Does Matthew 8:24-27 teach us that we have authority over the elements? Some would say yes, some would say no. The reason I would like to take a closer look at this passage today is because of some false teaching that says that it does, in fact, teach that believers have authority over the elements, when in fact, this is not what this passage teaches at all. For ease of reference, I have left the verses included in the following passages:
24 “And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he [Jesus] was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matthew 8:24-27)
The passage does not teach that we have authority over the elements! It teaches that Jesus must have been a very special person for the winds and sea to obey him (verse 27). The passage is meant to show us that Jesus was/is the Son of God. That’s the very purpose of this passage. So to use this passage to teach that we have authority over the elements, at our own desire, at our own whim, is wrong. We never have authority to do anything unless God specifically gives us allowance to do so — unless he leads us to do so. God could give us authority over the elements at certain times, if he so chose — but not on the basis of our own desire, our own choosing, our own inkling, our own whim. That would be wrong and unscriptural, on the basis of John 5:19, which indicates that we should be doing only what the Father shows us to do — not those things that we “want” to do (hence the reason why some people are successful in ministry, and others are not: because they are not doing those things which the Father has shown them to do).
“Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19)
So even Jesus was “limited” in doing only what the Father showed him to do: He did not do things because he wanted to do them, but rather, because the Father wanted him to do them. There is a vast difference in the two. Take this as you will, but the difference is success and failure in the Christian life! If you want to be successful, you must do what the Father shows you to do. If the Father hasn’t shown you to do it, then you should press in to God (through prayer, and personal repentance, fasting if necessary) until God shows you clearly what his will is!
As further proof of this of the real meaning of Matthew 8:24-27, consider carefully what a second very similar passage has to say (notice the parallels, if you will, because they are strikingly similar):
28 “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 33 Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:28-33)
If you notice, this is very similar to what the previous passage teaches. Like the first passage, there is a rebuke (“O thou of little faith”, Matthew 14:31). But like the almost identical rebuke in the first passage (except for pronoun “ye”, which is plural, instead of singular) (“O ye of little faith”, Matthew 8:26), the rebuke is not intended to give us the idea that we have the authority, at any time, on our own choosing, on a whim, as it were, to walk on water. I’m not saying it’s not possible for a Christian to walk on water! I’m only saying that it’s impossible to do so if it is not God’s will at that given time! God must do the enabling, and it must be the Father’s will for you to walk on water if you are going to be successful at it. Hence the rebuke makes sense in that the disciples were most likely doubting God’s love for them, and his protective power to save them, at the time that the storm was raging! Jesus was not rebuking the disciples because they could not calm the storm. He was rebuking them because they had lost faith in God’s ability to deliver them — and I think that’s one great application of this passage that we all need to hear! God can and will “deliver you” from your present situation, if you let him. Hold fast to your faith, without wavering!
Again, in the second passage, Jesus rebukes Peter! Why? Because in verse 29 Jesus has clearly said to Peter, “Come”. That means that it was possible to do at that given time — not for all time, anytime you want, etc. No, that’s not the essence of this passage! Jesus rebukes Peter because he lost faith in God’s ability to keep him, and therefore began to sink. The application here is, “God can and will deliver you from your present situation! Don’t lose faith!” (And don’t sink!) If God put you in that situation, he’ll get you through it!
Jesus did say, in John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” Please, however, don’t use this as license to do “anything you want, at your own desire, on a whim, or otherwise.” This would be quite wrong and unscriptural and would taint, really, what God has clearly said to us in John 5:19 which, in closing, I would like to bring you back to: “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19)
Please, stay focused on what the Lord is doing in every situation … and you’ll have success!