UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
[September 1, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
(Matthew 28:18 ESV) And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
(Revelation 12:10 ESV) And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
Power, control, and authority are at the very foundation of the abuser’s mentality, and this fact makes perfect, though diabolical, sense. Power and control are in some ways the very essence of sin. Or, as we should specify, power, control and authority gone wrong are involved in the root of sin. As we see in the Scriptures just quoted, in themselves, power and authority and the control that accompanies them are not evil. The Lord Jesus Christ has been given all authority in the universe, and He possesses infinite power to enforce that authority. Talk about control! We pray that His kingdom would come and thus we pray that His power and authority would rule in all the universe. In the right hands and exercised in the right way, power and authority and control are wonderful!
God ultimately is the only One in all creation who possesses power and authority in His very being. He is the origin and fountainhead of all power and of all authority we see around us. Jesus, you remember, reminded Pilate that the only reason he had authority over Jesus was because it had been granted to Pilate by the Father. Civil government bears the sword, but only because God has granted power and authority to government for the restraint and punishment of evildoers. No human being, simply by virtue of who they are, possesses even a smidgen of power or authority.
The relationship of power and authority is very interesting. Think about it. Authority is the authorization to command. Jesus commended the Centurion’s great faith because this man recognized Christ’s authority to command the creation and its creatures, just as the Centurion had authority to command his own soldiers. But authority without power is ineffectual. The Centurion could command, but unless some kind of power stood behind his orders, his word would accomplish nothing. In his case, his authority was backed up by the power of Rome. People obeyed his authority because if they didn’t, all of the power of Caesar’s army could come against them.
Similarly, power exercised without authority is meaningless. Let’s say that someone just decided that they would be a Roman Centurion, and they started ordering people around. Any power they might exercise would be evil because it is not authorized. That is why you will get thrown into jail if you paint your own car up like a police cruiser, strap on a gun, and go out and start pulling people over. You might even be able to slap the cuffs on them, but it is a meaningless and illegal exercise of power. Why? Because it is not accompanied by authority.
Satan has power. He is not omnipotent, but he does have power as evidenced in the early chapters of the book of Job. But Satan does not have authority over the people of God. In some sense you could argue that, because all that he does is evil, he has no authority at all to exercise his power. No one has authority to use power for evil, and that is exactly what Satan does every time he does anything.
Which brings us back to this matter of the use and abuse of power and authority. There are people in this world who have been granted authority over us. God has given them that authority. And their authority is backed by the power of God. So (Romans 13) if anyone opposes the civil authorities, they necessarily oppose God as well. When institutions or people have been granted authority by God and are authorized by Him to exercise that authority with power to ensure obedience, they are doing good. This is the proper and right use of power and authority.
Abusers, however, abuse power and authority to achieve control over others to which they have no right. God never grants His authority for the purpose of authorizing evil. He never lends His power for the working of evil. And this is why abuse victims have the right to disobey their abuser. In a real sense, they are not disobeying! Think about it. In order to be guilty of “dis-obeying,” there necessarily must be a valid obligation to “obey” in the first place. Apart from that obligation to obey, dis-obedience is really impossible.
I discuss all of these intricacies for the purpose of helping victims of abuse to understand that they have no obligation to yield themselves to abuse. I say this, realizing that escaping abuse is often no easy thing, and I am not implying that it is. But when the way of escape opens up, abuse victims should feel absolutely free to run through that open door and not give another thought to the notion that they are disobeying God in doing so. Where there is no true authority and power, there is no right to control and there is no obligation to submit to that which the abuser does not possess.
[September 1, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to September 1, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to September 1, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to September 1, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (September 1, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
6 thoughts on “Power, Control, and Authority: Their Use and Abuse”
Amen! This is an excellent piece, Jeff.
What you are saying makes sense. Authority is from God, and God sets the boundaries of that authority. So an abusive power has no authority since God is the giver of authority and God gives authority to people for the good of others, not for abuse.
I have heard that the people Paul addressed in Romans were actually under a wicked government, and yet they were taught to submit to it as the passage in Romans teaches. So therefore, God expects submission to whatever authority, whether wicked or good. How would you respond to that argument?
Belle – a very good question and one that will help others because that sounds exactly like an argument hyper-submission types (and abusers) might use against us. In Romans 13 God plainly delineates the authority of the civil authorities. Here it is:
Notice that the authority God gives the government is given for the express purpose of protecting the good and terrorizing the bad. The king is God’s servant for good. And His servant to cause the wicked to be afraid. He is to effect justice against the wicked and be an avenger for the righteous. That is the king’s authority and those are the limits of his authority. When a king begins to do evil, he has exceeded his authority and forfeits it in that regard. He becomes an evildoer himself and should turn his own sword against himself.
Our submission to authority is never absolute because no one except God possesses absolute authority. Yes, we pay our taxes even when they are excessive. But when any authority becomes obviously wicked and evil, compelling us for example to participate in that evil (Hitler ordering soldiers to kill the Jews) then we are bound to obey God and not man.
So when an abuser says to you “You should submit to how I treat you, and you shouldn’t object to what I’m doing,” they are demanding that you to comply with sin. And you don’t have to submit or obey, because God does not want us to comply with sin. He calls us to be righteous.
This is a very good and helpful post, that gives us discernment to really know when someone is abusing their authority. I think sometimes I am so confused and trying so hard to make sure I don’t sin in my responses, that I really need it all spelled out for me, so this really helps me. Thank you for it.
The following is a quote [Internet Archive link]1 from C. S. Lewis, concerning the tyrant, a.k.a. abuser, who we Christian women are sometimes told to submit to because it is “for our own good”:
I think “conscience” if being used to describe some abusers, may be able to have the word “seared” in front of it.
1[December 2, 2022: We added the link to a page with the quote Anonymous quoted. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]
(Writing through dense fog….extreme airbrushing to protect the abused.)
Pastor Jeff wrote:
As memory fragments are re-integrated, the Holy Spirit leads me to more and more of the truth, much of it is unpleasant.
Now is no different….
When I was less than one year old, I had a rapid-onset illness that is frequently fatal unless treated immediately.
God led someone, a person who had both access to my family of origin and the expertise to correctly identify the nature of the illness, to our home. The expert told them I needed to be taken – immediately – to the hospital.
Without that treatment, I would be dead.
(I have watched another family, their child misdiagnosed with the same illness, be abused multiple times by complicit systems. For their safety, I omit every other detail. May God be with them.)
My entire family of origin was abusive….a “girl-baby” was unwanted in a semi-secular patriarchal environment. (Make no assumptions with my use of the term “girl-baby” – it’s use is far more widespread than you would judge.)
The almost-missed diagnosis was intentional.
I was “married” for almost two decades to someone whose abuse took every form, with the exception of overt physical or sexual abuse. (In hindsight, I realize his premarital use of pornography was not stopped by wedding vows.)
Even when severely ill, I worked. We needed the money for food and shelter. On two occasions, I ran high fevers. The first time, I managed to get myself to the doctor. (Omitting details for my safety and protection.) The second time, the fever was high enough I started to hallucinate – I still had to look after myself, making my own meals and getting water.
There were other occasions I was under extreme mental and emotional duress, struggling just to keep going from day-to-day, yet maintaining all the prior workload. (Again, omitting details for my safety and protection.)
I started reading. Researching. Trying to find out what was “wrong” with me. I made what changes I could to my own lifestyle. There were some improvements in my health. (He was uninterested in changing, even when presented with the results of my research.)
More reading. More research. Trying to understand why I felt stuck in an anxiety-ridden pit of deep, dark depression.
Some discoveries. Some progress.
Still hanging on by my fingertips.
Blindsided by notification the divorce process had been initiated. (Omitting details for my safety and protection protection.)
Read. Researched. Found a more efficient way through the divorce process, both chronologically and financially.
During the divorce process, I called him out for something he was trying to do to me, while not allowing me access to a similar resource.
He did not “get off the hook” the way he had planned.
He wanted me all-but-physically dead.
In my family of origin, I lost “friends” when politics played a role in our public loss of almost everything, a consequence rooted in my abuser’s sense of entitlement. (Omitting details for my safety and protection.)
In my “marriage”, I lost “friends”….abusers and allies of my anti-x.
I was isolated. But I was alive….
More reading. More researching. Working to ensure I had food and shelter.
More reading. More researching. Sharing pertinent information with those I met along the way.
Less than one year ago, circumstances changed.
I am no longer in any abusive relationships, though the “marriage” to anti-x has been over and “No Contact” for over ten years, and my family of origin “No Contact” for over three.
Reading. Researching. Finding out my entire life had been lived in abusive relationships, personal and professional. Many light bulbs lit. (Sorry. I don’t have a “light bulb” emoticon. 🙂 )
My family of origin did not want me to survive.
My anti-x did not want me to survive.
Apparently, God does want me to survive. 🙂
I am surviving.
Game, set, and match goes to God. 🙂