For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed. (2 Corinthians 10:8 ESV)
The authority that Paul refers to is the ministry that the Lord has assigned him, which was to preach the gospel and share the good news of salvation. His authority was not to be a position honor but of service. It was a trust where God wanted him build up and strengthen the faith of those who love Jesus and proclaim him as their Lord. His used words to encourage the saints, not to humiliate or shame them. Otherwise, he would have role modeled the opposite of love, exercising power for selfish gain or ego-boosting if nothing more.
There are many instances when Christians get caught up in criticizing a church, sermon, or preacher because the culture or teaching did not line up with their preferences and norms. They may disguise their opinions as a critique, but they really don’t offer anything constructive. Their motive is to just tear something or somebody down so they can feel good about themselves, satisfying their own superiority complex. How they got that way is very much the fault of preachers or teachers who use their authority to do the very same thing, teaching their congregation to be a body of critics instead of evangelizers and builders of faith. After all, Jesus did say, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
And if what Jesus says is true, then these preachers and teachers will be held accountable for leading people astray. Fair warning was given when he said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Whatever amount of authority our Lord assigns to us, we must be good stewards and use it to encourage the faith of others. And if the people we encounter are not believers, perhaps we may inspire them to have faith. We are to teach them God’s truths and help them live them out in practical ways so they may in turn help disciple someone else. The proper use of authority builds up the church, expands the Kingdom of Heaven, and brings glory to God. Anything done outside of that scope would be questionable. Therefore, whether you are a parent, teacher, preacher, or a leader in some capacity, this short exhortation applies to you. Who are you influencing today? Are you in the business of building up or tearing down? May the Lord guide you in all his wisdom to reveal a correction or encouragement on this matter today. Amen.