. He tries and tries to pull it out, but the tree will not budge. He has all the authority in the world to remove the tree, but what he lacks is power. The proper equipment and machinery would give him the ability he needs to easily remove the tree from your yard.
In the same way, we have authority to cast out demons, but we also need power in order to set captives free. This power comes to us as we are anointed with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It was the anointing of the Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus to fulfill His mission. Notice this emphasis in the opening lines of Luke 4:18:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed.
It was the Holy Spirit resting upon Him that gave Jesus the power to set the captives free. Though He never ceased to be God, He was also fully man and functioned in His ministry as a man empowered by the Spirit. He even said that He cast out demons “by the Spirit of God” (Matthew 12:28). Peter described the ministry of Jesus like this: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). How much more do we need the power of the Holy Spirit!
Setting Captives Free is filled with biblical teaching on the topic of demons and deliverance, powerful testimonies of those who have been set free, and practical prayers that you can use for yourself or others in need of deliverance. Make sure to get your copy!