(Reading time: 3 minutes) “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Rom. 5:17, NIV). Those of us who have received God’s abundant grace and his gift of righteousness are to reign in life.
The Greek word translated “reign” in this verse is a verb which means to be a king, reign as king, or control something completely. Because Jesus died for our sin, we can reign as kings in life. Several verses state we’ll reign with Jesus on earth when he returns in the future to set up his kingdom (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:10; 20:4, 6; 22:5), but we’re to begin reigning now according to Romans 5:17.
Obviously, a king has dominion or sovereignty over a specific domain, so each of us has our own domain. I consider my domain to consist of myself, my family, work and property. I have greatest authority over — and full responsibility for — myself, but less authority over others in my domain due to their own authority.
When my sons were very young, I had the greatest authority over them as I taught them right from wrong and how to treat others. I also had spiritual authority over them because they were part of my domain. So I used my spiritual authority to represent them before the Lord, declare to the spiritual realm what God’s will was for them, and command evil spirits not to harm or deceive them. Now my sons are adults and exercise authority over their own domains. I’m still their father and they remain in my domain, but my parental role has changed. Now I advise them, rather than control them. But I still exercise my spiritual authority as before to serve them, as well as their wives and children.
Because sin perverted humanity and all of creation, the world’s idea of reigning is entirely different from God’s. Jesus described it this way: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves” (Luke 22:25-26). Jesus used himself as an example by explaining, “I am among you as one who serves” (v. 27).
So how must we reign in life, specifically by exercising authority over our domain? By serving others in our domain. By using our spiritual authority to protect, care for, provide for and influence them for their benefit. This includes, but isn’t limited to, using our authority to command spiritual beings trying to harm or mislead them. We’re not to use that authority to oppress people or assert ourselves. Instead, we’re to emulate Jesus by serving them as he would.
We have spiritual authority because we bear God’s image, so we directly affect what happens in our domain. What we think, say or do gives either God or Satan greater authority to affect our domain.
How does this work? If our thoughts, words and actions conform to what God says, we allow him to do his work in us, which mainly involves making us more like Jesus. Our thoughts, words and actions don’t produce the changes directly – which would be magic – rather, they give God permission to do what he chooses in us and our domain.
However, if we conform to the world’s ways, we limit what God can do – because he honors our free will – and we grant Satan permission to affect us. This causes or increases problems throughout our domain.
Our spiritual authority causes what we think, say or do to either allow or restrict spiritual activity in our domain, affecting everyone and everything in it. We have this authority, regardless of our spiritual maturity.