Quick Facts

  • Pronunciation: eks-ü-sē-ä’-zō
  • Strongs Concordance: #G1850
    • to have power or authority, use power
      • to be master of any one, exercise authority over one
      • to be master of the body
      • to have full and entire authority over the body
        • to hold the body subject to one’s will
      • to be brought under the power of anyone
  • Appears 10 times in 3 verses in the New Testament
  • Common translations
    • “have authority over” (3x)
    • “mastered” (1x)

How exousiazō is used in the New Testament

  1. Luke 22:25-27 – “And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”

  2. 1 Corinthians 6:12 – “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

  3. 1 Corinthians 7:4 – “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”

My observations and perspective

The first instance exousiazō, found in Luke 22:25, is spoken of in the negative by Jesus, as he describes the kind of authority structures the Gentile Kings have over their people – an authority that lords power of the people. Jesus goes on to say further that it is not this way with you and describes how it should be in the verses that followed.

It’s interesting that ‘lords over’ is used, because the word exousiazō just means to have authority over. I find myself curious why it’s translated as if it means “using your authority over people for nefarious reasons”, when it would seem to mean taking any authority at all! I digress.

Jesus teaches a kind of leading that turns the idea of lording over on it’s head. One might call it lording under which would be more appropriate given Jesus’ example of serving the disciples by washing their feet, and even humbling himself to the point of death.

Paul uses exousiazō  in reference to not being ‘mastered’ or controlled by anything. In this reference, he’s speaking of food, drink or more generically, his personal liberty that is not bound by a set of rules.

But let’s dig a little deeper into what Paul is saying… “all things are lawful for me”. Paul states this two times. If everything is lawful for Paul, is that because of his role as a church leader or because all things are lawful for all saints (other than what is explicitly commanded by scripture)?

If the latter, then who aside from God and the scripture, could authoritatively command or judge Paul? He says of himself that all things are lawful. Mustn’t that mean that no one can permit or deny Paul those rights? If so, is the context only regarding food, or is does Paul’s freedom extend to all of life? A similar thought occurs in Colossians when Paul instructs the church to let no one be their judge in regard to food or drink or festival or Sabbath. We appear to have complete freedom from obligation to authority on all things.

The remaining six occurrences of exousiazō are in 1 Corinthians 7:4. There, Paul teaches that the bodies of husbands and wives are mutually under one another’s authority. The context here appears to be physical intimacy and would imply that a spouse is not to withhold themselves intimately from their spouse but give the use of their bodies to one another for their mutual satisfaction and enjoyment.

In summary, exousiazō  reveals three kinds of authority: a kind Gentile kings use to subdue their subjects – a kind God doesn’t want us having over one another, the authority that Paul (and presumably all saints) have over themselves, and the authority married persons have over the physical bodies of their spouses.

In none of the above cases is any mention or teaching of a church leader having any sort of authority, or a right to authority over another person. If we’re to follow Jesus’ example, the only rights any of us have are to be servants of one another, and die doing so if need be.


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