By Charles H. Welch
Principalities. It is impossible to speak of the peculiar sphere of blessing that belongs to the dispensation of the Mystery, without referring to principalities and powers. The Greek word translated "principality" is arche, a word rendered "beginning" forty times, and recognizable in the English arch-bishop, architecture, etc. In English, the word principality implies sovereign power.
The term is applied to Wales, as giving the title the heir apparent of the throne of England.
Arche occurs fifty-eight times. We omit the forty references which are translated "beginning" and any that deal with time, like "at the first", and give a concordance to the remaining occurrences.
The ordinary believer has had no personal acquaintance with heavenly principalities, but the use of the term in the New Testament enables us to proceed from the known to the unknown. The first reference in the list given above renders the word arche "magistrate" and the second "power", the power and authority of a governor. With this may be linked the reference in Titus 3:1. Principality, therefore, while it may include more, cannot include less than a magistrate. A magistrate is a public officer invested with authority to carry out executive government. The Sovereign is thus the chief magistrate in the kingdom, but by reason of the fact that the labours involved are delegated, this title is seldom, if ever, used of the king. In both references in Luke, the word exousia is added and is translated in Luke 12:11 "powers" and in Luke 20:20 by "authority". This is the word which in Ephesians and Colossians is coupled with principalities and translated "powers". It is rather a pity that exousia should be translated "power", this term should be reserved for the translation of dunamis. Exousia is translated "authority" twenty-nine times, "jurisdiction" once, "liberty" once and "right" twice, and these terms more aptly render the meaning of exousia in English than power. Both Peter and Paul associated principalities with angels.
Principalities, therefore, are the chief rulers among angels. These principalities appear to be divided into two companies. First, we read that Christ is the Head of all principality. Then we read that the Church of the One Body finds in one section of these mighty spiritual beings, attentive spectators, learning through the lowly ministry of the Church the wonders of Divine wisdom (Eph. 3:10), but that another section constitute their foes against whom the whole armour of God has been provided (Eph. 6:12). (See, for a new translation of Ephesians 6:12, the article entitled SAINTS). One company of these principalities seems to have exercised its authority to the prejudice of the Church and was "spoiled" at the cross (Col. 2:15), and fallen angels are said to have left their "first estate" or "principality" (Jude 6). Further, Christ is Head of all principality and power because He is their Creator (Col. 1:16), and then by virtue of Redemption and Resurrection is invested with the title "The Beginning", i.e. THE Principality par excellence (Col. 1:18). This Mediatorial office is held by the Saviour until all "rule" (i.e. principality) has been subjected under His feet, and the goal of the ages has been reached.
Although Colossians 1:16-20 is prominent among the advocates of universal reconciliation, no created being is named there but spiritual rulers, the argument of the passage leading up to the Pre-eminence of His Principality (arche "beginning"); verse 20 should read, "reconcile all these things", as in Colossians 3:8.