By Barbara Urban

The model for the acquisition of spiritual authority is beautifully illustrated in Jesus’ earthly life, death, and resurrection. Though God Himself, He humbled Himself and became a man, subjecting Himself to people who were “unworthy to untie His sandals.” By choice, Christ subjected Himself to those powers here on earth which the Father had ordained for Him to be subject. He was able to submit to the wicked taskmasters of the physical realm because He was fully aware of a far superior arena of authority. He had such an understanding of this reality that the threats and humiliations of mere physical authorities did not intimidate Him in His spiritual pursuits. Consequently, we see resurrection power being unleashed out of His obedient submission which in turn resulted in the absolute subjugation of the powers of darkness, causing them to bow to Christ’s very name which stands above all other names. That is gained authority.

It is out of our own death to self and the necessary subjection of our wills to the Father’s will which gains us spiritual authority as well. Through this type of death, resurrection power is released which is the kind of power we need to be able to execute the greater works to which we are called.

The Role of the Physical Realm

Since the physical realm is subject to the spiritual realm, spiritual realities dictate physical realities; and as there are wars over territories in the physical, so there are wars over territories in the spiritual. It is out of revelation of the preeminence of the spirit realm that we can be empowered to bear the humiliations and testings of the physical realm, and it is in our obedience at such times, subjecting ourselves to the effectual work of such humiliations and testings, that spiritual authority is gained.

God illustrated this principle in Joseph’s life. The Lord took him into enemy territory and after testing him, used him as an infiltrator and a key player in the salvation of God’s people. As Joseph passed his “tests,” refusing to fuel the powers and principalities of the air which were beating upon him, he actually disarmed them, allowing himself to be empowered by God’s Spirit. The shift in the spirit realm was then dramatically displayed in the physical by Joseph’s enemies actually submitting themselves to Joseph’s counsel, bowing to the spiritual authority which they recognized in him.

Joseph gained his spiritual authority as Christ did, through obedience to the word of the Lord, subjecting himself to the wicked taskmasters of this world. These were the taskmasters of the physical realm whom God had placed in authority over him, not the taskmasters of the spirit realm. In the spirit realm, we are to submit ourselves to the Lord and no other, otherwise we become enslaved to spiritual powers, and that is much worse than any physical bondage or subjugation. Our only resistance to such captivity is the complete subjection of our wills to the will of Christ Jesus in whom all authority rests.

Submission And Authority Within The Marriage Bond

There is an order to our gaining of spiritual authority which is wonderfully illustrated within the marriage bond, carrying within its construct the very essence of God’s relationship with His bride. The husband has been set up as the physical authority over his wife, representing Christ, while the wife is to be subject to the husband’s rule as the Church is to be subject to Christ’s rule. There is a beautiful expression of mutual submission built into the marriage model, with the chain of authority beginning with God Himself and flowing through the husband to the wife. When this chain of authority is observed a spiritual covering is provided from the Lord for the man and then from the man for the woman. Since the wife is called to an attitude of submission whether her husband is in submission to the Lord or not, the Lord has assured us that He will make provision, being a husband to the “husband-less,” and that includes wives with ungodly husbands. The obedient act of a woman in submission allows God to extend His covering to those who receive no “covering” from their husbands.

As Joseph’s obedience to the Lord’s mandate gained him spiritual authority, so does a woman’s submission to the marriage bond; however, her submission must come out of revelation of kingdom strategies for her particular situation. Otherwise, she will have no impact on the physical, and there will be no taking of spiritual territory for the kingdom.

To actually impact the physical realm we must have revelation concerning the priorities of the kingdom and God’s strategies for victory in this life. These strategies involve denying ourselves, refusing to react to the powers of the air which press upon us, and choosing to deliberately obey God in the face of such seeming obstacles. When this type of obedience manifests in a person’s life, there is victory for the kingdom of God, and spiritual authority is released. As wives choose to obey the Lord in this mandate concerning submission, they literally position themselves for increased spiritual authority, and as they die concerning their own desires and needs, resurrection power is released. Therefore, there is a unique opportunity, not only for wives, but for all of us to gain spiritual authority within the circumstances of our lives.

The Expression Of The Church’s Submission To Christ

This ministry of a wife unto her husband is a type and shadow of the prophetic destiny of the Church. We have been bought with the precious blood of Christ that we might minister unto Him and be His inheritance as He is ours. That is the inheritance of a bride and a groom for one another, and that is the inherent power of submission within the marriage bond. It teaches us how to minister unto the Lord as a bride.

As the Church is destined to be Christ’s bride, we as His bride are called to be subject to His desires. In fact, as His bride, we are called to minister unto Him, and it is out of our ministry unto Him that we gain empowerment to accomplish the works He has ordained for us. Ironically, many times we profess such allegiance to the Lord, but fail miserably to illustrate the same truth within our marriages and close relationships. There is a great deception upon us if we think we are entering into ministry unto the Lord but have not applied that same revelation to our relationships. In I John 4:20, John warns us that if we cannot love our brothers who are made in the image of God, whom we see, how can we love God whom we do not see?

The physical testifies of spiritual truths, and our neglect of physical relationships which God has ordained as a reflection of Himself only testifies to the shallowness of our supposed revelation. Any true revelation will affect the physical realm and cause it to come into kingdom order, testifying of spiritual realities, giving God glory. If we are to truly enter into our role as the Bride, ministering unto our Lord, gaining spiritual authority to do greater works than He did, it will come out of our ability to apply spiritual truth to our relationships. God has instituted a kingdom order within them which paves the way to spiritual authority, for in order to comply, we must lay down our lives and die to our own desires.

There Is Neither Male Nor Female In The Spirit

As we gain spiritual authority, we actually grow in our subjection to the Lord’s desires, and He becomes our Master. As God’s authority increases in us, people begin to come under that authority, recognizing God’s presence upon us. Matthew 7:28-29 tells us that when Jesus taught, “…the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” The people recognized the superiority of Jesus’ spiritual authority over the limited physical authority of the scribes.

The distinguishing characteristic about true spiritual authority is that it does not need to be announced or imposed. Its presence, if discerned properly, is rightly noted, and people either choose to subject themselves to its influence, or they resist it through their arrogance and judgment. In essence, spiritual authority must be submitted to on a volunteer basis. Any imposition of spiritual authority can cause it to be defiled, actually taking on the characteristics of witchcraft. God does not need to impose His authority over His people. His authority reigns regardless, and our failure to discern Him and His ways brings consequences. That is the nature of the kingdom. When we choose to submit, we benefit, and when we resist through arrogance and criticism, we bring judgment upon ourselves.

Each time we recognize spiritual authority deposited in one of God’s servants, we have the choice of subjecting ourselves to that authority and benefiting from the anointing that rests upon that person, or resisting it in rebellion and missing out on what God is doing or saying to us. Submitting to someone’s spiritual authority usually involves coming under that person’s counsel or influence for a moment of ministry or teaching, or for an extended period of mentoring and training.

Because many people are blind to true spiritual authority, confusing it with physical authority, they miss the opportunity to “feed” off of the “manna” deposited within another person’s life. Interestingly, this type of “feeding” can involve a certain amount of humility and submission, actually positioning us to be able to receive what that person has for us from God. Our inability to know each other after the spirit, refusing to subject ourselves to one another in humility, has greatly contributed to our spiritual barrenness as a people, and this barrenness which is a form of judgment is a direct consequence of our own arrogance and lack of brokenness before the Lord, keeping us from discerning the workings of the kingdom about us and through God’s people. This is what we see in many marriages where men refuse to feed off of the anointing deposited in their wives, choosing rather to stay in their spiritual wastelands, arrogantly insisting that God speak to them directly.

It is noteworthy that we are often offended by whom the Lord chooses to deposit His authority, and when God deposits His authority in a woman this can cause mixed emotions in all concerned because the Church has never made a place for its anointed women. Instead, women endowed with God’s authority have often suffered the persecution of their own brothers and sisters in the faith; and though women are to be subject to men in the physical realm, for women are indeed a type and shadow of the Bride of Christ; in the spirit realm, they are to be subject to God’s Spirit and those men and women whom God has anointed with His Spirit and placed over them spiritually.

Deborah, one of the judges over Israel, is an example of a woman whom God empowered with spiritual authority, and that authority so impacted the physical realm that people around her recognized it, and even though she was a woman in a very male dominant culture, both men and women came under her counsel and judgments. In fact, the whole nation was so desperate for godly leadership that the people as a whole came under her headship voluntarily. She did not have to orchestrate a take over. The people willingly subjected themselves to her wisdom which they rightly discerned to be from God. The general of the army would not even go to war without her leadership. Her spiritual authority was of such a degree that it dynamically impacted the physical realm.

Without an understanding of the difference between spiritual authority and physical authority, the story of Deborah seems to stand in the face of Paul’s teachings on women, but let us not forget that Paul was teaching on the natural order of authority within the physical realm. Without gained spiritual authority, there is no reason for a woman to instruct a man on spiritual matters. It only complicates the chain of authority in the physical realm, but when God places His authority on His handmaidens in a way that can be discerned, then the woman’s ability to instruct men on spiritual matters takes on another level of importance, for the spiritual has then taken preeminence over the physical, and there is neither male nor female in the spirit. Consequently. if we do not learn to submit ourselves to one another, recognizing the authority God has deposited in one another, regardless of gender, we will miss out on much of the Lord’s provision for our lives, and we desperately need all of the Lord’s provision to fulfill the mandates He has laid upon us as His people.

Women As Spiritual Authorities In The Church

As women were created to minister unto men to the glory of God, it is in their obedience to this created destiny that they actually discover the ultimate calling and purpose of every person–ministry unto God Himself. Out of this ministry spiritual empowerment is inevitable, for it is integrally connected to servanthood and obedience. However, because of the nature of women and their role in the creation, increased authority is not always noted in them, and though it may be present, there may not be an overt opportunity for them to display that authority, for the essence of ministry unto others is primarily a ministry of hiddenness. Since authority with God is to be desired over authority with man, there is no need to announce or impose one’s authority in the kingdom, for the ways of the kingdom are contrary to our ways, making it inappropriate to promote ourselves in the things of the spirit. God provides platforms for those who need them in order to fulfill their callings and purposes in Him.

Essentially, the plight and calling of the majority of women has been that of hidden handmaidens, but there are times in history when women have been called upon by God to take on a more public role, confounding the status quo with the spiritual authority deposited within them. Yet, because of the Church’s faulty understanding of such authority, mistakenly aligning it with physical authority, the expression of such women has never been accepted. This is because the Church has not entered into her own proper feminine role as a bride, but has been rebelliously parading about like a groom, announcing to the Lord what she is going to do for Him. Out of the Church’s identity crisis, men and women have not been able to take their proper places within the expression of the Church; and men, because of their spiritual and physical insecurities have actually oppressed women who seemed intimidating to them. This has resulted in much disharmony in the spirit as well as in the physical; however, this will all dramatically change before the Lord returns.

The Bride of Christ will actually act like a bride at His return, ministering unto Him and subjecting herself to His every desire. It is out of this type of submission that we will see men and women coming into their proper identities within the prophetic destiny of the Church, for we will not only be submitting unto the Lord, but unto one another.

Since it is women who by gender have been called to walk in the fullness of the expression of the Bride, ministering unto her Lord; before Christ returns, we will necessarily see an astounding release of hidden handmaidens coming forth with the full endorsement of God’s power and anointing, actually fulfilling the prophetic type and calling of the Bride of Christ. What is even more astounding is that the Church who has been in the wilderness, pursuing her own ways and living by her own rules, will gladly subject herself to the wisdom and judgments of these handmaidens, for there truly is neither male nor female in the spirit realm–especially when you are desperate for some heavenly manna. The Church will be as the nation of Israel before Deborah, knowing one another after the spirit and not after the flesh, partaking of God’s provision for the hour.

When spiritual authority gets released on this level, it will be a direct result of physical relationships coming into kingdom order as we learn to prefer our brothers and sisters over ourselves. That will involve a level of humility and submission to one another which is painfully missing from the body of Christ at present; however, God is committed to the glorious transformation of His Church into a spotless bride for His Son. Therefore, let us look with prophetic eyes for that fulfillment, pursuing love and subjecting ourselves to the will of our great Lord and Master, Christ Jesus.