Kingdom of God and EXOUSIA

Two terms that are somewhat related occur frequently throughout the New Testament. The first term is kingdom, which is usually perceived as a government in which the king imposes his will on a nation, allowing the people little or no choice in determining the course of their lives. This perception doesn’t fit the kingdom of God because God doesn’t impose his will on us but allows us the freedom to determine the course of our lives.

When people describe the kingdom of God as the kingdom in which God rules, I think it implies that God imposes his will on people. To avoid this misconception, I suggest describing the kingdom of God as a community of people who freely choose to follow God’s advice for a better life.

The other term that occurs frequently in the NT is the Greek word EXOUSIA, which the King James Version most often translates as power or authority. Although the Greek lexicon (dictionary) by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich lists the first definition of EXOUSIA as freedom of choice, the KJV reflects this in only three instances:

liberty – 1 Corinthians 8:9
right — Hebrews 13:10 and Revelation 22:14

There are several other contexts in which EXOUSIA conveys the idea of freedom of choice. For example, in 1 Corinthians 9:4 the freedom to eat and drink is more in focus than the ability to do so. To clarify this, many translations use the word right instead of power:

Have we not power to eat and to drink? KJV
Do we have no right to eat and drink? NKJV RSV NIV CEV

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6 thoughts on “Kingdom of God and EXOUSIA

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    Dan, you make interesting points about exousia. It is worth remembering that this the noun corresponding to the impersonal verb exestin, “it is permitted”. As such exousia in 1 Corinthians 9:4 should be read in the light of panta (moi) exestin, “everything is permitted (for me)” in 6:12 and 10:23. So in 9:4 Paul is giving an example of something which he has the right to do but has chosen not to do because it is not helpful. This is an important point in these days when so many people insist on their rights but seem to have less concern about their responsibilities.

    In the translation I am working on I have suggested using for both a word meaning something like “right”: exestin becomes “the right has been given” or, when used with the dative of a person, “(someone) has the right”. In this way the link is preserved.

  2. Vasiliy says:

    Thank a lot for your help.
    God is sovereign, with sovereign choice Romans 9. I believe according to the Bible that all of our choices are foreseen or predetermined by God Ephesians 1:9-14, Proverbs 16:33. But we are responsible for every choice that we make. That means that God has full control over our lives. In other words there is no free will its only God’s will and choice, Gods love and grace. That’s why Exousia as “allowing the people little or no choice in determining the course of their lives” works and is not a perception. However that’s just my understanding of God’s comprehensive sovereignty.
    God bless.

  3. Rhitt Garrett says:

    Exousia is one of those words which puzzled me for years. The usual definitions always seemed lacking in substance.

    I have come to think of exousia as “ex”, out of, plus “ousia”, inner essence. One definition of “ousia” is “be-ing” (inner togetherness); “ableness to manifest essence”. Hence the quality of any manifested “authority” directly reflects immediate essence. For example personal authority may be described as “presence”. Existential manifestation of authority rests not in an external mantle of position of authority, but rather in one’s inner capacity to exercise that mantle. Source of this ableness is one’s essence. This is a profound shift from everyday meaning of “authority.” If one truly accepts the challenge offered by IICor 13:5, “Test your self to see if you (be,Gr:esti) in the faith. Examine yourself! or do you not recognize this about yourself, that Jesus Christ is IN you- unless indeed you fail the test”, a new sense of ex-ousia emerges.

    For background, I have been a professing Christian for a very long time. Practicing, but not “in the Faith” until my 50th year when I began experiencing profound inner transformation which was greatly facilitated by getting to the root, essence, meanings of some key NT Greek words such as exousia, epiousia, parousia and many others. What I have found is that the translation of these and many others into English is insipid (though not necessarily “wrong”)at best, forming stumbling blocks to understanding the profound personal significance of Bible scripture.

    Sorry for falling into a rant. I happened to stumble on you website as I was doing some on-line research into meaning of some of these words. Best regards, Rhitt

  4. Dr, Dom says:

    Remember though, that in the NT the best meaning may not be the best classical Greek philological meaning, but rather that given it in a sacramental community; thus, something like “out of the substance itself”.

    So this is direct participation in God’s power, being his minister of covenantal Grace.

    Thus Heb 13:10 does not mean an ability limited to juridical warrant, and even less mere legal permission, but rather a full dispensation or participation in the very power of God. Thus, Jerome says “potestatem”, not “auctoritatem”.

    The power to eat of the NT altar is a sacramental power that participates directly in and dispenses through God’s Grace the very Body and Blood of Jesus. Those who served the Old Dispensation tabernacle could never have permission, because they never were part of the NT sacramental order.

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